Nuclear Arms Control: Unsuccessful Efforts


From the time when the Second World War was concluded, a lot of debates and controversies regarding the impacts of nuclear weapons on diplomacy has characterised the international arena. As indicated by Brown (2001), nuclear weapons are a part of the incorporated policy of defence, which is also comprised of diplomacy and a set of conventional forces. Diplomacy, as well as US’s imperialism in the international arena is the major reason why it is challenging to control proliferation of nuclear weapons.

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Nuclear Weapons and Diplomacy

The original deliberations on nuclear weapons and diplomacy emphasised the significance of an international actor outlining its commitments and passing them across to their opponents. In addition to this, the relevant actor in the international arena would have to come up with strategies to defend such commitments as well as ascertain the commitment’s authenticity. Schelling (1966) claimed that it was at times beneficial for an actor in the international field to create a reputation for themselves as being unreasonable, despite their rationality, to make it easier for the actor’s adversaries to take seriously any threats by the actor (Howlett 2008).

Matthews and Gates (2008, p. 4), reveal that in 2001 the then American President, George Bush, transformed the manner in which nuclear weapons would influence the foreign relations of the American nation with others in the international arena by the formulation of a new arpeggio. The first component of this triad was the America’s strike abilities, which included the conventional capabilities and the classical nuclear deterrent (O’Brien and Williams 2007).

The second component of the emergent triad in America by President Bush would be the nation’s defences as indicated in its possession of a restricted number of ballistic missiles. Lastly, President Bush made it clear that the necessary frameworks would have to be put in place to support these two components. The goal of the new triad by George Bush was intended to lessen the prominence placed on the utilisation of nuclear weapons for deterrence by the American nation and instead focus more on the use of deterrence alternatives and policies that were non-nuclear (Waltz 1981).

Nevertheless, the increased rates of rogue nations manufacturing nuclear weapons as well as the amplification of terrorist attacks such as, the September 11 attacks in different parts of the world have presently made it extremely difficult for the American nation to forecast the behaviour of other nations on the international arena. There exists clear evidence that nations such as Iran and North Korea continue to manufacture and install nuclear weapons. Many of the ‘modernisation’ programs and activities by nations such as China and Russia are also suspects (Matthews and Gates 2008, p. 4). Consequently, American maintains that provided that there are states in the international field that pursue nuclear weapons with the propensity to harm America or its allies, the USA has to develop a deterrent capacity that dissuades any potential adversary from challenging it in terms of utilisation of weapons of mass destruction.

The most widely read and quoted literature in the Golden Age period are Schelling’s Strategy of Deterrence (1960), Arms, and Influence (1966). Schelling (1966, p. 35), who was an economist, claims that in the event that a nation has adequate armed forces capacity it may have no need to bargain with its opponents. In this text, Schelling continuously implies that the effectiveness and decisiveness of military power is only portrayed in the international diplomatic associations that are most unbalanced (Waltz 1981). In the event that the relationship between the two nations is more or less balanced and the costs for both nations are high in case a compromise is not reached, the importance of bargaining increases.

In addition to bargaining, Schelling (1966, p. 16) reveals that there are three other factors that are very important in determining diplomacy between two nations which wield nuclear power. The first is context, which refers to the stakes of the involved actors as well as the likely outcomes of a military confrontation and the impacts that such outcomes would have. The second factor is skill; this factor implies that threats by any actor in the international realm lack authenticity if the involved actor would incur great costs to act out the threats (Shelling 1960). The last factor is the willingness to suffer. According to Shelling (1966), war is described as a ‘contest of wills’ and the actor who emerges victorious in an armed confrontation is the one who is able to break the will of their opponents first. This is usually attained by defeating the adversaries’ armies and subjugating their citizenry.

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As indicated by Held and McGrew (2000), it is important to consider the presence and possible use of nuclear weapons has a propensity to impact upon the strategy of conflict management in the international arena. In last few decades of the 20th century, nuclear weapons were a very significant aspect in international security. Nevertheless, since the era of the Second World War the world has not witnessed any large-scale strategic military confrontation despite great advancements made globally in sectors of communication, transportation as well as in the knowledge and machinery of war. It is for this reason that Baylis, Smith, and Owens (2008) argue of the nuclear weapon’s capacity to stabilise the associations that exists between the world’s super powers in the modern day due to their ability to increase the cost of a military combat for any of the nations that may be involved.

The US’s Imperialism

It is important note how the US imperialism has made the control of nuclear arms proliferation across the world.

Political Imperialism

In spite of the fact that the world has witnessed the entry and exit of renowned imperialists such as the Romans and British, none of the imperialistic nations of the past took it upon themselves to act as guarantors of global law and policy. In fact, in the last decades the United States of America has assumed the “responsibility” of imposing democracy in nations perceived to be undemocratic (Jackson 2013).

This was illustrated in the actions of the American nation in the nations of Iraq and Afghanistan. It became obvious that the political influence of the United States of America in the global arena had reached unprecedented levels when the American nation successfully came up with the initiative of obliging all the members of the United Nations to pledge their commitment and allegiance to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Howlett 2008). Rather than use the term “imperialism” to describe the political influence that it currently enjoys in the world, the preferred terminology by the United States and its allies is “unilateralism” (Morley 2010).

There are indeed many depictions of the US as an imperialist in regards to the political influence, which it has enjoyed, and continues to enjoy in the global arena. One of the main indications of American imperialism is the increased political influence that it has over the world. A common way in which the political power of imperialistic nations such as the United States of America is depicted is in the tendency to deliberately facilitate and cause mayhem and chaos in targeted parts of the world in order to attain specific political or economic objectives (Jackson, 2013). Many a times the United States of America has been accused of offering support and assistance to the nation of Israel in order to destabilise the Middle East region and make it much easier for western nations to obtain oil from the Middle East.

In the present day, imperialist nations do not invade and occupy their target nations as they did in the colonial days (White, Little and Smith 2005). Rather, modern imperialists such as the United States of America will support regimes or rebel groups who utilise techniques such as death squads, coup de tats and assassinations to oust from power leaders who are not friendly or supportive of western interests (Jackson 2013). An example of the utilisation of such imperialistic tactic was the happenings in Colombia and Indonesia where American- ousted the democratically elected and popular administrations from power supported regimes. Venezuela, which is a region with many oil reserves, was also targeted for this eventuality but the US did not succeed.

Military Influence

Military imperialism describes the formulation and utilisation of a military policy that is supportive of the creation of imperial territories aimed at furthering the interests of a powerful nation in the territories of a less powerful nation (Morley 2010). An increased number of people in the present day mistakenly believed that the practice of military imperialism ended with the conclusion of the world wars, the establishment of the United Nations and the defeat and eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. The tendencies by the American nation indicate the existence of modern day military imperialism. The United States of America has one of the most superior armed forces in the world; in addition to this, America has close relationships with military powerful nations such as Israel and other in the NATO group (Jackson 2013).

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As if this is not enough, the United States of America has a military budget that is more than that of the following fifteen nations put together. The United States of America “possess” the legitimacy to place their military troops in region of the world that they choose with or without the consent of the invaded nation (Beeson and Bisley 2010). In fact, the United States ensures that it always has military bases, aircrafts, drones, aircraft carriers and space weapons which – if necessary- can be ordered into action in minutes.

Many a times the United States has used its military power to conquer and subjugate nations in order to further America’s interests. In fact, the United States of America, and its close ally-Israel- have many times demonstrated their readiness and enthusiasm to use military power in order to further their interests (Morley 2010). A practical example of the military power enjoyed by the United States of America is the high numbers of armed forces bases that the American nation has in different parts of the world (Jackson 2013).

The imperialism of this act is depicted in the fact that the American nation stations its armed forces in identified regions without giving much regard to the fact that the nations in question already have their own armed forces. In the present day the United States of America has an estimated 700 armed forces based worldwide.

In addition to this, the imperialistic nature of the American nation was depicted for all to see when the US invaded the nations of Iraq and Afghanistan (Morley 2010). As if this was not enough, the American nation staged a public hanging of the Iraq President Saddam Hussein for the entire world to witness. An analysis of the actions and associations between America and countries such as Vietnam, Iraq, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iran will reveal that these nations never depicted any particular threats to America’s security per se. Consequently, as long as nuclear weapons continue to be perceived as supreme devices of armed force, their role as deterrents in the international arena is almost entirely assured.

Younger (2000) further asserts that the emergence and advancement of the technology of conventional weapons has a propensity to cause conventional weapons to substitute the functions currently played by nuclear weapons.

Many nations in the world tend to preserve and retain one form of nuclear forces for many decades into the future because they hold the perception that nuclear weapons are the most supreme deterrent measure for aggression in the international field and an ultimate weapon of massive destruction in case of a military combat (Younger 2000).


In conclusion, the introduction of nuclear weapons was a very crucial era for policy makers since they were confronted with the responsibility of formulating policies that would be effective enough to dissuade and prevent a war as catastrophic as the First and Second World Wars. Because nuclear weapons are, still the most destructive devices of war ever invented, any act aimed at diplomacy or the preservation of international security must deliberate on the impact of nuclear weapons on such processes. It is indeed true that nuclear weapons have in the modern day, taken the place of conventional mechanisms. This essay has already succeeded in describing the role played by nuclear weapons in deterring vertical and horizontal proliferation by the nations in the international arena.


Baylis, J, Smith, S. and Owens, P 2008, The Globalisation of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations (4th ed.), OUP, Oxford. Web.

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Beeson, M. and Bisley, N 2010, Issues in 21st Century Politics, Palgrave, London. Web.

Brown, C 2001, Understanding International Relations (2nd ed.), Palgrave, Basingstoke. Web.

Held, D. and McGrew, A 2000, Global Transformations, Polity Press, London. Web.

Howlett, D 2008, Nuclear proliferation, [In The Globalisation of World Politics, by J. Baylis, S. Smith and P. Owens], OUP, Oxford, pp. 386-401. Web.

Jackson, R M 2013, Global Issues 13/14 (29th ed), McGraw-Hill, Dushkin. Web.

Matthews, J & Gates, R 2008, ‘Gates: Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence in the 21st Century’, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, vol. 7. no. 3, pp. 4-16. Web.

Morley, I 2010, ‘The Cultural Expansion of America: Imperialism, Civic Design and the Philippines in the Early 1900s,’ European Journal of American Culture, vol. 29. no. 3, pp. 229-251. Web.

O’Brien, R and Williams, M 2007, Global Political Economy: Evolution and Dynamics, Palgrave, London. Web.

Schelling, T 1960, The Strategy of Conflict, Harvard University Press, Cambridge. Web.

Schelling, T C 1966, Arms and Influence, University Press, New Haven, pp. 35- 50. Web.

Waltz, K 1981, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Better, Adelphi Papers, Number 171. Web.

White, B., Little, R. and Smith, M 2005, Issues in World Politics (3rd ed.), Palgrave, London. Web.

Younger, S M 2000, Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century. Web.

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