Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

HuffPo Essay Cites Tannenwald, Warns of Shelf Life of Nuclear Taboo

February 16, 2011

An essay in Huffington Post recently cited Associate Professor Nina Tannenwald and her book, The Nuclear Taboo: The United States and the Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons since 1945 (Cambridge University Press, 2007), as a starting point in urging aggressive pursuit of nuclear disarmament. Suggesting that taboos “have a limited shelf life,” commentator Russ Wellen argues that “we need to make use of the nuclear taboo as a springboard to disarmament before its expiration date."

He cited a recent interview with Tannenwald in the Buddhist SGI Quarterly, in which she described "a convergence of realist interest and the moral interest that creates a fairly large constituency for actually moving toward abolition."

But as Wellen writes: “there exists another nuclear taboo – against discussing in polite company the death and destruction caused by nuclear weapons. If we could do away with that we'd be in a better position to be heard and expand disarmament's core constituency. We could then take advantage of the convergence about which Ms. Tannenwald speaks, between those motivated by realist, and those by ethical, concerns. There's still time to beat those who have no respect for the nuclear taboo to the punch and knock out nuclear weapons before they take us out.”