Topics: Slate Articles
Nuclear war has but a brief history. In 1945 two low-yield weapons were used against Japanese cities, resulting in the surrender of Japan to the Allies. Nuclear deterrence has had a richer history, but much of this history has little relevance to matters of current importance. This article will therefore focus on the present and prospective consequences of the existence of nuclear weapons.
While mutual destruction and Pyrrhic victories can occur, such possibilities have been with us at least as long as recorded history, and the fact that they could occur days or even hours after the start of hostilities, rather than after weeks, months, or years, does not necessarily change the basic issues and situations that have arisen in the past. Thus, history may repeat itself in the thermonuclear era, which could experience successful wars and aggressions as well as mutually destructive ones.
However, since all these changes have occurred without being tested in battle, one can question whether their full significance has even been absorbed intellectually, much less in plans and programs.