Michael KreponA Personal Note

Verse of the week:

“Poets to come! orators, singers, musicians to come!/ Not to-day is to justify me and answer what I am for/ But you, a new brood, native, athletic, continental, greater than before known/ Arouse! For you must justify me

I myself but write one or two indicative words for the future,/ I but advance a moment only to wheel and hurry back in the darkness” – Walt Whitman, “Poets To Come”

I’ve been writing posts on armscontrolwonk for thirteen years. During this run, I’ve tried to make the posts about ideas rather than about me. This post is about me.

I’ve been living on bonus time since Large B Cell Lymphoma first came to call in 2007. I was traveling in India when I felt a lump in my chest – a lump that felt malignly alive. Heavy duty chemo gave me a new lease on life. Then in 2011, I was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Surgery didn’t help, but I caught another break as the cancer metastasized slowly. In 2017, Large B Cell Lymphoma reappeared. Once again, chemo produced remission. More bonus time.

Until last fall when discomfort prompted another set of scans. In February, I was diagnosed with a fast-progressing cancer of unknown origin. My oncologists gave me a year to live, “more or less” – a pretty safe bet. This time around, my family and I have decided not to seek more bonus time, a quest that is likely to do more harm to my body than good.

Too much medical information, I know. But there’s your explanation for why future posts will appear irregularly. The ideas will henceforth be filled in or cast aside by others.

The initial concept behind these posts was to curate my shoe boxes full of 4X6 cards. The cards were my Maginot Line of Defense against memory loss. I assigned interns and research assistants the task of compressing books and articles into spare summaries. The author’s thesis, strongest and weakest supporting argument and logic train, along with clarifying quotes. All on the front and back of a 4X6 card. An exercise in concision. And training for a lesson that too few who work in and around Washington have mastered: If you want to be heard more, speak less.

The blog posts often dwelled on nuggets of history. If we don’t study the history of nuclear weapons and arms control, how do we get ourselves out of this complicated mess? And who shall the newest among us to learn from?

We’d be lost, literally and figuratively, without a sense of history about nuclear weapons and arms control. How did historic achievements happen, and why were some of them torn down? Why are the lessons of success and failure not obvious?

The next step for me was to write a full-blown history, Winning and Losing the Nuclear Peace: The Rise, Demise, and Revival of Arms Control.

Many challenges lie ahead because essential truths are contested, even though these truths have been revealed, time and again. If enough of us remember and fight for these essential truths, we can rebuild what has been torn down.

One essential truth is that a mushroom cloud will make the world far more dangerous and that prospects to reduce these dangers will become more remote. Everything we hold dear hinges on extending the norm of No Use.

A second essential truth is that nuclear deterrence is dangerous by design; otherwise, its designers believe that deterrence will fail.

Because nuclear deterrence is dangerous by design, deterrence requires forms of reassurance to help prevent nuclear use. We call these varied means of reassurance arms control.

Deterrence strategists widely presume that deterrence and reassurance work at cross purposes. Some arms controllers hold a similarly bleak view about deterrence. The historical record demonstrates otherwise — that deterrence and arms control can coexist, and that they must coexist to avoid mushroom clouds.

We become safer by filing down the sharpest edges off nuclear weapons while adding new means of reassurance. This is the heart of the matter. This is how we continue to avoid crimes against humanity and nature.


  1. arthur (History)

    Sending all the best wishes to you, Michael.

  2. Nukeman (History)

    Even though we may disagree on various aspects of proliferation I wish to thank you for your long service to the nonproliferation field. You have shed light on many important issues and I salute you for that. My heart goes out to you, your family, colleagues and students.

    My entire collection of scientific material is available for use by interested parties. Everything I have is open source and anything I can do to provide technical insight in the proliferation and dual-use let me know.

    I have followed your model and try to be of service to the nonproliferation community. In spite of your health issues you continue to be a leader and I thank you for that.

  3. Philippe Cosyn (History)

    We never met but your blog made us sort of blood brothers. Hold tight, my friend, you yet have to tell and teach us ‘people caring for the planet’ a lot.

  4. Patrick Moore (History)

    Thank you. I’ve benefited from your work. I’ll look forward to your future contributions, however irregular they may be. And I wish you and your family, and your many friends and admirers, peace.

  5. John Tilemann (History)

    Dear Michael
    Saddened and inspired by your sharing this. Your many admirers and fellow devotees to the cause in Australia and our Indo-Pacific region will be keen to see you continue to contribute and offer leadership as you can in this ever more complex world of nuclear threats to regional and global peace.

    John Tilemann

    Member and Senior Associate Fellow of the Asia Pacific Leadership Network for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament

  6. marjorie (History)

    I too will be looking forward to however many posts we’ll be privileged to read here. Love and ease to you and yours.

  7. John Holdren (History)

    Michael — I am so sad to learn your medical news, but uplifted by your career-long commitment and eloquence on reducing the dangers from nuclear weapons.

  8. Laura Rockwood (History)

    I’m so sorry to hear – for you, your family and the entire community dedicated to reducing the risk of nuclear weapons use.

  9. ron huisken (History)

    Ron Huisken (Australian National University)

    The prospect of muddling through without your wisdom is daunting , but you done your damnest to leave us better prepared for the challenge.

  10. Bruno Tertrais (History)

    All the very best for whatever happens next, Michael. Appreciated all your posts even when I disagreed with the content. Enjoy life. Warm regards. Bruno

  11. Amy Woolf (History)

    Michael, I am at a loss for words. I will miss your knowledge and guidance beyond measure, and will do my best to scoop up as much of it as I can in the time that remains. Let me know if I can help you in any way.

  12. Sebastian Brixey-Williams (History)

    Dear Michael,

    You have been an inspiration and a mentor to me in my still-young career, and I always make a point of reading your work on this website whenever I see it. I hope you are able to spend as much time as you can with your family and friends in the coming period ahead, and that you feel assured that those of us who are now inheriting the torch will carry it well.

    Perhaps one of our – or another organisation’s – interns can digitise your 4×6 cards and share them with the world, as an archive in your name? They sound like an important resource.

    Be well Michael,
    Sebastian, BASIC

  13. Patricia LEWIS (History)

    Michael, I am grateful beyond words for the extra ‘bonus’ time. I remember when you had your diagnosis and we were talking on Carmel beach. That was a special evening and I am so glad you are still here 10+years later. Thank you for all the work you have done over many decades. You have challenged and simultaneously walked alongside us, as, I hope, we have you. I have loved your ACW essays – they remain thought-provoking and will stand the test of time. Take your time, dear Michael. In peace, love Patricia

  14. Victoria Samson (History)

    Michael, I’ve learned so much from you. Sending you and your family my best.

  15. BJR (History)

    Michael, thank you. We should all aspire to leave such a mark on the arms control and nuclear disarmament community. Sad to hear of your recent diagnosis, best of luck to you and your family.

  16. Dan Joyner (History)

    You are always wise and insightful. Thank you for the lessons you teach.

  17. Andreas Persbo (History)

    Dear Michael. I am immensely saddened by these news, coming from someone that I’ve followed and admired since the beginning of my career in the field. I cannot find words for the rest, just empty platitudes. I will not offer those.

  18. Thomas Cheney (History)

    Thank you. Your book Space Assuance or Space Dominace was one of the first books on Space security I ever read and has had a significant (positive) impact. These post have been informative and a pleasure to read. Thank you for all your work over the years.

  19. John Oakes (History)

    Sorry to learn of your difficult news, Michael. I’ve been a lurker on your site for years, and have learned a lot about the history of nuclear disarmament from your posts. As someone who led a nuclear missile unit in Europe during the Vietnam era, it seemed impossible to me that I could have actually launched missiles if we had received a nuclear release message from the higher ups. Glad I never had to test my principles. Best wishes to you.

  20. John Isaacs (History)

    It has been a pleasure to work with you for years, even if we occasionally disagreed. You have been an important leader on arms control and proliferation. The world is a better place because of your efforts.

  21. Omiamah (History)

    Dear Michael, I have read a-lot of your work and quite often I find myself quoting you in my papers especially in my ongoing PhD research.This news really make me sad. Sending you & your family lots of my best wishes.

  22. Avner Cohen (History)

    Dear Michael, just saw this and I am so saddened to read it. Thinking of you much. Saw your magnum opus, impressive!. Hugs and Refuah Shlema, dear friend.

  23. Carl Robichaud (@CarlRobichaud) (History)

    Dear Michael,

    In 2015, in accepting your lifetime achievement award at the Carnegie Endowment nuclear policy conference, you said something I’ll never forget: “It is a privilege to do work that matters.”

    I’ve thought of that often, especially in dark times.

    The work you have done matters, and continues to live on in the Stimson Center, and in the many young (and now not so young) people you have generously mentored over the years. It has been our privilege to know you and benefit from your wit, kindness, and perspective–things often in short supply in Washington.

    Managing nuclear weapons is a multi-generational project. We don’t know what the next chapter will hold, but we are all better off for your contributions.


  24. Bill (History)

    Dear Michael- Thanks so much for doing these postings. Like others, I have learned so much from you over the years and hope you can keep writing in the months ahead.

  25. Mitchel Wallerstein (History)

    Michael: I join with so many colleagues in thanking you for your many contributions to the field of arms control and non-proliferation–a field that is badly in need of new ideas and smart people. I will keep you in my thoughts and hope for a miracle remission. These things DO happen, as you know.

  26. LEN ACKLAND (History)


    Your post was brilliant, and so reflective of you.

    I marvel at your intelligence, humanity, tenacity and love of life while embracing the end we’ll all experience. You’ve never forgotten to look down the road for future generations, simultaneously reminding us of the importance of the roads that brought us here.

    Thank you,

  27. Sarah L. Stimson Karis (History)

    Dearest Michael,
    Very heartbroken. I appreciate you so much, and am profoundly grateful, plus fortunate, to know you. Thank you for all you have given us and the world. You are a huge inspiration.

  28. Aubrey (History)

    Thank you for so many years of thought-provoking posts and insights. I’ve just finished your book, and found it to be great encouragement as I forge my own career in the field. Your example (and attitude!) is extremely valuable. I am so saddened by your news, but wish all the best to you & yours.