Archive | December, 2011

Nixon, Intelligence, and the Indian Bomb

23 Dec

‘The most peculiar and haunted of presidents’ is going to be a quixotic figure in any field of study.(1) Nixon and Henry Kissinger – the man most closely associated with the president and his policies – are sources of endless fascination for the scholar and layperson alike.

In my own field, the relationship between the two men and the idea of nuclear proliferation is no less enthralling than any of the other areas in which they involved themselves. Both had little time for the Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and non-proliferation activities in general, as their sights were firmly set on the ‘big picture’ policies of d├ętente with the Soviet Union, the normalisation of relations with the People’s Republic of China, the Middle East peace process, Vietnam, and the ‘Year of Europe.’

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HOTCUS Conference 2012

21 Dec

The other day I received notification from the organising committee of the 2012 Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) conference that my paper proposal had been accepted. My intention is to discuss US-UK motivations towards the Pakistani nuclear issue in 1978-79, looking a how ideas of democracy, civilisation, and religion influenced their stances alongside the more traditional geopolitical and Realist conceptions of international relations. Here’s the abstract:

During 1978 and into 1979 it became apparent to Western observers that Pakistan was engaging in covert efforts to produce the raw material for nuclear weapons. In light of this, the United States and United Kingdom jointly engaged in diplomatic strategies aimed at curbing the emergent Pakistani nuclear programme. Using recently declassified and previously unseen sources from both sides of the Atlantic, this paper argues that US-UK cooperation in the (ultimately fruitless) attempt to prevent Pakistani development of nuclear weapons capability was far closer and more involved than traditionally suggested.

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The Subtle Art of the Demarche

16 Dec

I meant to post about this ages ago, when the documents were first released, but other stuff got in the way as usual. However, this is so interesting that I had to talk about it at some point.

The National Security Archive at George Washington University continues its excellent work in obtaining the release of previously classified nuclear documentation with this recent set of diplomatic messages.(1) They highlight the efforts of the United States in trying to restrain Pakistani nuclear ambitions while concurrently attempting to achieve other – often conflicting – foreign policy objectives.

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Ph.Ds, History Blogging, and Time

11 Dec

The History Blogging Project is chock full of useful advice on starting, positioning, and most importantly, maintaining a history-based blog. I myself have fallen into a number of the traps that various established bloggers warn against. In particular, I set out ages ago with good intentions about creating a blog to reflect my research interests and experiences. Since then, it has been All Quiet on the Western Front (or Eastern, given the location of Edinburgh.) Now that my research has advanced, I’ve moved into the second year of my Ph.D, and I feel more confident in talking about the subject matter, there is a feeling that I am in a better position regarding maintaining a worthwhile blog.

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Iran and the Bomb

11 Dec

The Iranian nuclear situation is nothing if not fascinating. The sheer level of anger the thought of an Iranian atomic bomb causes ‘the West’ is remarkable, but not unprecedented. Recent developments have been described as a “provocation” by the French government, amongst others.

Similar concerns were apparent in the late 1960s and early 1970s when India was progressing her weapons programme.(1) Likewise in the 1970s, U.S. ally Taiwan had serious plans for nuclear capability, but was ‘dissuaded’ by American pressure and the promises of an atomic security umbrella.(2) Yet, eyes were turned away when Israel developed capability. By 1974 at the latest (and probably much earlier – some documentation seems to indicate that there was an awareness of the Israeli bomb project in 1968), Israel was known to have a nuclear arsenal.(3) As an interesting sidenote, the same document that accurately assesses the Israeli and Taiwanese programmes also categorises South Africa as more of a danger regarding the proliferation of nuclear materials (such as uranium) rather than as a nuclear weapon state (which it became by the early 1980s, albeit in a very limited fashion.)

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Faltering Steps

1 Dec

One of the daunting aspects of starting a doctorate is the constant, niggling fear that somebody, somewhere, is doing exactly the same thing as you. This low-grade paranoia seems to be par for the course unless you are sufficiently confident that your topic area is obscure enough that nobody could possibly be researching the same thing.

My initial proposal was to examine how issues of race an racism might (or might not) have affected U.S. nuclear planning in the Asian region. I would do this by studying in detail a number of case studies, most likely the Korean War and the First and Second Taiwan Straits Crises. Little did I know…

Just after I began my Ph.D, I was informed that a book had recently appeared that covered very similar ground to me. Scratch that, it covered precisely what I was planning on doing. After Hiroshima: The United States, Race, and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945 – 1965 (Cambridge, 2010) by Professor Matthew Jones is an excellent piece of work that appeared in the lull between my Ph.D proposal being accepted and my starting at the university (1).

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