Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Why Do Entities Get Involved in Proliferation? Exploring the Criminology of Illicit WMD-Related Trade

| Feb. 01, 2018


This article seeks to provide an original approach to weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related illicit trade by drawing on criminology and focusing on the transactional level. Specifically, the article discusses the “rational-choice” model as a way to understand an entity’s involvement in illicit trade, and considers also the limitations of this approach, as well as the role that opportunity plays in an actor’s decision to engage in illicit trade. The article draws the conclusion that the prospects of deterring illicit trade using export controls and related criminal sanctions are limited. Beyond the clear limitations of the rational-choice model, the prospects of deterring illicit WMD trade are limited by the low levels of certainty in export-control enforcement, something that the criminology literature suggests is of greater importance than severity of punishment in deterring crime. Nonproliferation successes are more likely to be found in further efforts to develop tools to address proliferation opportunities, an area that has already seen much work. Efforts to further raise illicit WMD-related trade from the realms of “invisible crime” are necessary, including further conceptual research on illicit trade.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:

Salisbury, Daniel. "Why do entities get involved in proliferation? Exploring the criminology of illicit WMD-related trade." The Nonproliferation Review, (February 2018): 1–18.

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