Can Malaysia survive a nuclear attack?

The memory must never fade

Of around 76,000 buildings, 70,000 are destroyed or badly damaged, 78,000 people are dead on the spot and another 122,000 die as a result. Three days later, the second “Fat Man” atomic bomb kills around 70,000 people in Nagasaki.

The USA had repeatedly urged Japan to surrender unconditionally, but the proud country had steadfastly refused. US President Harry S. Trruman's justification for the murderous mission sounded perfectly plausible: Little Boy and Fat Man should finally end the war and prevent more American soldiers from falling. And in fact, only a little later on August 15, in a radio address broadcast across the empire, Emperor Hirohito announced the unconditional surrender of the Japanese Empire to the Allies.

On closer inspection of the military situation in the summer of 1945, however, the US President's attempt at justification must appear doubtful: Japan was already completely down economically and militarily. All major Japanese cities (with the exception of Kyoto) had already been completely destroyed by conventional bombs by this time. The Japanese fleet was also destroyed and the air defense powerless against the US bombers. By the end of 1945 at the latest, an American commission of inquiry found in 1946, Japan should have surrendered even without the use of the atomic bombs. And by no means as many soldiers would have died by this surrender as Truman had portrayed. The real motive for using the atomic bombs was rather a different one: It was a show of force against the former ally of the Soviet Union in the looming Cold War.

The use of the first atomic bombs represented a revolution in warfare. The two world wars had been huge material battles that moved millions of people and thousands of tons of steel. Now it had become possible to wipe out a large city with a single atomic bomb. The fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are still the only places where nuclear weapons were used shows that nuclear weapons are not seriously suitable for waging war. Their destructive power was too great for that. Their only useful purpose was to deter. This knowledge gained acceptance to the extent that, after the USA, the other allies and other countries became nuclear powers.

The fact that it was possible to prevent proliferation to even more states is thanks to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970. In it, the majority of the international community declared that they would forego a nuclear arsenal. In return, the nuclear-armed states promised nuclear disarmament. However, this promise has de facto not been kept to this day. In order to promote nuclear disarmament, 80 states have now signed the nuclear weapons ban treaty. 16 ratifications are still missing for it to come into force.

And there have long been new arenas for the arms race: the introduction of artificial intelligence marks another revolution in warfare. Fully autonomous weapon systems could in future go through the entire targeting process without significant human control. But the final decision about a person's life and death should never be left to a machine.