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In addition to semiconductors, TI also had a national defense business. Prior to the 1979 revolution in Iran, the defense systems group was preparing for major contracts involving several different defense electronics products. However, after TI’s senior vice president made a trip to Iran, he immediately ordered that all business with Iran be stopped and all TI personnel be pulled out of the country. He had found the financial situation in Iran to be so corrupt that TI simply should not do business there.

Scientists easily find a common language, even when there are serious political differences between two countries. During the darkest days of the Cold War, there were forums such as the Pugwash Conferences where U.S. and Soviet scientists, especially physicists, were able to meet. They began to talk about the massive nuclear arsenals. Tens of thousands of nuclear weapons had been built on each side and thousands were deployed and targeted at each other—in submarines, ICBM silos, and intercontinental bombers. The largest single weapon ever tested had an explosive force equivalent to 50 million tons of TNT. It was recognized by scientists from both countries that a nuclear exchange could destroy both countries and kill hundreds of millions of people. From these shared perceptions there arose a certain atmosphere of trust between the two scientific communities that was communicated to the political leaderships and eventually resulted in a series of arduous negotiations and agreements that over many years led to a remarkable degree of stability in the bipolar world of that era.

There have been other examples of how scientists have been able to find a basis for agreement, even when politicians and diplomats have found it difficult. That is why I believe that international scientific and technical cooperation can be a positive and constructive instrument of foreign policy, contributing on the one hand to national economic development when that is the agreed objective, but also serving as a mutually beneficial element of substantive engagement between two countries even in the face of political conditions that make normal diplomatic or economic intercourse impossible.

Scientists around the world do indeed speak a common language. It is often useful to let them talk.

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