General Question

chelle21689's avatar

Why is the U.S. allowed to have nuclear weapons?

Asked by chelle21689 (7289points) April 20th, 2012

It seems like only certain countries can have them and certain ones can not. Is this fair? Obviously, I think North Korea is suspicious and aggressive…so I think it’s uncomfortable to know they have nuclear weapons.
But it seems that only certain countries can have them and other’s are not allowed. If I’m wrong, please inform me.

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35 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

I suck at history, but I think it probably has to do with us inventing them.

SmashTheState's avatar

They’re not. I certainly don’t recall being asked for permission. The answer is that once a State possesses nuclear weapons, who can tell them they can’t? This is why, in the wake of the imperial aggression of the Amerikan Empire, so many States have started scrambling for their own.

Lightlyseared's avatar

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons allows certain countries to hold nuclear weapons. The treaty was originally drawn up in the height of the cold war and as the number of countries that had access to nuclear weapons increased the security of everyone was reduced and the risks of miscalculation, accidents, unauthorized use of weapons etc increased. Just think of the Cuban missile crisis for example.

To maintain the status quo of the cold war certain countries (the US, UK, France, USSR, China ie the 5 permanant members of the United Nations Security Council) are allowed to keep nuclear weapons and other signatory states agreed not to develop nuclear weapons.

Of course some countries (most famously Israel) refused to sign and and still keep their nuclear weapons but by and large the treaty stabilised the situation and reduced the number of nukes about.

zenvelo's avatar

Neither Pakistan nor India asked permission, either. There is no higher authority above the nation-state.

Lightlyseared's avatar

Well the stupid answer is to say that no one wants to argue with someone who has nukes and doesn’t mind dropping them on civillians.

Roby's avatar

Beause we are the good guys…and bad guys are not allowed to possess them.

tedd's avatar

Speaking with regards to “law” .... The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has been signed by the majority of the nations on the planet. That treaty states that the only five nations allowed to possess nuclear weapons are Russia, China, the UK, France, and the US (as the five major winning powers in WW2 and five main powers in the UN). Nations are not bound to sign this treaty however, and many chose not to. For instance India and Pakistan are not signatories of the treaty, and both possess nuclear weapons. Nations like Iran, Iraq (with Saddam), and North Korea are held to the flame because they are signatories of the treaty, yet violate its authority.

Speaking with regards to morally why the US is allowed to have nuclear weapons…. The best answer would be that there is no real reason we should be allowed to have them and others not. But in fairness, in 60–70 years of having them we’ve only used them once, and it was in a major state of war. We’ve proven we’re not going to just pull them out and use them to beat minor foes or use them for any little skirmish that erupts between us and another nation.

wundayatta's avatar

Why is the US allowed? Who will stop us?

We give ourselves permission, and plus various treaties acknowledge that we have them and no one else is going to get them. Of course, if you don’t sign that treaty, there may be no one who can stop you from acquiring them. In fact, Lots of countries would like them and many countries are working on acquiring them and the US and other nations are trying to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons.

I don’t think we will be successful at keeping Iran or Korea from getting them.

tedd's avatar

@Lightlyseared To my knowledge, Israel is a signatory of the NNPT.. yet supposedly keeps a secret stock of nuclear weapons. Had that just not signed the treaty they’d have been free to have them openly… as India and Pakistan do.

flutherother's avatar

Because the United States is a liberal democracy wanting nothing but peace. The United States would never use nuclear weapons in anger or pose a threat to other countries (wait, that can’t be right.)

Lightlyseared's avatar

@tedd India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel are all non signatories. Israel has been under a lot of pressure to sign but it is not budging on the issue. Link (a little out of date but the latest thing I could find quickly).

tedd's avatar

@Lightlyseared I’m pretty sure North Korea was a signatory, but pulled out pretty recently.

Here we go, wikipedia to the rescue http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Nonproliferation_Treaty
-India, Israel, and Pakistan have never signed the treaty.
-India and Pakistan openly have weapons, while Israel presumably does.
-North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003.
-Iran is a signatory, but is currently in noncompliance with the treaty over it’s enrichment program (not a confirmation of weapons, but still against the rules of the treaty).
-South Africa developed nuclear weapons and maintained a rudimentary supply of them until 1993, when it dismantled it’s stockpile and signed the treaty.
-Libya (a signatory) was in non-compliance for a secret nuclear weapons program. But they reportedly didn’t get very far in development before giving it up (before the recent overthrow there).
-Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan all “inherited” weapons from the USSR when it collapsed in the early 90’s. All three nations dismantled them and signed the treaty.

CWOTUS's avatar

Part of the issue stems from the fact that signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty also agree not to send nuclear materials (including software, machinery and fissile materials) to countries whose intent isn’t clearly “peaceful”. And just saying “we will be peaceful” isn’t enough to satisfy the treaty requirements.

So some countries who have signed the agreement seem to be abrogating it by supplying those materials and technology outside of the agreement.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Who’s allowing the U.S. anything? The U.S allows other countries.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The USA as the self-appointed head of the world police force determines whom they will permit to possess nuclear weapons. Anyone care to argue the point? I didn’t think so!

zenvelo's avatar

Here’s a musical summary of the whole she-bang by Tom Leher – Who’s Next

CWOTUS's avatar

While we’re on the topic, Randy Newman sings Political Science in the same vein. (The part about “giving them money” I guess is no longer so relevant.)

dabbler's avatar

@tedd Israel is not on the list of signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

JLeslie's avatar

@dabbler That’s what @tedd wrote.

Nullo's avatar

There isn’t really anybody to ask for permission.
Besides which, we feel confident that we’ll use them wisely, and not for blowing up Israels.

likipie's avatar

Because we “use them for good”. Although I’m not sure of any situation where nuclear weapon use would be considered good. Why we’ve created nuclear weapons in the first place? Because humans can be and are extremely stupid. How much trouble have weapons of any kind for that matter caused in the world? More than they have good. People are just so idiotic sometimes.

dabbler's avatar

@JLeslie Ah! Ref Israel, true, I was responding to his first post.

john65pennington's avatar

When you are the first to invent or create something, you can write your own rules as you go..

An example: Nashville, Tennessee was the first city to incorporate a metropolitan-type of government in the United States. Being the very first, allowed the Nashville-Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, to write its own rules and regulations for the rest of the nation to follow. And, so it did.

Same applies to the first country to have nuclear weapons….....US !!!!!

flutherother's avatar

@Nullo We’ve used them wisely twice already. Such wisdom!

Nullo's avatar

@flutherother They put the dagger into Japan’s war effort. Saved millions of lives, on both sides. And that was before we figured out what they could really do.

rish11's avatar

It isn’t a matter of “allowed” or “not-allowed”. This implies that there is a larger authority in play. Each country is independent and not subject to the rules of other countries. That being said, each country relies on all others for financial reasons – imports & exports of goods, financial aid, humanitarian aid, etc. So, “playing nice” with your peers is a requirement. The pressure you see on North Korea has been going on for many years. In my opinion, they threaten to get larger countries to come to the table and negotiate. Larger and richer countries then offer humanitarian aid in return for North Korea acting the way their peers want.

To summarize the answer, the USA has nuclear weapons because it has them. Just like every other country that does. It is the “peer” pressure that makes new countries seeking nukes to feel they shouldn’t do this.

tedd's avatar

@Nullo @flutherother Very true. While tens of thousands may have died thanks to the bombs on Japan…. Millions of lives were probably saved. The Japanese had no plans to surrender at all, and didn’t even after we dropped the first bomb. There was actually a military coup to basically put the Emperor on house arrest and have him be a puppet, so that he wouldn’t surrender. It only failed because they carried out the coup on the day the second bomb fell.

(FYI: The Japanese had prepared to defend against our exact invasion plan. It’s estimated the US could’ve had as many as 4 million casualties over a long drawn out invasion [in which 5–10 million Japanese would’ve died]. The US military made so many Purple Heart awards in preparation for the invasion, that they have had enough for every war since… and still have over 100,000 left today.)

flutherother's avatar

War is madness but to think of destroying an entire city and everyone in it has got to be wrong. I mean, does this really have to be said?

tedd's avatar

@flutherother True. But when war is brought upon us, should we not fight it but rather submit to the dictatorial wishes of our foes?

If it eases your anguish any, Truman turned down the first target choice by the military.. A significantly more strategic choice militarily, economically, and spirit/propaganda wise….. A little town named Tokyo.

Nullo's avatar

@tedd Tokyo was already mostly gone, anyhow, from years of HE and incendiary bombing. And I think that the final body count from the bombs, radiation and all, was in the hundred of thousands.
Not surprisingly, wiki has a decent article on it.

tedd's avatar

@Nullo Still. It was vastly more populated than Hiroshima or Nagasaki. An atomic bomb blast there could very easily have killed millions.

Mr_Paradox's avatar

Under the Geneva Conventions nuclear weapons are illegal. Of course no one pays attention to that little clause of the Conventions.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Mr_Paradox Using them is illegal, not owning them. That’s why the scenarios in which they would be used are always assumed to be ones where the Geneva Conventions would not be enforceable (e.g., mutually assured destruction). Moreover, the amendment you speak of didn’t come about until 1977, and the US has not ratified it (though it is a signatory).

Mr_Paradox's avatar

Whoops. Sorry about that.

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