The Control of the Arms Race: Disarmament and Arms Control in the Missile Age

By Hedley Bull; Richard Goold-Adams | Go to book overview

5
NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

THERE IS a certain crudity in the notion that the unique problem of modern war is the problem of 'the atom bomb'. Nuclear warfare is sometimes regarded as something wholly novel and sui generis, bearing no relation to warfare in the past or to other kinds of warfare in the present: a cataclysm and an epiphenomenon within which are contained either the answers to our problems (as in the theory of Pax Atomica) or the sources of all our difficulties (as in the movement for nuclear disarmament). This special concern with nuclear weapons is understandable, but it can lead to a failure to identify the more basic trends of which the nuclear weapon is only one manifestation. Nuclear explosives are only one of the products of modern military technology. They supply only one of the elements in a strategic weapons system, in which all the other elements are subject to constant change. They are themselves subject to change, and the military problems they present have already changed quite fundamentally several times since the first explosions in 1945, and are likely to do so again. Nuclear bombs since that time have increased enormously in number, from the three that were available to the United States in the closing phases of the war against Japan, to the tens of thousands that exist now. They have become capable of the much greater destructive power of the large fusion bombs, and the much smaller destructive power of the tactical fission explosive that is a variety of artillery. They are the subject of research aimed at the production of a fission-free fusion bomb, which may make them very much cheaper, more profuse and more difficult to control, as might new processes for producing fissionable material. Technological innovation is producing constant change in many other fields of warfare besides that of explosives. Nuclear fission, rocket propulsion and modern instrumentation have converged to produce the most modern strategic weapons systems; but each of these elements has a separate and independent history, and each has greatly affected

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