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Michael Krepon had no idea that his guest appearance at UC Santa Barbara would be so timely. A co-founder of the Stimson Center, one of Washington’s top think tanks, Krepon was invited to campus by Neil Narang to speak to his class about nuclear security in South Asia. Just two weeks earlier, India and Pakistan, both of whom possess large stockpiles of nuclear weapons, edged closer toward the brink of war.For the 20 students in Narang’s “Nuclear Weapons and International Security” course, Krepon’s talk offered an important real-world glimpse into a life-and-death topic that, paradoxically, has been fading from the public’s imagination and policy priorities.
A rising associate professor of political science who specializes in global security issues, Narang saw the class as a unique opportunity to give a select group of high-achieving fourth-year undergraduates the chance to learn directly from some leading experts in nuclear security and strategy.
“I don’t think there is a single more relevant course that I can teach today,” Narang said. “In one way or another, nuclear weapons appear to be at the heart of some of the most pressing foreign policy challenges. From emerging crises with North Korea and Iran, to the rapid rise of China, to the recent breakdown of arms control agreements with Russia, nuclear weapons cast a long shadow across the headlines over the last decade. And yet, I discovered that few students knew the historical or technical background behind nuclear weapons, the patterns and forces behind nuclear weapons proliferation, or the grave consequences of these weapons for international and regional security.”
The new course originated when the Stanton Foundation approached Narang about developing a class on nuclear security, one of its philanthropic priorities. The foundation was searching across U.S. universities for exceptional instructors with expertise in the highly specialized field of nuclear security, and …