Q: In the Korean War there were efforts made to figure out how the U.S.
could benefit from nuclear weapons. And time and again, the politicians and
the military leaders couldn't figure out or agree about how to do this. What
does that mean in the long run?
DH: Well, I think the case of the Korean War, is particularly interesting of
course. There were proposals...on the American side to use nuclear weapons in
different ways. And what was it that restrained the United States, is an
interesting question. One argument was, well, there wasn't any suitable way to
use the weapons. Because if you used them in the battlefield, you risked, you
know, killing your own troops, or you needed to attack concentrations of
troops, and you know, the other side could disperse its forces, so there
weren't suitable targets that you could identify in time actually to use the
But, of course, there were also proposals. I mean, [General Douglas]
MacArthur would have supported the bombing of Chinese cities, I mean moving
outside Korea. There, I think the fear was that this is an expansion of the
war that, frankly, the United States didn't want.
But of course, there was also the sense, which was becoming clear by this
time, that these are different from other weapons. There is something special
about them. And to use them, is to cross a certain kind of threshold. These
are not conventional weapons, and therefore, there is a kind of great moral
responsibility about using them. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had, you know,
inspired great debate and a good deal of soul searching about the rightness of
using the weapons...
The British, were very alarmed about the possibility that atomic weapons would
be used in Korea. [Prime Minister Clement] Attlee flew to Washington, you know,
late in 1950 to try to persuade Truman, you know, don't use these weapons. And
I think there was a fear that if the weapons were used, it would have political
effects way beyond just the actual destructiveness of the weapon. And I think
that comes back to their kind of symbolic importance. The way they were coming
to be regarded, which was as something different. Even though the destruction
caused by one atomic bomb might be less than the destruction caused by an air
raid against a city... nevertheless, these were something different...Quite how
that emerges, I don't know, but it seems to me it's extremely important that
that does happen because you could imagine something different.
You could imagine a situation which people said, oh, we'll count tactical
nuclear weapons, low yield nuclear weapons, just like any other weapon. And
we'll only talk about weapons over a megaton as being weapons of mass
destruction. The fact is we apply the term even to low yield nuclear weapons.
We say that because they use this principle, this kind of physical principle as
the mechanism for, you know, creating destructive power -- the explosive power
-- they are all in one category....
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