Daniel Halliday
Aug 9 · Last update 1 mo. ago.
If chemical weapons are banned by international law, why aren’t nuclear bombs?
Chemical weapons, biological weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions are all illegal under international law. As a similar weapon of mass destruction why are nuclear weapons any different?
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This legal gap represents a difficult moral and defence question that thus far remains unanswered
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They are all weapons of mass destruction, they should all be banned
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The argument over weapons that aren’t being used is distracting people from the ones that are
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This legal gap represents a difficult moral and defence question that thus far remains unanswered

There are international laws, the so called ‘laws of armed conflict’ laid out in the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, that are already in place to control the misuse of nuclear weapons. That is to say the use of nuclear weapons: - Cannot be used without distinction between military and civilian targets. - Cannot harm civilians or civilian objects. - Cannot precede all precautions being taken to ensure there is no incidental loss of civilian life. - Cannot cause injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or be used to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering. - Cannot cause widespread, long term or severe damage to the environment.

While all of the above make the use of nuclear weapons almost legally impossible the Geneva Conventions nor the UN charter do not specifically dismiss what types of weapons can be used in a nations self defence. However further treaties such as Non-Proliferation Treaty and the establishment of Nuclear-Weapons-Free Zones, and the recent Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons have attempted to address this legal gap. The hardest legal argument however remains one of self defence, and the use of nuclear weapons in self defence in regards to a nuclear attack so far remains an unsolved issue that needs addressing if these weapons are ever to be completely forbidden.

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They are all weapons of mass destruction, they should all be banned

The devastation weapons of mass destruction can cause is unparalleled, the suffering they can cause is far beyond any other weapon and is far less controllable. The chances of them harming civilians, which would amount to a war crime, is very high, so all weapons of mass destruction need to be legislated against accordingly. To argue that nuclear weapons maintain peace or stability in any way is both pessimistic and short sighted.

Chemical weapons are the perfect example, many companies and countries harbour chemicals and agents that could be used to manufacture chemical or biological weapons. However there legality allows precursors to be utilised in the name of science, research and industry, while weaponisation remains minimised. The same could be true of nuclear weapons, a ban on nuclear weapons does not have to affect nuclear technology being used peacefully, in the same way chemical and biological technology is regulated. Research and peaceful use can still legally coexist under a ban which would maintain the security of future generations.

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Daniel Halliday
Oct 30
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DH edited this paragraph
The devastation weapons of mass destruction can cause is unparalleled, the suffering they can cause is far beyond any other weapon and is far less controllable. The chances of them harming civilians, which would amount to a war crime, is very high, so all weapons of mass destruction need to be legislated against accordingly. To argue that nuclear weapons maintain peace or stability in any way is both pessimistic and short sighted.
The argument over weapons that aren’t being used is distracting people from the ones that are

The scale and suffering caused by conventional weapons can be worse than nuclear weapons (e.g. Wieluń, Tokyo, Somalia bombing of Isaaq). The largest mass murders of history tend to have been committed with the use of conventional weapons. The problem is not simply the weapons but the intent to use them. More should be done to make parties accountable for murderous acts, especially against civilians. Concentrating on the potential for suffering at the hands of nuclear weapons is distracting from the suffering that is still present around the world today.

Genocides are a grim example of how destructive a murderous campaign can be even without conventional weapons. During the Cambodian genocide bullets were seen as too expensive to use on civilians, so farming tools and other unconventional methods were used to torture and execute a third of the Cambodian population. So mass murder is not limited to aerial bombing; given the intent, conventional and non-conventional weapons can be, and have been, much more destructive than nuclear weapons.

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Latest conversation
Daniel Halliday
Oct 30
Approved
DH edited this paragraph
Genocides are a grim example of how destructive a murderous campaign can be even without conventional weapons. During the Cambodian genocide bullets were seen as too expensive to use on civilians, so farming tools and other unconventional methods were used to torture and execute a third of the Cambodian population. So mass murder is not limited to aerial bombing; given the intent, conventional and non-conventional weapons can be, and have been, much more destructive than nuclear weapons.
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