A Behavioral Economic Approach to Nuclear Disarmament Advocacy

By Rinn, Alexander S. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, May 2013 | Go to article overview

A Behavioral Economic Approach to Nuclear Disarmament Advocacy


Rinn, Alexander S., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


ABSTRACT

Nuclear disarmament advocates have provided a strong moral voice for the total disarmament of nuclear weapons, but if they are to remain credible participants in the disarmament process, they must redouble their efforts to assist in the difficult technical and political obstacles that stand in the way of a world without nuclear weapons. This Note first outlines impediments to disarmament towards which advocates could helpfully direct their attention, such as: conventional force imbalances; developing "proliferation-safe" civil nuclear technologies; enforcing nonproliferation obligations; and verifying nuclear disarmament. Second, it explains how tools from behavioral economics and negotiation theory could inform a more influential disarmament advocacy. Among other things, it suggests an iterative approach to disarmament to combat loss aversion and reference dependence. To fight time discounting, this Note urges support for ex ante agreement on UN Security Council action in response to violations of the nonproliferation regime. Finally, it recommends using a fairness norm based on process rather than distribution in formal disarmament negotiations.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  I. INTRODUCTION
 II. THE TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF
     NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND PRIVATE ADVOCACY
III. BEYOND MORAL ARGUMENTS: PRACTICAL
     IMPEDIMENTS TO NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
     A. Security Concerns Related to Nuclear-Weapon
        States
     B. Security Concerns Related to Non-Nuclear-Weapon
        States
     C. Verification of Nuclear Disarmament
 IV. How BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS COULD INFORM
     A NEW DISARMAMENT ADVOCACY
     A. Tools from Behavioral Economics
     B. Applying Theory to Nuclear Disarmament
        Advocacy
  V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Today there is increasing agreement, especially among leaders of the West, that nuclear disarmament must be a political priority, and nongovernmental disarmament advocates can claim some credit for this state of affairs. However, if these advocates are to remain relevant, they must move beyond their traditional moral arguments for the abolition of nuclear weapons toward an advocacy that helps states solve the real and difficult problems that stand in the way of a world free of these weapons of mass destruction. The will to pursue disarmament is stronger than ever, but the way remains challenging.

President Barack Obama declared in a 2009 Prague speech that the United States is committed "to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons." (1) When the Nobel Committee awarded President Obama the Nobel Prize, it stated that special attention was given to the President's commitment to a world without nuclear weapons. (2) Before the President gave his Prague speech, George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn in 2007 wrote an opinion piece arguing for a nuclear-weapon-free world, and listed a series of steps that could be taken toward that end. (3) In 2008, UK Defense Minister Des Browne told the Conference on Disarmament that his country was dedicated to a world free of nuclear weapons and introduced a new process to study the difficult challenge of disarmament verification. (4) President Nicolas Sarkozy of France delivered a speech in 2008 that was more ambivalent on complete nuclear disarmament than the speeches by the leaders of the United Kingdom and the United States, but which nonetheless was remarkable in that a French President was willing to address the topic at all in such detail. (5)

A community of nongovernmental advocates (NGAs), composed of private individuals and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focused particularly on nuclear disarmament advocacy, deserves some credit for elevating the issue of nuclear disarmament to such heights. Ever since the end of World War II, there have been influential members of civil society giving a voice to common citizens and advocating for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

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