All posts by Zach Argo

RBA Mindmap: Nuclear Policy

The research I reviewed in my TIC focused on the conditions that caused nuclear assistance to lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. In my RBA, first I will analyze past and current nuclear assistance policies in order to diagnose the flaws that allow the proliferation of weapons to occur. I will then discuss policy recommendations that have been made, and of the like, I will argue which would be most successful. My major focus throughout will be the factors that inhibit stricter nuclear policies to be instituted.

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TIC Topic: Nuclear Proliferation

The topic I am researching is how nuclear assistance has influenced nuclear proliferation throughout history. The global proliferation of nuclear weapons increases the possibility for a nuclear conflict to occur  which could possibly affect the entire world population.

Many scholars have studied the factors that cause weaker states to seek nuclear armament, and the factors that prompt powerful nuclear states to provide assistance. Many scholars attribute a powerful nation’s decision to collaborate on various geopolitical conditions. As Mathew Kroenig claims, such conditions include the competitive ability of the weak state, a common enemy, and their ability to combat proliferation elsewhere. Weak states are generally viewed to be easily susceptible to the temptation of pursuing a nuclear weapon option for either the purpose of threatening, security, or political prestige. Studies have questioned assistance as an act of dangerous empowerment rather than productive collaboration. Mathew Fuhrmann, author of Atomic Assistance: How “Atoms for Peace” Programs Cause Nuclear Insecurity, is the premier voice of this argument, and many others have conducted research surrounding his claims.The success of countries who have received assistance has been analyzed by George Michael. Fewer proposals exist for policy changes to solve some of the exposed flaws that have been identified as sources of proliferation throughout both the first and second nuclear ages. I plan on forming a research-based argument for instituting policy changes that more effectively minimize the threat of proliferation.

Star Trek: A Political Vehicle

During the Cold War, one method of commenting on US policy, both foreign and domestic, was through popular culture media. This was true through the original creation of the Star Trek television series. An example can be seen in the episode “Patterns of Force,” which first aired in 1968. The plot takes the Enterprise to a planet where a Federation researcher has gone missing. Despite previous knowledge that the planet’s peoples do not have the technology to develop advanced military capabilities, the world is discovered to have become a Nazi-like  regime. The leader, referred to as the Führer, is the missing researcher, who has been drugged. The crew of the Enterprise must attempt to stop him from ordering an expected attack on a neighboring planet. The show comments on the ineffectiveness of totalitarian rule, even if the leader has good intentions, because “a man holds that much power…just can’t resist the urge to play God” (Sarantakes). By portraying this governing technique as incapable of peace, the writers of Star Trek show democracy as superior. This can be seen as a method to combat the Soviet Union by strengthening democratic ideology. The episode is also an allegory regarding intervention. The researcher’s presence on the foreign planet is what spiraled the society into a state of violence. As Sarantakes states, “The implication is that the Untied States should make no effort to impose its will on other countries.” Star Trek in effect protests the prospect of American presence in Vietnam, because the intervention is believed to be futile, and could cause more harm than good.

As in Star Trek, science fiction has always been a popular vehicle for satire and for political statements. The reason is that whereas other forms of writing can be easily censored, either by government or publishing corporations, Sci-fi can always hide behind a facade of innocence and ignorance. It is easy to claim that a story in a fantastical world or era has no connection to modern or historical issues. An example of such is George Orwell’s 1984.Published in 1949, the futuristic novel warns of a totalitarian government with influence in every aspect of life, including omnipresent surveillance and perpetual war. Orwell wrote the dystopian novel during the onset of the Cold War and feared that a world controlled by spheres of influences could yield such societies. The book was banned and challenged throughout its history, but through its futuristic setting, it was able to survive and permeate to global audiences .

Images of Destruction Fuel a Fear of City Targets

As argued in “Disaster and Decentralization: American Cities and the Cold War,” by Mathew Farish, the devastation left by the atomic bombs in WWII left a lasting impression on the world and on the American people. Perhaps more so than the human element of loss, the people of the United States worried of a threat that could decimate an entire city. Farish argues that Americans “It was precisely the domestic geography of Cold War risks that led to the scientific planning schemes – some more drastic than others – designed to order and manage urban spaces while concurrently maintaining the various symbolic distinctions between central city and suburb” (Farish). This quote from embodies Farish’s belief that the movement of white families into the suburbs was a result of Cold War anxieties. The suburbs represented relative safety from a nuclear attack compared to the vulnerability of an urban area. They also represented the prospect of a separation between the privilege of white nuclear families and the socioeconomic struggles of those of color.

The images of Nagasaki and Hiroshima filled the heads of Americans with nightmarish scenes of annihilated cities in the US. This fear fueled an urban phobia that increased the attractiveness of suburban life. The attacks on 9/11 gave Americans an actual picture of what a domestic tragedy looks like, thus encouraging a new series of imaginative predictions for possible destructive scenarios. Following the fall of the Twin Towers, an anxiety for a new enemy created an air of uncertainty around metropolitan areas with a high concentration of possible targets. Popular culture included fictional doomsday situations focused around major cities, and modern containment rhetoric praised the prospect of the American way of life, which could once again be found in the suburbs.

Good vs Evil

“Given President Bush’s words in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 events, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists’ (2001), the efforts mentioned above acted to support the association of Good with American and Evil with un-American.”

This quote from the Lugo reading is the statement that most encapsulates modern containment rhetoric. Bush’s quote alienates those who in any way are “un-American” as the enemy, and as Lugo mentions, it also introduces a clear separation between Good and Evil. The idea of Good and Evil is most often linked to religion, making the war on terrorism reminiscent of not only the ideological conflict of the Cold War, but also to a religious war. People are afraid to be Evil in any sense, and as with religious rhetoric, Bush’s rhetoric places extreme pressure on individuals to conform. Throughout history people/positions of power have utilized religion as a means to increase their influence. In this case the foundation of this trend, Good vs. Evil, is the rhetorical inspiration for  unification and containment. Although the war on terrorism has no connection to any particular faith, the religious shadow that is casted by the moral dichotomy can easily be viewed as the foundation of ethnic and religious distrust. As in the Cold War, those who practiced beliefs that were not of the norm were and are met with suspicion.




With us, or against us. Containment Culture Post 9/11

Even close to a decade after the attacks on the World Trade Center, binary ideology remained in regards to the threat of terrorism. In this political cartoon, the man with the picket sign satirically assumes a non-threatening Muslim group is linked to terrorism. Religious accusations like this stem from the idea that anything that varies from the norm, must be un-American. Similarly, during the Cold War, members of American society who were not Christian were automatically under suspicion as a danger to the bubble of conformity that was intended to protect from communism. In almost McCarthy-like fashion, George W. Bush launched his war on terrorism with the idea that “you are either with us, or against us,” a phrase that encapsulates the battle between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

Interestingly, the protestor is displayed dressed in simple clothes while the woman is shown with more business-like attire and a “fancy” dog. This suggests that she comes from a higher economic echelon of society and hints that she has more intellectual insight as a result. Such class distinctions were blurred during the first decade of the Cold War. In the interest of the cartoon’s rhetoric, the man is being criticized for holding onto reactionary perspectives of the past. Their different appearances and the man’s angry expression also draw a connection between Cold War distrust of not only those of nonnormative religions, but also anyone who presented themselves with any disparities.