There are currently more than 35,000 nuclear warheads are currently stockpiled around the world! Many are ready to be launched at a moments notice and if all where deployed, it would be enough firepower to blow-up the world 6 times over. These warheads and other military weapon reserves are why the U.N. and several N.G.O.’s have been, and are currently in the process of promoting disarmament. Nuclear weapons are not the only concerns when it comes to disarmament; small arms, the arms trade, biological and chemical weapons, are all aspects of disarmament. These weapons will be discussed in the next few pages to get a brief understanding of what they have the potential of and a handful of things that have been done about it.
Modern disarmament began in the 16th century during the Tokugawa shogunate with the gradual reduction of guns. In two centuries, Japan passed from being the country with more guns per capita to producing (or importing) none. Most recently, major countries have been discouraging other nations from developing their own nuclear arms. Since the plan was presented in 1946, the United Nations Disarmament Commission has handled all nuclear substances peacefully. The political and economical barriers to disarmament are considerable, mostly based on the concentrated power to those supporting militaristic approach to foreign policy. One key barrier is many countries being fearful of being invaded, particularly by the U.S. have tried to secure or develop nuclear weapons. As a result, polices to limit military intervention maybe part of a larger demilitarization program. Other than nuclear weapons steps are being taking to slow down the selling, buying and use of small arms, and chemical and biological weapons. These weapons do not present as big of a threat immediately but because they are easier to obtain and in that why still pose to be a big treat.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children… This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.”— Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, in a speech on April 16, 1953. (http://www.globalissues.org/Geopolitics/ArmsTrade.asp) The Arms Trade, buying or selling of arms, has a major effect on how millions of people live their lives. Beginning in the 14th century with the invention of gun powered, world spending on weapons has grown to an astronomical 914 billion dollars annually (http://www.cia.gov/factbook). During the Cold War (mid 1950’s till the late 1980’s) between the Soviet Union and the United States, both of the super-powers started developing and stockpiling more and more weapons. During that time period of 40 years, more arms were bought and sold than any other time in history. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all of the new independent countries made their armies smaller causing a huge surplus of arms. These weapons then found their way to other countries and where they were sold and used in other wars. Many of these weapons are in the hands of terrorist organizations, gorilla groups, and other gang associations.
Besides just illegal trafficking, the world superpowers spend great deals of money on weapons as well. There are five major spenders on military arms, the U.S. (350 billion a year), Russia (45 billion), France (40 billion), Japan (39 billion), and the United Kingdom (37 billion). These five countries account for 70% of the total spent by the world on military purposes. This is enough to support the United Nations for over two centuries! Also, to build just 11 radar-evading bombers, the world could put the 135 million children in the world through four years of primary school. The money spent on weapons by the world could be divided up to over 30 dollars a person for everyone in the world. The arms trade involves billions of dollars, but if disarmament can occur on a large scale then finances could be focused in different areas of need.
“In terms of carnage they cause, small arms indeed could well be described as weapons of mass destruction,” -Mr. Annan (U.N. Secretary General). Small arms are weapons of mass destruction, killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year. That’s far higher than the casualty count from conventional weapons of war like tanks, bomber jets or war ships. These lethal weapons are relatively cheap, highly portable, easily concealable, long lasting, and so easy to operate that a child as young as eight years old can carry and use them. These characteristics make small arms particularly appealing to illegal trafficking. They are often sold illegally in exchange for hard currency or goods such as diamonds, drugs, or other illegal imports. Estimates of the black market trade in small arms range from 2-10 billion dollars a year.
In parts of Africa an assault rifle can be purchased for the same amount as a chicken. This prompts many in those areas to just buy a weapon and kill for the chicken instead of buying it. This is just one example of why people feel that disarmament in smaller developing countries is important because then killing at a local level would be reduced dramatically.
A nuclear weapon gains its destructive force from nuclear reactions of fusion or fission. As a result, even a nuclear weapon with a small yield is significantly more powerful than the largest conventional explosives, and a single weapon is capable of destroying an entire city. The nuclear weapon that was detonated in Hiroshima was about 12kt, and the combined effects of the blast and radiation killed about 300,000 people. Most nuclear weapons that are assembled today are 100kt (Ware http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issues/nuclear-weapon) which is 10 times larger than the Hiroshima bomb. This just goes to show the immense force that would be released if a nuclear weapon were set off.
Because of the immense military power they can deliver, the political control of nuclear weapons has been an important issue for as long as they have existed; in most countries the use of nuclear force can only be authorized by the head of government, for example, the President of the United States, or the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
In the 1960s steps were being taken to limit both the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries. The Partial Test Ban Treaty (1963) restricted all nuclear testing to underground nuclear testing, to prevent contamination from nuclear fallout, while the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968) attempted to put restrictions on the types of activities on the transference of non-military nuclear technology to member countries without fear of proliferation. In 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was established under the permission of the United Nations in order to help with the development of the peaceful applications of nuclear technology, provide international laws against its misuse. In 1996, many nations signed and ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty which prohibits all testing of nuclear weapons, which would make a big barrier to their development by any complying country.
Other treaties have been made for nuclear weapons stockpiles between individual countries, such as the SALT I and START I treaties, which limited the numbers and types of nuclear weapons between the United States and the U.S.S.R.
Nuclear weapons have also been held-off by agreements between countries. Many nations have been declared Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones, areas where nuclear weapons production and deployment are prohibited, through the use of treaties. The Treaty of Tlatelolco (1967) prohibited any production or deployment of nuclear weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Treaty of Pelindaba (1964) prohibits nuclear weapons in many African countries. In 2006 a Central Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone was established amongst the former Soviet republics of Central Asia prohibiting nuclear weapons.
In 1996, the International Court of Justice, the highest court of the United Nations, made a ruling concerned with the “Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons”. The court ruled that the use of nuclear weapons would violate various articles of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, the Hague Conventions, the UN Charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Chemical Weapons are nothing new to the world, dating back to the Athens and Sparta war in 431-404 B.C. (Judson 65) when flaming pitch and sulfur mixtures were used to produce toxic smoke. In the fourth century B.C. the Chinese used toxic smoke to poison enemy mine workers. In the middle ages, before gun-power, the Greek’s would use a fire which was a mixture of sulfur, quicklime, resin, pitch, and saltpeter. This was then used against ships because the mixture concoction would float on the water and when it was set on fire it would suffocate the sailors in the vicinity.
Today the intent is the same but different chemicals are used. The most common chemical weapons are; Sarin, Tabun, and Mustard Gas. Sarin, whose chemical name is Isopropyl methyl phosphonofluoridate, and is a colorless liquid that does not give of an odor when vaporized. It is a nerve agent that attacks the nervous system when inhaled as a gas and can lead to victims having difficulty breathing, and in many cases death by suffocation. Tabun, Ethyl N, N-dimerthyl phosphoramidocyanidate, an amber colored, nearly odorless that vaporizes into a colorless that works almost the same as Sarin. Mustard Gas, 1,1-thiobis 2 chloromethane, one of the most common chemical weapon and was used a lot in the Iran-Iraq War killing 4,000 civilians. Mustard Gas causes skin burns and blisters and can damage the respiratory tract.
Biological warfare, also known as a germ warfare, biological weapons, and bioweapons, is the use of any pathogen (bacterium, virus or other disease-causing organism) as a weapon of war. Note that using nonliving toxic products, even if produced by living organisms (toxins ect.), is considered chemical warfare under the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (http://www.fas.org/biosecurity/resource/bioweapons.htm). Some of the most frequently used biological weapons are; anthrax, and smallpox. Anthrax, bacillus anthracic (bacteria), can start out with a fever and a red rash that develops into black lesions. After this many other symptoms follow and can be fatal without treatment. Small pox, variola major, is a virus that when the victim inhales it begins with just a rash or fever and in a third of the cases the victim will die. Theses weapons, both chemical and biological, are potentially very dangerous and can cause astronomical damage. With countries such as North Korea, Iran, and Iraq (http://www.comeclean.org.uk/articles.php?articleID=7) in possession of these types of weapons it is vital that the U.N. and other NGO’s bring disarmament so that no attacks can be made like the ones in previous years.
These forms of weapons, small arms, chemical and biological weapons, and nuclear bombs, as well as the arms trade itself, are main reasons why the government and international originations are pushing so hard to have disarmament take place. Steps have been taking with the signings of treaties but still many threats remain. It is the U.N.’s goal to continue invigorating their efforts for disarmament and non-proliferation world wide, maybe someday this dream will become a reality.