Is there a normative prohibition on the use of nuclear weapons? Recent scholarship has cast doubt on the existence of a norm of nuclear non-use among the American people. But the public does not make decisions about using nuclear weapons. In this presentation, Pauly investigates the willingness of American policymakers to use nuclear weapons through the history of political-military wargaming. He tests competing theories about the use and non-use of nuclear weapons by examining both whether strategic elites were willing to use nuclear weapons in different scenarios and how they explained those decisions.

Reid Pauly is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at MIT and a predoctoral fellow with the Belfer Center's International Security Program and the Project on Managing the Atom. His dissertation explains the causes of credible coercive assurance—why and how targets of coercion believe that they will not be punished after they comply with demands. His broader research interests include nuclear proliferation, nuclear strategy, deterrence and assurance theory, wargaming, and Arctic security. Prior to graduate school, Reid was a research assistant at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and earned a B.A. in History and Government from Cornell University.