Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Build Nuclear Weapons

Evan Pikulski's picture
September 13, 2017
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Military History, Political History / Studies, Political Science

Many authoritarian leaders want nuclear weapons, but few manage to acquire them. Autocrats seeking nuclear weapons fail in different ways and to varying degrees—Iraq almost managed it; Libya did not come close.
In this seminar, Målfrid Braut-Hegghammer compares the two failed nuclear weapons programs, arguing that state capacity played a crucial role in the trajectory and outcomes of both projects. This analysis is based on a rich set of new primary sources, collected during years of research in archives, fieldwork across the Middle East, and interviews with scientists and decision makers from both states. The analysis reveals contemporary perspectives from scientists and regime officials on the opportunities and challenges facing each project. Many of the findings challenge the conventional wisdom about clandestine weapons programs in closed authoritarian states, particularly the level of oversight and control by regime officials, and offers novel arguments about their prospects of success or failure.

Time and Location

September 13th, 15:30-17:00
6th Floor Board Room

The Wilson Center
1300 Pennyslvania Ave NW
Washingon, DC 20004

RSVP Required: