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The financial crisis has affected every sector of the United States economy. There has been a dramatic decline in the total spending on goods and services. This has led to a nationwide cut United States production and employment. This slowing in the overall United States spendingn has encompassed a reduction in import purchases. The rest of the world has also been affected by this reduction, together with the weakening of the United States economy and its financial system. Slowing of the United States imports means that that of the rest of the world has also slowed. The diminishing sales have meant that the production of the global companies have cut production. This is therefore the best time for nations to cut their military expenditures and disarm as there is need to focus on maintaining a peaceful coexistence without the threat of war. However, this might seem unlikely as some nations might see it as an opportunity to carry on with weapon production and testing such as North Korea. The rest of this paper will look at the development of nuclear weapons and its consequences on the global economy, wellbeing and stability.
History of nuclear weapons
The development of nuclear weapons was a major international achievement from the beginning. It begun in nineteen thirty four in Italy when Enrico Fermi, Edoardo Amaldi, Emilio Segre and France Rassetti bombarded uranium with neutrons and produced the first indications of fission. However, it was largely misunderstood at the time. Studies went on in France and Germany (Meyer, 1986). Lisa Meitner and Otto Frisch were the first to develop and understand the idea of fission in nineteen thirty eight. In the years before the second World War, German was the center of physics research. Many physicists from various countries immigrated for graduate education but this flow was stopped by the Nazis and by nineteen forty one, around one hundred physicists had migrated to the United States from Germany. The United States thus became a leader in nuclear research.
Physicists from other nations also took part in the development especially those from Hungary. Among them were Leo Szilard who first worked in Britain then in the United States. With the possibility of developing nuclear weapons, the United states and Great Britain sought to pursue this end, eventually combining their programs into the United states-led Manhattan Project. This project was by far the largest and best funded even though other similar projects were being carried out by other countries like Japan and Germany. The United States finally overcame the barriers to develop the first atomic bomb in the spring of 1945 (Sarah et al. 2007).
Nuclear proliferation after World War II
The most commonly held perception of nuclear proliferation is a nation sedulously working to build and test an atomic bomb. The first nuclear test explosion was the traditional indicator of nuclear proliferation, suggesting the emergence of another nuclear weapons power. One certain fact is that, case histories of all five identified nuclear weapons powers reflect this conception of nuclear proliferation process. All these five nations pursued nuclear technology mainly for the purpose of producing nuclear weapons. The capacity to manufacture nuclear weapons through the late nineteen-fifties was mainly the consequence of concerted efforts to produce nuclear weapons. As such, no any other reasons could be offered to explain this exercise. However, there are reasons to question whether this has been the most common proliferation in the present times.
For a long time, the fact that the initial processes of nuclear weapon’s manufacturing is mainly an exercise in mechanical, chemical and industrial engineering was obscured by the nuclear aspect. The dissipation of a wide amount of nuclear science and engineering data eliminated the unconventional technical hurdles that had existed. Thus, one consequence for the call for scientific, industrial, technical and economic development within the past decades is that many nations have possessed the fundamental skills and resources that are necessary for the development of nuclear weapons. In other words, regardless of particular government interest or disinterest in pursuing nuclear technology, many nations now have at their disposal the latent capacities to manufacture nuclear weapons. This capacity emanates from the prior interest in developing nuclear weapons. The growth of civil nuclear programs further increased the break with the past. Initially, there were nuclear science research programs mainly existing in the form of reactor and several laboratories (Mozley, 1998).
Within a decade after the end of the Second World War, research reactors were operated by only four countries. This indicated, in a sense, the existing juncture of indigenous capacity and interest in nuclear science research. With the acceleration of Atoms for Peace program, the major research reactor “giveaway” started. In the second decade after the second World War, additional thirty nine countries acquired reactors mainly as a gift from the Soviet Union and the United States (Shelton, 2003: 24). It is not however clear whether the explosion of interest in acquiring research reactors motivated by demand or supply push, but nevertheless, the availability of the tools for nuclear research maximized during the second decade of the nuclear age. The United States, France, Britain and the Soviet Union conducted extensive international training programs within their borders.
With the fading in the number of countries operating nuclear research reactors, interest and investment in civil nuclear power facilities had become common. Six countries started operating nuclear power reactors during the second decade of the nuclear age and at the conclusion of the third decade, thirteen more countries had possession of nuclear power reactors, with its promise of cheap electrical energy. Eight more nations acquired nuclear power reactors between nineteen-seventy five and nineteen eighty two (Mozley, 1998: 243). Many countries started to develop substantial nuclear infrastructures slowly but steadily. Nations quickly acquired personnel with the necessary knowledge and skills and equipments and plants having the productive capability to by systematically transformed into nuclear weapons production. The bridge between indigenous nuclear establishment and ambitions for nuclear weapons was broken. While only six nations had tested nuclear explosive devices by the end of nineteen-eighty two, another thirty five nations had the latent capacity to do so with the majority having a well established nuclear infrastructures (Meyer, 1986: 178).
With the number of nations with the latent capacity reinforced by a significant nuclear infrastructure increased, concerns about the implication of this evolution begun to emerge. More notably, there were questions concerning how it would impact on the cost benefit calculus, the view of threat among enemies and the prospects of early detection of the emergence of new nuclear weapons countries. The perception that nuclear proliferation was a well defined jump to nuclear weapons status was abandoned and instead, it begun to be viewed as a developmental process representing the growth of latent capacities around the globe. The fact that only five identified nuclear weapons powers had set off a nuclear weapon between nineteen sixty four and nineteen seventy four did not imply that nuclear proliferation had not advanced. In the contrary, it was commonly seen as advancing forward in the form of ever-developing latent capacities including substantial nuclear infrastructures (ibid, 3).
In understanding the nuclear proliferation process, it is important to make a distinction between acquiring a latent capacity, capability decision, proliferation decision and ultimately acquiring functional nuclear weapons. These factors are often ignored. Countries may possess the basic capacity to produce nuclear weapons intentionally or as an unintended consequence of industrial and economic development. In the former situation, a capability decision is made, an explicit decision by the government to establish a latent capacity that offers an indigenous ability to implement and support a nuclear weapons program. This may come prior to or in conjunction with a proliferation decision. A capability decision without a proliferation decisions represents establishing a nuclear option or being open to a nuclear option. The decision to go nuclear is the most important step in the nuclear proliferation process. Proliferation decision may or may not result to nuclear weapons.
There are many reasons that have been put forward with regard to the reasons why a nation opts to go nuclear. Among these reasons, three classes of thought primarily stand out. The first holds that nuclear technology in itself drives the decision to acquire nuclear weapons. In other words, nations are pushed by technology imperative from latent capacity to operational capability (Williams, 2005: 78). Governments opt to go nuclear due to the availability of the technology thus rendering the technical or financial costs manageable and the opportunity to be irresistible. Another school of thought view the desire for nuclear weapons as a consequence of the systematic effects of a discrete set of military and political variables (ibid. 79). In an attempt to accomplish defense, foreign and domestic policy objectives, nuclear weapons become one of the policy options pursued by nations. As such, political and military considerations become motivating factors in making proliferation decisions. The final hypothesis consider proliferation process to be mainly ideographic. Nations go nuclear because particular events and individuals integrate and create proper conditions. However, the coming together of variables is not uniform and thus yield unpredictable results. As such, the decisions to initiate nuclear weapons programs may be seen to be sui generis.
Stag-hunt model and nuclear proliferation
The stag hunt model may offer a good basis for looking at the aspect of nuclear proliferation. The informing image in the balance of power is Rousseau’s parable of the stag hunt. This parable describes the actual nature of states especially with regard to power relations. In this fable, a number of hungry hunters make an agreement to stick together until they have shot a stag, a quarry is big enough to sustain them all. Finding one becomes difficult, with one hunter losing patience and thus breaking his agreement with the others. He leaves, to shoot a hare he had spotted which leads to the remaining members of the group to lack the strength to achieve their original objectives. In an attempt to answer the question of whether the deserter should be blamed for being selfish and betraying the general good, Rousseau holds that in a state of nature, the decision of the deserter is rational and is to be expected (Rousseau, 1992).
Since nations exist in a state of nature, war is rational and inevitable as it serves a nation’s immediate advantage (ibid, 234). According to Waltz, the system of international relations that does not offer the security of community and law imposes the superiority of the short range rationality of the hare hunter (Mozley, 1998: 290). Waltz conclusion is that in international relations of the competitive type, the implication of Rousseau’s stag-hunt, is that “the freedom of choice of any one state is restricted by the actions of all the others” (Waltz, 1954: 154). Therefore, regardless of morality or the intention of a government, the entire system will determine relationships as long as survival remains the fundamental state objective. This relationships will be that of power politics. Power politics since the World War II have taken the form of weaponry and countervailing coalitions and alliances thus describing the system (Haas, 1964: 67).
In the state of nature, regardless of technology, power balances remain an persisting law allowing institutionally unregulated state of behavior. A short run and practical individual motives can be yielded by the very image of the stag-hunt which will erode the picture of power balanced against power (ibid 70). The stag-hunt model is completely compatible with the functional logic. Functional model depends on it. In a situation where the cooperative hunting of stags is impossible, the hunters will establish informal rules that regulate the separate and cooperative hare hunting. This is inevitable. Before the advent of nuclear weapons, international relations was based in the balance of power system in which the dominant relationship between the member states were those of an n-person with the price consisting in the capacity to survive (Wohlstetter, 2001:165). With this regard, military potential, and specifically military technology, is believed to be the factor that determines the conduct of actors, therefore shaping the system.
The advent of nuclear weapons and missiles have rendered the balance of power obsolete, resulting in a system popularized by those who link global stability with the balance of terror where no block can meaningfully move. When changes within the system creates a situation where warfare is certain to completely destroy the enemy’s economy but cannot destroy its military apparatus, a “deterrent system” is created. A new balance of power was thus introduced by the nuclear relationship which obeys the similar systemic of the old. Countries are thus acquiring nuclear technology to ascertain their own survival and this may explain the reason why nations root for nuclear technology.
Economic impacts of nuclear weapon production
Ever since the beginning of the Manhattan Project in 1942, strategic weapons have cost the United States lots of money. However, many individuals believe that the development and purchase of strategic weapons have posed much advantage to the economy of the United states instead of hurting it (Wohlstetter, 2001: 167). This view has been supported by various arguments. When compared to other military purchases, strategic weapons seem not to be expensive. In nineteen eighty three, the United States spent only 8.5 percent of the military budget on strategic weapons (ibid. 168). Again, the development of strategic weapons offer employment to many highly trained scientists and engineers who may otherwise be unemployed or even underemployed. Beyond this, the development of strategic weapons leads to scientific discoveries and technological innovations that has a consequence of improving the American standards of living beside helping the United States to effectively compete on the international scene. These arguments hold some truth but there are counter arguments.
Even though it is true that strategic weapons only take a small fraction of the military budgets, the expenses cannot be underestimated. Since the main strategic systems are in place, the current costs are bound to be low. These costs are limited to operation, repair and replacement. During the first decade of the nuclear age, the fraction of budget that was allocated strategic weapons was high. Moreover, a good part of the cost of strategic weapons goes to research and development. The Defense Department’s purchases support at least twenty percent of America’s scientists and engineers. Should these purchases be cut, some of these scientists and engineers will be out of work. However, when the overall impact of strategic weapons purchases on employment is evaluated, it must be considered the number of jobs that can be generated if comparable amount were channeled to other things.
Studies indicate that more jobs are generated when a billion dollars are spent on non-defense items than when the same amount is spent on defense. A billion dollars spent on guided missiles will generate eighteen thousand jobs but when the same amount is spent on educational services, health care services or welfare services, about sixty one thousand jobs are generated (Lackey, 1984: 15). Military projects are basically concerned with performance and not economic efficiency. This is specifically true for nuclear weapons. The design often follows philosophy and this creates production methodologies that in most cases lead to higher costs. The higher costs however do not translate to more jobs. Manufacturing nuclear weapons is a capital intensive activity and since these jobs seem to be more highly paid, there are few direct jobs that are created (Schwartz, 1998: 90).
The case for economic benefits of development of strategic weapons appear to be strong in an epoch when economic success on the international realm increasingly means the capacity to supply state-of-the-art technology. However, the money spent on weapons research has not yielded the expected benefits in the civilian sector (Wohlstetter, 2001). The number of patents generated by the Defense Department research is in most cases very low and in numerous cases, wrong technologies have been backed by the government. In assessing opportunity cost of the purchase of strategic weapons, one must take into considerations the conditions that a country might have been if it had directed funds and talent into the development of technology for the civilian sector. Speculation concerning this possibility can be guided by the example of countries that took the civilian route. In a study that was conducted between the year nineteen sixty and nineteen eighty three in seventeen countries, the Council on Economic Priorities found out that nations that invested the smallest fraction of its Gross National Product to Defense (Japan) was the nation with the highest rate of economic growth. It also had the highest growth in output per manufacturing hour. On the other hand, the nations that had their gross national products channeled to defense (United States and United Kingdom) ranked fourteenth and seventeenth in actual economic growth (Meyer, 1986: 156-58). A correlation was found between low economic growth and high military spending.
Pros and cons of disarmament
The dangers of nuclear exchange still persists despite the fact that the Cold War ended some decades ago. The danger of nuclear exchange was previously held in check by the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction where a nation launching a nuclear strike will itself be destroyed. With the end of this doctrine, there is more likelihood of the risk of use by a rogue nation or a limited exchange in a regional conflict. These concerns are highlighted by the recent events in the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East.
With the disintegration of the Russian military, the proximity for mistakes increases. For instance, under-trained Russian radar operators misidentified a Norwegian scientific rocket in nineteen ninety five, putting the Russian missile system just a few minutes away from a full strike. There has also been near accidents caused by power cuts to missile silos and thefts of vital control equipment for sale on the black market. The only way of ensuring that such instances are avoided is to eliminate the weapons.
Nuclear weapons guard against a perceived threat, acting as deterrent. Disarmament must therefore be universal for an imbalance of power to be avoided. It is important that the nuclear powers disarm. As has been shown by India and Pakistan, nuclear club is still prestigious. Treaties such as the Comprehensive Test Ban cannot be successful while the global perception still remains that the nuclear powers are making permanent their nuclear advantage.
The modern warfare is meant to minimize the number of civilian casualties. Nuclear weapons are on the other hand designed to destroy the maximum number of lives possible. If a modern rogue state were to use nuclear weapons, the justification for a retaliatory strike would not be clear. A modern democracy’s citizens would not allow the death of civilians as a result of the government’s action. It therefore follows that the deterrent role of such weapons has ceased to be effective.
The nature of a possible nuclear threat has been diversified with the end of the Cold War. Such has included its use by terrorists and rogue states. A flexible nuclear deterrent is as important as ever considering the complexity in today’s political climate. There is need for reduction in the size of nuclear arsenal. However, there does not exist any quick way of achieving this. The process of disarmament is not only long but also complex. The nuclear material in the warhead cannot be destroyed and must therefore be kept in a secure facility. The disorganization and disintegration of the Russian military that protects thou8sands of such facilities has in most cases left them unguarded. Again, the Russian government has no accurate records to track and trace nuclear materials which makes it difficult to tell when a given quantity is missing. As such, disarmament increases the risk of theft and proliferation.
Universal disarmament in an impossibility since it only requires a single state to maintain a secret nuclear capability for the failure of the system. Without any deterrence, it would be possible for such a state to strike at its enemies. Again, the large amount of nuclear arsenals possessed by Russia and the United States helps in minimizing the danger of arms proliferation. The need to form an individual deterrence is removed by extending a nuclear umbrella over friendly countries. The danger of regional conflicts and the awareness of the destructive capacity of the involved nations are powerful incentives for governments to find peaceful solutions to their problems. The Cold War may have prevented a third and devastating world war from breaking out. Even though the use of nuclear warhead would have been horrible, this fear seem to have saved numerous lives in the past half a century.
There are many factors involved in nuclear proliferation and this makes it difficult for the nuclear threat to be solved. The majority of these reasons are political and hence require political solutions. However, the nature of the relationship between states makes it difficult for nations to stop pursuing nuclear technology even at the expense of the citizens. Security is held to be of much importance and hence, every nation has its own way of ascertaining its own security within the hostile global system. As such, it may be said that nuclear proliferation should be regulated. The major problem involved in the management of proliferation is the issue of nuclear energy and capability issues. Political matters linked to security guarantees, sanctions and devices to maintain the present nonproliferation regimes is critical. The center of policy problem remains striking the balance between the problems of capabilities and intentions.