Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Monday, April 07, 2003
Okay, after a long hiatus, I'm back, inspired by Matthew Yglesias's challenge for someone at Chicago to give him the dish on Paul Wolfowitz's doctoral dissertation. Thus, here is a (very, very) short summary of "Nuclear Proliferation in the Middle East: The Politics and Economics of Proposals for Nuclear Disarming", which earned Wolfowitz a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1972:

Wolfowitz first notes that "for today, the possibility of desalting vast quantities of sea water, by harnessing the terrible power of the atom, appears to offer promise that the deserts can be made to bloom" (Wolfowitz 1) and refers readers to the Straude-Eisenhower Plan for Middle East Nuclear Desalting (MEND). However, his thesis attacks this optimistic premise: "[T]he benefits from nuclear desalting have been vastly exaggerated while tis costs have been underestimated and the potential harm it could do largely ignored." (5)

Some other striking points, culled from the text:
--Wolfowitz claims that using "conventional fossil fuels" (6) to power desalination plants in the Middle East would be more economical than nuclear reactors and uses the "coals to Newcastle" analogy. Later, he uses about 300 pages of cost-benefit analysis to list the costs of nuclear reactors. I skipped all of the pages when going through the microfilm, but if someone really wants to look...
--Attacks the perception that the wars between Arab states and Israel were partially/primarily based upon water rights by showing that there exist alternative water supplies in the Middle East (further explained in Chapter 7)
--Notes that Arab countries didn't allow Palestinian settlement, and Palestinian refugees after the 1967 war refused permanent-looking housing in U.N. refugee camps.
--Claims that if Israel had nuclear weapons, it would "weaken Israel's conventional military position by cutting her off from friendly countries in the West" (33) and could result in the USSR and China arming the Arabs or providing them military aid in the case of a war.

Wolfowitz's conclusion: Bringing fissile material to the Middle East is risky, and the whole thing wouldn't be economically worth it anyways.

There's an interesting observation in Appendix A, where Wolfowitz predicts (correctly) that Israel will probably reach a peace agreement with Egypt and Jordan before it does with Syria, noting the situation with the Golan Heights and Syrian opposition to the November 1967 Security Council resolution on the Arab-Israeli war.

So there you all have it. I know, you're all chomping at the bit for more, but I have a feeling someone else'll come up with a copy shortly and actually have time to devote careful study to it. Please remember I'm an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and therefore have no (well, little) free time.

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