The Hiroshima anniversary: 5 things you should know about nuclear weapons today via Vox

Seventy-three years after the first use of the atomic bomb in wartime, commitment to arms control is fading.

The imprint on public consciousness of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which occurred 73 years ago Monday, has faded greatly. The hibakusha, or survivors of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed more than 130,000 and left tens of thousands of others with horrendous injuries, have been the most ardent proponents of nuclear abolition. Now they are few in number, and nuclear-armed states seem deaf to their pleas.

This anniversary arrives at a time when the “nuclear enterprise” in the United States is gearing up to spend more than $1 trillion on new missiles, bombers, and submarines over the next three decades.


2) Nuclear weapons are becoming too provocative to test

Russia hasn’t tested since 1990, the United States since 1992, China and France since 1996, India and Pakistan since 1998. The biggest outlier, North Korea, recently declared a closureof its test site.

During the Cold War, there was, on average, about one test per week somewhere in the world at test sites, in the atmosphere or at sea. Each test was a declaration of the bomb’s power and utility. Every test demonstrated faith and commitment to battlefield use in the event of a breakdown of deterrence.

The absence of nuclear testing conveys a very different message: that nuclear weapons aren’t like other instruments of war. They are different, a class apart. All of this is reversible, to be sure, but the longer the moratorium on nuclear testing continues, the greater the uproar should a nation violate the norm, and the greater the pressure on national leaders to abide by it.


3) Unfortunately, the nuclear taboo might be weakening

Few survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain, and memories of mushroom clouds and the close calls of the Cold War are becoming dim. Public opinion polling suggests that many Americans would not think twice if there were a great many casualties against evildoers. For example, a 2017 survey found that 60 percent of Americans would support a nuclear attack on Iran that would kill 20 million civilians, to prevent an invasion that might kill 20,000 American soldiers.


5) International division about nuclear weapons is growing

A ban-the-bomb movement has picked up steam in states that have foresworn nuclear weapons, while strong pro-bomb constituencies exist in nuclear-armed nations. “Arms control” has lost its appeal to the American public, but arms races aren’t popular either.

New approaches to reduce nuclear dangers and weapons are not being advanced, even as treaties that have served us well are being cast aside or are unraveling.

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