Journal Article - Conflict, Security & Development

Do Nuclear Weapons Affect the Guns-butter Trade-off? Evidence on Nuclear Substitution from Pakistan and Beyond

| 2015

Abstract

Scholars have argued that acquiring nuclear weapons should allow states the luxury of exiting conventional arms races. In turn, a decreased budgetary focus on conventional arms should make possible greater spending on social welfare. I contest this logic of nuclear substitution by examining its most likely exponent, Pakistan. As a poor, underdeveloped state, a nuclear Pakistan should have welcomed the opportunity to cease its arms race with India, and spend greater sums on its population's welfare. Instead, I show Pakistan has doubled down on its pre-nuclear conventional posture, mainly because of its revisionism over Kashmir. More generally, I show nuclear substitution should happen only rarely: when a state is satisfied with the territorial status-quo, and its security challenges are amenable to pure nuclear deterrence. An empirical overview of conventional postures in Britain, China, France, India, Israel, the Soviet Union and the United States shows these conditions are met rarely, and never sustained. The argument has implications concerning the marginal welfare effects of nuclear weapons, the stability-instability paradox in South Asia and the standoff between Iran and the West.

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For Academic Citation: Butt, Ahsan I.. Do Nuclear Weapons Affect the Guns-butter Trade-off? Evidence on Nuclear Substitution from Pakistan and Beyond.” Conflict, Security & Development, vol. 15. no. 3. (2015):
229-257
.

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