Living at the Nuclear Brink: Yesterday and Today

A note from William Perry on this course:

I have been living at the nuclear brink for all of my adult life, and throughout my career in academia, private industry, and the U.S. government, I have dealt first-hand with the evolving nuclear threat. Nuclear weapons may seem like 20th century history, but the choices we make about these weapons in the 21st century will decide your future in truly fundamental ways. Because most people do not understand just how serious these dangers are today, their governments are not taking adequate preventive actions: actions that are readily achievable. And so, we are drifting towards a nuclear catastrophe. This is why I have dedicated the balance of my life to educate the public about these dangers, and this is the reason I have created this course. I have been joined in this effort by an outstanding and uniquely qualified group of educators and public servants who share my concerns about nuclear weapons.

The key goals of this course are to warn you of the dangers you face and to give you some insight on what could be done to avoid those dangers. My challenge in this course is to make vivid to you that the dangers of nuclear weapons, far from being historical curiosities, are existential dangers today. You will have the opportunity to engage in discussions about these topics with both world experts and peers from around the globe.

The course differs from many others in a fundamental way: our goal is not just to provide facts for your education, but to inspire you to take action. You have the power to make a difference, and I believe that this course will give you the knowledge and motivation to do so. You can read more about this subject, and find ways to become involved, by visiting the website of the William J Perry Project:

Course Outline

Week 1: Introduction -  What Are Nuclear Weapons and Why Were They Developed?

Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Joseph Martz; Dr. Siegfried Hecker

Week 2: Nuclear Proliferation in the United States and Around the World

Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Joseph Martz; Dr. Siegfried Hecker

Week 3: Under a Nuclear Cloud: Early Cold War

Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. David Holloway

Week 4: Fear and Loathing and Relief: Later Cold War

Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. David Holloway

Week 5: A Lack of Intelligence

Dr. William J. Perry; Philip Taubman

Week 6: Dilemmas of Nuclear Policy

Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Scott Sagan; Dr. David Holloway; Dr. Andre Kokoshin

Week 7: New Nuclear Dangers: Nuclear Terrorism

Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Martha Crenshaw; Dr. Siegfried Hecker

Week 8: New Nuclear Dangers: South Asia and Proliferation

Dr. William J. Perry; Dr. Scott Sagan; Dr. Martha Crenshaw; Dr. Siegfried Hecker; Dr. Andre Kokoshin

Week 9: What Has Been Done, and Can Be Done, about Nuclear Dangers

Dr. William J. Perry; Amb. James Goodby; Secretary George Shultz

Week 10: What Next?

Dr. William J. Perry; Joseph Cirincione

Course Staff

Dr. William Perry, 19th Secretary of Defense for the United States, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute and the Hoover Institution, Director of the Preventive Defense Project

Joseph Cirincione, President of Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation

Dr. Martha Crenshaw, Senior Fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation and Freeman Spogli Institute, Professor of Political Science by courtesy

James Goodby, negotiator and policy adviser in the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the negotiation of the limited nuclear test ban treaty, START, the Conference on Disarmament in Europe, and the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program

Dr. Siegfried Hecker, professor (research), Department of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford, Senior Fellow,  Freeman Spogli Institute, former Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and former co-director of Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation

Dr. David Holloway, Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History, Professor of Political Science, and Freeman Spogli Institute Senior Fellow

Andre Kokoshin, member of the Russian Duma, former Deputy Minister of Defense for the Russian Government

Joseph Martz, physicist and employee Los Alamos National Laboratory

Dr. Scott Sagan, Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science, Mimi and Peter Haas University Fellow in Undergraduate Education, and Senior Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation and the Freeman Spogli Institute at Stanford University

George Shultz, Professor of International Economics, Graduate School of Business, and a Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution

Philip Taubman, Consulting Professor at CISAC, Stanford University

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