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

By Shane J. Maddock | Go to book overview

3
Winning Weapons
A-BOMBS, H-BOMBS, & INTERNATIONAL
CONTROL, 1946–1953

In 1946, Harry Truman swore that the United States would not “throw away our gun until we are sure the rest of the world can’t arm against us.” By late 1945, many government officials had embraced Truman’s belief that weapons rather than treaties ensured U.S. security. They made no pretense of sharing American know-how with the rest of the world. Others, including Secretary of State Byrnes, also wished to preserve the atomic monopoly but feared that the growing chorus of voices urging international control of atomic energy might work to Soviet advantage. With most national security managers fearing communist ideas more than Soviet arms, Washington needed to appear more reasonable and peace loving than Moscow. By going through the motions in the UN, Byrnes and like-minded officials hoped to convince the American and Western European publics that an effective nuclear nonproliferation agreement could not be negotiated with the Soviets. They worked to make the American proposal appear generous and conciliatory while including conditions unacceptable to Moscow. U.S. efforts did succeed in mollifying public opinion, but the president never shared Byrnes’s point of view. He would rather that the United States act as the lone sheriff with nuclear six-guns at the ready than as one of FDR’S four international policemen. If Washington had allies, they would be subordinates, not equals, and he felt no need to join any charade of nuclear multilateralism. Truman’s treatment of

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