Michael KreponSummer Reading for the Well-Read Wonk

I’ve asked Stephen Schwartz, the editor of The Nonproliferation Review, to suggest interesting reads that have appeared in The Nonproliferation Review for aspiring wonks. His nine recommendations follow. I will add a tenth in a subsequent post.

Nuclear Islands: International Leasing of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Sites To Provide Enduring Assurance of Peaceful Use” (November 2010)

Everyone complains about the inability of the international community to keep determined states from using overt or covert nuclear energy programs as a means to acquire nuclear weapons, but Chris Paine and Tom Cochran, building on the work of others over the years, actually created a detailed, feasible plan to solve that problem.

When Does a State Become a ‘Nuclear Weapon State’”? An Exercise in Measurement Validation” (March 2010)

Jacques Hymans tackles the slippery question of when a state is considered to have joined the nuclear club, and why it matters how we define that milestone.

The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence” (November 2008)

In a well-argued and detailed article, Ward Wilson challenges many of the presumptive benefits of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence.

Countering Proliferation: Insights from Past ‘Wins, Losses, and Draws’” (November 2006)

Lewis Dunn offers a valuable and thoughtful assessment of what has worked–and what hasn’t–when it comes to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Terrorism and the Global Politics of Civilian HEU Elimination” (July 2008)

In an engaging article, William Potter examines the risks of nuclear terrorism posed by the estimated 50-100 metric tons (MT) of non-military highly enriched uranium stockpiled around the world, describes the various uses of this material, and explores the economic, political, and strategic obstacles to international efforts to end the use of HEU for commercial and research purposes.

Anticipating Nuclear Proliferation: Insights from the Past” (November 2006)

Torrey Froscher considers the mixed historical record on the role of intelligence in warning, or failing to warn, of states seeking nuclear weapons, as well as the best means of ensuring a productive relationship between analysts and policymakers.

Is There a Theory of Nuclear Proliferation? An Analysis of the Contemporary Debate” (Fall 1996)

Tanya Ogilvie-White explores how organizational, psychological, and sociological factors influence whether and how proliferation occurs, and how such factors shed light on alternative approaches to preventing it.

Revisiting Fred Iklé’s 1961 Question, ‘After Detection – What?’” (Spring 2001)

Brad Roberts looks back at Fred Iklé’s Foreign Affairs article, considers how the world has changed over four decades, and assesses how best to address the challenges of arms control noncompliance in Iraq, North Korea, Russia, and other countries.

Surprise Down Under: The Secret History of Australia’s Nuclear Ambitions” (Fall 1997)

Jim Walsh considers the surprising history of Australia’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons from the mid-1950s and until the early 1970s, and what it says about states seeking to build the bomb, what policies stand the best chance of dissuading such states, and how Australia transformed itself from a nuclear aspirant to a leading advocate for nonproliferation.


  1. anonymous (History)

    I almost never read NPR because most of the articles aren’t available on JSTOR, Proquest or Lexis Nexis.

    • Stephen Schwartz (History)

      That’s correct. Taylor & Francis, the journal’s publisher, primarily distributes electronic content via its own subscription-only platform – http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rnpr20.

      But some older content is available to libraries and other institutions via subscription to EBSCOhost – http://search.ebscohost.com/.

      We also post many free articles on our own website – http://cns.miis.edu/npr/index.htm – along with a complete online index to every issue and links to supplemental audio and video content.

    • anonymous (History)

      Stephen, how about ditching Taylor & Francis for a more user-friendly option? I’d read (and cite) NPR a LOT more if it weren’t such a pain in the butt to access the content.

      And I’m betting other national security types would too. My sense from talking to colleagues is that they don’t know about it unless they follow nonpro issues closely, or know someone who does. This makes sense, because NPR articles won’t turn up in the ordinary course of research, unless you’re explicitly looking for NPR content (in which case you’re already aware NPR exists) or you happen to stumble across it in a search of T&F’s holdings.

      Food for thought! In the meantime, keep up the good work.

    • Stephen Schwartz (History)

      I’m sorry to hear that. As you may know, the Nonproliferation Review was self-published and made available at no cost by CNS from 1993-2003. After that, significant funding restrictions coupled with major changes in the nuclear policy grantmaking community required us to partner with a for-profit publisher.

      There is, as Michael notes below, an inherent tension in this model. I would like nothing more than to give away our content. But as the old saying goes, you can’t get something for nothing. To put it bluntly, the journal would not exist today if the publisher could not earn a profit by distributing it. (Moreover, based on our previous self-publishing history and track record, I am not convinced we would have a dramatically larger readership under the previous model. In fact, today there are tens of thousands of students and others around the world who have unlimited access to all our articles precisely because of the arrangements Taylor & Francis can make on our behalf. And because we can track online access and downloads, we know interest in and readers of the journal have both climbed steadily for more than five years.)

      But we have been and remain keenly aware of the need to make our content widely available and we try to do as much as we can in that direction without undermining the publisher’s business model (and, thus, our own viability).

      Thanks to industry consolidation, there are now only a handful of for-profit academic publishers. Based on our research and experience, we believe that Taylor & Francis is not only the best choice for us and our readers, but the best choice period (if you’ve ever tried to access subscriber-only content from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which uses a competing publisher, you know what I mean).

      Nevertheless, I completely agree that T&F’s old Informaworld site was difficult to navigate and put too many barriers in the way of people who wanted to subscribe, or even just purchase an article. Their recently launched new site, Taylor & Francis online, should do away with a lot of those problems. The publisher has created an improved and more attractive interface, made it easier to share content via social media sites, and is working on smartphone applications as well. And all our content is now searchable by Google, so even if you don’t go to the site, you’ll still be able to find our articles. Taylor & Francis Online also carries over features from the previous site, including the ability to receive alerts and links to new content whenever new issues become available (regardless of whether you are a subscriber).

      In addition, we always post the complete table of contents from each issue and usually make at least two articles from each issue available for free on the CNS website – http://cns.miis.edu/npr/index.htm. In fact, almost everything published before 2004 is available there for free as a PDF. And throughout the year, the publisher makes additional articles available for free in conjunction with various academic conferences, usually for months at a time, if not permanently. So it’s not like everything in every issue resides behind a pay wall.

  2. mark (History)

    Thanks for posting this, Michael–I’ll read ’em all!

  3. FSB (History)

    Great list.

    I would add Hellman’s “How risky is nuclear optimism?”:


  4. Mark Lincoln (History)

    On the lighter side, Tom Leher’s ‘Who’s Next’? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGptO6j3G-U

  5. Micah (History)

    Wow, heavy going for summer reading! How about the new book by Doug Frantz and Catherine Collins on the Timmer case, “Fallout: The True Story of the CIA’s Secret War on Nuclear Trafficking.” Or dialing up a few DVDs–“Failsafe,” “7 Days in May.”

  6. Micah (History)

    Oops, sorry, Jeff–re previous, please make that the TINNER case and FAIL SAFE.

    Obviously I am too tired after tracking back through the recent Khan imbroglio and your earlier posts about the WP coverage.

    Best, Micah

  7. DH (History)

    So, the only “interestng reads” for “aspiring wonks” were on nuclear issues, have there not been any interesting chem/bio articles in NPR??

    • Stephen Schwartz (History)

      This blog deals almost exclusively with nuclear issues, so that’s what we focused on. But there are many excellent articles on CW and BW in the Nonproliferation Review. Jonathan Tucker’s “The Rollback of Libya’s Chemical Weapons Program” (November 2009) is among these – http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10736700903255060.

      Our current issue has a very interesting article about how the US chemical industry chose to stop making chemical weapons and support ratification of the CWC. Another article examines the controversy generated by the construction of the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories in Boston, and the implications of that controversy for future biodefense research.

      And our November 2011 issue will be a special issue devoted to the forthcoming Biological Weapons Convention Review Conference. Stay tuned!

  8. Ron Rosenbaum (History)

    May I humbly pass along Richard Rhodes’ words in The New York Times Sunday Book Review (Mar. 7, 2011):
    “How the End Begins” raises fundamental questions more acutely than dozens of other recent books on the nuclear problem.”

  9. krepon (History)

    If there is a positive revenue stream from subscriptions, this has to be weighed against the negatives to Monterey’s educational mission that derive from limited distribution.

    • Stephen Schwartz (History)

      Please see my reply to “anonymous” above.

      There are, in fact, significantly more people today worldwide who are reading and using the Nonproliferation Review (and probably citing it as well, though I don’t have the ability to track that) than when it was self-published and sent out for free. And that’s precisely because partnering with a for-profit academic publisher enables us to reach libraries and other institutions we could never get to on our own.

      Our distribution today is “limited” only in the sense that, in general, one now must pay something to receive our content. Giving away content would make me happy (and no doubt our authors as well), but it’s not a sustainable model. Our current approach provides for steadily increasing readership (and, though it’s more difficult to quantify, greater influence in the policy community) and also guarantees our long-term viability. In my opinion, that’s a tradeoff worth making.

Pin It on Pinterest