Why build Nuclear Weapons? Essay Example

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Case Study Involving Nuclear Weapons


In the 20th century, a lot of revolution took place in a majority of science and technology fields. A lot of discoveries and new inventions were seen especially in the field of telecommunications. Besides, the advancement in telecommunication and electronic fields, another discovery was made that would change the lives of people forever. The discovery of nuclear weapons would change the relationship between different states in the World.The evolution of Atomic weapon begun in 1938 in the United States following a letter sent by the Albert Einstein to the United States president. The letter disclosed the possibility of building a nuclear bomb by use of nuclear fission. Albert and his fellow physicists were convinced that it was possible to create a nuclear bomb using the forces of nuclear fission (Njølstad, 2008).

The great concern was that Germany was already working on building the same nuclear weapon. The United States could not allow Germany under the leadership of Hitler to be the first one to build the atomic bomb. If Germany were to succeed in building the nuclear weapon, then Hitler would use it to destroy all his enemies including the US. Germany would take advantage of the weapon and use it to control the whole world (Njølstad, 2008). To stop Germany from acquiring the weapon first, Einstein and his fellow physicist advised the government initiate the process of building the nuclear weapon immediately. The United State Government agreed to the proposal and immediately established a nuclear energy building plant. For successful development of the nuclear weapon, the US partnered with the United Kingdom. The project dubbed “The Manhattan Project” took about four and a half years to complete. To ensure that the project was a success, the two Countries used a lot of resources.

The first atomic bomb was tested in 1945 and its power amazed even the very people who had built it. Upon the completion of constructing the atomic bomb by the United States, Germany had already aborted their plan of building the weapon. It, therefore, meant that they were no longer a threat to the rest of the World. However, the United States went ahead to use the deadly weapon. In particular, the United State applied the nuclear bomb to stop the ongoing war in the Pacific (Goldschmidt, 1982). The US aimed at forcing the Japanese government to withdraw from the war. The use of the atomic bomb on the City of Hiroshima in Japan led to the instant killing of over seventy thousand people. The second bomb hit the city of Nagasaki, and many lives were lost. The survivors of the attack suffered from severe burns and other radiation sicknesses. The use of the nuclear weapon had devastating effects on the lives of people living in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over three hundred and forty thousand people lost their lives following the attack.

Following the Japanese attack, there were growing concerns over the continuous use of the nuclear weapons. Many people were against the use of the weapon and called for its immediate ban. Despite, the United States and the Soviet Union declaring their consent to destroy the nuclear weapon, their actions did not show much effort. The big States were in fact not ready to give up their efforts to developing more nuclear energy (Shaker, 1980). The United States continued with its programs of developing the nuclear weapon. Likewise, the Soviet Union also secretly initiated programs of making their nuclear weapon. The resistance of the United States to abort its Nuclear weapon program led to resistance of other countries. Despite several Countries owning the nuclear weapon, none of the Countries have used it since 1945. However, the presence of the nuclear weapon in the World has significantly altered the relationship between different states across the World.


Many arguments have risen concerning the need for the nuclear weapon, and the question that most people ask is why Countries build nuclear weapons. Finding the answers to the question plays an important role in analyzing the status of international security. Further, it helps in understanding the extent to which the relationship between different states has changed. Research indicates that there is a lot of reluctance by big states to abort their nuclear weapon programs (Sagan, 2012). The failure by these Countries to refrain from developing nuclear energy is not because there are no other alternatives. Literature shows that, there are so many alternatives available to the big States and, therefore, they should not have a problem refraining from developing the nuclear weapon. However, the primary reason these States continue to develop the nuclear weapon is because they face an international threat to their security. The Countries believe that the only way that they can be safe from international military threat is by being in possession of the nuclear weapon. If such threats were not real, then Countries like US and China would destroy their nuclear weapon (Jo, 2007).

National Security model

Researchers have come up with various models explaining why Countries still need nuclear weapons. One of the models involves international threats to security (Sagan, 2012). The theory of neorealist portrays States as anarchical. Therefore, they must rely on themselves to safeguard their national security and sovereignty. Any Country that seeks to protect itself from control by another Country owning the nuclear weapon must ensure that it also develops the weapon. The States understand the devastating impact of the nuclear weapon and, therefore, allowing an enemy state to own such a weapon is self-suicidal. Strong states have an upper hand in terms of developing and possessing nuclear weapon given their vast resources. However, some weak states still manage to acquire the nuclear weapon by forming an alliancing with the strong states (Gartzke, 2009). The strong states are, however, reluctant to supply the weak states with nuclear power for fear of retaliation.

Countries may develop nuclear weapons to deter international military threats or use it as a tool to exert pressure for the change of status quo. However, the major reason states develop the weapon is to respond to emerging threats of nuclear power. Countries develop nuclear weapons so as to counter the threat posed by other Countries who are also developing the nuclear power. When one Country develops a nuclear weapon to deter another Country that poses a threat, the Country ends up creating a threat to another State (Sagan, 2012). From the security model, it is clear that the primary reason States build the nuclear weapon is to responses to nuclear threats from other States.

Domestic Political Interests Model

Another reason states to create the domestic politics model explains nuclear weapons. Domestic politics plays an important role in determining the development of nuclear weapon by a given state. The model analyzes a situation where the nuclear weapon is used to serve the political interest of some individuals in the states. The individuals do not care whether the adoption of the nuclear weapon serves the Country’s national interest or not. The individuals are usually a coalition of very powerful people who use their power to control the decisions made by the government (Sagan, 2012). Such governments have no choice but to give in to the demands of powerful cartels. The government ends up developing the nuclear weapons that are then used by the cartels to remain relevant politically. However, the theories that exist do not clearly explain the formation of the powerful coalitions.

In the case of some Countries like the United States, the role of the cartels is seen as being more persuasive than coercive. The individuals create a perception of potential international threat thus prompting the government to response accordingly. Further, the individuals advocate for more allocation of resources to defense. With increased resource allocation for defense, it becomes easier for the establishment of nuclear weapon programs. The individuals are also able to build a wider political network within the various government organs such as the executive and the legislature (Sagan, 2012). The political support they receive from the government’ organs ensure that their plan of developing nuclear weapons succeeds.

The Norm Model

The Norms Model also explains the reason states develop nuclear weapons. According to the norms model, the acquisition of nuclear weapons is seen as a way of safeguarding the identity of the state (Sagan, 2012). Supporters of the norms model perceive the ownership of nuclear weapons as an important symbolic act. The theory goes beyond the need for national security and domestic political interests. Instead, it goes further to consider the norms and beliefs of a given states about other Countries. The norms theory holds that the organizations and individuals’ interests ultimately serve the interests of the whole society. The theory seeks to support the argument that, then actions taken to develop nuclear weapons are aimed at protecting their identity. The protection of identity further promotes international relations.

Impact of Nuclear Weapons on International Relations

The development of nuclear weapons has greatly reshaped the international relations between different states. One of the impacts is the influence on the international structure of power. Initially, the United States enjoyed a monopoly over the possession of the nuclear weapon. As a result, the US became the most powerful state in the World. However, other states such as China, France, and Britain are now in possession of the weapon (Lebow, 1994). The emergence of new nuclear powers has led to a change of international power structure, by breaking the monotonous nature of United States.

The creation of the nuclear weapon by the US also led to the emergence of the Cold War. The efforts by the USSR to persuade the US to share the atomic secret did not succeed. The US was not willing to share their secrets on how to make nuclear weapons with anybody. The USSR was not pleased with the United States decision to withhold the secret. Later, the Soviet Union managed to end the US monopoly over the possession of the nuclear weapon (Lebow, 1995). The move by the Soviet Union affected the relationship between the two superpowers. The cold war further intensified as a result of the emergence of new nuclear powers.

Possession of nuclear power meant that the US and other states were in control of the most destructive weapon. The nuclear power had the capacity to destroy the entire world. The nuclear power gave the super states control over the entire World. The states could pursue their interests regardless of whether other Countries raised questions. The states took advantage of the nuclear power in their possession to exploit the weaker nations. Following the actions of the super states, the weaker states developed fear and saw the super states as their enemies (Mintz, 2003). The weaker states were defenseless, and there was nothing they could do to defend their interests.

The emergence of nuclear weapon further changed the approach to war. The war was no longer a small affair but a very significant act that could lead to the destruction of the entire world. The development of nuclear weapon coupled with the use of modern technology reduced the traditional use of military men. States could now use machines to engage in a serious war against their enemies.

Despite, the devastating impact of nuclear power, its creation became as a blessing in disguise. The presence of nuclear power helped in deterring terrorism acts (Clohesy, 2010). No states would attempt to apply its nuclear weapon to attack another for fear that it might also be attacked. As much as Countries possess the deadly weapon, but none of the states would dare to use it.


From the above discussion, it is evident that the impact of the nuclear weapon cannot be ignored. Despite the fact that the nuclear weapon has not been used since 1945, its mere existence has greatly changed the international relations between different states. Some of the reasons why states build nuclear weapons include national security, domestic political interests and nations’ identity. The possession of nuclear weapons by super states has widened the gap between them and the weaker states. The weaker states live in fear and cannot do much to protect themselves against the exploitation.


Clohesy, L., 2010, “Australian cold warrior: the anti-communism of WC Wentworth (Doctoral dissertation,” Victoria University).

Gartzke, E., and Kroenig, M., 2009, “A strategic approach to nuclear proliferation.Journal of Conflict Resolution,”

Goldschmidt, B., 1982, “Atomic complex: a worldwide political history of nuclear energy,”

Jo, D. J., and Gartzke, E., 2007, “Determinants of nuclear weapons proliferation.Journal of Conflict Resolution,” 51(1), 167-194.

Lebow, R. N., and Risse-Kappen, T., Eds., 1995, “International Relations theory and the end of the Cold War (p. 23),” New York: Columbia University Press.

Lebow, R. N., and Stein, J. G., 1994, “We all lost the Cold War (p. 92),” Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Mintz, A., and Redd, S. B., 2003, “ Framing effects in international relations,” Synthese135(2), 193-213.

Njølstad, O., 2008, “ The Development and Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.Nobelprize,”org.

Sagan, S. D., 2012, “Why do states build nuclear weapons? Three models in search of a bomb,”

Shaker, M. I., 1980, “The nuclear non-proliferation treaty: origin and implementation, 1959-1979 (Vol. 3),” Oceana publications.