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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4
The President in the
Gray Flannel Suit
CONFORMITY, TECHNOLOGICAL UTOPIANISM,
NONPROLIFERATION, 1953–1956

“Soon even little countries will have a stockpile of these bombs, and then we will be in a mess,” exclaimed Dwight D. Eisenhower in spring 1954.1 The president had grown frustrated with his advisers’ resistance to a nuclear test ban and other nonproliferation measures. Many administration officials viewed the spread of nuclear weapons as inevitable. They also saw nuclear weapons as the only guarantor of U.S. security and sought technological solutions for both national security and propaganda challenges. Eisenhower’s desire to control nuclear weapons did inspire several studies of nonproliferation measures from 1953 to 1956. But because the president refused to impose his views on a resistant bureaucracy, these reviews did little to alter administration policy. Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace proposal actually increased the risk of proliferation. By 1956, multiple converging factors—ignorance of the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons, Cold War suspicions, internal administrative disagreement, and presidential inefficacy—together subordinated nonproliferation to other American policy goals, namely maintaining NATO unity and winning over nonaligned states with Atoms for Peace aid. Instead of “Happy Days,” Eisenhower ushered in a period of happy denial

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