Seventy Years after Hiroshima: Nuclear Weapons, 2015

August 5, 2015

Annual August 6 Lantern Memorial Ceremony, Hiroshima. CREDIT: Florence Nobuko Smith (CC)

This August, we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which occurred on August 6 and August 9, 1945, and brought about Japan's surrender on August 15.

The two bombs killed at least 129,000 people, most of them civilians. About half of them died the day the bombs fell, while over the next few months most of the others died slow, painful deaths from burns, radiation sickness, and related injuries. Survivors who were exposed to radiation are known as Hibakusha; they and their children have been the victims of great discrimination in Japan, as many feared that radiation sickness was contagious.    

As we remember all those who suffered, we should also examine the situation of nuclear weapons today. Five years ago, on the 65th anniversary, the mood was hopeful. In April 2010, the United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty (which was ratified in early 2011); and in August 2010, for the first time, the UN secretary-general, along with representatives from the United States, the UK, and France attended Hiroshima's annual memorial ceremony.

In 2015, the mood is gloomier, despite the nuclear agreement with Iran, which remains controversial. For a nonpartisan, expert report on the agreement, see the Belfer Center's The Iran Nuclear Deal: A Definitive Guide.

"The recent hopes for a Global Zero now seem desperately premature," noted The Economist in a March 2015 analysis. "As long as great-power relations remain unstable, regional rivalries linger unresolved and rogue states continue to see nuclear weapons as a way of intimidating purportedly powerful adversaries, the incentive to hang on to nuclear weapons will outweigh other considerations."

Ever since 1945, nuclear weapons have been one of Carnegie Council's major concerns. They remain one of the biggest threats to all life on earth. We present a collection of Council resources from the past five years, along with a 1998 essay by the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, who died in February 2015. 


How Obama Solved U.S.-Iran Relations' "Trolley Problem"
Hussein Banai, Carnegie Council Global Ethics Fellow; Occidental College
The announcement of a comprehensive deal on Iran's nuclear program is a significant achievement of international diplomacy. The predicament faced—and perhaps just resolved—by Obama is akin to a famous thought exercise in moral philosophy called the "trolley problem." (Ethics & International Affairs blog post, July 16, 2015)

Ethics and the Nuclear Talks
Nikolas Gvosdev, U.S. Naval War College
Have the participants negotiated in good faith, with an intent to execute faithfully any and all obligations undertaken? (Ethics & International Affairs blog post, April 14, 2015)

P5 + 1 + Iran: Report on the Ongoing Nuclear Talks
Seyed Hossein Mousavian, Princeton University; David C. Speedie, Carnegie Council
Speaking on the very day of the nuclear framework, Ambassador Mousavian explains why he believes the agreement is positive progress for both sides. And in a candid and forthright discussion with the audience, he explains the Iranian perspective on Israel, the U.S.-Israel relationship, ISIS, and also the workings of the Iranian government. (U.S. Global Engagement Program, April 2, 2015. Video, audio, transcript)

Iran Nuclear Threat: Fact or Fiction?
Gareth Porter, journalist; David C. Speedie, Carnegie Council
Senior Fellow David Speedie interviews Dr. Gareth Porter, scholar, journalist, and skeptic concerning U.S. claims of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. (U.S. Global Engagement Program, July 2014. Video, audio, transcript)


The Second Nuclear Age: Strategy, Danger, and the New Power Politics
Paul Bracken, Yale University
In the Cold War, the path to nuclear war always led through Moscow and Washington. In the second nuclear age the triggers to nuclear war are in Tel Aviv, Islamabad, Pyongyang, and in the future possibly Tehran, and possibly in other places too, because you can start a nuclear war even if you don't have nuclear weapons. (Public Affairs Program, December 2012. Video, audio, transcript, TV program)


From Nuclear Deterrence to Disarmament: Evolving Catholic Perspectives
Bernardito C. Auza, Holy See, United Nations; Des Browne, Nuclear Threat Initiative; J. Bryan Hehir, Harvard University; Maryann Cusimano Love, The Catholic University of America; Gerard F. Powers, University of Notre Dame; David C. Speedie, Carnegie Council
In this timely and important discussion on nuclear weapons, Des Browne provides the broader policy context; Archbishop Auza presents the Holy See's position over the last 70 years; Father Hehir connects the policy debate and the moral debate; and Professor Love connects the nuclear debate to the wider debate about peacebuilding. (U.S. Global Engagement Program, May 2015. Video, audio, transcript)

The Nonproliferation Complex
Campbell Craig and Jan Ruzicka, Aberystwyth University
Craig and Ruzicka trace the history of the rise of the nuclear nonproliferation complex during and immediately after the Cold War. They show how nonproliferation and disarmament organizations and advocates turned toward ameliorative approaches in the face of great-power refusal to accept more substantial change, or indeed defended an international order favoring the status quo. (Ethics & International Affairs Roundtable "Nonproliferation in the 21st Century," September 2013)

Senator Richard Lugar on Nuclear Weapons Reduction
Richard Lugar, Former U.S. Senator; David C. Speedie, Carnegie Council
Senator Lugar tells the dramatic story of his bipartisan work on the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (also known as Nunn–Lugar), which provides funding and expertise for states in the former USSR nations to reduce nuclear weapons. (U.S. Global Engagement Program, October 2012. Video, audio, transcript)


Nonproliferation: A Global Issue for a Global Ethic
J. Bryan Hehir, Harvard University
This essay, focused on the continuing moral challenge of nuclear weapons, recalls the intellectual and moral lessons of the last century and identifies three leading issues in nuclear ethics today: post-Cold War challenges to nonproliferation and deterrence, the new challenges posed by the terrorist threat, and recent proposals for Going to Zero. (Ethics & International Affairs Roundtable "Nonproliferation in the 21st Century," September 2013)

Justice and Fairness in the Nonproliferation Regime
Nina Tannenwald, Brown University
This essay focuses on two key questions: First, how do the issues of justice and fairness affect the stability, durability, and effectiveness of the nuclear nonproliferation regime? Second, what is the relationship of equity issues to conceptions of national security and "interests"? (Ethics & International Affairs Roundtable "Nonproliferation in the 21st Century," September 2013)

An Ethical Nuclear Posture for the 21st Century?
Nikolas Gvosdev, U.S. Navy War College
What is the appropriate role (and size) of a U.S. nuclear force that would make both strategic and ethical sense? The United States still possesses some 4,000 nuclear weapons. (Ethics & International Affairs blog post, November 2013)

The Ethics of the Nuclear Security Summit Process
Alexandra I. Toma, Connect U.S. Fund
This paper examines the ethical questions around two intertwined 21st century issues: nuclear terrorism and the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process. Does the process take into account the principles of pluralism, fairness, and rights and responsibilities? (U.S. Global Engagement Program, conference paper, June 2011) 


Five Myths About Nuclear Weapons
Ward Wilson, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies
What if everything we believe about nuclear weapons is wrong? "Reexamine the facts and you'll see that the arguments for nuclear weapons aren't powerful; they're preposterous. They are an unpersuasive collection of wishful thinking held together by nothing more than fear and rationalization." (Public Affairs Program, January 2013. Video, audio, transcript)

The Threat of Nuclear Proliferation: Perception and Reality
Jacques E. C. Hymans, University of Southern California
The United States is right to be vigilant against the threat of nuclear proliferation. But such vigilance can all too easily lend itself to exaggeration and overreaction, as the 2003 invasion of Iraq painfully demonstrates. Hymans critiques two intellectual assumptions that have contributed mightily to Washington's puffed-up perceptions of the proliferation threat. He then spells out the policy implications of a more appropriate analysis of that threat.(Ethics & International Affairs Roundtable "Nonproliferation in the 21st Century," September 2013)


European Security and Arms Control
Sergey Rogov, Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies of the Russian Academy of Science
Although Russia and the West are confronting each other on a number of issues, it is premature to write off their strategic partnership. The New START Treaty establishes stability of the nuclear balance for the next decade. This will help them eventually move to mutual assured security. (U.S. Global Engagement Program, September 2011)

Arms Control and Proliferation Challenges to the Reset Policy
Stephen J. Blank, Strategic Studies Institute
The United States, Russia, and outside observers all agree on one thing: the fragility of the reset policy. This paper clarifies the reasons for this fragility and the consequences for arms control and future cooperation on nonproliferation issues. (U.S. Global Engagement Program, August 2011)


The Impossible State: North Korea, Past and Future
Victor Cha,
Georgetown University
Policy expert and scholar Victor Cha lifts the curtain on North Korea, one of the world's most isolated, poorly understood, and dangerous nations, and explains why he believes that the level of risk has escalated since Kim Jong-il's death. (Public Affairs Program, June 2012. Video, audio, transcript)


Ethics on Film: Discussion of In My Lifetime
Alex Woodson, Carnegie Council
This deeply moving documentary tells the history of atomic weapons and the anti-nuclear movement. From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to nuclear tests in Nevada to the START Treaty and other international agreements, this film gives a comprehensive account of these weapons, "the very end point of logic." This review includes discussion questions.  (Ethics on Film, November 2012)


The Nuclear Dilemma: The Greatest Moral Problem of All Time
Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., University of Notre Dame
"We all know that we are the first generation of humans since Genesis that can totally destroy the human species and make our beautiful planet uninhabitable." In this 1998 talk, which is sadly still all too relevant, Hesburgh laments the nuclear arms race between the United States and the USSR, and proposes practical steps towards reducing the nuclear arsenal. (Morgenthau Memorial Lecture, May 1998)