On August 6 and 9 in 1945, the world witnessed the use of nuclear bombs for the very first time. Since then, the widespread destruction and loss of human lives in Hiroshima and Nagasaki has left an indelible question on the morality of the human race. Unlike common agreement, the post World War II era was not about nuclear disarmament. In fact, Hiroshima and Nagasaki paved way for a nuclear marathon.
Nuclear weapons were a significant part of national discussion and influenced the military doctrines of the two blocs (the United States of America and the USSR). The said military doctrine was known as ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ (MAD).Territorial insecurities compelled the USA and the USSR to inaugurate a theatre of proxy wars.
So where was the post War dream of peace and disarmament?
Soon after World War II, the dream turned into a nuclear nightmare. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, mankind was compelled to think of the unthinkable; a potential atomic annihilation. Today, our planet is over-stocked with world-ending weaponry which if used could make the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki look smaller. Fortunately, nuclear destruction today finds itself at the end of a long queue of anxieties guided by trust and mistrust. Possibly because of numerous treaties and nuclear diplomacy, we have injected blind faith in ourselves, our allies and our former enemies. It seems as if we have camouflaged all notions of a peaceful world.
The disintegration of the USSR ended the planetary superpower rivalry and the United States was left with no other rival. So, did nuclear weaponry become extinct? Were these the closing stages of the MAD world? No, the global nuclear landscape is more or less intact, mission-less and largely untouched. Unacknowledged, as it may be, I believe that the MAD world still exists.
Today, threats and perceptions have changed. The nuclear issue worth the bother is stopping the spread of nuclear bomb to a couple of supposedly fanatical and problematic regimes. The government as well the media seems to be obsessed with an ‘invisible threat’. Remind me: when was the last time you read getting rid of nuclear weapons altogether?
Despite a dawning realization, the global nuclear arms race has been masked by modest diplomacy and pledges. The said race is alive and is scheduled to live for decades to come in future. With nearly 20,000 nuclear warheads dotting the earth’s landscape, we surely are staring at a potential nuclear holocaust. Perhaps, some of the inadequately guarded nuclear weapons littering the globe might fall into the hands of terrorist groups. Perhaps, an Islamic fundamentalist group will seize power in Pakistan and go a step too far in nuclear brinkmanship with India over Kashmir. Maybe the Israeli leadership will strike out at Iran with nuclear weapons in an effort to keep Tehran from going nuclear.
The United States and Russia together possess 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. Therefore, an impasse between the two countries will undercut any leverage they might have to encourage other nations to embark on a path leading to global nuclear reductions. Although these scenarios might seem unimaginable, yet nuclear alarmists suggest that as long as the nuclear weapon stockpile exists, the threat of doomsday shall persist. As long as these weapons remain in hair trigger mode, the ghost of MAD will linger.
Nuclear weapons have been the most dangerous legacy of the cold war. The issue of a ‘nuclear free world’ cannot be dodged. Though, it is imperative for one to acknowledge that a ‘nuclear free world’ is not a near term possibility. We should try and seize the high moral ground. This will surely reduce the risk of unwarranted nuclear confrontations. The ultimate goal should be to eliminate all forms of nuclear weapons and fission material. But such a goal can only be achieved through ‘substantive reduction’ and consequent extinction of nuclear warheads. Unquestionably, this is a daunting task but we need to start thinking on these lines. Hopefully, in time to come, we will wake up to a future where we feel completely secure about where we are and what is around us.