Technology and National Security

History 2510, Physics 2020, Political Science 2440,Peace and Conflict Studies 2020


[Grad. Pol. Sci. Credit via "Ind. Study" with Prof.Pearson]


T,TH, 6:00 - 7:50 pm, Room 2009 Science

Office Hours: by appointment 233 Physics Office

phone:577-2733 (messages:577-2721)

See us on the Web at::


COURSE THEME: The knowledge and facilities to make and use "the bomb" are out there. So are the grievances and people with the desire to posses "the bomb". If not "the bomb", then some other technological marvels will be bought, created, or stolen. Technologists (which all of us are since man is the "tool using animal") have always influenced the nature of peace and war and the transition from one to the other. Civilian and military bureaucrats, business and politicians have always nurtured and distorted the technologists' dream of rationally shaping the world of war and peace. Soldiers and civilians have always died, with and for technology, in pursuing their dreams for war or for peace. In a changing, dangerous, world, history and science - what has happened, what can/cannot happen - are our only guides to the future. Concerned, knowledgeable citizens can make the difference between being victim or shaper of this future.

TEXTBOOKS: All paperbacks

William H. McNeill, The Pursuit of Power ("M")

Richard Smoke, National Security and the Nuclear Dilemma ("S")

Peter R. Beckman, et al, The Nuclear Prediament (referred to as ("B")

Alvin M. Saperstein, Notes on Nuclear Weapons and Missiles - to be distributed in class ("P")

Additional readings for grad students (on reserve Purdy Lib) :

James Fallows National Defense, ("F")

Robert O'Connell Of Arms and Men ("O")

Martin van Crevald, Technology and War ("C")

Students should also become familiar with The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

COURSE STRUCTURE: Many films will be shown; they are an important part of the course since its theme requires experiential as well as analytical thinking and learning. There will be class discussions (and some lectures) based upon the films and text readings - involving history, politics, international relations, lay-level science and technology. In addition there will be a paper - emphasizing science and technology for the science students in the course; history, politics, psychology, etc., for the non-scientists enrolled. There will be one mid-term exam and a final based upon the films, readings and the class discussions. Aside from interest in yourself and the world around you, there are no formal prerequisites.

GRADING (undergrads): Midterm-20%, Final-35%, Paper-20%, Class discussions (based upon "Interactive Question Papers", distributed before each class, collected at beginning of each class)-25%.

(No drops will be signed after F 3/3!)

PAPER: Please see me (the instructor) early in the semester to discuss the topic and structure of your paper. You must have topic, brief outline, and bibliography approved by me before the midterm. I will not accept papers which have not been discussed with me beforehand.


GRADING (grad students): In addition to extra readings, partially listed above, grad students will write a significant paper on a related topic (to be decided upon in consultation with Drs. Saperstein and Pearson) and will prepare lectures and help run some of the class discussions, on topics to be decided upon mutually with Dr. Saperstein (e.g., the India-Pakistan or the Israel-Iraq nuclear competitions, other WMD, state vs non-state "terrorism"). They will also have additional questions, related to the additional readings, on the mid-term and final exams.

SYLLABUS - Science , Technology, and War

Each class will consist of lecture on, and discussion of, the assigned reading materials. Please read the assigned materials ahead of the scheduled class! There is nothing so dull and tedious as a "discussion" by unprepared people who don't know what they are talking about, nor anything more rewarding than a hot discussion among well prepared, dedicated people - each courteously open to the other's point of view as they ardently urge their own.. Films will be shown on dates indicated in bold face type.

WEEK ,T. Th,.   TOPIC                                                                         READINGS

1         1/11             What is war? Science? Technology?                                             Preface-B,M; Intro.-S

                               The end of the "cold war" and "smart weapons".                          B pp.311-314.

              13     Are things now really different from the past?                                M pp. 1-62

                        Film: The Road to Total War (Thursday)

2       18                 Human Powered War, Horses, Winds, and Guns                         M pp. 63 - 143

              19     Film: Anybodies Son Will Do (Thursday)                                P pp.39 - 62

3     25                 The Beginnings of War Organization                                             M pp.144 - 222

            27       Industrial Revolution and War                                                         M pp.223 - 261

                            How Do Modern Wars Start?

                    Film: Beginning of the "Great War" (Thursday)

4    2/1                WWI - The Great War of Industry                                                 M pp.262-306

            3        Film; The Deadly Game of Nations (Thursday)                       S pp.5 - 21

5     8                 WWII - Continuation of WWI                                                         M pp.307-361

           10       The Beginnings of the Nuclear Era                                                 B pp.1-83

                    Film: The Day After Trinity (Thursday)

6   15                 Nuclear Bombs -"physics lectures"                                                 P pp.63-76

              17         Nuclear Bombs (continued)                                                             P pp.77 - 93

Deadline for approval of Paper topic

7   22            MIDTERM EXAM

        24         The Effects of Nuclear Weapons                                                     P pp.95-106, 137 - 160

                Film: Notes on Nuclear War (Thursday)

8   29             The Start of the "Cold War"                                                                 S ch. 2,3; B ch. 4

(No drops signed after Friday, 3/3!)

        3/2      Massive Retaliation-"The Big Stick"                                                 S ch. 5, P pp.160 - 179

                Film: Race for the Superbomb (Thursday)

9   7             "TRIAD"                                                                                             S ch. 6,7

        9         "TRIAD"                                                                                         B ch. 5

                Film: Submarines, Secrets, and Spies (Thursday)

Outline for Term Paper Due (Thursday 3/9)

        13 - 17 Spring Recess

10  21          Nuclear Relations                                                                             B ch. 6,7

       23     First Shot at "Arms control"                                                             S ch. 8,9

            Film: The Profession of Arms (Thursday)

11 28         Breakdown (?) in Arms Control                                                         S ch. 10,11

         30     Nuclear War Fighting (?)                                                                     S ch.12, B ch. 8

12 4/4       Living With Nuclear Weapons                                                             B ch.9,10

            Film: Keeping the Old Game Alive (Tuesday)

        6     Can War Technology Be Controlled?                                                 review

            Film: Fighter Pilot (Thursday)

13 11     Defense Against Nuclear Weapons                                                         S ch.13, P pp. 179 - 188

            Film: SDI (Tuesday)

        13     "End of Cold War"                                                                             S ch. 14,15,16


14 18     General Overview Discussion                                                             M ch. 10, B ch. 11

         20  Final Exam - in class