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DHP P277: Introduction to Nuclear Security: History, Policy, and Theory

Course Description

This course offers a general introduction to nuclear security. It provides a comprehensive but concise overview of the topic’s main historical, theoretical, and policy dimensions. During the first part of the semester, we will discuss key concepts (fission, deterrence, vertical proliferation, etc.) associated with the post-World War II emergence of nuclear strategy, explore the superpowers’ Cold War competition, and study the emergence of new nuclear-weapon states (Britain, China, etc.). Once these conceptual and historical foundations in place, we will investigate the theoretical debates that have divided scholars on seminal questions such as the causes of proliferation, the effectiveness of the international non-proliferation regime (and of counter-proliferation), the impact of nuclear weapons on state behavior (war/peace, coercion, etc.), and the many constraints and forms of resistance that have emerged over time (norms, disarmament, etc.). During the third section of the course, we will examine the post-Cold War emergence of the “second nuclear age,” with a specific interest for nuclear terrorism, climate change, nuclear safety, and US primacy. Finally, we will probe the nuclear challenges that have (re)emerged in East Asia (China, North Korea), the Middle East (Israel, Iran), Europe (Russia’s nuclear resurgence, NATO’s extended deterrence), and South Asia (India, Pakistan). In each class meeting, we will cover these local nuclear powers’ historical emergence, their current status, and the US response. The conclusion of the course will survey the latest trends, including prospects for disarmament, the Trump Administration’s nuclear policy, and the impact of cyber on command-and-control systems.

Course faculty: Thomas P. Cavanna
Course duration: Full semester
Credits/Units: 3.0

Spring 2021

Day(s): Wednesday
Time: 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm