3 Items

A U.S. Trident II missile launches (Wikimedia Commons).

Wikimedia Commons

Analysis & Opinions - War on the Rocks

Can This New Approach to Nuclear Disarmament Work?

| Jan. 23, 2019

An estimated 14,485 nuclear weapons exist on earth today — most are far more powerful than those that twisted railway ties, leveled buildings, and crushed, poisoned, and burned human beings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The majority of these weapons belong to the United States and Russia. For some in the U.S. government, including Chris Ford, assistant secretary at the State Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, this number represents significant disarmament progress since Cold War highs of over 70,000 nuclear weapons. They argue the current security environment means that further reductions are not possible at this time. In contrast, for many disarmament advocates and officials from non-nuclear weapons states, this number is still far too high. They are now clamoring to ban all nuclear weapons. Because of this divide, according to Ford, we currently face a “disarmament crisis.”

The atomic cloud over Hiroshima, taken from the Enola Gay on August 6, 1945 (U.S. government/Wikimedia).

U.S. government/Wikimedia

Journal Article - The Journal of Strategic Studies

How Durable is the Nuclear Weapons Taboo?

| Nov. 09, 2018

The nuclear weapons taboo is considered one of the strongest norms in international politics. A prohibition against using nuclear weapons has seemingly shaped state behavior for nearly seven decades and, according to some observers, made nuclear use ‘unthinkable’ today or in the future. Although scholars have shown that nuclear aversion has affected decision-making behavior, important questions about the nuclear taboo remain unanswered. This article seeks to answer a basic question: How durable is the taboo? We develop different predictions about norm durability depending on whether the taboo is based primarily on moral logic or strategic logic. We use the comparable case of the norm against strategic bombing in the 20th century to evaluate these hypotheses. The logic and evidence presented in this paper suggest that the norm of nuclear non-use is much more fragile than most analysts understand.