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Philip Towle

Philip Towle is a fellow in history at Queen’s College, Cambridge. His books include Estimating Foreign Military Power and Arms Control and East-West Relations.

End of Empire

Philip Towle, 22 February 1990

In 1956 Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian Uprising. At the same time the British and French tried and failed to capture the Suez Canal and to topple the Egyptian leader, Colonel Nasser. Thirty-three years later, the Soviet Union watched as one East European Communist government after another was swept from power by movements far more radical than anything conceived in Hungary in 1956. At the same time, US Forces moved out of the Panama Canal Zone, captured the Panamanian head of state and carried him off into captivity.

Who needs nuclear weapons?

Philip Towle, 27 October 1988

It is ironic but quite likely that, if US-Soviet relations continue to improve, the fear of nuclear weapons spreading to more states will loom ever larger. Partly, this will only be a question of appearances: solve one problem and others which seemed minor occupy more attention. But in any case the spread of nuclear knowledge will continue inexorably. Furthermore, it may be that some states will feel less confidence in the nuclear guarantees given to them by the super-powers, and thus that they have to have their own nuclear weapons, if détente becomes firmer.

Last Days of the American Empire

Philip Towle, 19 May 1988

The American novelist living in Europe and the British historian living in America are in broad agreement. According to Gore Vidal, the American Empire died in September 1985 when the country became a debtor, because ‘like most modern empires, ours rested not so much on military prowess as on economic primacy.’ The last chapters of Paul Kennedy’s epic study suggest that American power is subsiding relative to other powers rather than dying.

Will the INF Treaty do any good?

Philip Towle, 21 January 1988

The treaty abolishing intermediate-range nuclear missiles, signed on 8 December 1987, should lead to the destruction within three years of 2800 ground-launched missiles with ranges of between five hundred and five thousand kilometres. But if the facts are not in dispute, the implications of the agreement in terms of the military and political relationships between the super-powers are still far from clear.

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