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Nobel Winner Schelling Examines History of Nuclear Conflict

Thomas Schelling, a Nobel Prize-winner and prolific author of books pertaining to international policy and economics, gave a presentation entitled “Managing Nuclear Proliferation” at UC Irvine’s Crystal Cove Auditorium on Thursday, March 6. Although Schelling acknowledged that nuclear proliferation is a point of interest that related to the night’s topic, he would not, in fact, discuss nuclear proliferation.
“[Nuclear proliferation is] not what I’m going to talk about, I thought that was a title that most people would understand; if you were interested in the subject you’d also be interested in what I’m going to talk about. I’m going to talk about the extraordinary fact … that we’ve gone 62-and-a-half years without any use of nuclear weapons,” Schelling said.
Schelling addressed the various instances in which nuclear war has appeared to be a certainty since the 1940s. According to Schelling, nuclear weapons could have been used during the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War.
The fear of nuclear war, Schelling said, intensified to the point that in 1960 a front-page article in the New York Times stated that unless countries in possession of nuclear weapons reduced their nuclear weaponry, an international thermonuclear war would be inevitable. Similarly, Schelling mentioned that in the same year, the Boston Globe printed full-page ads for bomb shelters.
Although past concerns over nuclear war may appear to have been exaggerated by contemporary standards, Schelling stressed that there have been times when nuclear war seemed probable. One example that he cited was a meeting held by the National Security Council under President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration. During the meeting, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles tried to convince other participants of the meeting