Magazine Article - National Review Online

The Nuclear Taboo Is Weaker than You Think

  • Elliot Kaufman
| Aug. 10, 2017

North Korea has a lot of people thinking about nuclear war these days. But there shouldn’t be any reason to worry, right? We’re told that the world saw what happened to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and learned never to use nukes again. There is now supposedly a “nuclear taboo” that nobody, especially enlightened Westerners, would be transgressive enough to violate.

If only that were true.

According to a study published last week in International Security, a preeminent academic journal of international affairs, the strength of the nuclear taboo in America has been wildly overestimated. The study is authored by Stanford’s Scott Sagan, considered one of the nation’s leading experts on nuclear weapons, and Dartmouth’s Benjamin Valentino, who has extensively studied attitudes toward the use of force.


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kaufman, Elliot. “The Nuclear Taboo Is Weaker than You Think.” National Review Online, August 10, 2017.

The Author


Scott Sagan