Atomic Bomb: Commonly referred to as weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), nuclear weapons have been at the forefront of international relations policy debates for many decades, with many questioning the morality of using such technology to cause indiscriminate harm.
Only two nuclear weapons have been used throughout the history of warfare, both by the United States near the end of World War II. In 1942, the United States began the ‘Manhattan Project’, to create the first the first atomic bomb. With the help of theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, known as the ‘father of the atomic bomb’, the United States crafted two bombs, “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”, which would be used to decimate the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.
- “Little Boy”- Dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, this weapon obtains its explosive power through the nuclear fission of uranium-235. Designed as a ‘gun type’ fission weapon, when the ‘bullet’ hit the target an immense amount of energy and heat radiation is released, decimating its immediate surroundings. The temperature of the center of the fireball at the moment of detonation is more than one million degrees Celsius. It is estimated that approximately 140,000 people died by the end of December 1945, due to the use of this weapon (Damage From the Atmoic Bombing).
- “Fat Man”- Dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945, this weapon functioned as an ‘implosion-type’ weapon, with plutonium-239 as its base core. Thirty-two detonators were placed inside of a hollow sphere of explosives to cause a powerful inward pressure, resulting in initiation. It is estimated that approximately 80,000 people died by the end of December 1945, due to the use of this weapon (Hiroshima and Nagasaki Death Toll, 2007).
On August 15, 1945, less than one week after the bombing of Nagasaki, the Emperor Hirohito of Japan issued a radio address to the nation, declaring the surrender of Japan. There is often much debate as to whether the use of such weapons of destruction was truly necessary to compel the Japanese to surrender. The moral dilemma of using a weapon of such indiscriminate brutality is thought to have weighed heavily on then President Harry S. Truman’s mind, however, when he reflected upon later in life still came to the same decision, stating “I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war … I have no regrets and, under the same circumstances, I would do it again” (Truman, 1963).
With these instances being the only times nuclear weapons have ever been used in the history of warfare, it is categorically necessary to include them in the section depicting warfare technology of World War II, however, the threat of use of nuclear weapons still remains today, and is a continual discussion in the realm of International politics.
Nuclear non-proliferation remains a pillar within the global community to this day, with no country wanting to see such gratuitous violence ever rear its head on the face of this earth again. There are currently 189 signatory member states to the UN’s “Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty,” which aims to halt the spread of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear states, disarm and liquidate nuclear weapons, and maintain a peaceful use for nuclear power in today’s world.
President Harry Truman’s use of the Atomic Bomb on Japanese soil remains highly debated to this day. Do you think it was necessary for such technology to be used in order to garner surrender on the battlefield? With the development of weapons of mass destruction, how has the global atmosphere changed in terms of unilateral cooperation, deterrenceA security strategy by which the mutual possession of potentially devastating weapons prevents countries on either side of a conflict from actually using those weapons, and ability to trust those who possess weapons of such destructive power?
To learn more about the UN’s non-proliferation treaty, you can visit the UN webpage here (THE TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION, 2005).
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