The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons

By T. V. Paul | Go to book overview

10 Conclusions

the preceding chapters discussed the tradition of non-use of nuclear weapons that has emerged during the sixty-three years since the first and last use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. A tradition in this respect is a time-honored practice of non-use generating expectations about the appropriate behavior of nuclear weapon states. I treat the normative prohibition inherent in the tradition as informal and intermediate, given that it has yet to become a legal or formal norm and that a majority of nuclear states retain their option of first use of nuclear arms against nonnuclear states. In Chapter 2, 1 argued that the tradition emerged largely due to material and reputational factors, that is, the immense destructive character of the weapon and the possible adverse reputational impact on nuclear states if they used their weapons against nonnuclear states. Moral and legal considerations are subsumed in the reputational variable. Tactical and strategic factors are important as well for the non-use of nuclear weapons, but country studies in various chapters show that they by themselves cannot fully account for the reluctance of nuclear states to resort to nuclear attacks. After 1945, but more prominently after the hydrogen bomb tests in the early 1950s, it began to dawn on decision makers that the use of nuclear weapons as a battlefield option is constrained: nuclear weapons are too destructive to obtain strategic and tactical objectives and political purposes without tarnishing the image and reputation of the user. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki experiences were pivotal in this regard. U.S. atomic scientists proposed international control of the atom as a way to prevent their use by aggressive governments. These scientists influenced the Truman administration's decision on this issue. They were

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The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: Bases of the Tradition of Non-Use 15
  • 3: The United States and the Tradition I 38
  • 4: The United States and the Tradition II 64
  • 5: Russia, Britain, France, China, and the Tradition 92
  • 6: The Second-Generation Nuclear States 124
  • 7: Nonnuclear States, the Tradition, and Limited Wars 143
  • 8: The Tradition and the Nonproliferation Regime 158
  • 9: Changing U.S. Policies and the Tradition 178
  • 10: Conclusions 197
  • Reference Matter 215
  • Notes 217
  • Select Bibliography 277
  • Index 305
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