It is August 6th again and Japan is remembering the day in 1945 when the first ever nuclear bomb was used and the degree of destruction of human and material resources. The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced the scale of this year’s celebration but the most symbolic actions have taken place, especially speeches by various levels of Japanese leadership against war and instincts that provoke war.
Academics are also doing their own thing on the event, asking questions such as whether the US had good reasons for dropping the bomb again at that time or whether Japan has reflected enough on its own war crimes and, above all, what the world has been able to do about nuclear weapons since 1945.
There are nine nuclear armed countries in the world today. This is made up of all the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and China and countries that developed nuclear capability in the second wave. These are India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea.
The key puzzle is why there has been no use of the nuclear weapon again since 1945. One answer or the more popular answer is that it is all thanks to deterrence theory. That is, all those who might have the temptation to use it are deterred from it by the fear of the reality of the nuclear bomb. An equally popular answer is the argument of the constructivists popularized by Professor Nina Tannenwald who trace it to what she calls the Nuclear Taboo or the normatively grounded forbidding of the horror of the nuclear bomb.
Some others argue that talking about nuclear weapons not having been used since 1945 is a wrong way of framing the question because to have nuclear weapons is as good as using it somehow, someday. And that the best thing is to do away with them entirely. They make reference to quite a number of times when only the presence of mind of one commander or another held back the fingers that could have pressed the button. In that case, it is not that the world can say it has not been used but that the last minute decision to press the button was actually decided against. So, it is not as if it could not have happened.
The Japanese have preserved the details of the moment of horror. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima in Japan is a busy park with carefully preserved details of what happened that day. That is, from the moment the air raid sirens were heard to when the blast occurred and the moment after.
For most of the time, the park is flooded with visitors across the world seeking to satisfy themselves with details of how far the destructive instinct in the human being had gone by 1945. The bad story is that the world has nuclear weapons more destructive than whatever was dropped on the two Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a space of three days. Do we hate each other that much to warrant this?
Listening to the guides in the memorial park explain how it all happened and how it was managed can be sobering and it would have been a good idea if presidents and prime ministers of nuclear powers take their Oath of Office at the peace park in Hiroshima, a symbolic way of assuring the world that NOTHING would make them turn to the nuclear bomb during their tenure. What about that?