U.S. Nuclear Policy: Non-Proliferation Vs. Thesis

Length: 10 pages Sources: 5 Subject: Military Type: Thesis Paper: #71951760 Related Topics: Nuclear Energy, Arms Control, Pakistan, North Korea
Excerpt from Thesis :

S. had provided the technology needed to promote the development of nuclear weapons. However, the U.S. argued that it had provided civilian instead of military technology, therefore had not violated the treaty.

The Politics of Proliferation

The politics of non-proliferation are complex. In the case of the U.S., the agreement and terms must satisfy every party involved. On one hand, the U.S. is under an obligation built on trust, that it will reduce the number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal. However, it must still maintain an arsenal that is capable of acting as a deterrent against first attach by non-treaty countries with nuclear weapons. These two goals compete with one another. The U.S. is not the only nuclear weapon owner with this conflict. Every member of the non-proliferation treaty faces this same dilemma.

Nuclear arms negotiations have taken place amidst an atmosphere of deception and mistrust. Full disclosure is often entangled with the need to protect a country's most valuable secret. Self-interest and the interests of the global community are in conflict. Accusations of treaty violations and technicalities regarding the wording of treaties and agreements abound. This atmosphere is not likely to lead to the most rational resolution to the nuclear proliferation dilemma.

Further complicating the political atmosphere regarding nuclear proliferation is the recognition that nuclear power is an asset to countries hoping to develop their infrastructure to make them competitors on the global market. It is not the goal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty to end the capabilities of using nuclear energy for positive gain. However, it is also feared that a dictator may use legitimate energy development as an excuse to continue to proliferate their weapons arsenal. This is what happened when the U.S. accused Iran of diverting enriched uranium from their energy development program to their weapons program (Linzer 2005).

The U.S. is the only country in the world to have used its nuclear weapon as an act of war against another country. The U.S. dropped two nuclear weapons on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in an attempt to end the Japanese advance in World War II. Only then could we learn the truly devastating affects that the atomic bomb could unleash. After this act, the damage and destruction no longer existed only as theory and conjecture. The world knew the destructive force of nuclear weapons. This harsh reality helped to promulgate fears of nuclear attack during the Cold War era. Several times in the past, the U.S. And Russia came dangerously close to a nuclear conflict. The world feared the fallout and devastation that would result if the one of the two superpowers decided to unleash its ferocity towards the other. Everyone wanted to avoid conflict, but the U.S. already had a reputation for using its weapons, making it a dangerous partner in negotiations.

For many years, the U.S. drew criticism for using its nuclear arsenal against other human beings. The topic of whether it was a strategically necessary move, or whether there was another way has plagued nuclear political argument and continues to be a topic of debate today. The key point of contention is when or if the use of nuclear weapons can ever be justified by the end. Despite its reputation as a leader in the development of nuclear weapons, in recent years the U.S. has become the first to accuse others of nuclear treaties violations.

The U.S. has been accused of police action in regards to the development of nuclear programs by others. Once one of the biggest developers of nuclear weapons, the U.S. is now one of the biggest supporters of non-proliferation policies. The U.S. was instrumental in intercepting...


It was later found that Libya was in direct violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Libya was forced to dismantle all existing weapons and submit to unconditional inspections of its facilities (Kerr 2004). Critics accuse the U.S. Of one-sided policies regarding nuclear proliferation, only policing those that it perceives to be a threat to its own borders.

Article X and General War Withdrawal

Article X of the Non-Proliferation Treaty allows a state to withdraw from the treaty with only ninety days notice and an explanation stating the reasons for their withdrawal (UN 2005). NATO allows a state of withdraw if a state of general war exists within the country. The wording of the treaty calls upon the country to make every reasonable effort to avoid such war. If the interests of a country are jeopardized, then a state can leave the treaty. Although it is not explicitly stated, withdrawal from the treaty implies that the country will build its nuclear arsenal with the understanding that they may use them in defense of the interests of its country.

Article X is one of the most controversial articles in the treaty. It essentially negates the entire purpose of the treaty. If the purpose of the treaty is to prevent to potential use of nuclear weapons against humanity, the ability to withdraw from the treaty is contradictory, at best. The logic of this article is questionable from any standpoint. Let us examine this logic further and apply it to the situation in the United States.

Article X provides for the ability for a country to withdraw from the treaty under extreme circumstances, particularly in situations where the country perceives itself to be in danger from another entity. The flaw in this logic is that a country is not likely to resort to use of its nuclear arsenal unless it feels that there is no other way to prevent harm to their own citizens. Article X weakens the entire document by providing a way out that allows the ultimate goal of the treaty to be avoided. Perhaps it still has some affect in making the withdrawing party think about the decision before complete withdrawal is allowed. This failsafe supposedly will allow the parties time to work things out without the use of nuclear weapons.

What is next for U.S. non-proliferation policy?

The conflict surrounding Article X summarizes the problems associated with U.S. policies on nuclear weapons. The U.S. has an obligation to protect the lives and interests of its citizens, even if it means the use of nuclear weapons. It has the responsibility to use this power wisely and to seek alternative solutions to conflicts, other than the use of its nuclear arsenal. There are many humanitarian issues involved in the use of nuclear weapons. Even when the targets are purely military, there will be destruction of civilian lives and property. This is unavoidable with the use of nuclear weapons. The use of nuclear weapons places the lives of innocent citizens at risk, much more so than any other type of modern weapon. This is largely because the damage produced is so widespread. The danger to non-combatants is considered inhumane by modern standards.

The purpose of a nuclear weapons program is to deter an attack on the U.S. And its citizens (Woolf 2008, 5). However, if the threat were not real, and represented rhetoric only, then the logic behind U.S. nuclear policies would make sense. However, this is like owning any other type of weapon, there is always the chance that one will have to use it if they own it. The only difference between a nuclear weapon and a missile is the area and amount of destruction that it causes. A nuclear weapon causes damage to other countries and their citizens by way of climate changes and fallout from use of the device. A nuclear weapon does not only harm those for which it is intended. We now know that fallout has global consequences, making it an illogical weapon of choice. However, it is also the biggest gun in the arsenal of threats that a country can possess.

It is agreed that a reduction in nuclear arms on a global basis is a goal that is commonly shared among many nations. With advances in conventional weapons, one must ask if nuclear weapons are necessary as a deterrent at all. Suggestions have been made that proper future U.S. policy should not include the development and use of nuclear weapons, but that the U.S. should pursue development of conventional weapons that are better at striking a precise target and avoiding massive civilian casualties (Robinson 2008).

In light of new players in the nuclear landscape and the chance of "rogue" states obtaining nuclear capabilities, it is unlikely that the will destroy its entire nuclear arsenal. However, the adoption of "no first use" policies would help to build trust among nations already in nuclear arms club. The disuse of rapid-launch options and a change in the procedures before launch would also be an excellent addition to U.S. policy. This assures that the decision to use nuclear weapons will be given due consideration and will reduce the chance of misunderstandings. The U.S. also needs to adopt an open-door policy concerning the numbers and types of nuclear capabilities that it…

Sources Used in Documents:


Curtis, L. 2007. "U.S. Policy and Pakistan's Nuclear Weapons: Containing Threats and Encouraging Regional Security." The Heritage Foundation. July 6, 2007. http://www.heritage.org/Research/asiaandthepacific/tst062707.cfm (Accessed August 21, 2008)

Kerr, P. 2004. "Libya Vows to Dismantle WMD Program. Arms Control Today." January/February 2004. http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2004_01-02/Libya (Accessed August 21, 2008)

Lavie, M. "Israel Stands by Vague Nuclear Policy." December 7, 2006. Washington Post. www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/07/AR2006120701234.html)

Levy, D. 2007. "U.S. nuclear policy goes from MAD to NUTS, Panofsky says." Stanford Report. April 18, 2007. http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2007/april18/pief-041807.html (Accessed August 21, 2008)
France may allow 'first strikes' on rogue states in policy shift." Independent, the (London). Oct 28, 2003. FindArticles.com. 23 Aug. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4158/is_20031028/ai_n12721175 (Accessed August 21, 2008)
Preez, J. And Potter, W. 2003. "North Korea's Withdrawal from the NPT: A Reality http://cns.miis.edu/images/spc.gif
James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. April 10, 2003. http://cns.miis.edu/pubs/week/030409.htm (Accessed August 21, 2008)
United Nations. (UN). 2005. "The Treaty on the non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Article X." 2005. Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty. May 2-27, 2005, New York. http://www.un.org/events/npt2005/npttreaty.html (Accessed August 21, 2008)
Woolf, a. 2008. "Nuclear Weapons in the U.S. National Security Policy: Past, Present, and Prospects." CRS Report for Congress. Order Code RL34226. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/nuke/RL34226.pdf (Accessed August 21, 2008)

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