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Fall 2011 - 61238 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Nuclear History, Strategy and Statecraft

Instructor(s): Gavin, Francis J.
Unique Number: 61238
Day & Time: M 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Room: SRH 3.314
Waitlist Information:For LBJ Students: UT Waitlist Information
Course Overview

Topics for these policy seminars have included environmental and natural resources policy, health-service delivery policy, social welfare policy, transportation policy, science and technology policy, international affairs, national security, urban and regional growth policy, and political campaigns.


Section Description

What role do nuclear weapons play in contemporary world politics, and what policies should the U.S. adopt to meet the dangers posed by these weapons? On April 5th, 2009, President Barak Obama laid out a bold vision that appeared to be a sharp break with America’s past nuclear policies. “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” This was not mere rhetoric; the administration has moved vigorously with a number of policies, including a START agreement with Russia, a revised nuclear posture de-emphasizing nuclear weapons, and a range of nonproliferation initiatives oriented towards some day achieving what has been called “global zero.” This shift is all the more remarkable given than only a few years ago, complete nuclear disarmament was not part of the mainstream dialogue and was instead a fringe position. 

The renewed interest in nuclear policy is mirrored by a renaissance in the study of nuclear weapons and international relations within scholarly circles. Numerous studies have appeared on important nuclear topics, including the sources and possible limits to nuclear proliferation, nuclear terrorism, and tipping points; the role of nuclear weapons in enhancing or reducing the prospects for international stability; and the role arms control and disarmament play. to name just a few During this course, we will read some of the best new historical, theoretical, and policy work on these questions, as well as analyze several of the classics in the field, all with an eye towards assessing the important contemporary and future policy questions surrounding nuclear weapons and international relations. 
This course will also explore how the past can be used to inform the present and the future. The issues of nuclear strategy and statecraft are not new, of course: these questions have been with us since the United States dropped atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What, if anything, can we learn from how the United States wrestled with the dilemmas presented by these fearsome weapons in the past, particularly during the Cold War? Or have the dynamics of nuclear politics and policies been transformed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorists attacks against the United States and the emergence of rogue states? Has globalization rendered past policies, such as “deterrence” and “containment”, obsolete? This course will blend the best of historical analysis, theoretical insight, and understanding policy to explore the pressing challenges that nuclear weapons present both the United States and the international community.