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The Dullness Problem

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"The Dullness Problem"

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Something I note in Heads in the Sand is that one impediment to undertaking a reasonable response to 9/11 is that, psychologically speaking, it feels as if the response should somehow be proportionate to the devastating emotional impact of the attacks. And when you contemplate the possibility of something even more horrible, like a nuclear attack on a city, then it seems like the preventive measures taken should, again, be incredibly dramatic. And yet the nitty-gritty of serious non-proliferation policy is deadly dull.

Consider, for example, “Multilateralism as a Dual-Use Technique: Encouraging Nuclear Energy and Avoiding Proliferation”, a recent paper done by John Thomson and Geoffrey Forden. They’re writing about an incredibly important issue. For the non-proliferation regime to work, the majority of states who are neither “rogue” proliferators nor official Nuclear Weapons States need to be on board with the non-proliferation regime. But designing a regime that adequately safeguards their interest in civilian nuclear technology without opening the door to too much proliferation is difficult to do.

What Jeffrey Lewis has to say on the subject here is kind of a mouthful, and he’s deliberately keeping things simple whereas Thomson and Forden are boring deep into the details. And at the end of the day, the result is a paper you probably don’t want to read unless you have some kind of professional obligation to follow this issue. Certainly reading and writing about it doesn’t help you take out your frustration and anger at the horrible things that terrorists have done, nor does it give you good grounds on which to impugn the masculinity of your political opponents. But it is vitally important to actually stopping the spread of nuclear weapons.

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