Speaker: David M. Allison, Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom

As geopolitical and technological shifts challenge the underpinnings of nuclear deterrence, the implications of a nuclear taboo become increasingly important. Crucially, if the prohibition against nuclear use is binding, improved counterforce capabilities should have no effect on support for use. This seminar presents the results of a series of experiments designed to identify taboo believers and measure the durability of their commitment to nuclear non-use by increasing their perceptions of the military effectiveness of counterforce strikes. Subsequently, a majority of previously identified taboo believers are convinced to support nuclear use, and many remaining holdouts are effectively swayed by targeted moral messaging from elites. Collectively, these findings suggest that even leaders who have engaged in taboo talk might authorize a first strike during a nuclear crisis, especially if counterforce success seems likely.

Everyone is welcome to join us online via Zoom! Please register in advance for this seminar: https://harvard.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJUvc-uorTkoG9C3zILDI0wrhkBFNJWCkWIU

For more information, email the International Security Program Assistant at susan_lynch@harvard.edu.