Disarmament Insight


Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Explosive issues

In between following the political and diplomatic progress of disarmament processes like those related to cluster munitions, small arms, the arms trade and nuclear weapons, Disarmament Insight posts have also looked at some broader issues. Last week in 'The Use of Weapons' I discussed aspects of David Edgerton's book, The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900 - focusing on Edgerton's analysis of Second World War technologies like strategic bombing, atomic weapons and the V2 rocket and implications for today.

One nice thing about blogging is that you sometimes receive feedback about your posts. For instance, our site offers a comment function (see the link at the foot of each post) on which readers can post their remarks or questions.

Last week a chap named Ward Wilson contacted Disarmament Insight. Ward wrote an article in International Security journal last year on "The Winning Weapon? Nuclear Weapons in Light of Hiroshima" - an interesting analysis that re-examines the widely-held presumption (which I also touched on my blog post) that nuclear weapons played a decisive role in winning the war in the Pacific. I'd been unaware of Ward's article, and it appears he was unaware of Edgerton's book until reading our blog, so it seems we're all better off.

Ward, it seems, is quite a busy guy, as he too has a blog, entitled 'Rethinking Nuclear Weapons', which is worth checking out. Ward says it's part of a project "to explore the practical realities of nuclear weapons".

In addition, Ward's also just been awarded the Doreen and Jim McElvany Nonproliferation Challenge Essay Contest's Grand Prize for a piece he wrote entitled "The Myth of Deterrence". This is a big deal. Hopefully Ward's article will be available somewhere online soon. In the meantime, congratulations and well done to him.

Someone else out there on the World Wide Web doing some hard thinking about questions related to aspects of armed violence is Richard Moyes, Policy & Research Manager at the British NGO Landmine Action. Richard has just started a new blog entitled 'Explosive Violence' that examines news reports and issues related to the use of explosive weapons in crime and conflict.

Throughout the twentieth and early twentieth centuries we've seen the boundaries between the use of force in the battlefield and in civilian areas increasingly blurred, whether you think of strategic bombing in the Second World War or South East Asia, or suicide bombing. And what was nuclear deterrence during the Cold War if not the threat to unleash massive quantities of explosive force in populated areas, no matter how strategic planners tried to dignify it?

Recent efforts, like the new Convention on Cluster Munitions, are doing something about this as regards certain specific weapon types, and the UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons has tried and is trying - with varying success - to tackle this in its own manner. The use of explosive force in populated areas is an elephant in the room in both multilateral disarmament and arms control and in international humanitarian law efforts and its logical that greater efforts are made to consider what the implications of that are.

So good luck to both Ward and Richard, and we look forward to reading their future thoughts on aspects of these issues and more.

John Borrie


Wilson, Ward. "The Winning Weapon? Rethinking Nuclear Weapons in Light of Hiroshima." International Security 31 4 (Spring 2007): 162-179.

Picture: 'Explosive!' by Lili Vieira de Carvalho downloaded from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, John. In fact the mailman left a note for me to sign so he could leave my copy of Edgerton's book yesterday. I'm looking forward to it and learning more smart things on this blog.