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The introduction of this weapon has effectively rendered major conventional war obsolete, as a single atomic bomb can kill millions of people.

Has it? How many major conventional wars since its introduction has it rendered obsolete? Was the Gulf War not a major war? The Afghanistan war? The Balkans conflict? The strategic military problem with atomic warfare is that it is so efficient as to be politically inexpedient. This ought to be reworded somehow. sjc

I agree to sjc's objection. War has been obsolete for thousands of years, but very few people have realized this. --Pinkunicorn
How about something like: On occasions, the threat of atomic war has acted as a deterrent to conventional warfare.


My first inclination is to agree, but the Gulf War was not so much a war as a route. The Afghanistan war (not sure which one we're talking about here--the guerilla proxy war against the USSR, or the ongoing [as of 2001] civil war absent superpower interest?) is not "major" for some definiton of "major". Similarly with the Balkans conflict, in terms of scale. Multinational conflagrations of the scope of either of the 20th century's World Wars just hasn't happened since Trinity, Fat Man and Little Boy.

I guess "politically inexpedient" is a good way of putting it, though I'm not sure it goes far enough, as there are real tactical and strategic problems with the use of nuclear weapons that go beyond political inexpediency. Maybe someone who knows more about it could write up bushido and put in a link to it--Freeman Dyson (in "Weapons and Hope", probably) mentions that the Japanese pretty much eschewed firearms to preserve the pre-firearm political and military structure.

I think On occasions, the threat of atomic war has acted as a deterrent to conventional warfare. is an improvement. Maybe,

On occasions, the threat of atomic war has acted to limit the scope of conventional warfare.

I think this is more true than "deterrent", since deterrent implies a starker prevention than is perhaps applicable. But yeah, Truman fired MacArthur?'s ass because he didn't want MacArthur? escalating things to the nuclear level, or so it seems. And, proxy wars (Angola, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc) weren't prevented, but were kept limited in scope, if not in duration.


Is it worth putting in RAND-esque information - couter-city vs. counter-force, strategies for nuclear war and that kind of thing?

Perhaps some of this material should be under "Nuclear weapons" rather than "Atomic bomb"? "Atomic bomb" ("A-Bomb") commonly refers to fission weapons, as opposed to fusion weapons ("Hydrogen bomb","H-bomb","thermonuclear bomb").

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Last edited August 5, 2001 7:14 am by Hank Ramsey (diff)