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Weapons of Mass Destruction and Its Threat to Global Security

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Submitted By somreeta202
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On August 6, 1945, the United States used a massive, atomic weapon against Hiroshima, Japan. This atomic bomb, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, flattened the city, killing tens of thousands of civilians. While Japan was still trying to comprehend this devastation three days later, the United States struck again, this time, on Nagasaki.[1]
The atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan were conducted by the United States during the final stages of World War II in 1945. These two events represent the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date. [2]
Following a firebombing campaign that destroyed many Japanese cities, the Allies prepared for a costly invasion of Japan. The war in Europe ended when Nazi Germany signed its instrument of surrender on 8 May, but the Pacific War continued. Together with the United Kingdom and the Republic of China, the United States called for a surrender of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration on 26 July 1945, threatening Japan with "prompt and utter destruction". The Japanese government ignored this ultimatum, and the United States deployed two nuclear weapons developed by the Manhattan Project. American airmen dropped Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945, followed by Fat Man over Nagasaki on 9 August.[3]
Within the first two to four months of the bombings, the acute effects killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 60,000–80,000 in Nagasaki, with roughly half of the deaths in each city occurring on the first day.[4] The Hiroshima prefecture health department estimated that, of the people who died on the day of the explosion, 60% died from flash or flame burns, 30% from falling debris and 10% from other causes. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness. In a US estimate of the total immediate and short term cause of death, 15–20% died from radiation sickness, 20–30% from burns, and 50–60% from other injuries, compounded by illness. In both cities, most of the dead were civilians, although Hiroshima had a sizeable garrison.[5]
On 15 August, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan announced its surrender to the Allies, signing the Instrument of Surrender on 2 September, officially ending World War II. The bombings led, in part, to post-war Japan's adopting Three Non-Nuclear Principles, forbidding the nation from nuclear armament. The role of the bombings in Japan's surrender and their ethical justification are still debated.[6] In this paper I would like to discuss what we mean by a weapon of mass destruction and how it affects global security and induces terrorism.
A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is a weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans (and other life forms) and/or cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere in general. The scope and application of the term has evolved and been disputed, often signifying more politically than technically. Coined in reference to aerial bombing with chemical explosives, it has come to distinguish large-scale weaponry of other technologies, such as chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear. This differentiates the term from more technical ones such as chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons (CBRN).[7] During the Cold War, the term "weapons of mass destruction" was primarily a reference to nuclear weapons. At the time, in the West the euphemism "strategic weapons" was used to refer to the American nuclear arsenal, which was presented as a necessary deterrent against nuclear or conventional attack from the Soviet Union.[8]
The term "weapons of mass destruction" continued to see periodic use throughout this time, usually in the context of nuclear arms control; Ronald Reagan used it during the 1986 Reykjavík Summit, when referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Reagan's successor, George H.W. Bush, used the term in a 1989 speech to the United Nations, using it primarily in reference to chemical arms.[9]
The end of the Cold War reduced U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons as a deterrent, causing it to shift its focus to disarmament. This period coincided with an increasing threat to U.S. interests from Islamic nations and independent Islamic groups. With the 1990 invasion of Kuwait and 1991 Gulf War, Iraq's nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs became a particular concern of the first Bush Administration. Following the war, Bill Clinton and other western politicians and media continued to use the term, usually in reference to ongoing attempts to dismantle Iraq's weapons programs.[10]
After the 11 September 2001 attacks and the 2001 anthrax attacks, an increased fear of non-conventional weapons and asymmetrical warfare took hold of the United States and other Western powers. This fear reached a crescendo with the 2002 Iraq disarmament crisis and the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that became the primary justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, no WMD were found in Iraq.[11]
Even before the Fall of 2001, catastrophic terrorism had become a significant issue in the national security arena, and spurred debate over the nature of the threat and the appropriate response. Several occurrences over the last decade contributed to this increasing attention: the 1995 Aum Shinrikyo’s nerve agent attack in the Tokyo subway, the Oklahoma City and World Trade Center bombings in the United States, and the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Also of concern has been the possibility of WMD proliferation to terrorists from the former Soviet states where old research, production and storage facilities remain with questionable security and economically distressed personnel.[12]
A number of factors are seen as having previously constrained terrorist use of WMD. Most terrorists groups possess political goals and have traditional, ethnic, nationalist, or ideological associations. These groups seek to gain politically from attacks and to draw the attention of large audiences without diminishing their base of support. The conventional wisdom was reflected in expert Brian Jenkins comment several years ago, “Terrorists want lots of people watching, not lots of people dead.” For some groups, this is demonstrably no longer the case. However, even if a terrorist group sought to create an atmosphere of terror by inflicting large numbers of casualties, it need not turn to WMD, as the latest World Trade Center airliner attacks graphically demonstrated. In another comparison of conventional vs WMD attacks, 168 people died in the conventional bomb attack in Oklahoma City, while only 12 people died in the nerve agent attack in the Tokyo subway. [13]
WMD use is risky for the terrorists themselves, uncertain in its effects, and carries with it the possibility of severe retaliation. However, the increasing casualty count of attacks over the last several years has led many to argue that growing terrorist fanaticism and erosion of traditional constraints have negated the stigma of WMD. Although WMD terrorism remains rare, the Central Intelligence Agency has reported for the last several years that terrorist interest in WMD is growing, as is the number of potential perpetrators. This assessment has been reinforced with the discovery of documents in Afghanistan indicating the interest of both the Taliban and the al-Queda network in weapons of mass destruction.[14]
Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization remains the group of greatest concern or terrorist use of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The U.S. intelligence community has long reported that al-Queda is attempting to acquire this type of weapons capability. Documents and interrogations from military operations in Afghanistan have reinforced the assessment that the Taliban sought, and al-Qaeda, continues to seek to develop biological weapons and obtain radioactive material for a radiological weapon. Loss of operating bases in Afghanistan and intensified world-wide investigations of al-Qaeda has probably disrupted the organization’s
WMD weapons acquisition efforts, but is generally assumed that they will not cease.[15] It took months of planning and investigation for the U.S.A. to kill Osama. Finally on May 2, 2011 at night in Pakistan he was dead shot. The plan of this operation was not shared with Pakistan’s government. The death of Osama bin laden has not deterred the group from committing terrorist acts all over the world.[16]
While a nuclear weapon is the most destructive of all WMD, obtaining one poses the greatest difficulty for terrorist groups. The key obstacle to building such a weapon is the availability of a sufficient quantity of fissile material—either plutonium or highly enriched uranium. Some experts believe that if allowed access to the necessary quantities of fissile material, extraordinarily capable groups could build a crude nuclear weapon. A much less difficult nuclear option is a radiological weapon using conventional high explosives to disperse any type of radioactive material. This obviates the need for fissile material and the complexity of a nuclear bomb. Though unlikely to cause mass casualties, radiological weapons could still have very significant radiation contamination effects if well-targeted. [17]
Some experts point to Iraq’s efforts to acquire a nuclear capability – a nation with economic resources, technical expertise, and motivation – to demonstrate the significant difficulty of building even a crude nuclear weapon. State sponsors of terrorists have been considered unlikely to turn over control of such weapons, once developed, to terrorist groups because of possible international retaliation or concern that the groups might leave their control. However, the problem of “loose nukes,” i.e., the possible leakage of nuclear weapons material and technical know-how from the former Soviet states, remains a cause of concern that some believe increases the likelihood of a terrorist group obtaining a nuclear capability. It is important to note that even if a terrorist group were to get hold of an assembled nuclear weapon covertly, the built-in safeguards and self-destruction mechanisms would pose a serious challenge to detonating the weapon. In addition, the size of most nuclear weapons makes them rather hard to transport, especially clandestinely. The most likely means for such transport is judged to be commercial shipping. [18]
Nuclear terrorism denotes the use, or threat of the use, of nuclear weapons or radiological weapons in acts of terrorism, including attacks against facilities where radioactive materials are present. In legal terms, nuclear terrorism is an offense committed if a person unlawfully and intentionally “uses in any way radioactive material … with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury; or with the intent to cause substantial damage to property or to the environment; or with the intent to compel a natural or legal person, an international organization or a State to do or refrain from doing an act”, according to the 2005 United Nations International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.[19]
The notion of terrorist organizations using nuclear weapons (especially very small ones, such as suitcase nukes) has been a threat in American rhetoric and culture. It is considered plausible that terrorists could acquire a nuclear weapon. In 2011, the British news agency, the Telegraph, received leaked documents regarding the Guantanamo Bay interrogations of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The documents cited Khalid saying that, if Osama bin Laden is captured or killed by the Coalition of the Willing, an al-Qaeda sleeper cell will detonate a "weapon of mass destruction" in a "secret location" in Europe, and promised it would be "a nuclear hell storm”.
To date, over 2000 nuclear tests have been carried out at different locations all over the world. Arms control advocates had campaigned for the adoption of a treaty banning all nuclear explosions since the early 1950s, when public concern was aroused as a result of radioactive fall-out from atmospheric nuclear tests and the escalating arms race. Over 50 nuclear explosions were registered between 16 July 1945, when the first nuclear explosive test was conducted by the United States at White Sands Missile Range near Alamogordo, New Mexico, and 31 December 1953. Prime Minister Nehru of India voiced the heightened international concern in 1954, when he proposed the elimination of all nuclear test explosions worldwide. However, within the context of the Cold War, skepticism about the capability to verify compliance with a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty posed a major obstacle to any agreement. [20]
Partial Test Ban Treaty, 1963
Limited success was achieved with the signing of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in space, but not underground. Neither France nor China signed the PTBT. However, the treaty was still ratified by the United States after a 80 to 19 vote in the United States Senate. While the PTBT reduced atmospheric fallout, underground nuclear testing can also vent radioactivity into the atmosphere, and radioactivity released underground may seep into the ground water. Moreover, the PTBT had no restraining effects on the further development of nuclear warheads. [21]
Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, 1968
A major step towards non-proliferation of nuclear weapons came with the signing of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1968. Under the NPT, non-nuclear weapon states were prohibited from, inter alia, possessing, manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. All signatories, including nuclear weapon states, were committed to the goal of total nuclear disarmament. However, India, Pakistan and Israel have declined to ratify the NPT on grounds that such a treaty is fundamentally discriminatory as it places limitations on states that do not have nuclear weapons while making no efforts to curb weapons development by declared nuclear weapons states. [22]
Negotiations for the CTBT
Given the political situation prevailing in the subsequent decades, little progress was made in nuclear disarmament until the end of the Cold War in 1991. Parties to the PTBT held an amendment conference that year to discuss a proposal to convert the Treaty into an instrument banning all nuclear-weapon tests; with strong support from the UN General Assembly, negotiations for a comprehensive test-ban treaty began in 1993. [23]
Adoption of the CTBT, 1996
Intensive efforts were made over the next three years to draft the Treaty text and its two annexes. However, the Conference on Disarmament, in which negotiations were being held, did not succeed in reaching consensus on the adoption of the text. Under the direction of Prime Minister John Howard and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, Australia then sent the text to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where it was submitted as a draft resolution. On 10 September 1996, the Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) was adopted by a large majority, exceeding two-thirds of the General Assembly's Membership.[24]
Nuclear testing after CTBT adoption
Three countries have tested nuclear weapons since the CTBT opened for signature in 1996. India and Pakistan both carried out two sets of tests in 1998. North Korea carried out two announced tests in 2006 and 2009. Both North Korean tests were picked up by the International Monitoring System set up by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization Preparatory Commission. [25]
The Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT) is a proposed international treaty to prohibit the further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other explosive devices. The treaty has not been negotiated and its terms remain to be defined. According to a proposal by the United States, fissile material includes high-enriched uranium and plutonium (except plutonium that is over 80% Pu-238). According to a proposal by Russia, fissile material would be limited to weapons-grade uranium (with more than 90% U-235) and plutonium (with more than 90% Pu-239). Neither proposal would prohibit the production of fissile material for non-weapons purposes, including use in civil or naval nuclear reactors.[26]
The Geneva based Conference on Disarmament (CD) on 23 March 1995 agreed to a establish a committee to negotiate "a non-discriminatory, multilateral and internationally and effectively verifiable treaty banning the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.". However, substantive negotiations have not taken place.
On April 5, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama reversed the U.S. position on verification and proposed to negotiate "a new treaty that verifiably ends the production of fissile materials intended for use in state nuclear weapons." On May 29, 2009, the CD agreed to establish an FMCT negotiating committee,[27]
The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was established in April 1987 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States. The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons, specifically delivery systems that could carry a minimum payload of 500 kg a minimum of 300 km.
At the annual meeting in Oslo in July 1992, chaired by Sten Lundbo, it was agreed to expand the scope of the MTCR to include nonproliferation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for all weapons of mass destruction. Prohibited materials are divided into two Categories, which are outlined in the MTCR Equipment, Software, and Technology Annex. Membership has grown to 34 nations, with 3 additional nations, including Israel, adhering to the MTCR Guidelines unilaterally. [28]
Since its establishment, the MTCR has been successful in helping to slow or stop several ballistic missile programs, according to the Arms Control Association: “Argentina, Egypt, and Iraq abandoned their joint Condor II ballistic missile program. Brazil, South Africa, and Taiwan also shelved or eliminated missile or space launch vehicle programs. Some Eastern European countries, such as Poland and the Czech Republic, destroyed their ballistic missiles, in part, to better their chances of joining MTCR.” In October 1994, in order to make the enforcement of MTCR Guidelines more uniform, the member states established a “no undercut” policy, meaning if one member denies the sale of some technology to another country, then all members must adhere. The ICOC, initiated by members of the MTCR, took the principles of the regime, expanded upon them, and offered membership to all nations. Thus, 117 nations now enforce export controls to curb the proliferation of UAV’s.
In 2002, the MTCR was supplemented by the International Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation (ICOC), also known as the Hague Code of Conduct, which calls for restraint and care in the proliferation of ballistic missile systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, and has 119 members, thus working parallel to the MTCR with less specific restrictions but with a greater membership. [29]

Global security and terrorism Terrorists seeking to unleash massive violence and destruction may climb the escalation ladder to the highest rungs: nuclear weapons. In this nightmare scenario, they may try to seize an intact nuclear weapon residing in a nuclear weapon state’s arsenal. If, however, they are deterred by the security measures surrounding nuclear armaments, they may instead decide to acquire fissile material by purchase, diversion, or force for the purpose of fabricating a crude nuclear bomb, known more formally as an “improvised nuclear device” (IND).
Two types of fissile material could be used for this purpose, highly enriched uranium (HEU) or plutonium, but the former would be far easier to make into a successful IND, as explained in detail, below. These materials have been produced in great quantity in nuclear weapon and civilian nuclear energy programs around the world. [30]
Leaving aside material currently in nuclear weapons themselves, many hundreds of tons of fissile material are currently dispersed at hundreds of sites worldwide, where they are being processed, used, or stored, often under inadequate security arrangements. Russia alone, processes more than 34 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear material annually.
According to the conservative figures used by the International Atomic Energy Agency, only 25 kilograms of HEU or 8 kilograms of plutonium would be needed to manufacture a weapon.
It is more difficult to maintain strict control over fissile materials than over nuclear weapons. Among other challenges, while the latter can be easily identified and counted, fissile materials are often handled in difficult-to-measure bulk form, introducing measurement uncertainties that can mask repeated diversions of small quantities of HEU or plutonium from process streams and storage areas. Indeed, over the past decade a number of cases have been documented involving illicit trafficking in fissile materials; no similar cases have been confirmed involving the theft of nuclear weapons. Although none of the fissile material cases involved quantities sufficient for a nuclear explosive, conceivably such transactions may have occurred without detection.
To combat the proliferation of weapons—both conventional and weapons of mass destruction—that threaten the U.S., the FBI established a Counter proliferation Center in July 2011. The overarching purpose of the Center is to detect, deter, and defeat the threat posed by state-sponsored groups, individuals, and organizations attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction or other sensitive technologies. [31] Counter-proliferation refers to diplomatic, intelligence, and military efforts to combat the proliferation of weapons, including both weapons of mass destruction (WMD), long-range missiles, and certain conventional weapons. Nonproliferation and arms control are related terms. In contrast to nonproliferation, which focuses on diplomatic, legal and administrative measures to dissuade and impede the acquisition of such weapons, counter-proliferation focuses on intelligence, law enforcement, and sometimes military action to prevent their acquisition. On April 12–13, 2010, President Barack Obama initiated and hosted the first-ever nuclear security summit in Washington D.C., commonly known as the Washington Nuclear Security Summit. The goal was to strengthen international cooperation to prevent nuclear terrorism. President Obama, along with nearly fifty world leaders, discussed the threat of nuclear terrorism, what steps needed to be taken to mitigate illicit nuclear trafficking, and how to secure nuclear material. The Summit was successful in that it produced a consensus delineating nuclear terrorism as a serious threat to all nations. Finally, the Summit produced over four-dozen specific actions embodied in commitments by individual countries and the Joint Work Plan. However, world leaders at the Summit failed to agree on baseline protections for weapons-usable material, and no agreement was reached on ending the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in civil nuclear functions. Many of the shortcomings of the Washington Nuclear Security Summit were addressed at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit in March 2012.
A terrorist nuclear explosion could kill hundreds of thousands, create billions of dollars in damages and undermine the global economy. Former Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations said that an act of nuclear terrorism “would thrust tens of millions of people into dire poverty” and create “a second death toll throughout the developing world.” Terrorists exploit gaps in security. The current global regime for protecting the nuclear materials that terrorists desire for their ultimate weapon is far from seamless. It is based largely on unaccountable, voluntary arrangements that are inconsistent across borders. Its weak links make it dangerous and inadequate to prevent nuclear terrorism.
Obama’s initiative in launching the nuclear security summit process in Washington in 2010 helped focus high-level attention on nuclear security issues. Unfortunately, the actions produced by the 2010 Washington Summit and that are planned for the upcoming Seoul Summit are voluntary actions that are useful, but not sufficient to create an effective global nuclear security regime.[32]
The world cannot afford to wait for the patchwork of nuclear security arrangements to fail before they are strengthened. Instead, we need a system based on a global framework convention on nuclear security that would fill the gaps in existing voluntary arrangements. This framework convention would commit states to an effective standard of nuclear security practices, incorporate relevant existing international agreements, and give the I.A.E.A. the mandate to support nuclear security by evaluating whether states are meeting their nuclear security obligations and providing assistance to those states that need help in doing so.
Nuclear terrorism is a real and present danger for all states, not just a few. Preventing it is an achievable goal. The current focus on nuclear security through voluntary actions, however, is not commensurate with either the risk or consequences of nuclear terrorism. This must be rectified. If the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit makes this a priority, there can be an effective global nuclear security regime in place before this decade ends. [33]

Notes and References:
1. Valerie Bodden, The Bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki, Minnesota, Creative education, 2008, pp 1-4
2. Andrew Langley, Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Fire from the sky, Minneapolis, Compass Point books, pp 16-21
3. Andrew Langley, ibid, pp 51-54
4. [online web] http://history1900s.about.com/od/worldwarii/a/hiroshima.htm “ the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki” by Jennifer Rosenberg accessed on 4th november,2012
5. [online web] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki accessed on 4th November, 2012
6. Andrew Langley, op.cit, pp 61-64
7. [online web] http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/00639/en/history.html accessed on 7th November, 2012
8. [online web] http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/00639/en/history.html accessed on 8th November, 2012
9. [online web] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki accessed on 8th November,2012
10. Aneek Chatterjee, International Relations Today: Concepts and applications, Delhi, Pearson, 2010, p 164
11. Jonathan Medalia, Nuclear Terrorism: A Brief Review of Threats and Responses, CRS Report for Congress, September 22, 2004, p1
12. Steve Bowman, Weapons of mass destruction: a terrorist threat, CRS Report for congress, March 7th, 2002 p 1
13. Steve bowman, ibid, p 2
14. Steve Bowman, ibid pp 4-5
15. Mark Bowden, The death of Osama bin Laden, The guardian, October 12th, 2012
16. Jonathan Medalia, op.cit, p 4
17. Steve Bowman, op.cit p 4
18. Steve Bowman, op.cit p5
19. Sitakanta Mishra, The challenge of nuclear terror, Delhi, KW Publishers Pvt Ltd, 2012, pp 13-17
20. Sitakanta Mishra, ibid, pp 20-30
21. Jonathan Medalia, Comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty: background and current developments, CRS Report for Congress, August 3rd, 2012, pp 3-5
22. Jonathan Medalia, ibid, pp 8-15
23. Jonathan Medalia, ibid pp 16-20
24. Jonathan Medalia, ibid pp 25-28
25. Jonathan Medalia, ibid pp 34-41
26. Aneek Chatterjee, op.cit , p 160
27. [online web] ://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fissile_Material_Cut-off_Treaty accessed on 24th November, 2012
28. Aneek Chatterjee, op.cit, p 162
29. [online web] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missile_Technology_Control_Regime accessed on 4th December, 2012
30. Kenneth C. Brill, Nuclear Terrorism: A clear danger, The Guardian, march 15th , 2012
31. Charles D. Ferguson and William C. Porter, Improvised Nuclear devices and Nuclear Terrorism, Sweden, The Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission, 2006, pp 25-30
32. John Baylis, Steve Smith, Patricia Owens, The globalization of world politics : an introduction to international relations, Oxford university press, 2010, p 392
33. John Baylis, Steve Smith, Patricia Owens, ibid p 393…...

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