“What is the only provocation that could bring about the use of nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the priority target for nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. What is the only established defense against nuclear weapons? Nuclear weapons. How do we prevent the use of nuclear weapons? By threatening the use of nuclear weapons. And we can’t get rid of nuclear weapons, because of nuclear weapons. The intransigence, it seems, is a function of the weapons themselves.”
― (Amis, Einstein’s Monsters, n.d.)
The above quote states the obvious fact of the realpolitik world, which is that nuclear weapons determine power games in today’s world. “Power can be defined as the ability to force or persuade others to follow a preferred course of action they would not have otherwise chosen. At its most basic level, the components of a nation’s power derive from its economic strength, military capabilities, and political influence. Better technology affects all these elements. Hence, we can say that high-tech nations are more powerful than low-tech nations.” (Lewis, 2022) Consequently, states in order to survive not only fight for economic hegemony and crucial resources, but they also indulge in arms race, military build-ups and the acquisition of nuclear weapons in order to protect the very resources they own. Any state that does not have a capable military force with a substantive quantity, good quality weapons, and if possible nuclear weapons, will fail to guard its resources. Like Panama failed to guard the sovereignty of its Panama canal from the hands of the America’s profit organizations. Like, Indonesia, Ecuador, and many other states became vulnerable to USA’s domination through its economic firms and institutions. Thus, we can say that economic power is very much related to military power. States with weak conventional power will ultimately try to build up nuclear weapons, such states are even willing to starve their own citizens in order to make their place in the world’s political system. For instance, North Korea’s quest for military dominance. In a scenario, where states feel threatened by another states’ arms race, that state would respond with a similar arm buildup. However, when states are unable to do so because of financial constraints, they would try to form alliances. Alliances can be a difficult option because they are neither easy to establish nor easy to maintain. In such a scenario, states would try to have the bigger hand by the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons and gunboat diplomacy are some of those effective instruments that can help states not only to pursue the offensive way but also the defensive.
Henceforth, a lacking conventional capability results in three different options for states: Arms race, Alliances formation, and nuclear weapons. All three can be useful but all three can be exploitative and detrimental to positive peace at the same time.
In other words, technological in the military sphere determine the balance of power. Today, Israel and USA are hell-bent on preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. This is so because they do not want the balance of power to be endangered. The objective is not to allow any single actor to dominate. And this objective lies in the hands of the powerful. It is to be noted, that technological advances are not the ONLY EFFECTIVE determinant of power. Besides this, good governance, effective leadership, and practical strategies also play an equally important role. However, not every country is able to transform this potential into national power.
It is equally important to understand who benefits from such technological advances, and arms races? We can include two perspectives here. The interstate perspective claims that when states observe their adversaries growing their military might. They will be compelled to do the same. This is because of the insecurity complex and fear of dominance that they feel. Organizations like IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and other global nuclear watchdog organizations benefit from such an arms race because they get funding to observe and evaluate nuclear developments around the globe. Meanwhile, the intrastate perspective is more complex and broad. It claims that when a state calls for technological development, increases in military force, weaponry, or call for the acquisition of nuclear weapons, these states will start by passing laws that call for an increase in the military budget. The increase will be supported by the legislature of that state, will be promoted and emphasized by that country’s army, and will be carried out practically by that country’s weapons industry. Hence, this is an iron triangle, with all three corners empowering each other in order to maintain a hegemony inside the state and over the state’s other institutions. The ultimate benefactors from this will be the weapons industry and those who invest in such industries. Example: Military Industrial Complex in various states such as; the USA.
Now, if we take a look at some of the most prominent military technological advancements in history, we have many examples. The first is the invention of the Machine Gun in 1884, by Hiram Maxim. He invented world’s first automatic portable machine-gun. The British’s version of the machine gun was called the Maxim. The German version was ‘Maschinengewehr’. The Russian version was ‘Pulemyot’. Another prominent example of advances in aeronautical engineering is the 1903 Wright Flyer. The Wright brothers established the aerial age with the world’s first successful flights of a powered flying machine. Later on, this flying invention was converted into commercial airplanes and military fighter jets. Today, we have many such durable and faster military fighter jets like F16, F17 Thunder, etc. In addition to this, let us not forget one of the most crucial, yet the jeopardous invention of the 19th century, and that is the atomic Bomb of 1945. This time, the Americans were thinking of using the N-bomb to contain Japan. The Soviets on the other hand lacked the knowledge, capability, and raw sources of developing an atomic bomb. Hence, on August 6, 1945, the US became the first country to create nuclear weapons, and the only one to use them in combat. The USA dropped the first bomb named “Litte Boy” over the city of Hiroshima resulting in the immediate death of some 80,000 people. When the US saw that the Japanese forces were not surrendering, it dropped a second bomb named “Fat Man” on the city of Nagasaki resulting in the immediate death of some 40,000 people. With that realistic display of power, the Soviet Union become conscious and dwelled onto the development of a nuclear program. They acquired nuclear weapons later on in 1949 by discovering Uranium enriched sites in Eastern Europe. Over the next time period, other states like Britain, France, and China too developed their own set of nuclear weapons. Hence, these inventions, although some of them were useful, however, the invention of nuclear weapons has always been a debatable and controversial topic.
Today, the world has developed from the basic inventions of the machine gun, airplanes, and atomic bomb to the newest, and latest inventions in the forms of short-range tactical weapons, nuclear-powered attack submarines, etc. Among all the states, the US, and Israel seem to be the most advanced in terms of nuclear technology. Let us look into the example of Israel. Israel’s army relied on a number of high-tech weapons designed and manufactured in the state itself. It is known to possess nuclear weapons though undeclared. It has also not signed the Non-proliferation Treaty NPT. It spends at least 30% of its GDP on defense, and the USA is the biggest contributor of military assistance to Israel. One of the most eminent technological advancement Israel owns is the Iron dome anti-missile system. In the occupation of Palestine, the situation has worsened with more than 3000 rocket fired from the Palestinian side by Hamas. Though, only 5% of these rockets met their target. The others were detected and intercepted by Israeli Iron dome system.
Another economic and military game changer for Israel is the Iron Beam system. It cannot only intercept more rockets than the Iron Dome system but also do it in a cost-efficient manner. “The system is most effective against short-range threats such as rockets, mortars, drones, and anti-tank missiles. It can engage such threats from up to 2,000 meters away. The first variant of the system is ground-based. And, the official also disclosed that there will also be air and even space-based Iron Beam systems in the future.” (Iddon, 2022) It seems like Israel has a treasure of advanced high-tech arsenals. Another addition to the treasure is Israel’s David’s Sling, launched in 2018, which aims to protect Israeli skies against large-caliber rockets and short-range ballistic missiles. This has been developed to counter the oncoming rocket threats from Hamas and Iran. This enhances the already bold power of the Iron dome system, which is able to work 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, with the capability of intercepting a missile within 15 seconds. Henceforth, all these inventions have been developed by Israeli defense contractor RAFAEL Advanced Defense Systems in collaboration with USA’s defense contractors. Today, as the Ukraine war continues, the tectonic changes in defense and power realities in the United States, Europe, and other countries have created a new focus on Israel’s defense industry as RAFAEL plays its role as suppliers to various countries out there. Example: Israel sells its SPIKE missiles to many other states in Europe.
Israel tries to overcome its lack of skilled military personnel through its advanced state-of-the-art military technology. All of these states are in a constant arms race and it is due to several reasons. Why states acquire and build nuclear weapons? Because they fear domination at the hands of other states and because they want to overpower other states. When states see their adversaries increasing their military budget, military personnel, number of tanks and submarines, this instills a fear in the inferior states to produce more weapons and introduce a larger budget than those of their enemies. However, not everyone can afford to do so. Such states point out the importance of traditional security threats rather than non-traditional security issues. As a result, a question arises, Who runs the world?
After analyzing Israel’s case, we should ask a very vital question that has been under debate since the Obama administration. It is whether the concept of a global nuclear zero is possible? We know that nuclear weapons threaten every single human life, infrastructure and animals on this planet. The most hazardous effects it has is on the environment. The production of nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, and their usage cause long-term damage to the environment. Let us not forget the deaths of those people who died due to the radiation effect of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb attacks. Efforts by the Global Nuclear zero campaign includes the “No first use campaign”, which tries to convince the 9 nuclear power states not to use nuclear weapons first and to reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons for security purposes. More efforts include encouraging states to spend money from defense to social and economic projects. Is global nuclear zero the best option? For third-world countries like Pakistan and Iran, the only biggest achievement for them in history are their nuclear weapons, which states like North Korea will never abandon. An equal commitment from Israel and the USA is also not expected in the short or long term. Though, there are many disarmament and non-proliferation attempts made by all these states, which cannot be neglected, however, the nuclear non-proliferation regime including the NPT and IAEA is full of loopholes and flaws which makes the concept of global nuclear zero very difficult to achieve and calls for active reformation. Is the concept of global nuclear zero possible? No, not in the short term, not without equal commitments by the US, not without the reformation of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and not without successful confidence-building measures.
In conclusion, it is stated that no doubt military advancements are very beneficial for each state. Hence, every state has the right to weapons proliferation to a certain limit. It is crucial to promote military and technological advancements for defense purposes, and it is also equally important to ensure the implication of the “No first use” policy. Further recommendations include ensuring the success of confidence-building measures CBMs between adversarial states, bringing conflict resolution methods to the forefront, and giving special Confidence Avoiding Measures CAMs training to world leaders and military strategists. Though, nuclear weapons can be detrimental to world peace, military technological advancements have always been crucial for balance of power.