Speaker: Matthew Hartwell, Research Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom

When and why is population protection considered an element of U.S. nuclear deterrence? While civil defense played a negligible role in nuclear strategy throughout the early part of the Cold War, beginning in the late 1950s, the limits to the program materialized twice as a potential gap in the U.S.-Soviet nuclear balance. First, immediately upon taking office, the Kennedy administration quickly sought to remedy previous administrations' neglect of civil defense by announcing a revitalized program. While presented publicly as a form of insurance, the administration immediately began to assess the strategic implications of the program. Second, in 1982, the Reagan administration, breaking with the insurance rationale, introduced a crisis evacuation program identified as an "essential ingredient" of U.S. deterrence. Examining the public and congressional reaction to the programs, this seminar will demonstrate how domestic political barriers undermined the two administrations’ attempts to alter the role of population protection in U.S. nuclear strategy.

Everyone is welcome to join us online via Zoom! Please register in advance for this seminar:

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.