John Mueller vs the World!

30 Jul

Now that the PhD is done and dusted (even though it still feels funny to think that it is over), there’s still plenty to do in terms of trying to scratch out an academic career. The lot of the newly minted Doctor is far from easy. Few jobs/postdocs, many applicants, crowded market, etc.

However, I’m lucky enough to have been offered some adjunct teaching work at the University of Edinburgh. Even better, I’m allowed to design and offer my own honours-level (3rd and 4th year undergraduate) courses. The first to come up is Confrontation, Proliferation, Representation: The Nuclear Cold War in Policy and in Public, 1945-1989. You can find out more about the course here. The syllabus is pretty much done, so I thought I would share the outline of the introductory class.

The course starts with a class that hopefully eases students into thinking about the nuclear Cold War and introduces them to some key concepts. The opening question stems from my long-time fascination with the work of John Mueller, arch-controversialist and provocateur.

Mueller’s still engaging essay on what he regards as the irrelevance of nuclear weapons in the Cold War is a great place to start. While the argument of the piece is eminently debatable, it really starts you thinking about the importance (or otherwise), significance (or otherwise), and the impact (or otherwise) of nuclear weapons within an historical context. I hope that students will see it in the same way.

Since it came out in 2010, I’ve been very taken by After Hiroshima: The United States, Race, and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945-1965, the seminal work by Matthew Jones. It dovetails nicely with Nina Tannenwald’The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945 in that they both offer fascinating, challenging views of nuclear history.

Seminar/Essay Questions

  • Do you agree with John Mueller that it is not clear that nuclear weapons have “had a significant impact on the history of world affairs since World War II” or with John Lewis Gaddis that nuclear weapons have resulted in “a fundamental—and possibly permanent—change in human behaviour”?[1] 
  • Do ‘cultural’ interpretations such as those of Matthew Jones or Nina Tannenwald add to our understanding of the nuclear Cold War? How do they influence historical analysis?
  • The nuclear Cold War: security dilemma?
  • How important is an understanding of the history of nuclear weapons during the 1945-1989 period to our modern world?

Scholarship – Essentials

Gaddis, John Lewis, The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations, Provocations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), Chp.6 ‘The Essential Relevance of Nuclear Weapons’ – this piece should be read after the Mueller reading listed below.

Gavin, Francis J., Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2012), Introduction and Chp.1 ‘History, Theory, and Statecraft in the Nuclear Age,’ Chp.7 ‘Same As It Ever Was? Nuclear Weapons In The Twenty-First Century,’ and Chp.8 ‘Global Zero, History, and the “Nuclear Revolution”.’ Chp.7 is available in a slightly different form as ‘Same As It Ever Was: Nuclear Alarmism, Proliferation, and the Cold War,’ International Security, 34:3 (Winter, 2009/10), 7-37

Jervis, Robert, ‘Was the Cold War a Security Dilemma?,’ Cold War Studies, 3:1 (Winter, 2001), 36-60, available at http://polisci2.ucsd.edu/ps154/JervisSectyDilem.pdf

Jones, Matthew, After Hiroshima: The United States, Race, and Nuclear Weapons in Asia, 1945-1965 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), Introduction and Conclusion.

Mandelbaum, Michael, The Nuclear Revolution: International Politics Before and After Hiroshima (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), Chp.1 ‘The Nuclear Revolution.’

Mueller, John, ‘The Essential Irrelevance of Nuclear Weapons: Stability in the Postwar World,’ International Security, 13:2 (Autumn, 1988), 55-79

Tannenwald, Nina, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons Since 1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), Chp.1 ‘Introduction: the tradition of non-use’ and Chp.2 ‘Explaining non-use.’

Scholarship – Further Reading

Jervis, Robert, ‘Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,’ World Politics, 30:2 (January, 1978), 167-214

__________‘The Political Effects of Nuclear Weapons: A Comment,’ International Security, 13:2 (Fall, 1988), 80-90

Lebow, Richard N., and Janice Gross Stein, ‘Nuclear Lessons of the Cold War,’ in Booth, Ken, Statecraft and Security: The Cold War and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). This volume is available as an electronic resource via the library catalogue.

McAllister, James and Diane Labrosse (eds.), H-Diplo/ISSF Forum ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Nuclear Weapons,’ H-Diplo, June 15, 2014, http://issforum.org/ISSF/PDF/ISSF-Forum-2.pdf

Pelopidas, Benoit, ‘The Oracles of Proliferation: How Experts Maintain a Biased Historical Reading that Limits Policy Innovation,’ The Nonproliferation Review, 18:1 (2011), 297-314

Quinlan, Michael, Thinking About Nuclear Weapons: Principles, Problems, Prospects (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), Chp.2 ‘The Tools of Thinking’ and Chp.5 ‘The Ethics of Nuclear Weapons.’ This volume is available as an electronic resource via the library catalogue.

Westad, Odd Arne, ‘The Cold War and the International History of the Twentieth Century,’ in Leffler, Melvyn P., and Odd Arne Westad, The Cambridge History of the Cold War, Volume 1, Origins 1945-1962 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010). This volume is available as an electronic resource via the library catalogue.

Note

[1] John Mueller, ‘The Essential Irrelevance of Nuclear Weapons: Stability in the Postwar World,’ International Security, 13:2 (Autumn, 1988), 56; John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the End of the Cold War: Implications, Reconsiderations, Provocations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 105.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “John Mueller vs the World!”

  1. Sacha Ratcliffe (@Sacha3791) August 3, 2014 at 2:59 pm #

    Sounds like a fascinating course. Makes me wish I was still an undergraduate. The essay by John Mueller sounds like a very interesting read, offering a perspective I’ve never encountered. I hope you have a great bunch of students who engage fully with the material.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Thus it begins…”: Starting to teach the nuclear Cold War | theatomicage - September 17, 2014

    […] such enthusiasm for the subject. As I’ve mentioned before, the course starts by questioning the relevance of nuclear weapons to the Cold War, then progressing in a broadly chronological fashion through the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: