Tower Center Forum Event | Francis Gavin: Nuclear Statecraft

History and Strategy in America's Atomic Age

Thursday, March 21, 2013 (5:30 PM – 7:00 PM)
Location TBA (map)


Francis Gavin, Director, Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, University of Texas at Austin

We are at a critical juncture in world politics. Nuclear strategy and policy have risen to the top of the global policy agenda, and issues ranging from a nuclear Iran to the global zero movement are generating sharp debate. The historical origins of our contemporary nuclear world are deeply consequential for contemporary policy, but it is crucial that decisions are made on the basis of fact rather than myth and misapprehension. In Nuclear Statecraft, Francis J. Gavin challenges key elements of the widely accepted narrative about the history of the atomic age and the consequences of the nuclear revolution.

On the basis of recently declassified documents, Gavin reassesses the strategy of flexible response, the influence of nuclear weapons during the Berlin Crisis, the origins of and motivations for U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy, and how to assess the nuclear dangers we face today. In case after case, he finds that we know far less than we think we do about our nuclear history. Archival evidence makes it clear that decision makers were more concerned about underlying geopolitical questions than about the strategic dynamic between two nuclear superpowers. Gavin’s rigorous historical work not only tells us what happened in the past but also offers a powerful tool to explain how nuclear weapons influence international relations. Nuclear Statecraft provides a solid foundation for future policymaking.

Dr. Gavin is the Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs at Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He was also the director of “The Next Generation Project – U.S. Global Policy and the Future of International Institutions,” a multi-year national initiative sponsored by The American Assembly at Columbia University. Previously, he was an Olin National Security Fellow at Harvard University’s Center for International Affairs, an International Security Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and a Research Fellow at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, where he started “The Presidency and Economic Policy Program.” His publications include numerous scholarly articles, book reviews and editorials. His book, Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958-1971, was published in 2004 by the University of North Carolina Press under their New Cold War History series.

Open only to Tower Center Forum members, SMU students, faculty and staff.

Members, SMU students, faculty and staff please RSVP to tower@smu.edu.

If you are interested in joining the Tower Center Forum, please contact Luisa del Rosal at lmdelrosal@smu.edu.