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.”
Many scholars and political figures have cited the decline in American public opinion support for the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945 as evidence that there is a widespread "nuclear taboo" or "noncombatant immunity norm." New survey experiments, however, demonstrate that a large majority of the U.S. public approves of the use of nuclear weapons today against Iran today in conditions that resemble the strategic situation the U.S. faced in 1945. These findings highlight the limited extent to which the U.S. public has accepted the principles of just war doctrine and suggest that the public is unlikely to be a serious constraint on any president contemplating the use of nuclear weapons in the crucible of war.
- Current Affiliation: The Caroline S. G. Munro Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow, Center for International Security and Cooperation, Stanford University
- Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 1981-1982; Editorial Board Member, Quarterly Journal: International Security