Treaties and Personalities

The post on The Nuclear Hydra – Proliferation is one line of sight on the Cold War tb02Legacy of treaty mentality. There are many others equally compelling and each adds dimension to the Cold War culture that pervades the foreign policy issues of today.  Following are two excellent reads from some of my favorite reading and research sites for your curiosity’s pleasure. The picture to the right is the signing “…of the Limited Test Ban Treaty on 24 September 1963, President Kennedy signed the treaty into law on 5 October. From left, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) director William C. Foster, Senate Majority Leader Michael Mansfield (D-Mt), Chairman, General Advisory Committee to ACDA John C. McCloy, Vice Chairman Joint Committee on Atomic Energy Senator John Pastore (D-RI), ACDA Deputy Director Adrian Fisher, Ambassador-at-Large W. Averell Harriman, Senator Fulbright, Senator George Smathers (D-Fl), Secretary of State Dean Rusk (head showing), Senator George Aiken (R-Vt), Senator Humphrey, Senator Everett Dirksen (D-lll), and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson….” [Source: National Archives, Still Pictures Division, Department of State Collection 59-0, box 23.]

National Security Archives (GWU)

The Making of the Limited Test Ban Treaty, 1958-1963; William Burr and Hector L. Montford, editors

Restricted Data The Nuclear Secrecy Blog

Restricted Data is a blog about nuclear secrecy, past and present, run by Alex Wellerstein, an historian of science at the American Institute of Physics. Wellerstein’s latest post offered a fascinating insight into the personality and character of Leo Szilard, a central player in obtaining the authorization to proceed with the atomic bomb development and a strong opponent of its use.

Leo Szilard, war criminal?

Belfer Center For Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

Gorbachev Calls for the Elimination of All Nuclear Weapons

 

We’d love to hear your view about the future of treaties in today’s world.

 

The Nuclear Hydra – Proliferation

The nuclear dawn’s light powered-up the ethics banks of the self-assembling supercomputers

Alumni of the Met Lab pose on the steps of Eckhart Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago on December 2, 1946 (the fourth anniversary of CP-1 first going critical).  Front row, left to right: Enrico Fermi, Walter Zinn, Albert Wattenberg, and Herbert Anderson.  Middle row, left to right: Harold Agnew, William Sturm, Harold Lichtenberger, Leona W. Marshall, and Leo Szilard.  Back row, left to right: Norman Hilberry, Samuel Allison, Thomas Brill, Robert Nobles, Warren Nyer, and Marvin Wilkening. The photograph is courtesy the Argonne National Laboratory.

Alumni of the Met Lab pose on the steps of Eckhart Hall on the campus of the University of Chicago on December 2, 1946 (the fourth anniversary of CP-1 first going critical). Front row, left to right: Enrico Fermi, Walter Zinn, Albert Wattenberg, and Herbert Anderson. Middle row, left to right: Harold Agnew, William Sturm, Harold Lichtenberger, Leona W. Marshall, and Leo Szilard. Back row, left to right: Norman Hilberry, Samuel Allison, Thomas Brill, Robert Nobles, Warren Nyer, and Marvin Wilkening. The photograph is courtesy the Argonne National Laboratory.

within the Manhattan Project scientists’ brains.  The scientists that rode the Manhattan Project from the laying of the first brick in 1941 to Trinity’s detonation in 1945 were arguably the single largest aggregation of brilliance the world has ever seen.  These were the foundering brothers who built the atomic bomb.  They also realized the raw power they had unleashed would never be controlled by them.  Many members of the founding brothers awakened during the final stages of the bomb’s development.  The amoral need to find the answer just because it needed finding morphed into the question of ‘what have we done?’.  The awakening began a quest to neutralize the power of their scientific discoveries and the quest was at odds with the political and military objectives of the day.  They were heroes, physics and chemistry’s answer to Hercules, fighting for the survival of the human race bound in the chains of secrecy.  Although this group of scientists embodied the idea the Greeks called pathos, the experience of virtuous struggle and suffering, they would find the promised reward of fame and immortality a dubious honor.

The first controlled nuclear fission reaction of Enrico Fermi’s pile on December 2, 1942 marked a major milestone in the laboratory underneath the bleachers of the abandoned Stagg Stadium in Chicago. Scientists from the left and right American coasts were assembled in the middle to kick-off the Manhattan Project under the guise of a new “Metallurgical Laboratory”[1] at the University of Chicago.  Most of the scientists and technicians just referred to it as the Met Lab with a wink

Stagg Field (named for coach Amos Alonzo Stagg)

Stagg Field (named for coach Amos Alonzo Stagg)

and a nod as they tore into meeting its three simple objectives with a religious fervor; 1) develop chain-reacting “piles” for plutonium production, 2) devise a method for extracting plutonium from irradiated uranium, and 3) to design a weapon.  They did that.  Not a bad achievement considering that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s approval for the Atom Bomb’s development had been given a little over a year earlier on October 9, 1941.[2]

The Met Lab successes spurred the design and construction phases into overdrive.  Ordinary citizens, whole communities, farmers and ranchers by the dozens were removed from several tens of thousands of acres of land across the country by a government hungry for nuclearX10Complex1 facilities supported by a congress vying for the economic windfalls such sites would produce, and a population terrified and driven by a terrible war.  Nuclear sites sprouted; Oak Ridge in Tennessee, Hanford in Washington, and Los Alamos in New Mexico became working sites. The Met Lab, the mother lab, diversified and became the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory.

The successful detonation of the Los Alamos’ Trinity test on July 16, 1945 changed the world forever.   Meanwhile back at the Met Lab, six star-studded committees had already been

The Trinity Test It was 5:30 am on the 16th July 1945

The Trinity Test It was 5:30 am on the 16th July 1945

formed and were plotting regularly on how to best influence future nuclear policy.  James Franck, who along with his partner, Gustav Ludwig Hertz, won the 1925 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in 1912–1914 supporting the Bohr model of the atom, headed the Committee on Social and Political Implications, one of the six committees.  Other Met Lab Social and Political Implications Committee members included:

  • Glenn T. Seaborg who together with Edwin Mattison won the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry “for their discoveries in the chemistry of the transuranium elements”.[3]
  • Donald Hughes who specialized in neutron physics.[4]
  • James J. Nickson who influenced the handling and management of radioactive waste at Met Lab.[5]
  • Eugene Rabinowitch a Russian born American biophysicist who went on to become a founder and editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.[6]
  • Joyce C. Stearns who was the Met Lab Director between November 1944 and July 1945.[7]
  • Leo Szilard, one of the physicists who along with Einstein petitioned FDR to begin the search for the Atom Bomb, was adamant that the A-Bomb should not be used.[8]    Continue reading