BLOWING ON THE WIND: The Nuclear Test Ban Debate, 1954-1960 by Robert A. Divine

BLOWING ON THE WIND: The Nuclear Test Ban Debate, 1954-1960

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Do you remember strontium 90? The Voyage of the Lucky Dragon? ""Clean"" H-bombs? Fallout shelters? They were major concerns 25 years ago when Eisenhower was in office, Dulles was logging jet miles, Strauss presided over the AEC. Robert Divine, professor of history at the University of Texas, chronicles the political and scientific confrontations of the years between 1954 and 1960 as the U.S. and Russia wrestled over disarmament and a nuclear test ban. Divine's detailed study taps public and private sources, some of them new, to reveal a period of major confusion, indecision, and duplicity. The president was torn between a real desire to limit arms and the fear of Russia, a fear amplified by the passionate clamor of those around him. People throughout the world were caught in the middle. Some, like the Marshall Islanders and Japanese, were victims of ""radiation without representation."" Public opinion vacillated from anxiety to apathy born of frustration and uncertainty. Who was right: Teller or Pauling? Stevenson or the Pentagon? Harold Stassen was a help. So was James Killian, the president's first science advisor. But the scientific community itself was divided. False piety and propaganda governed policy. The U.S. and the USSR would each make nuclear test ban overtures immediately following their latest round of not-very-clean nuclear tests. Positions finally relaxed but then came the U-2 incident and the crumbling of the Paris summit. While Divine writes with admirable clarity and is critical of both sides, the tone is bland and detached; the judgments more in sorrow than anger. Given the material, a stronger, more insightful volume could have been written--in particular, one drawing a lesson relevant to the world situation today.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press