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Political science - Essay Example

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Before nuclear weapons, a state with a large army was a serious threat to its neighbours. It might invade and occupy. But with nuclear weapons, death can come from above and destroy everyone and…
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Imagine a world in which most of the s, rather than just a few, had nuclear weapons and long range missiles. Would it be more peaceful or war-prone?
Nuclear weapons have dramatically changed the way that states act in the world. Before nuclear weapons, a state with a large army was a serious threat to its neighbours. It might invade and occupy. But with nuclear weapons, death can come from above and destroy everyone and everything. No one is safe from a nuclear attack. Such an attack could also set off a chain reaction of retribution that could potentially destroy the world. At the height of the Cold War this was called MAD—Mutually Assured Destruction. Should we be thankful that nuclear weapons are only in the hands of a few countries, or should we wish that more countries had nuclear weapons in order to maintain a peaceful balance?
This is an issue that scholars and academics have spent a great deal of time considering since the conclusion of the Second World War. In 1945, the United States dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan, ending the war. To many, this suggests that nuclear weapons can be used to make peace and end war. Indeed, in the last seventy years no one else has used a nuclear weapon. Perhaps it makes sense to give these weapons to all countries, so that no one will wish to use them. However, as one scholar puts it:
Given that nuclear weapons have not been used in war since 1945, that modern biological weapons have arguably never been utilized in warfare, and that the risk of chemical weapons is often considered exaggerated, one might think preventing the proliferation of WMDs is not a critical policy issue. However, the proliferation of new weapons systems can have a profound impact on international politics even at levels short of war. The impact on the coercive power of states and the potential for actual use make nuclear weapons potentially destabilizing in the international security environment. (Horowitz, 2).
It is a bit naïve to believe that nuclear weapons cause peace. They are indeed a source of instability whether they are possessed by many or possessed by only a few. The main problem is that not all states are rational. Some behave in ways that are difficult to calculate. Indeed, some leaders suffer from mental illness. In fascist or dictatorial states, the leader of a power is unquestioned. Some states might want to commit national suicide by nuking another state that has nuclear weapons.
Scholars and political scientists too often believe that everything in politics is a science and that the rational prevail. This is not what history teaches us. History shows that powerful weapons will be used in unpredictable ways. The balance of power is always shifting and there are many opportunities for it to collapse. Putting these kinds of weapons in the hands of more states is one way to guarantee disorder and dysfunction.
Nuclear weapons have been around for a long time now. They have only been used twice, but that is two times too many. Allowing other states to have them would not create peace—it would create disorder.
Work consulted
Horowitz, Michael. “The spread of nuclear weapons and international conflict: Does experience matter?” Journal of Conflict Resolution, (2009), 53:234-257. Read More
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