Alperovitz wrote his dissertation on the role of the atomic bomb in the creation of the postwar economic order. Drawing on the diaries of Secretary of War Henry L. Alperovitz also reported that, at the time, there was substantial but not definitive evidence suggesting that gaining diplomatic leverage against the Soviet Union was a major consideration in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He revisited the subject in The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth published by Knopf in on the 50th anniversary of the decision. A major part of the work documented the sophisticated public relations effort the Truman administration mounted to sustain public belief that using the bomb was necessary and, as Beschloss observed in a New York Times review, "why the public clings so tenaciously to the original explanation of why Truman gave the order. Other documentaries including one by the BBC and a dramatization by a German television network helped increase international interest.

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For more information, please see the full notice. Atomic Diplomacy Atomic diplomacy refers to attempts to use the threat of nuclear warfare to achieve diplomatic goals. After the first successful test of the atomic bomb in , U. In the years that followed, there were several occasions in which government officials used or considered atomic diplomacy. By mid, however, only the United States had succeeded, and it used two atomic weapons on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to bring a rapid and conclusive end to the war with Japan.

While presiding over the U. Ultimately, Truman mentioned the existence of a particularly destructive bomb to Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin at the Allied meeting at Potsdam, but he did not provide specifics about the weapon or its uses. By mid, it was clear the Soviet Union would enter into the war in the Pacific and thereby be in a position to influence the postwar balance of power in the region.

Some U. Truman did not threaten Stalin with the bomb, recognizing instead that its existence alone would limit Soviet options and be considered a threat to Soviet security. The Potsdam Conference Potsdam and his use of the weapon in Japan represent atomic diplomacy. In , historian Gar Alperovitz published a book which argued that the use of nuclear weapons on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was intended to gain a stronger position for postwar diplomatic bargaining with the Soviet Union, as the weapons themselves were not needed to force the Japanese surrender.

Other scholars disagree, and suggest that Truman thought the bomb necessary to achieve the unconditional surrender of recalcitrant Japanese military leaders determined to fight to the death. Even if Truman did not intend to use the implied threat of the weapon to gain the upper hand over Stalin, the fact of the U.

Even so, if U. In the years that immediately followed the Second World War, the U. The U. Though it inspired greater confidence in the immediate postwar years, the U. B Bomber In the first two decades of the Cold War, there were a number of occasions during which a form of atomic diplomacy was employed by either side of the conflict.

During the Berlin Blockade of —49, President Truman transferred several B bombers capable of delivering nuclear bombs to the region to signal to the Soviet Union that the United States was both capable of implementing a nuclear attack and willing to execute it if it became necessary. In , President Dwight D. Eisenhower considered, but ultimately rejected the idea of using nuclear coercion to further negotiations on the cease fire agreement that ended the war in Korea.

In an about face, in , the Soviet deployment of nuclear missiles to Cuba in order to try to force U. By the time the United States was attempting to disengage from the war in Vietnam, however, the idea of atomic diplomacy had lost credibility. By the mids, the United States and the Soviet Union had achieved approximate parity, and their security was based on the principle of mutually assured destruction. Because neither could make the first strike without the threat of a counterstrike, the benefits of using nuclear weapons in a conflict—even in a proxy war—were greatly diminished.

So although President Nixon briefly considered using the threat of the bomb to help bring about an end to the war in Vietnam, he realized that that there remained the threat that the Soviet Union would retaliate against the United States on behalf of North Vietnam and that both international and domestic public opinion would never accept the use of the bomb. In spite of the many threats made over the course of the Cold War, atomic weapons were not used in any conflict after the Second World War.

Although the existence of nuclear weapons could continue to act as a deterrent, their diplomatic utility had its limits. Table of Contents.


Atomic Diplomacy



Gar Alperovitz


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