Selling the nuclear state: John F. Kennedy, national security and nuclear testing

Eastwood, Mark (2019) Selling the nuclear state: John F. Kennedy, national security and nuclear testing. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

This thesis assesses the techniques of nuclear salesmanship by which the American public have been conditioned to support and accept the centrality of nuclear weapons to national security. It does this by examining in detail the changing policy of President John F. Kennedy toward nuclear testing during his short presidency and the methods by which he successfully moved public support from a moratorium on testing, to a resumption of testing, and back again to support the signing and ratification of the Partial Test Ban Treaty in 1963. In doing so, it argues that the Kennedy years mark a crucial moment in the history of nuclear salesmanship in which new techniques were inaugurated which had a lasting effect on the American psyche and stilted the growth of the national anti-nuclear movement until the 1980s.

‘Selling the Nuclear State: John F. Kennedy, National Security and Nuclear Testing’ addresses the innovative techniques of nuclear salesmanship which President Kennedy adopted, centred on a dual-track approach which balanced notions of national security with concerns over individual safety. This balancing act allowed Kennedy to appease concerns over his testing policy from both conservatives and liberals. Crucially, the thesis also charts how the burgeoning anti-nuclear movement challenged and subverted Kennedy’s efforts, particularly in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1963, Kennedy would secure the Partial Test Ban Treaty which, on the surface, appeared to be a victory for activists and those concerned with nuclear testing. However, the treaty was actually the apotheosis of Kennedy’s nuclear salesmanship, appeasing fears over safety from nuclear testing whilst allowing the continued development of nuclear weapons. Accordingly, Kennedy inaugurated a policy of utilising limited arms control agreements as a domestic political tool and a key component of nuclear salesmanship. In highlighting the domestic importance of the test ban, the thesis not only addresses the history of nuclear salesmanship but underscores the importance of domestic politics in the broader history of U.S. foreign relations.

Organised chronologically, each chapter of the thesis charts the changing methods of nuclear salesmanship of John F. Kennedy. It does so by putting a top down study of policy making into dialogue with a bottom up study of anti-nuclear activism to establish how Kennedy adopted his strategies in relation to increasing popular concerns. In highlighting how Kennedy implemented and developed a dual-track approach to nuclear salesmanship, centred on national security and personal safety, the thesis ultimately explains how Kennedy was able to successfully appease and silence anti-nuclear activism whilst allowing nuclear weapons to remain central to American Cold War strategy. The techniques Kennedy developed would be taken on and employed by many of his successors, underscoring the importance of the Kennedy years to the history of nuclear salesmanship.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Sewell, Bevan
McGarr, Paul
Keywords: National security, United States of America; nuclear weapons; public opinion; John F. Kennedy
Subjects: E History - America > E151 United States (General)
H Social sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
U Military science > U Military science (General)
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
Item ID: 59441
Depositing User: Eastwood, Mark
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2020 08:14
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 09:47
URI: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/59441

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