The dual nature of nuclear fission—both risk and opportunity—was recognized almost immediately after the seminal physics discoveries of the late 1930s and was articulated as a matter of policy in Eisenhower’s consequential Atoms for Peace speech in 1953. The following years and decades saw both the continued build-up of nuclear weapons arsenals, eventually reaching tens of thousands of weapons, and Western assistance to Iran, India, Pakistan, Israel, and others in starting nuclear reactor programs, often with the supply of high-enriched uranium (HEU) for fuel. The irony of having U.S.-supplied weapons-useable material in HEU fuel sitting in Tehran even today is not lost on many participants in the non-proliferation dialogue.
It was a moment of illusion, in the double sense of the word. Illusion as hope. And illusion as a mirage. The fall of the Berlin wall represented the triumph of the liberal democracies against the soviet bloc, and opened a new phase in which nothing was going to slow down the expansion of human rights, free elections and the rule of law. But 1989 was also a moment of illusion in the sense of vain self-delusion. The crisis after 30 years fracturarían West incubaban in those days of wine and roses.
Armistice day this year marks one hundred and one years since the guns were silenced on the western front. Four years of commemorations of the ‘seminal catastrophe’ of modern times, the calamity from which other calamities sprang, has also meant a wave of ‘new’ accounts of varying quality, none more so than for the causes of the conflict. But a book that has ‘turned up’ on the origins of the First World War could dramatically change our thinking about what really caused the world to go to war.