I think this discussion is completely relevant to what we discuss in the social studies classroom. Obviously a competent individual might discuss some of the more interesting technical jargon if he or she was knowledgeable, but one could also skim the surface of the issue and discuss it from a policy perspective with equal skill. Plus, it’s kind of important to discuss things like ‘where society is heading’ – that’s our job as social studies teachers!
I wanted to respond to the question about nuclear weapons and whether or not their usage constitutes genocide, since I only managed to type out a haphazard reply in the chat window. Nuclear weapons are tools of genocide only if they are used for genocide, just as a gun may be a murder weapon or a defensive weapon or a hunting tool depending on how it is used. Genocide involves the massive extermination of an entire group of people because of their membership in the group identity under siege, and is perpetuated by a centralized power structure, such as a fascist state-ethnic apparatus. Nuclear weapons, by contrast, have no agenda. They may be used against military forces, population centers, production centers, etc, with no regard whatsoever to the ethnic, religious, or cultural ‘make-up’ of the inhabitants/targets, just as a gun could be used to kill an innocent bystander, a would-be rapist, or a deer.
The target of the nuclear strike also matters. A nuclear weapon used against a civilian population center with little strategic value is a misuse of assets and a war crime. However, are there ever civilians in war, particularly if the civilian populace is directly supporting the war machine economically and politically? Soldiers cannot fight without resources from the home front – who in fact supplies those resources?
Finally, nuclear weapons are a successful deterrent from aggression by a major foreign power. The wars we have been involved in since World War II have been bloody and unpleasant, but unremarkable compared to the scale of the conflicts of the Second World War. Nuclear weapons ensure that such a war will not happen again, although they carry risks themselves and must be vigilantly protected. Rogue agents could, in fact, come across an unsecure warhead (there are hundreds in the former satellite nations of the Soviet Union under poor guard) and use it to make a political or religious statement. Every decision, then, must be made as if our fingers were hovering over the 'launch' button - with care and reverence for the awesome destructive force of the weapons and the horrors they unleash.