Monterey Institute of International Studies

Avner Cohen

Professor of Nonproliferation Studies and Senior Fellow with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies

Dr. Cohen, widely known for his path-breaking history of the Israeli nuclear program, is an internationally recognized author and expert on nonproliferation issues, focusing on the Middle East. A consultant to a range of NGOs and governmental agencies, Dr. Cohen joins CNS after serving as a Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (2009-10) and following a ten-year affiliation with the Center for International and Security Studies (CISSM) at the University of Maryland.

Dr. Cohen is a two-time winner of prestigious MacArthur Foundation research and writing awards, in 1990 and 2004, and in 1997-98 and 2007-08, was a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). In addition, Dr. Cohen was co-director of the Project on Nuclear Arms Control in the Middle East at the Security Studies Program at MIT from 1990 to 1995. He has been a visiting professor at a number of U.S. universities, and in 2005, was Forchheimer Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University.

Expertise

Israeli nuclear program; nonproliferation issues in the Middle East; Nuclear age and nonproliferation history; the non-proliferation regime; nuclear weapons and democracy; morality, ethics, and norms in the nuclear age; the movies of the nuclear age; nuclear disarmament; nuclear weapons free zones

Dr. Cohen interviewed on UCBerkeley's Conversations with History

Interview with Dave Gahary

Education

Dr. Cohen holds a B.A. in Philosophy and History from Tel Aviv University, an M.A. in Philosophy from York University, and a Ph.D. from the Committee on History of Culture of the University of Chicago (1981).

Publications

Dr. Cohen is the co-editor of Nuclear Weapons and the Future of Humanity (1986) and The Institution of Philosophy (1989), and the author of The Nuclear Age as Moral History (In Hebrew, 1989). His most acclaimed book, Israel and the Bomb, was published in 1998 in English and in 2000 in Hebrew. His latest work, The Worst Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb, was published in October 2010 by Columbia University Press. In addition, he published dozens of professional journals, book chapters, as well as op-eds.

His book THE WORST-KEPT SECRET has a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pages/The-Worst-Kept-Secret-Israels-Bargain-with-the-Bomb/163186743694317

 

 
Course List

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

IPOL 8608 - Sem:NucWeapons,Dem&Governance      

Few decisions are as important, even fateful, than those regarding nuclear weapons (e.g., research, development, production, deployment, doctrine and ultimately use). But these decisions, historically speaking, have tended to bypass the check-and-balance mechanisms of liberal democracy, thus creating a unique challenge to democratic governance. The political theorist Robert Dahl referred once to the incompatibility between the security and secrecy requirements of nuclear weapons and the spirit of liberal democracy as “tragic tension”, while other scholars claimed that nuclear weapons “corrupt” and poison the values of democracy. The purpose of this seminar is to study systematically the challenges that nuclear weapons create for democratic governance. The seminar will explore, philosophically and empirically, this “tragic tension.” We will examine the challenge both as a generic issue of the nuclear age, i.e., its bearing on both the substance and the procedure of democracy, as well as a comparative issue that manifests itself somewhat differently in different nuclear democracies (a case by case approach). The seminar will also elaborate on the philosophical linkage that exists between the democratic critique of nuclear weapons and the ideas of nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament.
The seminar will be consisted on one weekly lecture as well as on great deal of individual guidance between the instructor and the students.

Fall 2011 - MIIS, Fall 2012 - MIIS

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IPOL 8629 - Sem:NucPolcy-NPT OutlierStates      

India, Israel, and Pakistan are the three de facto nuclear weapon states that have been outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since it came into force in 1970. This seminar examines the relationship of these three countries with the nonproliferation regime broadly, both from the perspective of the states in question as well as from the perspective of the international community.

After a quick review of the nuclear history of these three states—including some discussions of similarities and dissimilarities among them—the seminar focuses on the examination of key themes and questions such as: What is the role of nuclear weapons in national security of the three countries? What are the policies on arms control and disarmament in these three countries? What are the attitudes within these countries regarding the different elements of the global nonproliferation regime, such as the NPT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), and the (proposed) Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT)? How did these positions evolve over several decades? How have these three countries responded to some of the more recent nonproliferation initiatives such as the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)? The seminar will also address the domestic mechanisms through which these three states deal with nuclear issues. Finally, the seminar also explores the different modalities that have been proposed by various parties to integrate the three countries into the nonproliferation regime.

Spring 2012 - MIIS

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IPSG 8505 - Global Politics      

The course introduces students to key analytical concepts and normative views such as balance of power, unipolarity, multipolarity, unilateralism, multilateralism, etc., and major theoretical perspectives for analysis of international politics, as well as the major international events of the past century that have shaped the international system. Students will learn ways that international actors, including sovereign states and non-state entities such as multinational corporations, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations, exercise power to pursue goals and influence international outcomes. Students will also learn how international institutions, norms, and structures of governance affect the exercise of power and other forms of influence and shape international outcomes. Students will also be introduced to some contemporary issues of national, international, and human security, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism, as well as issues of globalization, food security, the plight of the LDC’s, and human rights.

Fall 2014 - MIIS

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NPTG 8558 / IPOL 8558 - Israel and the Bomb      

This course is a comprehensive introduction to the study of Israel’s nuclear history and policy within the broader context of understanding the nuclear dimension of Middle East politics. The course focuses on the uniqueness and the exceptionality that constitutes Israel’s nuclear history and policy. By that uniqueness we mean the original policy which Israel devised to acquire and possess nuclear weapons that ultimately made Israel an exceptional case both vis-à-vis the United States non-proliferation policies and vis-a-vis the non-proliferation regime. That policy is known as Israel’s policy of “nuclear opacity” or “nuclear ambiguity,” under which Israel has never officially acknowledged to acquire or possess nuclear weapons, even though since 1970s Israel is universally presumed as a nuclear weapons state. The course ends with reflections about challenge that Israel’s nuclear uniqueness poses both to the United States nonproliferation policy and the non-proliferation regime as a whole.

Fall 2011 - MIIS, Fall 2012 - MIIS, Fall 2013 - MIIS, Fall 2014 - MIIS

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NPTG 8642 - SEM: Moral Dilemmas of Nuc Age      

The invention of the atom bomb and subsequent reality of living under threats of mutual assured destruction have created moral dilemmas and paradoxes of a scale that humanity has never before experienced. If waging a nuclear war is viewed as an unprecedented crime against humanity, something that can never be justified morally, how is it that we have created and legitimated a global world-order that relies on the pledge to commit these very crimes? This seminar will explore, from both a historical and an analytical perspective, the dilemmas and paradoxes of the nuclear age. Historically, we will try to examine some of the big decisions of the nuclear age as fundamentally moral decisions. Analytically, we will explore the moral dimensions of nuclear deterrence.

Fall 2013 - MIIS

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NPTG 8654 - Sem:WMDProliferatnInMiddleEast      

This seminar examines the proliferation of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons in the Middle East, including historical developments, the present context, and alternate potential futures.

Although the focus is on state actors, proliferation risks posed by non-state terrorist organizations will be discussed as well. The course will begin with overview sessions on why states do and do not pursue and acquire nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and on the internal and intrastate politics of the region. Subsequent sessions will focus on key regional countries. The course will conclude with integrative simulation sessions allowing participants to wrestle with the prospects for proliferation and nonproliferation in the region. Students will prepare weekly short memos, conduct group work for integrative simulation exercises, prepare an independent research project, and have various presentation opportunities.
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Spring 2013 - MIIS

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NPTG 8695 / IPOL 8695 - Sem:NuclearWeapons&Intellignce      

This seminar aims to explore the rich nexus involving the proliferation of nuclear weapons and intelligence assessments. Due to the nature of the proliferation dynamics—i.e., nuclear weapons programs are conceived and evolved under strategic and operational secrecy, states tend to define their early nuclear commitments tentatively and ambiguously, the dual use nature of nuclear technology, etc.—identifying and tracing proliferation is epistemologically a difficult task for intelligence. The seminar will explore this difficulty on both the macro and micro levels, that is, from the broad/epistemological level to the narrow empirical/historical case by case level.

In addition, the seminar will examine historically the process by which the US intelligence organizations dealt with some historical cases of proliferation from the Manhattan Project era to the present. The seminar will also examine the process by which intelligence assessments are developed and disseminated, including technologies and human resources. Students will examine some case studies where intelligence assessments have played key roles, including cases of intelligence failures.

Spring 2012 - MIIS, Spring 2013 - MIIS

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NPTG 9505 - Global Politics      

The course introduces students to key analytical concepts and normative views such as balance of power, unipolarity, multipolarity, unilateralism, multilateralism, etc., and major theoretical perspectives for analysis of international politics, as well as the major international events of the past century that have shaped the international system. Students will learn ways that international actors, including sovereign states and non-state entities such as multinational corporations, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations, exercise power to pursue goals and influence international outcomes. Students will also learn how international institutions, norms, and structures of governance affect the exercise of power and other forms of influence and shape international outcomes. Students will also be introduced to some contemporary issues of national, international, and human security, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism, as well as issues of globalization, food security, the plight of the LDC’s, and human rights.

Fall 2014 - MIIS

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WKSH 8585 - Israel's Nuclear Policies      

Fall 2010 - MIIS

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