Reading Daniel Sargent’s excellent recent book A Superpower Transformed provoked me to re-assess some of the framework supporting my own research into US-UK and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons project in the 1970s. Sargent manages to crystalise some of the conclusions I was tentatively reaching towards, very handy as I work on the manuscript for my own book. One issue that formed a component of my work – but that I hadn’t made prominent enough – was globalisation. Not just globalisation in terms of markets, but in the emergence of modern transnational movements, networks, and ideas (such as human rights), and the significant role they played in US foreign policy.
Sargent’s thesis forced me to re-appraise the role that globalisation and transnationalism played in US-UK nuclear non-proliferation policy, and in Pakistan’s own clandestine bomb programme. The Pakistani nuclear weapons programme had a lengthy history, but only really emerged as an international issue after the catalytic Indian nuclear test of May 18 1974. This spurred Islamabad into action and gave leaders such as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Muhammad Zia ul-Haq the necessary oppositional context to push forward a national nuclear programme.
Above: Donald Trump, noted non-proliferation theorist and proponent of sane foreign policy positions.
With debate about the Iranian nuclear deal still raging and everyone and their dog expressing an opinion (no matter how ill-informed, reactionary, or just plain stupid it might be), my new undergraduate course is alarmingly well-timed.
This year, I’m offering a new 4MA (fourth year honours, full year) course entitled The United States and the Problem of Nuclear Proliferation, 1945-2015 (hereafter USPNP). An outgrowth of my research interests and doctoral work, USPNP is my first attempt at a year-long course for the undergraduates in their final year. The class is relatively small (12-15 students) and there will have an intense focus on discussing and debating primary, secondary, and theoretical materials.
Important aide memoire for self: those subjects that you really, really know a lot about, have done extensively researched, and that you’ve produced scholarly work about. Those are the ones that are hardest to teach.
For this part of the course, we turned our gaze towards proliferation and the developing world. In particular, the West’s interactions with the Pakistani nuclear weapons programme. Which just so happens to be the subject of my doctoral thesis. The intent behind this was twofold: 1) to explore how the media influences perceptions about national (or what they perceive as transnational) nuclear programmes. 2) to explore attitudes towards national nuclear programmes within governments.
This article on War Is Boring piqued my interest a couple of days ago. Not so much the fact that Argentina might by a few Swedish fighter planes, but the bit about the US government potentially barring the sale.
What, you might well ask, has this to do with anything? Well, it provides and interesting contemporary connection to and article I’ve just submitted to an esteemed scholarly journal for peer review. Starting in the 1970s, the Indian Air Force (IAF) sought to purchase a new ‘Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft’ (DPSA). The competitors for this lucrative contract were Britain (with the Anglo-French Jaguar design), France (with the Mirage), and Sweden (with the Viggen, predecessor of the aircraft that Argentina might be buying).
In my continued attempt to make use of those snippets from the archives that didn’t make it into the finished thesis, here’s something you might not think about as a non-proliferation measure: the Special Air Service (SAS).
Previously, I’ve talked about angry letters from A. Q. Khan and the intersections between Barry Goldwater, the military-industrial complex, and the Ford administration. This time, it’s back to the UK and a non-proliferation ‘bribe’ that never went anywhere other than the Foreign Office filing cabinet marked ‘Daft Ideas.’
On June 5, I’m delighted to be attending the BISA Global Nuclear Order Working Group workshop Critical Perspectives on Nuclear Weapons (try saying that after a few beers). This is a great chance to engage in discussions about nuclear issues with some fantastic scholars from across the UK and beyond, looking at issues such as deterrence and disarmament, nuclear identity, and nuclear legitimacy.
Following on from A.Q. Khan’s angry letter about British television, here’s another snippet that didn’t make it into the final version of the thesis.
Throughout the mid-to-late 1970s, successive US administrations attempted to use arms sales as a means of shifting Pakistan from the nuclear path. During this period, the weapon system that was always a major sticking point was the advanced A-7 attack aircraft. The Pakistanis wanted it. The Americans didn’t want them to have it. Then they did. Then they didn’t. Then they did. And so on ad infinitum.