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Imperial War Museum London

23/10/2014

This was pretty interesting; whether you are a military buff, a history nut or simply curious I though it was worthwhile. Besides covering the second world war in some detail the museum also covered the cold war era including the nuclear weapons race and more recent frontiers of war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I watched a 15 minute film on Operation Grapple (the operation to test the hydrogen bomb). The film captured the sentiment of the time that such a terrible weapon could act as the ultimate deterrent to prevent war between the major cold war actors. This was the idea of Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD. Here is a paper from 1981 by Kenneth Waltz the well known Realist International Relations scholar arguing for more nuclear weapons as he thought they encouraged rational deterrence. Scott Sagan argued that an increase in weapons did make the world less safe in this book. Here is a summary of both arguments.

I found the cold war history material interesting (I have also spend the last 2 days here in Berlin soaking up the East Berlin history but more to come on that). The way propaganda sends out messages with its intended aims and ultimate effectiveness is of some interest. Here is a North Korean poster delivered to American soldiers during the Korean war:

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The message is fairly blunt; namely that US soldiers were merely enriching Uncle Sam. Having spent some time in South Korea and read something of the conflict there (and the ongoing tensions between the ideologically opposite North and South Korea) it was an interesting insight into that conflict. Such elements made the Imperial War Museum worth visiting.

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