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Title: The Production of Arms and Influence: Weapons, Diplomacy, and the Technopolitics of Nuclear Strategy
Authors: Betre, Leyatt
Advisors: Chyba, Christopher
Contributors: Public and International Affairs Department
Subjects: History
Issue Date: 2022
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the historical and political-economic conditions that first gave rise to the modern U.S. nuclear arsenal and the discursive terrain common to the professional communities that oversee its modernization. As a work of both technological and intellectual history, this study traces the origins of certain widely held narratives regarding the nature and purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons by following these claims through to the political realities that first motivated their articulation. In drawing together histories of postwar science advising, weapons development, and nuclear strategy, this study locates one formation of a robust pro-research-and-development (R&D) consensus in the U.S. military within the post-World War II drive to regularize Navy support for basic research by cultivating a service-wide commitment to undersea warfare. This research further shows that the roots of this consensus trace back to the early postwar years, during which scientists empowered from their wartime collaborations with the military worked to secure a continued stream of federal research funding as well as a more lasting institutional role within the nascent U.S. nuclear weapons establishment. Their success in this endeavor was co-constitutive with the rising profile of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission within the postwar Navy, and drew support from the permissive organizational context created by prevailing interservice rivalries over roles and missions. Scientists and industry representatives who stood to benefit from regularized Navy funding for R&D capable of supporting deep-water operations characterized ASW work as indispensable, with simultaneously defensive and offensive applications that reconsolidated Navy rationales for the fleet’s air, surface, and subsurface forces around the domain of undersea warfare. Claiming the postwar threat from Soviet submarines would be ever-present, technical communities transformed politically loaded charges of system vulnerability into productive engines driving the pursuit of follow-on systems. This measure-countermeasure dialectic inaugurated by undersea warfare specialists prompted weapons designers to justify such follow-on developments in terms that reflected and even anticipated the evolving political consensus regarding the ideal character of the national nuclear strategy and force structure. Lastly, this research shows that the U.S. pursuit of multiple warhead technology originated out of this same process of seeking politically viable programs of countermeasure development, and that the widespread perception of these systems as counterforce weapons did not materialize until the Soviet Union began testing its own multiple warhead systems.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Public and International Affairs

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