Paolo Foradori, Giampiero Giacomello, Alessandro Pascolini, eds. Arms Control and Disarmament: 50 Years of Experience in Nuclear Education. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 371 pp. $159.99 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-319-62258-3.
Reviewed by Sebastien Bleunven (Air University)
Published on H-War (October, 2019)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air University)
For more than seventy years, nuclear weapons have generated discussions among international organizations, administrations, and populations. The nature of this unique weapon has modified international relationships and remains a recurrent field of debate and controversy. Arms Control and Disarmament makes a specific, well-documented, and fascinating point about arms control and about nuclear weaponry policies and challenges more broadly. Contributors point out the crucial importance that arms control and disarmament talks have played in fostering mutual comprehension and trust, sustaining conciliatory international relationships, preserving peace, and avoiding slippery policies leading to the use of nuclear weapons. The historical perspectives given in this volume underline the progress made and give a glimpse of the barriers and challenges still to overcome.
This book, published on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the International School of Disarmament and Research on Conflicts (ISODARCO), is a repository of high-quality lectures delivered in ISODARCO courses. In this volume, the three editors advocate for the crucial role of knowledgeable experts in public debate in order to improve national and international policies. This advocacy is consistent with ISODARCO president Carlo Schaerf’s long-standing efforts to create networks of experts. ISODARCO fosters knowledge sharing, deep debate, relevant advice, and specialized education concerning disarmament and nonproliferation. Whereas this Italian school covers a wide range of activities dealing also with terrorism, conventional weapons, cyberspace, and control of energy, this anniversary book focuses on the primary interest of ISODARCO: the nuclear field.
The three editors of this book are Paolo Foradori, an associate professor of international studies at the University of Trento, Italy; Giampiero Giacomello, an associate professor of political science at the University of Bologna, Italy; and Alessandro Pascolini, a theoretical physicist and senior scholar at the University of Padua, Italy, and also vice-president of ISODARCO. They created this volume to celebrate the half-century commitment of ISODARCO to nonproliferation education. The book consists of twenty masterful contributions, selected from almost three hundred essays from fifty years of ISODARCO’s lectures. The result is impressive, including contributions from two Nobel Laureates, famous scholars, scientists, theorists, and policymakers. Each chapter provides an outstanding contribution to the nuclear debate from a specific field, while the book as a whole advocates for arms control and disarmament.
The volume is split into three chronological parts. The first, which focuses on seminal nuclear policies until 1978, demonstrates the importance of understanding the nature of the bomb and its potentially catastrophic consequences. It also highlights the critical importance of technology in nuclear strategies and in the new international relationships and policies. Because of the balance of power and relentless competition between the two superpowers, this part emphasizes the importance and necessity of agreements. The second part, “The Hard Times, 1978-1989,” focuses on US and Soviet doctrines and strategies, pointing out the dilemmas and challenges of that decade of instability. The authors discuss how negotiations, agreements, and verification measures ensured stability during this period of fundamental distrust in which arms control was allowed but no prospect of disarmament existed. The last part analyzes the post-Cold War decade, with a focus on both new and continuing challenges. Technology and technical issues are still relevant, with the continuing importance of space as a domain and the heightened need to control weapon-quality fissile materials following the collapse of the USSR. Arms control remains an important issue in this new political context in which the actors have changed, the balance of power is moving, and new challengers question the need for nonproliferation. Finally, this part analyzes the calls for complete disarmament, the possibility of achieving it, and the consequences of disarmament for international relationships.
In the conclusion, the editors synthesize the broad arguments of the twenty essays for arms control and disarmament. They find that nuclear weapons are weapons of a different type, deserving profound control. The policies and strategies dealing with nuclear weapons may lead to a failed gamble, they write, with catastrophic consequences no different from those of fifty years ago. International relationships have evolved, especially between the United States and Soviet Union/Russia, yet the consequences of nuclear war remain unchanged. The editors conclude that even if the only definitive solution is total nuclear disarmament, all efforts must be made to enhance and support nonproliferation and arms control while waiting for conditions more favorable for disarmament to arise.
This volume constitutes a fabulous repository of essays from 1967 to 2011, dealing with nuclear weapons. It covers numerous domains, from technology to military strategy and policy, from Cold War negotiations to total disarmament, from yesterday’s issues to contemporary challenges regarding arms control. This book should be in all university libraries. While mainly focused on US and Soviet/Russian history, the broad-ranging and still relevant ideas allow the extension of the lessons learned to more current issues. Each essay is a masterpiece that deserves study. Building such a collection in one volume makes this a “must-have” book. The volume effectively honors ISODARCO’s fifty-year commitment in the realm of nonproliferation and disarmament education.
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Sebastien Bleunven. Review of Foradori, Paolo; Giacomello, Giampiero; Pascolini, Alessandro, eds., Arms Control and Disarmament: 50 Years of Experience in Nuclear Education.
H-War, H-Net Reviews.
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