Roundtable 2-10 on Nuclear Apartheid: The Quest for Atomic Supremacy From World War II to the Present68 min read

Nuclear Apartheid coverSeveral American supporters of the ‘New START’ arms control treaty the U.S. and Russia signed last December praised the deal for, among other things, giving the large nuclear powers some credibility in their ongoing efforts to stem nuclear proliferation to smaller states.  See, said these advocates to putative audiences in Iran or Japan:  we old superpowers can live up to our side of the bargain too!




H-Diplo | ISSF Roundtable, Volume II, No. 10 (2011)

Diane Labrosse and Thomas Maddux, H-Diplo/ISSF Editors
George Fujii, H-Diplo/ISSF Web and Production Editor
Commissioned by Thomas Maddux

H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable Review of Shane J. Maddock.  Nuclear Apartheid: The Quest for Atomic Supremacy From World War II to the Present.  Chapel Hill:  The University of North Carolina Press, 2010.  416 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index.  ISBN:  978-0-8078-3355-1 (cloth, $35.00).

Published by H-Diplo/ISSF on 17 June 2011



Introduction by Campbell Craig, Aberystwyth University. 2

Review by Andrew Johnston, Carleton University. 6

Review by Sean N. Kalic, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. 14

Review by Tom Nichols, Naval War College and International Security Program, JFK School of Government, Harvard University. 17

Review by George Quester, University of Maryland, Emeritus. 21

Author’s Response by Shane J. Maddock, Stonehill College. 23

Introduction by Campbell Craig, Aberystwyth University

Several American supporters of the ‘New START’ arms control treaty the U.S. and Russia signed last December praised the deal for, among other things, giving the large nuclear powers some credibility in their ongoing efforts to stem nuclear proliferation to smaller states.  See, said these advocates to putative audiences in Iran or Japan:  we old superpowers can live up to our side of the bargain too!

Left unsaid was the stunning news that, in order to secure Senate confirmation of the treaty, the Obama administration agreed to an $80 billion upgrade of America’s super-sized existing nuclear arsenal, to be implemented over the next decade or so.  This decision of course vaporises whatever credibility the U.S. might have gained among nuclear aspirants after the modest deal with Russia, as well as putting to the lie Obama’s announcement in Prague in 2009 that he is committed to a nuclear-free world.  Want to undermine nonproliferation and the dream of nuclear abolition in one quick and easy step?  Publicly announce an $80 billion expansion of an already gigantic nuclear arsenal over the next ten years.  That’ll do it.

Shane Maddock shows us that this kind of double standard in American nonproliferation policy originated in the early Cold War, as the U.S. from World War Two until about 1970 persistently sought to deny nuclear weapons to other states, particularly ones in the postcolonial world, all in the name of nuclear peace, while cheerfully building up its own arsenal to multiple-doomsday levels.  The four reviewers provide rather varying accounts of Maddock’s analysis, though perhaps coming together on a couple of key criticisms.

George Quester questions Maddock’s criticism of the U.S. for engaging in behaviour that any other state in its shoes would have also done, if not worse.  Yes, the United States tried to keep other states from getting nuclear weapons while it kept them for itself.  Should this be a shock? Quester wants Maddock to think counterfactually:  would things have been better had the Soviet Union, or Great Britain, found itself with an atomic monopoly after the war?  Would things be better had the U.S. not pursued rigorous nonproliferation efforts?  On occasion Quester’s review veers toward the old orthodox line of ruling any criticism of the U.S. out of bounds because the ‘USSR would have been worse,’ which in the end is a meaningless guide to historians of U.S. foreign policy.  But his counterfactual questions are illuminating, and in that respect his criticism of Maddock for failing to engage with many key historical and theoretical works about the nuclear revolution seems fair.

In a much lengthier and, on the surface, more sympathetic review, Tom Nichols praises Maddock for his lively narrative of confused early U.S. nonproliferation efforts and his incorporation of international history.  Nevertheless he finds some flaws in the book as well, rather fundamental ones, I would say, even if they are expressed in a friendly manner.   He points out that the U.S. worked to prevent Sweden and Switzerland from getting the bomb—these are hardly the nonwhite decolonising nations Maddock emphasises.  And given that the U.S. (and the USSR) sought to keep European nations from acquiring nuclear arsenals, isn’t it a bit much to accuse them of racism for wanting non-European nations to stay out of the nuclear business as well?  This is an important point, though Nichols might have raised the question of the Israeli bomb here.

More important still is Nichols’s demand, echoing one made by Quester, that Maddock take seriously the American (and Soviet) concern that the proliferation of nuclear weapons to any nation, but especially those at the centre of regional Cold War conflicts, would increase the likelihood of escalation and thus general nuclear war.  This is surely a debatable claim, and Maddock really ought to have made use of Kenneth Waltz’s very influential rebuttal of it.  But this historian personally has no doubt that on the American side at least the deepening fear that proliferation would mean a greater chance of all-out war underlay the nonproliferation sentiments of some U.S. leaders, most evidently Eisenhower.  Maddock does not seem familiar with this larger debate, as Nichols suggests.

Sean Kalic also praises Maddock especially for his treatment of the Truman administration and for his “strong and gripping narrative” throughout.  Again, though, he quickly turns to criticisms.  His first and most adamant one takes Maddock to task for asserting that one must remove the “Cold War lens” in order to assess U.S. nonproliferation policy seriously, a demand that Kalic finds “preposterous.”  Kalic also argues that the U.S. developed particular weapons policies not simply out of a strategic response to what the USSR was doing but as a result of political and military cultures at home.  This is surely correct, but does not really speak to Maddock’s larger thesis; nor does Kalic’s detailed rebuttal of Maddock’s claim that the Truman administration believed in American technological prowess.

Andrew Johnston, finally, offers perhaps the most sympathetic and comprehensive review of the four.  Summarising the book elegantly, he suggests that Maddock in the end “is clearly most troubled by the arrogance and short-sightedness of U.S. policymakers who failed to see how their own addiction to nuclear power would only make it harder to prevent others from becoming similarly seduced.”  He agrees with Kalic that the treatment of Truman’s disorganised atomic policies stands out; he also states that Maddock’s subtle demonstration of the growing convergence of U.S. and Soviet interests on the matter of proliferation is one of the best features of the book, a conclusion with which I would agree.  He is the only reviewer to engage with Maddock’s comments on gender and race, bringing in factors that clearly influenced (decisively?) U.S. policymaking in places like Cuba.  Johnston also writes at some length on historiography and the counterfactual temptation. What comes from the four reviews, if distillation is possible, is that Maddock’s Nuclear Apartheid is a spirited and well-written narrative that would have benefited from a greater engagement with key works of nuclear history and theory, a task that might have led him to spell out more clearly, as Nichols in particular demands, how U.S. nonproliferation efforts in Europe can be distinguished from those waged elsewhere.  Yet Maddock’s overarching point, about the disinclination of American leaders to confront the basic hypocrisy of their nonproliferation agenda, tells us much about the provenance of contemporary American behaviour.


Shane J. Maddock is professor of history at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. He earned his B.A. from Michigan State University (1989) and his Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut (1997). In addition to Nuclear Apartheid, he is co-author of American Foreign Relations: A History  7th ed. (2009) and edited The Nuclear Age (2001).  His essay “Defending the American Way and Containing the Atom: Ideology and U.S. Nonproliferation Policy since 1945”  appeared in  The Atomic Bomb and American Society, eds. Rosemary Mariner and G. Kurt Piehler (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009). He is current research focuses on the rise of rock music in the 1950s and its dissemination throughout the world.

Campbell Craig is Professor of International Politics at Aberystwyth.  He specializes in the history of U.S. foreign policy during the Cold War, and has written as well about contemporary international affairs. His most recent books are The Atomic Bomb and the Origins of the Cold War, with Sergey Radchenko (Yale UP, 2008), and America’s Cold War: the Politics of Insecurity, with Fredrik Logevall(Harvard/Belknap, 2009).

Andrew M. Johnston is an associate professor of history at Carleton University in Ottawa. He is also a former director of the Centre for American Studies at the University of Western Ontario. He holds his Ph.D. in international history from Cambridge University and is the author of Hegemony and culture in the origins of NATO nuclear first-use (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2005). He is currently working on an international history of the “crisis of liberalism” in the North Atlantic world between 1880 and 1920.

Sean N. Kalic is an Associate Professor in the Department of Military History at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He is a Cold War historian with specialties in nuclear strategy, military theory, and aerospace history. In addition to his research interests, Dr. Kalic wrote  Combating a Modern Hydra: Al Qaeda and the Global War on Terrorism, as well as the chapters “ Reagan’s SDI announcement and the European Reaction,” in Helsinki  to Détente and “Blurring the Line Between War and Peace: The Global War on Terrorism” in Waging War for Peace. Dr. Kalic is also the author of a forthcoming text on the development of national space policy from 1945 to 1967 to be published in Fall 2011.

Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, and a Fellow of the International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He also served as an assistant to U.S. Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania. His previous books include Winning the World: Lessons for America’s Future from the Cold War and Eve of Destruction: The Coming Age of Preventive War (Univ. of Pennsylvania, 2008), the subject of an H-Diplo roundtable. His next project, No Use: Nuclear Weapons and the Reform of American Security Strategy, will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2011. He holds a PhD from Georgetown University.

George Quester retired from the University of Maryland in the spring of 2010 to become Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics, and he is now serving as the Shapiro Visiting Professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. He has taught previously at Harvard and Cornell Universities, UCLA, The National War College and the United States Naval Academy. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1965, and is the author of numerous journal articles and twelve books, including Deterrence Before Hiroshima, Offense and Defense in the International System, and Nuclear Monopoly. His current research is on “The Last Time We Were at Nuclear-Zero.”

Review by Andrew Johnston, Carleton University

At the heart of Shane Maddock’s exhaustive study of American atomic policies, lie a series of revealing contradictions. The main one, embedded in his title, stems from the belief that nuclear weapons are vital and rational weapons needed for the security of the United States. It is axiomatic for many Western defence intellectuals (and historians) that the deterrent effect of nuclear weapons may ironically have preserved a semblance of sobriety in a potentially catastrophic postwar environment. On the other hand, the desire to stem nuclear proliferation once the superpowers had their arsenals rested on the inverse assumption that few are as sober and rational as the United States. The result has been a global nuclear security regime built on a two-tier concept of rationality, sustained by the persistence of what were (and still are) basically Orientalist assumptions.

This contradiction bears witness to others nestled in the practice and history of American foreign relations more generally. On the one hand, those we might loosely call exceptionalists remove the United States from the normal sociological interactions of the world—as merely a state among states—and imagine that American ideological and moral superiority offers special warrants to U.S. behaviour that the rest of the (rational) world will endorse as the necessary price for human progress and peace. If this solipsism should rebound by inciting the insecurity of others, the United States can comfortably be absolved of responsibility because of this built-in teleology that the U.S. works at the vanguard of history. It is a crude variation on Theodore Roosevelt’s already crude idea that the civilized must vanquish the barbaric, because the barbaric only understand the logic of force. Realists, on the other hand, tend to believe that security rationality is near-universal, and that the cultural and ideological tendencies of other states won’t fundamentally alter the determinants of the security dilemma. Periodically world leaders did indeed express the belief that nothing would bring about a sudden sense of responsibility to a nation-state more than possessing nuclear weapons. It reached its apogee in Henry Kissinger’s blithe hope that nuclear proliferation should even be encouraged. It strikes me that when we look at the persistent failure of global anti-proliferation efforts that Maddock so carefully and tirelessly charts here, we all find ourselves caught between these two tendencies.

Maddock’s own position on the alternative between paternalistic anti-proliferation on the one hand, and an insouciant indifference to how many states acquire apocalyptic nuclear power on the other, seems hesitant. Both sides come in for criticism but he is clearly most troubled by the arrogance and short-sightedness of U.S. policymakers who failed to see how their own addiction to nuclear power would only make it harder to prevent others from becoming similarly seduced. He is concerned not with virtue but with the self-defeating quality of so much postwar American policy. The issue that he finds at the heart of U.S. policy is not that it behaved so differently from others with similar preponderances of power—the “superpower syndrome”—but that it believed (and may still believe) this preponderant authority is legitimized by righteousness alone, and thus failed to see how this worked against its interests.[1] This is not unique in itself—empires thrive a good deal on a diet of self-congratulation—but it created a series of real security problems as the United States faced a proliferating nuclear world after 1949. At the very least, Maddock asks, let us understand the history of America’s search for nuclear supremacy with an eye to a form of immanent critique: test it on its own terms to see if it yielded the kind of world its architects imagined.

The first and most basic problem was a refusal to recognize that after 1945, America’s atomic monopoly would be short-lived. Those few years were perhaps the only time in which the atomic genie might have been contained. But a cultural disposition that Maddock calls “nuclear nationalism,” by which the United States believed itself to have the unmatched scientific and political authority to sustain a monopoly until the new world order was in place, squandered that opportunity. As James Forrestal famously wrote in 1947: “The years before any possible power can achieve the capability effectively to attack is with weapons of mass destruction are our years of opportunity.”[2] Those years were only two, and by then it was still unclear what Forrestal had hoped the monopoly might have induced the Soviet bloc to do. On the contrary, what it certainly did do was provide America’s enemies with the most powerful of incentives to join the arms race as fast as possible.

As relations with the Soviets deteriorated, therefore, American leaders felt compelled not only to hope that the implied power of the atomic monopoly would cajole recalcitrant powers into line but, against all evidence, that this environment would last for a long time. Maddock lays the blame for this staggeringly naive assumption on the nationalists who managed to misread the history of atomic science—which was from the beginning an international effort—and believe that the atomic bomb was a natural American monopoly, the product of their peculiar capacity for invention and genius. The Truman administration was especially gripped by this myopia. And attacking the distorting power of cultural nationalism is one of Maddock’s clear normative purposes. In the tradition of William A. Williams, Maddock is a citizen who is happiest when his country removes its blinders from time to time and works with the world rather than alone.

Maddock also faults successive American leaders for rarely taking the time to understand atomic science, the technical conduits by which atomic knowledge could spread around the world, or the complexities of nuclear strategy. Time and again, bureaucratic and political arguments were fought and won not by the side with better knowledge, but by those whose narrative of national purpose was more self-flattering. Leaders thus overrode the advice of successive internal reports and retreated instinctively behind the belief that security is best conceived as a unilateral affair. Yes, allies were needed, yet, like Victorian children, they were to be seen but not heard.

Because he was in charge during this small window of opportunity, Truman comes in for a preponderance of blame here. This is not simply the complaint that he was often attracted to his tough-minded advisors because it suited his insecurities. More than that, Maddock shows a foreign policy establishment that was in a decision-making shambles: disorganized, improvised, hasty, and often woefully uninformed. One wonders, of course, given the cultural needs for self-affirmation that so many national security intellectuals and nationalist politicians needed, if it really made much difference who was in charge (this points to a little uncertainty about the causal mechanisms at work here; more on that later). But in any case, even if Truman had been surrounded by “Wise Men”, his own decisions reflected little knowledge nor a determination to reconcile differences among his advisors. Likewise, James F. Byrnes, who grasped little of the problems of proliferation but thought he knew a good weapon when he saw one, was too often tempted to play the atomic card, even implicitly, as the Cold War deepened. It all prevented American leaders from taking proliferation seriously until it was too late. By then, geopolitical and ideological competition made backtracking impossible. Indeed, it then gave the U.S. uneasy incentives to encourage a form of controlled proliferation to its allies. The rest of the story is simply a tragic playing out of this basic logic: U.S. allies need nuclear weapons because they were all engaged in an arms race with a nuclear adversary, but Washington was also uncomfortable with independent nuclear forces because it could not control them. Moreover, independent nuclear forces symbolized a drift toward the increasing autonomy of U.S. allies, presaging, at worst, the emergence of Europe as a Third (neutral) Force.

Even more troubling is Maddock’s evidence that so many of the international mechanisms proposed for global arms control (notably through the UN’s Atomic Energy Commission) were largely fronts to maintain America’s monopoly, restrain the counter-plans of the Soviet Union, and at the same time appear to be doing something about a technological menace that increasingly worried more and more of the world’s citizens. The Soviets went along with this in part because some of them seemed to genuinely hope that international control would restrain the U.S., but also because it offered opportunities to call Washington’s bluff and win propaganda points of their own. In this, the Baruch Plan was an especially egregious example of perfidy: for nuclear nationalists, non-proliferation only meant preserving the American monopoly; and public arms control efforts only meant trying to create propaganda opportunities to quiet global opinion while painting the Soviets as enemies of peace. It was all, in retrospect, so silly.

That the Soviets seem to have wanted some form of arms control is evident throughout the book, although Maddock, who hasn’t been able to draw on Russian primary materials, understands that the Soviet leadership was trapped by the same ideological and cultural structures as its American counterparts. Of course Moscow had a self-interest in constraining American nuclear superiority, through arms control if possible, but through an arms race if necessary. That said, even American negotiators at times came to understand that the desire for mutual restraint, guided often on Moscow’s part by fears of China’s ascension as a nuclear power in the 1960s, was both sincere and workable. One of the striking elements of this story is the extent to which Moscow and Washington slowly came to see themselves as uneasy partners in restraining the anarchy of postwar proliferation. This belated recognition may have done much to bring about the conditions of détente that would eventually give way to Soviet New Thinking in the 1980s. But by then, of course, the world had changed, and proliferation had become endemic. By Maddock’s account, the superpowers had both failed to act responsibly when the technical and political obstacles were more manageable than they are today. The Non-Proliferation Treaty signed in 1968 was a perfect symbol of this failure, in so far as, for America’s part at least, little effort has been made to live up to it. It was made possible only by promising non-nuclear powers that their own self-denial would be matched by serious efforts by the nuclear powers to contain themselves and not to threaten the non-nuclear. But by implicitly brandishing the bomb during Indo-Pakistan War as early as 1971, the U.S. voided even this basic provision. The result? It proved to the Indian leadership that it needed a bomb. And, in the case of Israel, the U.S. has simply and consciously looked the other way. The temptation to use nuclear proliferation as a reward for loyalty has been too great. And, besides, having told the world that nuclear weapons are indispensable for national security, who should be surprised that the rest of the world listened to the United States?

The seeming inevitability of all this should not surprise us, but it still requires explanation. And here I would like to simply take a look at a series of themes that Maddock’s book brings out, sometimes a bit too implicitly for my taste, but still usefully.

The argument rests on an important counterfactual: all critical historical arguments stand on the assumption that alternatives are always possible, even in the conditions historically inscribed. In other words, we face today similar structural conditions that can only be overcome through agency, or what Pragmatists once called, “applied intelligence,” armed with the knowledge that historical narratives provide. We can never, of course, know if it is true that real alternatives were not taken, but we do know—thanks to Maddock’s rigorous account—that the chosen course also did not work as it was intended. On those grounds we are able to explore the conditions governing decision-making in the past. We use counterfactuals implicitly to avoid determinism. But we also spend so much time building the logic of past events, conveying the pervasiveness, for instance, of the cultural and racial assumptions present in American decision-making, that we are then left wondering how other decisions could have been made. The point is that we can’t, in fact, imagine different conditions. Instead, we take sides with historical actors whose vision was prescient, whose understanding of the world seemed better, in retrospect, than those who made the actual decisions. Maddock’s motive is clearly to show how a set of assumptions—still in our thinking today if the Wikileaks tell us anything—generated disastrous results that we must live with today. Maddock does not mean to suggest that history repeats itself, but rather than we can use history in a variety of ways. If past leaders were gripped by fantasies of technological utopianism and national self-righteousness (visions that were themselves a product of their own historical education), the failed story of nuclear proliferation ought to stand as an indictment of those who remain similarly entranced.

Let me give an illustration of how hard this is. A few years ago I was at a talk by the director of a well-known security think-tank. The presentation, gilded in PowerPoint, came down to this: if the U.S. can anticipate potential terrorist enemies in their fetal state, and act decisively at that point of the threat-development curve, its security matrix will be improved. It somehow had not occurred to him that acting violently in the world might not also produce the very conditions of hostility he sought to eradicate, that he might be causing threats not eradicating them. It was a vision of the world that seemed to owe something to an almost theological sense of good and evil. There was no sociological consciousness that national selfhoods and political ideologies are created through interaction; that our gestures are critical to the normative formation of the international system.

It is also true, to return to Maddock’s story, that not everyone has been so deluded. Eisenhower, who comes in for a slightly more favourable take here, was consistently ahead of his own security and military advisors in understanding that the thermonuclear age made the Clauswitzean equations he had learned irrelevant. But he was still caught between this emerging critique of the arms race—and the president could be as deeply pessimistic about the prospects of fighting a nuclear war as anyone in the peace movement—and the reflex to go along with the group consensus around him and his anti-Soviet instincts. He was thus in the end both ineffective and inconsistent. Atoms for Peace and Open Skies would have done nothing to contain nuclear proliferation. Henry Smith, the one nuclear scientist on the AEC, derided Atoms for Peace as a “thoroughly dishonest proposal” that had little understanding of how easily peaceful atomic technology could be weaponized.

The Eisenhower years, rocked by decolonization and the spread of thermonuclear weapons, therefore had two significant and contradictory consequences. On the one hand, the gap between the nuclear haves and the Bandung have-nots became more pronounced. On the other hand, the dependence of the NATO allies on a nuclear weapons strategy that was both catastrophic and barely under their control deepened. The result was a simultaneous push toward independent nuclear forces both in Europe and Asia, and a growing global clamour for more serious arms control. In the 1950s, global public opinion forced the superpowers toward a test ban, or at least a series of short-lived moratoria while the Cold War adversaries grappled with the implications of proliferation. In this sense, Eisenhower did move the country stutteringly closer toward anti-proliferation measures. But this consensus between Moscow and Washington that the unfettered proliferation of nuclear weapons might not be in their mutual interest was still muted by mistrust. And the story here abounds with unintended irony: the most cynical of U.S. officials, the very ones most eager to use arms control to score propaganda points and most prepared to cheat on agreements signed if “in the national interest”, were also the first to see duplicity in others.

In other words, U.S. and Soviet leaders could not conceive of a security regime that was not chronically zero-sum. The belief that unbridled nuclear arms races are better for U.S. (or Soviet) interests than almost any alternative cannot be explained through rational actor models or the pristine logic of Realism. The language that built these arguments was thoroughly invested with emotional and psychological concepts, affirmations of national self-righteousness, or personal masculinity (which itself was often entwined with a belief that cold rationality was the inverse of feminine sensitivity). The really stunning thing about Maddock’s account is that at some level all world leaders came to grasp the dangers of proliferation, came to want some sort of stop to what they were starting to understand was an irrational obsession with the violent symbols of state power, but at each stage, they were pinned by hard-liners in their own government, and nationalists in their polity. Leaders used promises of toughness as a way to come to power—showing how infused notions of national security are with conceptions of masculinity—but then realized when they needed room to maneuver, that they had trapped themselves.

This brings me to Maddock’s use of culture as a general category and gender specifically. I was, of course, pleased to see how often he brought to the fore the persistent use of gender and sexual imagery in the politics of national security. He rightly reminds his readers how central the invocation of masculine toughness was to foreign policy, and how oddly childish and scatological world leaders can be when it serves their interest. The division of the world into sexual categories, as a substrate of determining rationality, kinship, reliability, and power, comes across clearly in the unguarded musings of world leaders on the prowess (or lack thereof) of their rivals. Ironically, the cognitive operation of Game Theory, which underpinned so much of the behaviourist rational-choice strategic thinking of the 1960s, is rooted in a culture of masculinity that lies at the heart of the nation-state’s conceptualization. Years ago, Carol Cohn brilliantly exposed the purpose of this sort of language. It is not, she pointed out, merely the use of rhetoric to legitimize otherwise rational decisions, although no doubt framing a decision in such emotive terms will go a long way toward silencing those who preach negotiation. Cohn argued that the tough, calculating language of the defence intellectual serves to distance decision-makers from the actual violence for which they are responsible. Destruction becomes a sports metaphor, a playground taunt. When Cohn attempted in front of defence intellectuals to describe strategic doctrine in what she called mere “English”, she was dismissed as simpleminded. But when she embraced the vocabulary of strategic analysis, she found however much she learned, she lost access to an entire conceptual language of values that could no longer be plausibly spoken. As she put it: “the word ‘peace’ is not a part of this discourse. As close as one can come is ‘strategic stability,’ a term that refers to a balance of numbers and types of weapons systems-not the political, social, economic, and psychological conditions implied by the word ‘peace.’ Not only is there no word signifying peace in this discourse, but the word ‘peace’ itself cannot be used. To speak it is immediately to brand oneself as a soft-headed activist instead of an expert, a professional to be taken seriously.”[3]

The Cuban Missile Crisis gives us a perfect illustration of how this works. In its aftermath, the Chinese leadership ostensibly taunted Khrushchev that the U.S. had made him soil his pants; and Kennedy famously bragged that he had cut the Soviet leader’s “balls off.” Perhaps we are so used to this sort of talk, we hardly notice its function. It appears to affirm, on the surface, that Kennedy’s toughness caused the Soviets to back down. It was an example of how deterrence succeeded only when accompanied by preponderant power and by masculine toughness. But the Cuban Crisis was itself, driven by the insatiable posturing of the nuclear superpowers, especially by Kennedy’s open taunting, a massive deterrence failure.[4] Masculinity had caused world leaders to draw the wrong conclusions from a deadly crisis. It reminds me of a toast given by Homer Simpson: “To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”

In other ways, too, Maddock’s book explores the rich use of other metaphors to help constitute reality. Foremost among those, are ones relating to rationality itself. To successive American leaders, the Germans were in chronic need of a psychologist, De Gaulle had a Napoleon complex, Europe’s nuclear forces only gratified emotional and symbolic purposes, other powers were like “children” and “teenagers,” the Chinese are dangerously “irrational,” the Indians are “emotional,” and so on. All of this was needed to justify a two-tier nuclear world, and to avoid coming to terms with the fact that if nuclear power had become the sine qua non of great power status, it was the United States that had made them so. Washington, even when it ceased to have a plausible war plan for fighting and surviving a thermonuclear war, clung to the mirage of superiority as the best guarantee of its global preponderance but could only cope with the cognitive dissonance by ordering the world hierarchically.

My point in highlighting this is not to repeat Maddock’s conclusion, so much as to ask if the book might have done more to show how race and gender actually functioned. Cultural Studies emphasize how ideas and practices produce meaning rather than cause specific events. But meaning in many ways creates the conditions of causation that Maddock is interested in understanding. He wants to know why non-proliferation efforts failed. And he offers the simple if somewhat tautological answer that they failed because the superpowers placed other security considerations ahead of arms control. Nuclear sharing too often provided the appearance of a greater advantage than international control. Maddock proves, to my mind, that this appearance was clearly false, and that we therefore ought to examine the sources of our Hobbesian worldview and our attachments to the logic of patriotism. There is an appealing Kantian cosmopolitanism underneath all this. But it is not as clearly anchored to the cultural foundations Maddock sees as central to understanding the behaviour of world leaders as it could be, or maybe wants to be.

That is perhaps the only substantive issue I had with the book (Maddock has some linguistic quirks of his own, using the word “theologian” constantly as the only adverb for supporters of NATO’s Multilateral Force). And it is a small quibble, given that it amounts to asking the author to write a different type of book. There are other avenues that could be developed in the future, in this respect. I was fascinated, for instance, with his dichotomy between nuclear nationalism and scientific internationalism. In Maddock’s account, the scientists are often derided by political and military leaders alike for their naiveté, their sentimentalism, and their failure to stay within their areas of expertise. One is reminded of the current debates on national missile defence or climate change to see how important the transnational community of scientists has been to keeping the borders between nation-states porous. But the universality of science remains an open question. I was also struck by the role played by global public opinion in pushing world leaders to take arms control seriously. Maddock, drawing inspiration no doubt from the pioneering work of Lawrence Wittner, demonstrates that such opinion has become a real political force in our vaguely Wilsonian world.

This, then, is a stirring and important book, diligently within the best traditions of diplomatic history. Without writing polemically, it indicts the nuclear powers for their short-sightedness, their contradictions, and their affection for the romantic symbolism of big weapons. Maddock has a clear mastery of his sources, both primary and secondary. But at the same time, if we now know that the U.S. acted unilaterally; and we think nuclear nationalists were naive and dissembling, what we do not quite know is why they existed, exerted authority, and captured imaginations. The uncertain external environment is present as a cause, as is domestic politics and bureaucratic infighting. But is this simply a list of inputs? How do they work together as a whole? There is, as I suggested above, no systematic treatment of foreign policy or international theory, or the dialogical way that states help form each others’ behaviour. These issues remain shadowy and Maddock has opted not to let the theoretical grounding of his work reveal itself. This may be nothing more than aesthetic choice. He may wish the evidence to speak for itself, and the reader to fill in whatever causal blanks might interest her. But by staying within these conventions, while also dropping gender and other cultural concepts along the way, Maddock leaves the utility of these terms unstated. He may be, like many of us, not entirely sure how to attach culture to a reconstructionist historical method. But I think he’s on solid ground here and, with this indispensible history of U.S nuclear policy now behind him, he may yet feel freer to explore some of the ideas that so palpably intrigue him.

Review by Sean N. Kalic, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College

Shane J. Maddock in Nuclear Apartheid presents a very engaging and dynamic history of the efforts by successive U.S. presidents to secure nuclear supremacy and later, a non-proliferation treaty during the Cold War. In essence, Maddock argues that “an atomic hierarchy emerged, first in the minds of U.S. policymakers, then in political reality which maintained a system in which the United States remained at the pinnacle of the international structure, with our western European allies second” (1). The assumption is that all other nations, Warsaw Pact, non-aligned, and third world remained at the bottom. For Maddock this system promoted “U.S. hegemony in both a realist and a Gramscian sense…” (3). Though never fully explaining this paradigm, nor exploring the realist implications of such a U.S. policy on the international community, Maddock focuses on the period between 1945 and 1970 from a policy perspective in an effort to detail the evolution of the United States’ perspective of non-proliferation.

Maddock’s coverage of the initial debate within the presidential administrations of Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower is very thorough and well documented. In fact, I would argue that his chapter on Truman (“Winning Weapons”) is one of the best current administrative histories to date.[5] The same praise can also be leveled on his chapters covering the era prior to Truman era (“Too Stupid for the Funny Papers”) and Eisenhower’s era (“The President in the Gray Flannel Suit”). In each of these three chapters, Maddock provides the reader with a strong and gripping narrative that captures the evolution of the efforts by the United States to obtain atomic and later nuclear supremacy. On the surface Maddock has created an impressive and very detailed text of a significant national security policy issue that although originating at the start of the Cold War, still maintains a central position in the international security debates of today. However, from the perspective of a scholar of Cold War national security policy, and as much as the text is appreciated, a few issues standout as being awkward and obscure Maddock’s basic argument.

First, early in his study, Maddock announces that to understand the failures of the non-proliferation policy of the United States one needs to “take off the Cold War lens.” (8) This is preposterous. One cannot understand the dynamics of Cold War national security, positive or negative, by stepping outside the confines and context of the era. The ideology of the era, the limits of policy makers’ knowledge, the newness of the weapons, the evolution of strategic policy, and the constantly shifting international security environment all need to be analyzed within the context of the Cold War. Simply, the ideology of the period colored the decisions and policies of the era.

I understand that perhaps Professor Maddock meant to convey that all too often historians and policy makers get too fixated on the ideology of the Cold War and fail to see potential opportunities or the long-term failures of entrenched policy positions. While this can be an issue, I would argue, however, that the field of dedicated Cold War historians has fought long and hard to overcome this methodological constraint and have overcome these biases and  produced very “balanced” studies using the “lens of the Cold War.”[6]  Maddock’s call to abandon the contextual reality of the period leaves the work reading more like a policy advocacy piece, rather than a history of the non-proliferation policy. Furthermore, faulting policy makers for not seeing a better policy position, visible only with hindsight and outside the contextual understanding of the period, is methodologically problematic.

This methodological issue is further reinforced in the final chapter entitled “The Legacy of Nuclear Apartheid,” in which Maddock makes the claim that “the only basis for a stable and enforceable agreement rested on a mutual respect and sacrifice,” which both the United States and the Soviet Union lacked (Maddock, 229). Right or wrong, the history of the Cold War is not one of counter factual “what ifs.” Simply, the ideological struggle tainted generations of stateman, policy makers, military officers, as well as the populations of each country. Wishing for a period of mutual respect and sacrifice clouds the collective understanding of the past and obfuscates the history of policy development. Furthermore, while I acknowledge that delving into counterfactual “what ifs” can be  useful as an  intellectual exercises for policy makers as they consider various courses of action, this methodology does little to shed light on history of the era, although it does serve to advocate a policy position for the twenty-first  century.

Beyond the methodological and contextual issues, Maddock continually uses the phrase “Cold War arms race.” He uses this term as a simple action-reaction paradigm, in which the Soviet Union and the United States only acted and reacted based on what the other nation was doing. This was not the case. The strategic nuclear arsenals built by both sides were governed by very specific strategies and war plans derived throughout the Cold War.[7] The decision to build a weapons system, or structure a military at the strategic or even tactical level is not simply based upon the enemy. Domestic social, political, and even economic factors merge with technological  evolution and national interest to shape military and national security policy. Rather, decisions to procure weapons systems or advocate a national security policy are very seldom, if ever, made to simply rival an opponent.[8] This is not an attempt to pick apart small insignificant elements of Professor Maddock’s text, but rather my point is that although his narrative of the negotiations of the quest for non-proliferation may be on the mark, the lack of detailed analysis and the ill-defined use of terms such as “arms race” erode the book’s argument. The history of the quest for nuclear supremacy is much broader and complex than the simple action/re-action paradigm offered.

Finally, I question Professor Maddock’s claim of the “deeply engrained faith in U.S. technological prowess” (11) found in the Truman administration. While there was a general belief in the United States after World War II in its superior technological capabilities as compared to other nations, the United States Air Force and the Truman administration spent a considerable amount of their first years in the Cold War worrying that the Soviet Union had bested the United States. Army Air Force General Henry “Hap” Arnold lobbied at the close of of World War II to maintain the close working relationship between the military services and American universities as a way to maintain a technological edge over other nations.[9]  General Arnold considered this close relationship as a primary reason for U.S. success in World War II.

Furthermore, Truman established the Air Policy Commission in 1947, under the chairmanship of Thomas K. Finletter, in an effort to forecast the needs of the United States vis-à-vis air power. The primary concern was that the Soviet Union potentially had an industrial capability to become an international air power, and hence rival the United States.[10] Based upon these two specific examples, I would contest the claim that there was abject faith in U.S. technological hegemony. If anything the Truman administration, as well the Air Force, held deep concerns about the thin technological edge held by the United States over the Soviet Union.

Understanding these issues does not detract from the diplomatic narrative created by Professor Maddock, which provides keen insights into the national security policies of the United States in the first three decades of the Cold War. Based upon his detailed research and rich archival work, the book deserves to be read by diplomatic, Cold War, and policy historians. The only caveat is that reader needs to be aware that there is a much more significant methodological debatebeyond this narrative that deserves attention.

Review by Tom Nichols, Naval War College and International Security Program, JFK School of Government, Harvard University

Shane Maddock has written a study of U.S. nonproliferation policies — or, more accurately, the lack of them — that is engaging, interesting, and witty. Rather than a dry account of policy at the macro-level, Maddock humanizes the decision makers from the Truman to the Nixon administrations, emphasizes both the continuities in policy as well as the personal influence of leaders and their peers and advisors, and reminds us of the often contingent and fluid nature of the environment in which they worked. It is also refreshing to read a book of Cold War history that remembers that there were other people across the Atlantic in Moscow (and elsewhere, like Paris, Warsaw, London, Bucharest, and Bonn) whose decisions influenced those made in Washington.

Likewise, Maddock’s lively but appropriate detours into popular culture place his subject in a real time and place, rather than in a vacuum of documents and faceless bureaucrats.  As I read, for example, Maddock’s fascinating look behind the scenes of the Multilateral Front (MLF) scheme, I could hear Tom Lehrer’s 1960s comic ditty about the MLF in my head, and sure enough, there it was on page 231. For both specialists and students, this is not only an important book, but a very readable one.

The title of the book, however, is misleading and overly provocative, far more so than the actual study itself. Maddock wants to portray the United States, somewhat in cahoots with the Soviet Union, as purposefully denying nuclear technology to states that the developed Westerners considered untrustworthy, the denizens (to use Robert Parker’s phrase) of the “suburbs of civilization” who were unworthy of nuclear knowledge. Maddock makes this case especially forcefully — in fact, too forcefully — in his final chapter, but his overall narrative tells a different story than the one the title of his book promises.

Specifically, reading Nuclear Apartheid, it is just as easy to come to the conclusion that the United States and its leaders simply did not know how to comprehend the advent of the nuclear age, and their uncertainty was at least as much of an influence on policy as the attempt to hoard the hegemonic power granted by the atom. The Americans, as well as the Soviets, struggled to comprehend the meaning of the new weapons they were building at such a remarkable pace, and they were desperate to limit unpredictability and risk.  This was an understandable response in both Washington and Moscow, neither of which wanted nuclear weapons in any hands but their own. They were unwilling to share their secrets even with their allies, and certainly not with the developing and non-aligned nations.

Put another way: when it comes to nuclear bombs, everyone is a control freak. The U.S. and USSR had them, wanted to keep them, and wanted to ensure that deterrence remained a two-player game. Other nations wanted a seat at the big table with the nuclear powers. This is a recipe for intra-alliance conflict and panicky deals, and to portray it as some kind of cultural condescension misses a very human, even normal, dynamic. World War II was well within living memory, and the last thing the Soviets or the Americans wanted was for the genie to get any farther out of the bottle than it already had. Meanwhile, the British and the French, and later the Chinese, were not about to forego their best ticket to great power status after the war, and Maddock at points writes as though somehow these ambitions could have been averted, a doubtful possibility. (In 1954, to take one example, the French Foreign Minister wrote: “It is essential that France undertakes an atomic military program. Otherwise, its security will be entirely assured by the Anglo-Saxons.”)[11]

Happily, Maddock does not press this point as hard as his incendiary title might suggest in the course of his account. Nonetheless, his interpretation of U.S. and Soviet actions is in places highly arguable. He notes, for example, that once the Baruch Plan failed, the United States finally decided to share nuclear expertise with Great Britain. (79) Perhaps, but the Baruch Plan may have only been a proximate cause of that decision. The British were determined to develop a nuclear weapon for their own reasons; it is also possible that it was Britain’s surprising ability to actually detonate a bomb that convinced the Americans that their embargo of nuclear know-how was pointless, and that it was better to be driving the train, so to speak, rather than standing in front of it. And while Maddock’s depiction of Dwight Eisenhower remedies many of the stereotypes about Ike, and harks back to the more balanced picture of Eisenhower put forward many years ago by John Newhouse in his War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, Maddock charges that Ike’s inaction on proliferation spurred nuclear ambitions in Israel and the People’s Republic of China — again, as though those programs could have been stopped somehow.

This is too much to lay upon the policies of any one country. More troubling, it is an approach that both ignores some of the successes of the U.S. effort to head off the growth of nuclear weapons, and elides the question of which countries wanted nuclear arms and for what purposes. For example, Sweden (ironically, later to emerge as a stalwart of non-proliferation efforts) was developing plans in the late 1950s for a significant air- and artillery-based nuclear force to guard its neutrality, and Switzerland kept a “nuclear option” open until the late 1980s. These were not unstable, recently decolonized powers, and Maddock’s argument begs the question about whether the world would have been better off with multiple nuclear powers, especially in Europe, during the Cold War.

Still, Maddock captures much of the confusion, arrogance, and misjudgment that characterized America’s early Cold War approach to nuclear weapons. His discussion of the now long-forgotten MLF–a truly bad idea at the time that only looks worse in retrospect–is particularly enlightening, with Maddock concisely describing the MLF concept as “zombie-like” in its staying power. (263)

There are no heroes here: the United States, the Soviet Union, NATO, and even some of the Warsaw Pact nations all come away with some responsibility for the inability to agree even on simpler matters like a test ban treaty or the duration of national attempts to limit nuclear arms. (The Soviets, Maddock notes, once snarkily suggested 1,000 years as an interim period.) But Maddock at times also seems unwilling to consider the reality that the superpowers may have had good reasons to guard their nuclear oligarchy with such vigilance.

First and foremost was the danger of “catalytic” nuclear war, spurred by a member of either alliance gaining actual possession or operational control of a nuclear weapon. Here, Maddock smudges the difference between possession, control, and presence of nuclear arms in order to fit Europe into his argument that the nuclear regime was for the benefit of developed Westerners and to the exclusion of lesser peoples. He notes, for example, that John F. Kennedy’s concern about the Jupiter missiles in Turkey revealed “the double-standard of U.S. nuclear-sharing policy.” (195)

But what kind of sharing could this be? The Turks did not own the missiles, or the know-how to make them; even the “dual-key” arrangements in some of the NATO nations did not mean that U.S. allies had control of the weapons or their materials. Maddock nonetheless claims that “the European states had access to nuclear weapons via Cold War alliance systems while newly decolonized nations had to abstain from nuclear weapons or risk the ire of Washington and Moscow.” (284)

This is an unusual interpretation. A look back at the vocal anti-nuclear protests of the late 1970s and 1980s (Maddock’s study effectively ends at 1970) might well justify replacing “had access to” with “had to put up with,” as the weapons belonged to the Americans and were controlled by them, a fact central to so many European abolitionist arguments.

And which decolonized nations had to abstain? India, perhaps? Maddock notes the white South African regime’s successful dash for nuclear arms, but the Americans were actually quite concerned about that program, and in some interpretations (including a forthcoming study from a South African scholar) the South Africans wanted a bomb because they believed, rationally or not, that they would not be protected by the developed nations, the U.S. included, if they were overrun by Cuban troops leading African armies against them. There is a circularity to this quandary: if the Americans share nuclear weapons technology with certain regimes, then U.S. policy is part of the problem. If the Americans deny nuclear arms to some regimes, then those states will go ahead and try to gain them on their own, and U.S. policy is still the problem.

More to the point, what interest would anyone, anywhere, have in allowing the creation of nuclear weapons in newly minted states in the developing world in the 1950s and 1960s? Is Maddock arguing that the United States, or the Soviet Union, should have shared nuclear weapons technology with recently decolonized nations — even as Washington was trying to stamp out nuclear arms programs in Western Europe? The world is a better place without the Soviet Union, but it is hard to believe that North Korea would be exploding nuclear bombs in its caves if Moscow were still the responsible adult on that particular playground. I realize that this kind of paternalistic imagery plays to Maddock’s point, but there is a grain of truth in it: does North Korea act like a mature, responsible member of the international community now that it answers to no one?

There is also the issue of what, exactly, has Maddock so concerned in terms of proliferation. JFK’s worries of a world of thirty nuclear powers has still, a half century later, not come to pass. Maddock writes that the U.S. was “more concerned with protecting superpower hegemony than with eradicating the deadly threat of indiscriminate nuclear dissemination.” (285)  But just how far has that dissemination gone? Indeed, it could be argued that the collapse of client relationships between Russia and North Korea, and the U.S. and Iran, did more to open the door to proliferation than anything that happened during the Cold War. There are ten nuclear powers in 2011: The U.S., Russia, Great Britain, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea, and South Africa. Scores of other countries, from Canada to Japan to Australia, could go nuclear overnight if they wished — but they haven’t. Why isn’t this a success, rather than a failure, of U.S. (and to give them their due, even Soviet) non-proliferation policies?

Finally, Maddock argues that “Washington and Moscow should also attempt to persuade the world that cheap and safe nuclear power is a phantasm.” (299) This is a strange argument to make given that the United States long ago gave up on nuclear power and is only now starting to reconsider its possibilities. France, Sweden, Japan, and many other countries derive far greater proportions of their national energy production from nuclear power than the United States or Russia do, and why Maddock thinks the U.S. or Russia could marshal the moral or practical arguments to dissuade anyone about the obvious benefits of nuclear energy — especially in the early twenty-firstcentury, as oil nears $100 a barrel and the damage done to the earth by fossil fuels is manifest — is a mystery. This sudden attack on nuclear power is distinctly different in tone and subject from the rest of the book, but it is not central to Maddock’s point and it does not undermine the value of study.

Nuclear Apartheid is a must-read for anyone interested in the early history of non-proliferation efforts. Despite its overplayed arguments toward the end, this is a book written with verve and detail, and Maddock, to his credit, is forthright and clear enough in his interpretive claims that an attentive reader will be able to engage his views, even where there might be disagreement with them. The book not only sheds light on a relatively understudied corner of the Cold War, but does so by presenting a deftly written and fully-realized world of real people and unpredictable events.

Review by George Quester, University of Maryland, Emeritus

This book offers an argument that the years since 1945 (or 1941) should be characterized as “the quest for American atomic supremacy”, and it, by a very tendentious choice of wording, repeats this theme throughout, largely disregarding the counter- possibility that any alleged flaws in American culture and thinking may have little role here, as compared to the inherent fears any state would have of a nuclear monopoly in the hands of another.

The author makes passing reference to American consideration of preventive war to keep Stalin’s Soviet Union from getting the bomb, where indeed one might have to explain why such options did not get more consideration. What would Stalin (or Winston Churchill?) have done if they had possessed a nuclear monopoly after 1945?  A very plausible guess is that no one else would have been allowed to break the monopoly. The author interestingly makes no reference to Bertrand Russell’s arguments in favor of an American preventive war against Stalin in the years of the American monopoly (which Russell pretended he never voiced, once Stalin had the bomb).[12] Russell had argued that the world should heave a sigh of relief that America had gotten the bomb first, and that it was to be lamented that the United States was too inherently democratic and peaceful to use the bomb to prevent Stalin from getting it.

Maddock is fair-minded enough in that he characterizes virtually all the American decision-makers as morally and psychology deficient, Democrats like Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman,  Dean Acheson and George Kennan as well as the Republicans. But his prose again and again simply characterizes the American side, without ever really proving that there was an alternative.  An all-too-typical sentence can be found on page 104: “But American leaders squandered this opportunity for disarmament  because they would not jettison their Cold War suspicions”. American decisions are again and again painted as ideological and foolish, while Soviet decisions are mostly painted as understandable.

The author argues (p. 297) that “Little good has come from U.S. non-proliferation efforts”, but this again begs the question of what the alternative would have been, how many countries would have the bomb if the United States had not behaved as it did all through the Cold War and after. The author (p. 298) states that nuclear weapons “drained the treasury” of the two super-powers, but this of course begs the question on what western and Soviet spending on conventional weaponry would have climbed to, if nuclear weapons had not been around.

The book is remarkable for all the literature on nuclear issues that is not cited, including Bernard Brodie, Henry Kissinger, Thomas Schelling, Robert Jervis, and Richard Betts, while William Appleman Williams is of course cited.

Was “nuclear zero” a possibility, and is it a possibility for the future? This book does not offer the kind of analysis that would really help sort out the possibilities here.

Author’s Response by Shane J. Maddock, Stonehill College

I wish to extend my deep appreciation to Thomas Maddux for coordinating this roundtable discussion. I would also like to thank all four reviewers for their thoughtful comments on my book, which invite me to elaborate on my thinking and to engage incisive comments and questions.

I welcome the opportunity to respond first to George Quester’s critique. Quester takes issue with the central conceptualization of the book and asserts that the overall treatment of U.S. policy strikes him as “tendentious.”  He states “alleged flaws in American culture and thinking may have had little role” in shaping U.S. nuclear policy, as opposed to the “inherent fears that any state would have of a nuclear monopoly in the hands of another.” States rightly feared a single state monopolizing nuclear weapons.  That fear prompted the British and American programs during World War II, with both London and Washington seeking to check a perceived German advantage.

After the war, Washington emerged as the sole nuclear power in the first four years after the war’s end.  Stalin, fearing an American monopoly, ordered an expanded Soviet nuclear program as soon as he realized that Washington had succeeded in producing atomic bombs.  The Soviets also feared that the Americans would try to use the atomic bomb to their diplomatic advantage, and Secretary of State James Byrne’s actions during the initial postwar conferences only served to validate that fear. I discuss this period at some length in the initial chapters in my book.  If the United States wanted a nuclear-free world or merely sought to halt proliferation by other powers, it had to take the initiative and offer to abandon its monopoly. The Truman administration chose not to pursue a serious effort to ban or limit nuclear weapons.  In part, it adopted this approach because it saw no immediate possibility of the Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons.  If the Truman administration had reshaped the Baruch Plan to make it more acceptable to Stalin, would Moscow have abandoned its nuclear ambitions?  Chances of agreement under those conditions seem slim given the growing tension between the two states. So one could argue that a generic condition of nuclear monopoly produced this outcome. But Britain complicates matters. London ended the war believing Washington had committed to shared access to nuclear weapons and nuclear data.  But the Truman administration ended cooperation abruptly after the end of the conflict.  Britain then pursued its own nuclear deterrent primarily because it feared that a U.S. withdrawal from Europe would leave it alone in checking Soviet ambitions in Europe and to maintain its status as a great power in the international arena.  The British did not fear the U.S. monopoly, so much as their own decline.

Quester contends that I do not prove that there was an alternative to the course Washington pursued.  True, none of us can pursue counterfactuals with a high degree of precision, but “what ifs” haunt our work even when we do not choose to confront them directly.  Throughout the book, I offer cases where different policies were proposed and rejected.  Could these alternatives have produced different outcomes?  We will never know for sure, but we do know that the United States failed to achieve its stated nonproliferation objectives during this period.  Two questions arise – one is what obstacles prevented Washington from achieving its objects and a second is what countervailing value policymakers saw in acquiescing to proliferation.  It is precisely these questions that my book is designed to engage.

Quester himself cannot refrain from counterfactuals — asking what the world would have looked like if Churchill or Stalin had controlled a nuclear monopoly, wondering how many states would have nuclear weapons if the United States had pursued different policies after World War II, and speculating how much the United States and the Soviet Union would have spent on conventional weaponry if they had not constructed enormous nuclear arsenals.  In one case, he suggests that neither Churchill nor Stalin would have allowed another power to break their monopoly. But one has to wonder how far down this particular road of counterfactuals he wants to go. Would Britain have attacked the United States if Washington pursued a nuclear option? That seems highly unlikely. In the Soviet case, Moscow simply did not have the air power necessary to pose a legitimate threat to the United States in the immediate wake of World War II.  Regarding his other counterfactual, I would point out that the United States has placed its primary emphasis on blunting Soviet, British, French, German, Chinese, Israeli, Indian, Pakistani, Taiwanese, South Korean, Iran, Iraqi, and North Korean nuclear ambitions.  Washington succeeded by various methods in four instances: Germany, Taiwan, Iraq, and South Korea, suggesting that if the United States did nothing the world might have four more nuclear powers.  Did the U.S. nonproliferation policy have an indirect deterrent effect in others cases?  It is possible, but the available evidence offers no definitive answers.  In the case of conventional weaponry, the social costs would have been higher for the United States than those of nuclear weapons.  A conventional arsenal as potent as the U.S. nuclear arsenal would have required much higher Cold War draft calls and would have met much stiffer resistance from Congress and the U.S. public.  As John Lewis Gaddis has argued, nuclear weapons prolonged the Cold War precisely because their existence allowed policymakers to avoid the hard policy choices associated with large conventional militaries.[13]

Tom Nichols suggests that U.S. and Soviet efforts to deny nuclear weapons to others was a natural response – “that when it comes to nuclear bombs, everyone is a control freak.”  I would agree to a point. U.S. and Soviet efforts to control nuclear weapons, however, did not always translate into efforts to limit access to them.  Eisenhower, for example, greatly expanded access to nuclear technology and data through his Atoms for Peace proposal.  The United States also sought to blunt independent nuclear forces in Europe by providing access to American nuclear weapons.  U.S. law prevented the direct transfer of the weapons so various presidential administrations allowed their NATO allies to control the delivery vehicles while Washington continued to own and control the warheads.  But as both my book and Marc Trachtenberg’s Constructed Peace (1999) discuss, these arrangement were designed largely to placate Congress.  The allies would take full control of tactical weapons in the case of war and the dual key launching procedures were easily subverted.  During one test launch, a British military officer substituted a screwdriver for the American key and the missile fired successfully.  So from a Soviet perspective, these nuclear sharing policies (the term used by the U.S. government at the time) constituted proliferation.  The Soviets indulged in the same types of policies during the 1950s in regard to China and only pulled back after the 1958 Offshore Islands crisis made them reconsider the wisdom of providing Mao Zedong with nuclear weapons.  France aided Israel, Israel aided South Africa, and Pakistan ran a nuclear supermarket.  In many instances, states have been far too eager to broaden access to nuclear data and technology, especially if doing so seemed to offer some short term advantage.   Nichols also points out that during the 1980s Europeans mounted one of the most powerful protests in history against U.S. plans to base a new wave of nuclear weapons in their countries.  Here one has to make a distinction between European governments and their constituents.  When the U.S. first proposed basing new weapons in Europe, it did so in response to direct pressure from NATO allies. When the European public realized the implications of these policies, it rose up in protest against both NATO and the United States.  In the 1950s and 1960s, similar processes took place.  The West German government wanted access to nuclear weapons even as the German public opposed an independent nuclear deterrent and the basing of nuclear weapons in Germany.

Nichols contends I overreach in arguing that the U.S. policy played a role in accelerating nuclear programs in other countries.  When states make a decision to pursue nuclear weapons many elements play a role in that decision.  But a key determinant is threat perception. Nichols highlights the cases of Israel and China and doubts my contention that Eisenhower’s policies accelerated their respective quests for nuclear weapons.  The timing is a key element in these cases. Eisenhower threatened to use nuclear weapons against China on three separate occasions.  In each instance, China poured more resources into its nuclear program.  The Israeli program took on greater urgency and became tightly linked to the French effort after the Suez Crisis (1956) when both states felt bullied by the United States into backing down from their confrontation with Egypt.  Conversely Nichols suggests that I do not give credit to Washington when states did not proliferate, citing Sweden and Switzerland as key examples. Both states did harbor nuclear ambitions at one time and Mitchell Reiss has given the Swedish case a good deal of attention in his study Without the Bomb (1988) and suggests that the fact that the NATO nuclear umbrella likely would cover them did figure into Swedish calculations. It also should be noted that Sweden was one of the most vocal critics of U.S. nonproliferation efforts, specifically targeting their selective and uneven quality, and there is little evidence that the United States put much effort into constraining Sweden or Switzerland.

Nichols also wonders whether any decolonized nations had to abstain from nuclear weapons.  He grants perhaps India, but I think overlooks the more salient North-South split in world politics by the time the nonproliferation treaty came to pass in 1968.  The United States saw China’s nuclear test as an important symbolic event that would embolden the newly-emerging states and other non-European states.  Beyond India, they also feared nuclear ambitions in Egypt, Taiwan, South Korea, Argentina, and Brazil.  I would not argue that the United States or Soviet Union should have allowed proliferation in these cases, but would rather suggest that the United States should have applied the same standards to itself as it did others. When states attempted to ban landmines, poisonous gases, and other chemical and biological weapons, the rules were applied evenly across the international spectrum and these treaties did not create a special class of states who were allowed to retain these weapons.  If nuclear weapons are going to be controlled then all states must make sacrifices and agree to forgo them.  The non-nuclear states asked for an explicit timetable for nuclear disarmament from the nuclear states as a price for their signatures on the nonproliferation treaty.  They did not get it and because of that refusal many key nuclear states refused to sign the treaty.

Nichols concludes with questions regarding my suggestion that nuclear power production also needs to be included in any comprehensive nonproliferation effort.  As I work to demonstrate throughout the book, nuclear power production has long been a steppingstone to nuclear weapons production.  Once one has functioning nuclear power plants, one has made great progress toward becoming a nuclear weapons state.  Israel, India, Taiwan, South Africa, North Korea, Iraq, and Iran all pursued nuclear weapons behind the façade of only seeking viable nuclear energy production.  Any benefits from nuclear power production must then be weighed against the security and environmental threats it poses.

Sean Kalic raises three issues with my argument. First, he finds my suggestion that scholars remove “the Cold War lens” troubling, considers my use of the term “Cold War arms race” problematic and too simplistic, and objects to my contention that the policymakers held “a deeply engrained faith in U.S. technological prowess.”  Kalic suggests that by urging scholars to abandon “the Cold War lens” I am pushing them to step out of the confines and context of the era.  But placing my comment in context will clarify what I meant.  I wrote: “To understand the failures of nuclear nonproliferation efforts from 1955 to the present, one needs to “take off the Cold War lens’ and acknowledge that very early in the postwar period U.S. policymakers saw decolonization as a dangerous phenomenon that overlapped with but was also distinct from the Cold War.  By 1975, the CIA recognized that nonproliferation and other nuclear issues ‘are often colored by an overlay of North-South tensions.’” (8-9) My statement thus does not call for abandoning context or ignoring Cold War ideology. Rather it urges us to recognize the central role that decolonization played in the postwar world, and the ways this tectonic shift in international relations provides context for the Cold War rivalry.  That is not criticizing from a position of hindsight, but rather trying to incorporate an element of the contextual reality that gets short shrift or no attention at all.  When I discuss alternatives in the text, they flow from actual options discussed or proposed not wishful thinking ex post facto.

Kalic suggests that I view the “Cold War arms race” as a simple action-reaction paradigm.  I freely admit that I give limited attention to economics and bureaucratic politics in the arms race.  My goal was to provide an account of U.S. nonproliferation policies.  As a result the arms race is discussed primarily in that context.  When I do examine it more closely as in the case of the hydrogen bomb decision and Kennedy’s claims of a missile gap, I do attempt to highlight the domestic motivations behind these policies in addition to the international aspects. I agree whole heartedly with Kalic’s statement that the “decision to build a weapons system, or structure a military at the strategic or even tactical level is not simply based upon the enemy. Domestic social, political, and even economic factors merge with technological evolution and national interest to shape military and national security policy. Rather, decisions to procure weapons systems or advocate a national security policy are very seldom, if ever, made to simply rival an opponent.”

Kalic further objects to my concept of “technological utopianism,” specifically the notion that U.S. policymakers had a deep faith in U.S. technological superiority.  He cites examples during the early Cold War years in which the U.S. Air Force pursued efforts to maintain a technological edge over the Soviets.  I view these two examples a bit differently than he does.  My primary point and criticism of U.S. faith in technology is that it often prompts the U.S. government to pursue technological solutions to diplomatic and national security problems rather than pursuing political solutions.  I provide a number of examples of this type of thinking, including the hydrogen bomb decision and Eisenhower era policies concerning nuclear testing.  Did the United States at times worry that the Soviets had gained an advantage?  Certainly.  Events then would intervene that succeed in reversing those fears.  Sputnik immediately comes to mind.  But any fears in the upper reaches of power were quickly allayed by U-2 flights that revealed that a missile gap did not exist.  The United States then went ahead with efforts to use its technological advantage to preserve its security, with MIRVs and strategic missile defense being two key examples.

Andrew Johnston regrets that I did not spend more time explaining the theoretical underpinnings of my book.  I did make a conscious choice to keep the theory to a minimum.  In part, this was for aesthetic reasons. I thought such a discussion might prove distracting and I wanted to avoid too many long discursive notes. Elsewhere, I do go into greater detail about the theory behind my arguments.[14]  Rather than creating scaffolding that told my readers how I thought culture worked to shape policy, I tried to demonstrate through the narrative how it shaped decisions and limited options.  In retrospect, I might have included more on the theoretical underpinnings of my thinking and expanded on my conclusions, especially regarding why U.S. policies failed.  The decision to prioritize other issues at the expense of nonproliferation did stem from the ideological and cultural factors Johnston wishes I would have developed more fully.  I do hope, however, that in some small way my study makes it easier to go back and excavate the cultural underpinning of U.S. nuclear policies in greater detail and with ever greater sophistication.

The nature of the author’s response in these roundtables causes one to focus on what the reviewers questioned and found problematic.  But I want to end by expressing my deep appreciation for the time the reviewers took to read my book and for giving my arguments careful consideration.  Every author hopes that readers will pause and seriously engage their work even if they do not always agree with everything in it.  Even in those instances where we differ in our conclusions, I found the reviewers’ comments valuable and they forced me to revisit my thinking and reconsider my conclusions in fruitful ways.


© Copyright 2011-2015 The Authors.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.



[1] In the case of someone like John Foster Dulles, righteousness and power were intimately connected. His writings on America’s providential mission revolve around the covenantal conviction that the United States is powerful because, and only when, it is close to God, and serving the world selflessly. John Foster Dulles, “A righteous faith,” Life, December 28, 1942; “The American vision,” address at the opening of the churches” National Mission on World Order, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, October 18, 1943; “Our spiritual heritage,” address at New York Herald Tribune Forum, October 21, 1947, all in H. P. Van Dusen, ed., The spiritual legacy of John Foster Dulles (New York, 1960). See also Dulles, ‘The importance of spiritual resources,” address, Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island, January 27, 1950, Dulles Papers, Selected Correspondence, Box 47, Captive Peoples File (1950). Seeley Mudd Library, Princeton, NJ.

[2] Quoted in John Lewis Gaddis, Strategies of Containment; A Critical Appraisal of Postwar American National Security Policy (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1982), 62.

[3] Carol Cohn, “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals,” Signs, 12:4 (Summer, 1987): 687-718.

[4] Richard Ned Lebow and Janice Stein, We all lost the Cold War (Princeton, 1995).

[5]In many ways Maddock’s work read in conjunction with Nicholas Thomas’s The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan and the History of the Cold War (New York: Henry Holt Company, 2009) provides a very insightful perspective on the initial years of the Cold War.

[6]I think of Melvyn P. Leffler. For the Soul of Mankind: The United States, The Soviet Union, and the Cold War, (New York: Hill& Wang, 2007; Vladislav Zubok and Constantine Pleshakov. Inside the Kremlin’s Cold War: From Stalin to Khrushchev, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996); and Vojtech Mastny. The Cold War and Soviet Insecurity: The Stalin Years, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996) offer fine examples of Cold War histories that place their studies within the context of the Cold War.

[7]For a very good study of the early period of the Cold War nuclear strategy and policy see Scott D. Sagan. Moving Targets: Nuclear Strategy and National Security, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).

[8]For views on issues that impact a nation’s decision to build and invest in weapons systems see Jan Ruger. The Great Naval Game: Britain and Germany in the Age of Empire, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  2007) and Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millet, eds. Military Innovation in the Interwar Period, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).  

[9]Dik Daso, Hap Arnold: And the Evolution of American Airpower (Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Press, 2000);  Theodore Von Karman with with Lee Edson, The Wind and Beyond: Theodore Von Karman Pioneer in Aviation and Pathfinder in Space ( Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1967).

[10]Air Policy Commission Report (draft), undated, Harry S. Truman Presidential Library (HSTPL), Record Group 220, Box 41, File: ML1-10 Proposed Classified Report, 10;  Air Engineering Development Center (AEDC), Presentation to the President’s Air Policy Commission, October 27, 1947, HSTPL, Record Group 222, President’s Air Policy Commission, July 1947-January 1948, Classified Material MC4-11 to MF4-1, Box 39, File: MF4-1 Information Regarding  Russian Activities, 1; National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. National Program of Transonic and Supersonic Wind Tunnels: Presentation to the Air Policy Committee, November 19, 1947, HSTPL, Record Group 220, President’s Air Policy Commission, July 1947-Janaury 1948, Classified Material MC4-11 to MF4-1, Box 39, File: MC4-11 National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics 11/19, 1.

[11] Bruno Tertrais, “French Perspectives On Nuclear Weapons And Nuclear Disarmament,” Washington, DC: The Stimson Center, Studies on Unblocking the Road to Zero, May 4, 2009,

[12] Ronald William Clark, The Life of Bertrand Russell (London: Jonathan Cape, 1975).p. 518.

[13] John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the End of the Cold War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 112-116.

[14] “Defending the American Way and Containing the Atom: Ideology and U.S. Nonproliferation Policy since 1945” in The Atomic Bomb and American Society, eds. Rosemary Mariner and G. Kurt Piehler (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009), 121-152.