“I use ‘disruptive’ in both its good and bad connotations. Disruptive scientific and technological progress is not to me inherently good or inherently evil. But its arc is for us to shape. Technology’s progress is furthermore in my judgment unstoppable. But it is quite incorrect that it unfolds inexorably according to its own internal logic and the laws of nature.”
With the rise of transnational activist networks in the post-Cold War era, the United States has frequently attempted to prevent the establishment of new global norms. Usually this effort is aimed at preventing new norms from becoming enshrined in multilateral treaties. This project introduces tactics of superpower norm suppression based on previous norm campaigns and then illustrates how the United States attempted to use these tactics to undermine a norm against the possession of nuclear weapons. This norm was institutionalized in July 2017 with the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Due to the mixed success of the superpower’s norm suppression tactics, the case of the nuclear non-possession norm illustrates how nascent norms opposed by the superpower often enter a period of limbo—the norm is accepted by some states, while the superpower and those it can influence continue to object to the new norm.
Rebecca Davis Gibbons
Rebecca Davis Gibbons is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Belfer Center's Project on Managing the Atom and International Security Program. She previously served as a visiting assistant professor of government at Bowdoin College, teaching courses on nuclear issues, international relations, and international order. Gibbons earned her PhD in international relations from Georgetown University. Her dissertation examined how the United States persuaded other states to join the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Her research continues to focus on nonproliferation as well as on the movement to prohibit nuclear weapons. In 2013–2014, Gibbons was a predoctoral Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the RAND Corporation. She holds an M.A. in international security studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. in psychological & brain sciences from Dartmouth College. After college, she taught elementary school within the Bikini community on Kili Island in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.