The Nuclear Present: Constituting the "WMD" in the War on Terror


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships




This research evaluates how contemporary American perceptions of threat are informed by the cultural legacies of the Cold War nuclear project. It is a genealogical study of American attitudes about global threat, as manifested in the evolution of the "weapons of mass destruction" discourse. It interrogates the nuclear present via: 1) new Cold War history museums; 2) analysis of recently declassified military nuclear films; 3) archival analysis of US civil defense and nuclear planning; and 4) interviews with contemporary defense intellectuals. By analyzing how the "war on terror" is informed by the Cold War "balance of terror," this study makes a vital contribution to our understanding of how nuclear fear has shaped American culture.