War cannot happen without proper tools such as weapons. Even in the most ancient days of civilization, men utilized something else other than their bare hands to engage in band brawls-wood, stones, etc. As civilization developed quickly, weapons technology did not fall behind; various lethal arms came into existence. When the sharp swords were not enough, gunpowder blew up the weaponry industry. When the handgun and rifles were neither quick nor massive enough, machine guns and tanks were built. It appears that there would not be an end to the development of new arms technology. Finally, in the mid twentieth century, an extremely deadly innovation was born into the arms industry-the atomic bomb. This opened the gates to a whole new world of weaponry and warfare.

On the day of August 6, 1945, the entire world was suddenly and rudely thrown into the Nuclear Age by the bombing of Hiroshima in Japan. More than 50 years later, the world is still affected by power of the atom. From tense nuclear showdowns between major superpowers to the promise of harnessing the atom to transform the world into a virtual Utopia, the word ‘nuclear’ has left an ambiguous imprint on the minds of billions.

The atomic components of nuclear weapons are not only deadly but also proved to be mass destructive. The effects it has on the people and the land it settles on still has its uncertainties even in the present. The introduction of nuclear weapons helped in aiding World War II toward an end. The presence of nuclear weapons led to great instabilities between the US and the USSR post WWII leading to the long period of the Cold War. Not only did the creation of nuclear weapons intervened greatly on different aspects of war, it also provided a new source of means for maintaining peace-or the period between wars. Nuclear weaponry changed the way people view war artillery and military techniques thus it greatly affected the way coercive diplomacy and other international security factors function during both war and peace times.


The Basics-scientific and historical background
In the new age of “Big Science,” the “Manhattan Projects” was the most cited model. These projects were led by a group of scientists who “were interested primarily in nuclear energy as a power source for the propulsion of submarines,” but they became “much more concerned with basic research and explosives than with propulsion” After Japan’s attach on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, “the president authorized a significant expansion of the nuclear program” with considerable increase in its funds. With a set of goals, Compton decided that he was to “determine if a chain reaction was possible, by July 1942; achieve that chain reaction, by January 1943; extract the first plutonium from the uranium in which it ‘grew,’ by January 1944; construct a bomb, by January 1945”. These goals were met with slight delay and in the year 1945, the bomb was constructed and the test was scheduled for July 16th.

Paul Boyer remembers in crisp detail the day the world heard about the first atomic bomb unleashed onto Hiroshima. In the first few chapters of the book Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons, he writes about the affect that this news had on him, as he was only a child sitting in front of the television.

Due to the possible after effects of nuclear weapons, mass opinion about it conflicts greatly with military views. Most civilians obtain information about nuclear weapons and its effects through mass media-radio, television, newspaper, etc. Mass media information goes through a very thorough filtering process, thus what the people hear, read or see is actually what the news casters/writers want them to hear, read or see. News especially through television in the latter twentieth century became more entertainment based than real news-even the real hard news are dramatized for a more entertaining effect. This is done so that the newscast would draw more viewers for the program, meaning more money for the station. In this process a lot of truth would be manipulated or even lost and the mass would only get the stage-managed end result-which may not be true or real at all. Another influential source of media that shapes people’s opinion about nuclear weapons are movies. Boyer writes of the numerous movies, which deal with situations where a madman in control may someday bring humanity to an end. Out of the countless movies, which Boyer mentions, “Dr. Strangelove” was one he decided to concentrate on in particular. The movie, however, is not far off from the truth as Boyer explains; the theoretical “Doomsday device” was probably more reality than fiction, a device that is designed to automatically kill all people of the opposing nation if a nuclear strike was ever launched. In other movies that Boyer mentions, topics range from madmen, which threaten the world to accidents causing accidental launching of nuclear weapons. Boyer’s point, however, is that even after half a century the world cannot escape the ramifications of nuclear weapons.

As Boyer presents a representation of the civilian’s point of view toward nuclear weapons, Scott D. Sagan gives a military aspect that differs greatly from Boyer’s observation. In discussing preventive war, Sagan suggested that military officers are predisposed to view preventive war in a much more favorable light than are civilian authorities, thus not afraid of using nuclear capabilities. There are four reasons that backs up this expectation: 1)“military officers, because of self-selection into the profession and socialization afterwards, are more inclined than the rest of the population to see war as likely in the near term and inevitable in the long run…making military officers particularly susceptible to ‘better now than later’ logic”; 2) officers are trained to focus on pure military logic when analyzing security problems…thus diplomatic, moral, or domestic political inhibitions against preventive-war options are therefore less likely to be influential”; 3) military officers display strong biases in favor of offensive doctrines and decisive operations…allow military organizations to utilize standard plans under conditions they control, and decisive operations are more likely to lead to a military decision rather than a political stalemate”; 4) the military tends to plan incrementally, leading it to focus on immediate plans for war and not the subsequent problems of managing the postwar world” (Sagan, 374). These reasons suggest that in the military aspect, usage of nuclear weapons are more condoned because the military appears to focus much more on strategic and organizational factors than moral and diplomatic sides. This variation of views between civilian and military then contributes great dispute about the dangers of nuclear weapons and its usage.

“From 1945 to 1970, only five countries, counting Israel, followed the United States into the nuclear world. Since 1970, when the nuclear nonproliferation Treaty came into effect, only three countries-in addition to the three that became nuclear by succession from the Soviet Union-have, or may have, joined and remained members of the nuclear club: India, Pakistan, and North Korea” . Within the first nuclear countries were the superpowers Soviet Union and United States. According to Waltz, “great powers always counter the weapons of other great powers, usually by imitating those who have introduced new weapons”.Thus, when the Soviet Union developed atomic and hydrogen bombs, it was somewhat expected. Also being leading countries in other aspects-industrial and economical, the addition of nuclear power provided the superpowers with even more grounds for intimidation over the states that are smaller and without nuclear technologies. The gap between “haves” and “have-nots” inevitability grew.

Third world countries
The desire to obtain this new mass destructive power appears to exist more in the third world countries. The various reasons that back up this assumption would be that “a state may want nuclear weapons for fear that its great-power ally will not retaliate if another great power attacks; a country without nuclear allies will want nuclear weapons all the more if some of its adversaries have them; a country may want nuclear weapons because it lives in fear of its adversaries present or future conventional strength; for some countries, nuclear weapons are a cheaper and safer alternative to running economically ruinous and militarily dangerous conventional arms races; and finally, by building nuclear weapons, a country may hope to enhance its international standing” (Waltz, 358). Therefore, smaller and less powerful countries may feel the need to use nuclear power as a stepping-stone attempting to step outside of their “world”.


Wars are made possible with available weaponry. When nuclear power was introduced, civilian and military views on war altered significantly. During conventional arm ages, wars were based more on strategy and actual battles. When the nuclear weapons came to existence, the actual fighting lessened and deterrence by threats was used more often. This led to more insecurity for the countries without nuclear power and raises their fears of possible near future wars.

Conventional War vs. Nuclear War
During the times of conventional wars, personal contact was very important. Soldiers actually had to march and strategize during the battles. Military strategies and possible outcomes resulting from the usage of conventional weapons are more predictable. In conventional wars, less is at stake. Therefore, “in a conventional world, uncertainty may tempt a country to join battle. In a nuclear world, uncertainty has the opposite effect. What is not controllable with certainty is too dangerous to bear” (Waltz, 364). The differences between conventional and nuclear wars are the possible outcomes. Since the stakes of nuclear war are way much higher in all aspects than conventional wars, war involving nuclear power is much less likely to take place.

Cold War
Although the Cold War may not have been a war in its core definition, it presented to be an extreme representation of the influence nuclear weapons development has brought upon the world post World War II. The presence of nuclear weapons contributed greatly to the Cold War. After World War II and the introduction of nuclear weapons in the US, “an arms buildup” became the stronger reaction in “response to the Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons (Badash, 80). The “single most dangerous episode of the Cold War” according to the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba would be that of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the arms race between the superpowers, the Soviets wanted to “redress the strategic nuclear imbalance” with “deployment of missiles to Cuba” (Allyn, Blight, Welch; 141). The Cubans allowed the decision for deployment for two reasons: 1) the missiles would have shifted the global correlation of forces in favor of socialism; 2) Cuba should accept “its share of the risk” (Allyn, Blight, Welch; 141). In addition to these motives, in the eyes of Khrushchev, the “deployment of American Jupiter missiles in Turkey” was an apparent threat (Allyn, Blight, Welch; 143). With this view in mind, the idea of deploying missiles to Cuba becomes even more attractive to him. When the missiles were deployed to Cuba and discovered by Americans, the US were uncertain about “whether or not nuclear warheads for the Soviet MRBMs ever reached Cuba” but “the Kennedy administration, in the face of uncertainty, operated on the assumption that they had” (Allyn, Blight, Welch; 153). In taking this action with such caution against the unknown, it is obvious that the idea of nuclear weapons exacerbated the situation between the superpowers. Nuclear weapons in this crisis brought upon various uncertainties causing the leaders to lose control over all relevant actions and because of the possible extreme consequences that may result from nuclear power actions “the fear of losing control propelled Kennedy and Khrushchev to end the crisis quickly” (Waltz, 364). Thus, although nuclear power may have been the initial cause that led to the Cold War, the fear of its uncertainties also became the reason why the two sides did not engage in a full on nuclear war.

Proliferation and Fear
As mentioned earlier in this paper, most countries desiring nuclear power possess one or more of six main reasons: 1) To boost up state’s military technical and economical financial capabilities; 2) to lessen vulnerability to rival with superior conventional weapons; 3) to react to rivals who already possess nuclear weapons-this leads to nuclear arms races; 4) to be less dependent on a strong ally just in case the ally exercises pressure or restraint upon the dependent state; 5) to defend against any threats toward a state’s primary identity; 6) to use nuclear power as a nuclear symbolism-a way to obtain status and honor in the international world. With these reasons in mind, it may seem that many countries would not mind obtaining nuclear power for themselves. This leads to the idea of horizontal proliferation-where the number of states obtaining nuclear power grows.

There are various fears of nuclear weapons present because of the seemingly growing proliferation. One might assume that “nuclear states may put their weapons to offensive use; as more countries obtain the weapons, the chances of accidental use would increase; with limited resources and know-how, new nuclear states may find it difficult to deploy invulnerable, deterrent forces; US military intervention in the affairs of lesser states will be impeded by their possession of nuclear weapons; and finally as nuclear weapons spread, terrorists may more easily get hold of nuclear materials”. These fears are not surprising because they appear to be very rational. However, Waltz informs us that they are not real fears at all.

In the case of offensive use, Waltz believes that from the diplomatic aspect the possibility of offensive usage of nuclear weapons is slim to none. He explains that in the case of “newly hostile Egypt, or a nuclear-armed and still-hostile Syria, would not want to strike to destroy Israel” because “rulers want to have a country that he can continue to rule”. If nuclear power is put into use, the possibility of Israelis fighting back and dropping “bombs over some of their cities” increases-the risk taken then may be a little too much. In the case of accidental usage and misusage by terrorists, Waltz points out that the so-called statistics taken to predict the amount of accidental use of nuclear weapons are neither accurate nor reliable. He argues, “There are actually no ‘statistical facts’” and “deterrence is a considerable guarantee against accidents, since it causes countries to take good care of their weapons, and against anonymous use, since those who fire the weapons know neither that they will be undetected nor what punishment detection might bring”. In this argument he is suggesting that uncertainty is what abounds. It is the “fear of accidents that works against their occurring” (Waltz, 363). This argument presents to be one of a nuclear optimists viewpoint that nuclear weapons will produce stable deterrence for proliferated states.

In response to this optimistic view, Sagan points out its excessive idealistic and rational value. He states, “The view that the spread of nuclear weapons will produce stable deterrence is based on a rationalist assumption that new proliferators’ behavior will reflect their interest in avoiding nuclear war…however the actual behavior of new proliferators will be strongly influenced by the powerful organizations within those states and that the common biases, rigid routines, and parochial interests of these military organizations will lead to deterrence failures and uses of nuclear weapons despite national interests to the contrary”. His take on nuclear proliferation is apparently much more pessimistic because he does not assume all states to be perfectly rational-which would be very ideal in its thinking-instead he believes that the presence of nuclear proliferation will only worsen any irrational behaviors of states and make their inevitable mistakes more deadly.

Need a Custom Physics Papers?