Why Have Nuclear Weapons Not Been Used in Conflict Since 1945?

2151 Words Dec 6th, 2012 9 Pages
Why have nuclear weapons not been used in conflict since 1945?

Nuclear weapons have only ever been used once in human history, and that was during World War II when The United States deployed missiles on Japanese territory, in Nagasaki and Hiroshima. At the time of bombing in 1945 only the USA had developed nuclear weapons, whilst today the pool of states consisting of nuclear weapons is still extremely small, with only nine states laying claim to nuclear technology and weaponry. This nuclear proliferation is explained by Darryl Howlett who explains this as the worldwide spread of nuclear weapons. For Howlett states are nuclear driven because of the ‘strategic, political and prestige benefits’ attached to nuclear weapons[1]. In the
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Possibly the biggest example of taboo was during the nineteen year Vietnam War. Nina Tanenwald argues that nuclear were not used, which is obviously true, but using nuclear artillery was heavily discussed by United States forces. Three American presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, all in power during the Vietnam War chose not to use nuclear force. Tanenwald believes it is the moral, ethical and political factors, the taboo effect which proves non-use of nuclear weapons.

Furthermore the concept of taboo and deterrence working together comes from theorist Henry Kissinger who was the Secretary of State under the Richard Nixon administration during the Vietnam War and played a huge roll in United States foreign policy. In his book ‘Diplomacy’, Kissinger writes, “Never have the military gap between the superpower and non-nuclear state been greater. Never was it best likely to be invoked.”[6] Tanenwald would suggest Taboo was working in the concept of Deterrence with Kissinger’s words, possibly signalling the importance of taboo as a reason for nuclear non-use since 1945.

The third argument for the absence of nuclear weapons since 1945 is through the concept of deterrence. Deterrence is the measures taken by a state or an alliance of multiple states to prevent hostile action by another, in this case through nuclear weapons. Colin Gray is one theorist who believes
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