The enduring effects of Atoms for Peace
Lavoy, Peter R.
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Five decades ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower presented a bold and imaginative nuclear iniative to the United Nations. Although the "Atoms for Peace" plan was immensely popular and fundamentally altered the way the world treated nuclear energy, some contemporary observers contend that the policies and capabilities it produced inadvertently fueled the global spread of nuclear arms. As Leonard Weiss recently wrote, "it is legitimate to ask whether Atoms for Peace accelerated proliferation by helping some nations achieve more advanced arsenals than would have otherwise been the case. The jury has been in for some time on this question, and the answer is yes." This contention is correct but somewhat incomplete. On the one hand, Eisenhower's policies did hasten the international diffusion of scientific and industrial nuclear technology, and some recipient nations--Israel, India and Pakistan--did divert U.S. nuclear assistance to military uses. On the other hand, Atoms for Peace produced many of the most important elements of today's nuclear nonproliferation regime: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the concept of nuclear safeguards, and most importantly, the norm of nuclear nonproliferation. In the final analysis Eisenhower was no more or less successful than his succesors in trying to balance the possession and possible use of nuclear forces for America's defense with efforts to discourage other countries from acquiring nuclear weapons.
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