Sunday, 14 October 2012

household atomics

Although it is a matter for debate and speculation through the rather myopic lens of the Cold War and the policy of deterrence what the grounding motivations for the speech and the project were, US president Eisenhower’s 1953 address to the United Nations’ General Assembly on “Atoms for Peace” was a bold and defining departure.
This message, most likely worded to bring the antiseptic of daylight, more transparency and less secrecy that characterized how research and maintenance of stockpiles was conducted prior, to that “bucket of sunshine,” as Khrushchev called the bomb, aimed to promulgate nuclear power for peaceful purposes—energy, medical research, etc., and to assuage public fear that such destruction would not be visited on the Earth again, with the irreconcilable horrors of Japan still very raw and tensions escalating between the two superpowers. No longer state secrets because of this move for peaceful proliferation, the US knew better that state of players on the periphery and developing and nascent powers, with newly-acquired know-how under special tutelage, were able to develop generators, reactors and laboratories.
Until recently, this openness has helped mean that the founding members of the nuclear club have kept their munitions but very few have applied for membership, perhaps content with pursuing their own goals in regard to transitional power supplies and perhaps with the assurance that, in a pinch, they too could weaponize their stocks. Some argue that the underlying stratagem was to persuade NATO allies to shift their focus to developing and maintaining a nuclear arsenal, rather than more costly traditional armaments and standing armies and regard the policy of sharing technologies as having gravely backfired. I believe, rather, that this approach figuratively built in fail-safes and backdoors that was a greater instrument of restraint than mutually assured destruction. The genie cannot be put back in the bottle but well-crafted diplomacy and confidence seem much more enduring than dictates and fighting wars by proxy.