‘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 détente 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.’
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.
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.)