The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
What factors explain the origins of command and control systems in regional nuclear powers? Command and control systems underpin the deterrent capacity of a state’s nuclear arsenal, determine the likelihood of unintended nuclear use, and affect the likelihood of a conventional conflict escalating across the nuclear threshold. Despite their strategic importance, however, nuclear command and control systems have received limited analysis beyond the context of the Cold War superpowers.
This project makes three contributions to the study of command and control in regional nuclear powers. First, Arceneaux provides a new conceptual typology that classifies command and control systems according to arsenal management procedures during crises. Second, he presents a theoretical framework that demonstrates how three variables interact to explain command and control outcomes in regional nuclear powers: the presence of a proximate and conventionally superior adversary, domestic threats to the political regime, and the military’s level of organizational autonomy. Third, he evaluates the theory with original interview data from military and political elites in India, Pakistan, and apartheid-era South Africa. This project provides new insights into academic debates and yields implications for policymakers seeking to promote nuclear stability in regional nuclear powers.