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

By Shane J. Maddock | Go to book overview

10
The Legacy of Nuclear Apartheid

Herman Kahn’s warning of 1960 that soon even a “Hottentot” would be able to produce nuclear bombs resonated in the decades following the NPT’s signature. The treaty’s passage seemed a harbinger of a safer world, one wherein the nuclear threat would be regulated and contained. Yet the terms of the accord left untouched incipient nuclear programs in numerous countries, including Israel, India, and South Africa, that anticipated using the threat of going nuclear as leverage in regional power struggles. Two recognized nuclear powers, France and the PRC, refused to sign the treaty and continued providing reactor fuel to non-nuclear nations without implementing international safeguards. U.S. presidents from the 1970s to the early twenty-first century faced the question of whether to coerce holdouts or initiate negotiations to remove the treaty’s discriminatory features. New countries did sign the treaty, especially following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, but important exceptions remained, most notably Israel, India, and Pakistan. Other countries, such as North Korea and Iran, renounced or threatened to withdraw from the NPT. Despite lip service to the need to halt the spread of nuclear weapons, U.S. nonproliferation policy repeated the pattern of the pretreaty period, remaining selective in enforcement and more concerned with protecting superpower hegemony than with eradicating the deadly threat of indiscriminate nuclear dissemination.1

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