Nuclear Apartheid: The Quest for American Atomic Supremacy from World War II to the Present

By Shane J. Maddock | Go to book overview
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Preface

In 1998, South African president Nelson Mandela urged the world to ponder a question of profound importance, one that demanded attention from even the most ardent defenders of nuclear might: Why does the world “need” nuclear weapons “anyway.” An attraction to “the threat of brute force” offered one explanation, Mandela theorized.1 But subtler imperatives were also at work. For over sixty years, the United States has reserved the right to brandish nuclear weapons while denying them to states deemed unworthy, irrational, and uncivilized. The result, this hero in South Africa’s victory over white supremacy suggested, intensified power disparities between the Western powers and their former colonies, formalizing a global regime of nuclear inequality that benefited North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, and later Israel, while perpetuating the relative military disempowerment of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Years prior, another commentator, Indian diplomat V. M. Trivedi, had similarly observed that the nuclear weapons club mirrored political and racial divisions in the global arena, dubbing the system “nuclear weapons apartheid.”2

This history of the U.S.-Soviet arms race is the first to explore the evolution and persistence of nuclear apartheid from World War II through the present. It does so by focusing on American nonproliferation policy in the context of U.S.-Soviet relations and of Washington’s persistent emphasis on maintaining nuclear primacy and global supremacy. Drawing on previously classified sources from U.S. and international archives, this work begins with the discovery of fission in 1939 and ends with George W. Bush’s policies toward “nuclear rogues.” Since 1945, the United States has worked diligently to preserve its nuclear supremacy. Harry S. Truman proclaimed a U.S. atomic monopoly devoid of any mention of Anglo-American wartime agree

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