Courtesy Reuters


Half a century after it began, the nuclear drama has reached the conclusion of its first act--a rather happy ending in spite of the gloomy prospects for civilization that darkened the stage at the outset. This respite, though, is not a lasting redemption from the dangers of nuclear warfare. Whether by accident, because of a terrorist act, or as part of a military campaign, a nuclear bomb might explode someday, unleashing forces that would transform the international system far more profoundly than did the collapse of the Soviet empire. The end of the present era, in which nuclear weapons are plentiful but never used, would be sudden, and the major nuclear powers are ill prepared for the revolution in strategic thinking this event would compel.

Fifty years ago the atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had an immense emotional impact. The long period

This article is part of our premium archives.

To continue reading and get full access to our entire archive, you must subscribe.

  • Fred Charles Iklé was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the Reagan administration and Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under President Ford. He is affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • More By Fred Charles Iklé