1. The Ideal Number of Nuclear Weapons States Is One: Nuclear Nonproliferation and the Quest for American Atomic Supremacy
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The Ideal Number of ​ Nuclear Weapons States Is One Nuclear Nonproliferation � the �uest for American Atomic Supremacy Rejecting the stigma shadowing nuclear weapons in the early 1950s, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declared: “In the past higher civilizations have always maintained their place against lower civilizations by devising more effective weapons.” A half century later, President Bill Clinton promised to help other “civilized nations” acquire missile defense technology to protect against nuclear violence by “irresponsible” states and allied “terrorists .” Comments such as these expose a deep-seated ideology that infused U.S. nuclear policy in general and U.S. nonproliferation policy in particular during the Cold War and beyond.1 The primary tenets remained consistent from the beginning of the nuclear age—some states could be trusted with nuclear weapons and some could not. An atomic hierarchy emerged, first in the imagination of U.S. policymakers, then in political reality, that mirrored power inequities in the global system. This nuclear regime positioned Washington at the top, followed by its NATO allies and, later, Israel, with the postcolonial world consigned to the bottom. An Indian diplomat rightly labeled the system “nuclear apartheid.”2 This book is the first to make nuclearapartheid its central theme and demonstrate its impact on U.S. nuclear policy at home and abroad. It does so by 1   The Ideal Number of Nuclear Weapons States studying U.S. policymakers’ ideological outlook and the mythic conception of America’s past that nurtured atomic inequality and established the United States as the most legitimate nuclear power. Even U.S. leaders who sincerely desired to stem proliferation could not break free from the presumptions of national superiority that fostered nuclear discrimination. At its heart rested a variant of American exceptionalism that envisioned the United States as outside the normal constraints of a combative world system, therefore exempting Washington from most of the arguments used to dissuade other countries from acquiring nuclear arms. As William Appleman Williams once noted, even self-professed internationalists saw America as a “world unto itself,” proffering U.S. solutions forall while ignoring lessons that othercountries could teach.3 Such beliefs clearly made up only one element in the complex matrix of influences shaping U.S. nonproliferation proposals, which included alliance politics, U.S.-Soviet rivalry, decolonization, and fears of all-out nuclear war. Yet ideology’s importance should not be understated, for, as one scholar has noted, a country’s national security policy functions to protect domestic “core values” from outside threats. Core values help policymakers ascertain external challenges because “fears of foreign threats are a consequence of both real dangers in the external environment and ideological precepts, cultural symbols, and mistaken images.”4 In the case of the United States, racial and gender hierarchies, republican principles, and a nearly limitless faith in the power of technology merged and overlapped with perceived material interests, such as access to markets and natural resources, to provide a map for interpreting militaryand other threats.The end result was a foreign policy that referenced democratic ideals to advance U.S. hegemonic power and a nuclear policy that falsely presumed American moral and political guardianship over atomic technology. Both ultimately undercut the professed U.S. goal of nuclear containment. This ends-means disjunction has not been fully visible to scholars or to the educated public. From the end of World War II to the present, U.S. policymakers have vocally opposed the spread of nuclear weapons. Nuclear nonproliferation efforts stemmed from a perceived need to eliminate or reduce the threat of a nuclearattack on the United States and its allies and to prevent the apocalyptic scenario of a nuclear war. But official nonproliferation efforts also served a deeper imperative—to maintain a uniquely powerful position for Washington within the international system. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the primary postwar American alliance, itself had its roots in a U.S. desire to define a commonWestern identity in the aftermath of The Ideal Number of Nuclear Weapons States  World War II as well as to establish a bulwark against potential Soviet military threats. Preventing proliferation within NATO functioned to preserve U.S. hegemony in both a Realist and a Gramscian sense, eliminating competing power centers within the alliance and impeding the growth of a new and rival strategic culture.5 National security and hegemonic goals were used to justify selective proliferation —the controlled spread of U.S.-owned nuclear weapons to trusted allies in order to offset the military strength of...


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Subject Headings

  • Nuclear weapons -- Government policy -- United States -- History.
  • Nuclear arms control -- United States -- History
  • Nuclear nonproliferation -- United States -- History.
  • Nuclear weapons -- Government policy -- Developing countries -- History.
  • Nuclear arms control -- Developing countries -- History.
  • Nuclear nonproliferation -- Developing countries -- History.
  • United States -- Foreign relations -- Developing countries.
  • Developing countries -- Foreign relations -- United States.
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