Should nuclear weapons be outlawed?


Fact Box

  • On July 9, 1955, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto--signed by philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Albert Einstein, as well as other prominent thinkers of the day-- was issued in London, and was a call for world leaders to avoid “universal death” by solving international conflicts without the use nuclear weapons. 
  • As of 2020, only nine countries in the world have nuclear weapons: U.S., United Kingdom, Russia, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
  • There are different types of nuclear weapons; those that cause explosions due to nuclear fission (atomic bombs), nuclear fusion (hydrogen bombs), or a combination of both.
  • In 2017, the United Nations created the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which effectively called for its member states to prohibit nuclear weapons, ultimately leading to their elimination. 
  • A recent YouGov poll revealed that 32% of Americans think that the U.S. should retain its nuclear weapons, regardless of what other countries do in light of pressure to eradicate nuclear stores.

Stephanie (No)

Nuclear weapons should not be banned, but rather tightly regulated to 'ensure that [they] stay in the hands of countries and not radical groups.' Although controversial, nuclear deterrence strategy is undeniably effective in keeping global peace.

With one of the largest nuclear arsenals, the United States has implied power throughout the world. This strategy is necessary to demonstrate to potential enemies that the US can use nuclear weapons as a defense and will use them if needed.

Nuclear arms are a peacekeeping measure, considering that as long as the US maintains its nuclear capacity, Russia, China, and other countries are less likely to start trouble with 'the US and its allies and partners' for fear of facing ultimate destruction. 

One could argue that nuclear deterrence strategy has worked throughout history and over recent decades. Its effectiveness relates to the sheer level of destruction that nuclear weapons can cause. This so-called 'shock and awe' strategy' accompanies a genuine threat that forces leaders to make critical decisions, such as when Japan finally surrendered in World War II.

Yet this powerful leverage does not promote nuclear war, as the power of nuclear weaponry is such a threat that no sane leader would tempt it. Attacking with an atomic weapon results in near annihilation, which no nation could ever survive.

Nuclear weapons and conventional warfare both cause mass genocide – claiming that nuclear is more inhumane suggests that 'conventional strategic bombing' is somehow better.

But aside from the whole issue of warfare, nuclear weapons may also be used in other ways, such as against threats to humanity like a 'major asteroid impact.' 

Sara (Yes)

Nuclear weapons should absolutely be banned for ethical, military, economic, political, and environmental reasons.

First of all, nuclear weapons are inherently immoral because they kill everyone within a given blast zone--which can be as big as an entire city without distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants. 

From an economic and military standpoint, they're an expensive investment that may never be used. Nuclear weapons reflect outdated nineteenth and twentieth-century models of war and statecraft, where the goal was to kill as many of the enemy as possible. At this time, world opinion is so strongly against nuclear weaponry that it makes no sense to produce or deploy them.

Further, using nuclear weapons is self-defeating in terms of military strategy. For example, a US nuclear strike on Iran would expose American and allied countries' troops in the region to radiation exposure. In another possible scenario, a nuclear attack by North Korea or Russia on the US would risk retaliation on such a large scale that no serious strategist would consider it.

Nuclear weapons also have a devastating impact on the environment, and the fallout has a global impact. There is no such thing as a limited nuclear exchange because the effects last for decades after use. The radiation passes into the food, air, water, and soil and continues to kill and sicken people, leading to cancers and birth defects, which affect children who were not even born at the time of the war.

Finally, the production and disposal of nuclear weapons is harmful to the environment and human health. Uranium mining, nuclear weapons testing, and radioactive waste disposal impacts mostly vulnerable indigenous populations like Pacific Islanders and Native Americans in the Southwest, making the sanctioning of nuclear arms all the more questionable.

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