In a group of bizarre, costumed crime-fighters, Dr. Manhattan must be put in his own category. Partly due to the facts that he neither fights crime nor wears a costume. But what truly sets him apart in this fantastic tale of superheroes is that he is the only character with superhuman powers.
From the onset, we are given immediate clues that Dr. Manhattan is no ordinary character. His extreme powers tell us he is not like the rest of the superheroes. Before he utters a single word, his blue-ish color suggests his cold attitudes; his pupil-less eyes tell us that he sees things differently. The sum of the parts indicate that he is hardly human at all. He serves as a polar opposite to Rorschach who acts impulsively to defend principles, whereas Dr. Manhattan is always calculating in his reverence for logic and reason.
"The superman exists and he is American" (Moore, Volume 4 Page II). This simple but powerful quote is found in the supplemental text "Dr. Manhattan: Super-powers and the Superpowers" and suggests that in a world where a man develops the power to manipulate the laws of space and time, we would likely celebrate the fact that he is on our side. It is certain that governments would quickly move to use his immense abilities for both military and political advantages. In the case of the story, Dr. Manhattan was briefly used by the American military and proved to be the difference in bringing the Vietnam war to a successful end in this alternate timeline. The "Superpowers" text goes on to infer that "Dr. Manhattan could at any time destroy large areas of Soviet territory instantly" (Moore, Volume 4 Page II). But his greatest value to the United States military is that of national defense. In the event of a Soviet nuclear attack it is estimated that Dr. Manhattan possesses the ability to "deflect or disarm at least sixty percent of all incoming missiles" (Moore, Volume 4 Page II).
Yet with his powers giving the United States a distinct advantage over its enemies, the world of Watchmen is not that different from the 1985 in our history books. The Cold War is still a bitter political battle with a constant threat of nuclear annihilation. Instead of pacifying the conflict or giving the U.S. a victorious edge, Dr. Manhattan's existence merely encourages both the Soviet Union and the United States to stockpile even more weapons. The emergence of yet another ultimate weapon does not ensure peace but instead suggests that nuclear annihilation is an increasingly likely outcome.
Dr. Manhattan is introduced as "a man to end wars", the next logical progression following the failure of "wars to end war, ...weapons to end wars" (Moore Volume 4, Page I). This quote references two key events in American history. At the time, World War I was often called "The War to End All Wars." Two decades later, the Manhattan Project (from which Dr. Manhattan is named) yielded the nuclear bomb in hopes of bringing a quicker end to World War II. ...