Nuclear Warfare

Published By

Academic Press in "Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict", 2nd edition


Technology has always had a profound influence on the character of war. In the past century alone the industrial revolution, culminating in the development of modern aircraft, tanks, artillery, and naval vessels increased the lethality of war manifold. However, the advent of nuclear weapons in 1945 represented a quantum jump in the lethality of war. Looking ahead, one wonders how emerging information technologies and bio-technologies might revolutionize warfare in the future.

The history of the Cold War can be attributed to the confluence of two factors: the development of nuclear weapons and the rise of the former Soviet Union and the United States as the two dominant military powers after World War II. It may seem paradoxical that the development of the most destructive form of warfare, nuclear warfare, led to a period of relative peace, the Cold War. In fact, nuclear weapons have been used only twice in war-the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. This is not to say that wars on the periphery of U.S. and Soviet interests did not occur, but simply that war between the major powers was absent. This article discusses the development of nuclear weapons, their effects, and the impact they have had on the character of war and military strategy. The ascendance of deterrence as the central strategic concept for nuclear warfare helps explain the apparent paradox mentioned above.

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