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Achieving Nuclear Ambitions
Scientists, Politicians, and Proliferation

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  • Date Published: March 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521132251

$ 38.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Despite the global spread of nuclear hardware and knowledge, at least half of the nuclear weapons projects launched since 1970 have definitively failed, and even the successful projects have generally needed far more time than expected. To explain this puzzling slowdown in proliferation, Jacques E. C. Hymans focuses on the relations between politicians and scientific and technical workers in developing countries. By undermining the workers' spirit of professionalism, developing country rulers unintentionally thwart their own nuclear ambitions. Combining rich theoretical analysis, in-depth historical case studies of Iraq, China, Yugoslavia and Argentina and insightful analyses of current-day proliferant states, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions develops a powerful new perspective that effectively counters the widespread fears of a coming cascade of new nuclear powers.

    • Highlights the puzzling decline over time in the efficiency of nuclear weapons projects
    • Demonstrates the insufficiency of narrow technical analyses of proliferation capacity, focus on management promises to revolutionize nuclear proliferation intelligence
    • Offers detailed case studies of Iraq, China, Yugoslavia and Argentina, and additional shadow case studies of Libya, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran
    Read more


    • Winner of the 2013 Don K. Price Award, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    "A masterful, highly readable, outside-the-box analysis of a central problem of international relations. It convincing demonstrates that the fashionable alarmism over nuclear proliferation, and the destructive wars and military actions the alarmism encourages, are decidedly unjustified."
    John Mueller, Woody Hayes Chair of National Security Studies, Mershon Center, and Ohio State University

    "Equal parts cutting-edge scholarship and detective work, Achieving Nuclear Ambitions is a major contribution to both theory and policy. It is also, and not least importantly, a marvelous read."
    David A. Welch, CIGI Chair of Global Security, Balsillie School of International Affairs

    "Jacques Hymans unquestionably is the most creative young scholar writing about nuclear proliferation dynamics … One cannot seriously study the subject of nuclear nonproliferation without reference to Dr Hymans’ seminal work."
    William C. Potter, Director James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies

    "Hymans opens up a new avenue to the study of nuclear proliferation: the role of management. After having finished reading this magnificent study, I wonder why nobody else before him has dealt with such an obviously important factor in the literature? Read it!"
    Thomas Jonter, Stockholm University

    "This important book is the rare example of scholarship that should influence both our theoretical and historical understanding of the nuclear question, and shape how we think (or rather, re-think) our non-proliferation policies moving forward. A must-read for anyone interested in nuclear issues."
    Francis J. Gavin, Tom Slick Professor of International Affairs and Director, Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, University of Texas at Austin

    "This book is a very sound challenge to the extant literature … Summing up: recommended. All readership levels."
    J. Fields, Choice

    "Jacques Hymans is without a doubt one of his generation's best nuclear-proliferation analysts. In Achieving Nuclear Ambitions, his third book on the topic, he once again draws on meticulous historical research of nuclear programmes. This well written book draws important policy insights."
    Survival: Global Politics and Strategy

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521132251
    • length: 328 pages
    • dimensions: 224 x 150 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.52kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The puzzle of declining nuclear weapons project efficiency
    2. A theory of nuclear weapons project efficiency and inefficiency
    3. Spinning in place: Iraq's fruitless quest for nuclear weapons
    4. How did China's nuclear weapons project succeed?
    5. Proliferation implications of civil nuclear cooperation: theory and a case study of Tito's Yugoslavia
    6. Proliferation implications of footloose nuclear scientists: theory and a case study of Perón's Argentina
    7. Empirical extensions: Libya, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran
    8. Lessons for policy and directions for future research.

  • Author

    Jacques E. C. Hymans, University of Southern California
    Jacques E. C. Hymans is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California. An expert on the politics of nuclear proliferation, he has published two single-authored books with Cambridge University Press, and numerous articles in peer-reviewed academic journals. Hymans received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University.


    • Winner of the 2013 Don K. Price Award, American Political Science Association
    • Winner of the 2013 Louis Brownlow Book Award, National Academy of Public Administration
    • Winner of the 2014 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas in Improving World Order

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