Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East

Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East

Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East

Nuclear Logics: Contrasting Paths in East Asia and the Middle East


Nuclear Logics examines why some states seek nuclear weapons while others renounce them. Looking closely at nine cases in East Asia and the Middle East, Etel Solingen finds two distinct regional patterns. In East Asia, the norm since the late 1960s has been to forswear nuclear weapons, and North Korea, which makes no secret of its nuclear ambitions, is the anomaly. In the Middle East the opposite is the case, with Iran, Iraq, Israel, and Libya suspected of pursuing nuclear-weapons capabilities, with Egypt as the anomaly in recent decades.

Identifying the domestic conditions underlying these divergent paths, Solingen argues that there are clear differences between states whose leaders advocate integration in the global economy and those that reject it. Among the former are countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, whose leaders have had stronger incentives to avoid the political, economic, and other costs of acquiring nuclear weapons. The latter, as in most cases in the Middle East, have had stronger incentives to exploit nuclear weapons as tools in nationalist platforms geared to helping their leaders survive in power. Solingen complements her bold argument with other logics explaining nuclear behavior, including security dilemmas, international norms and institutions, and the role of democracy and authoritarianism. Her account charts the most important frontier in understanding nuclear proliferation: grasping the relationship between internal and external political survival. Nuclear Logics is a pioneering book that is certain to provide an invaluable resource for researchers, teachers, and practitioners while reframing the policy debate surrounding nonproliferation.


This book'S OBJECTIVE is twofold: to help understand why states seek or renounce nuclear weapons and to relate the question to the general study of international relations. Policy-oriented studies have often understated the value of international relations theory to this subject matter. International relations theory has generally treated the topic as poor ground for theorizing, a puzzling fact considering voluminous efforts devoted to deterrence and superpower nuclear interaction. This book is an effort to bridge that gap. Readers, scholars, and practitioners less interested in theoretical disciplinary debates may turn directly to the empirical historical chapters and policy conclusions. Teachers and students of international relations may find the more theoretical sections useful for the classroom.

Three features of this book reflect these dual objectives of explaining nuclear behavior and revisiting the way we study it. First is the effort to harness recent advances in the study of globalization, international institutions, norms, and democratization to further our understanding of different logics underlying nuclear choices. This is done in a way that takes account of both strengths and deficiencies in each approach while suggesting directions for future research. A second feature is the focus on the riddle of diverging nuclear trajectories in East Asia and the Middle East. Despite the centrality of these two regions to the policy debate and despite methodological advantages inherent in the comparison, dedicated studies along these lines have been rare if not nil. A third trait lies in the inclusion of fresh arguments that have been largely overlooked as explanations of nuclear behavior. As the book's title suggests, different logics can explain why states acquire or refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons. Understanding nuclear choices as the sole reflection of international power considerations has come at a high cost, analytically and politically. The most important frontier in the study of nuclear choices is the relationship between regime and state security, or internal and external political survival. Construing nuclear aspirants as monolithic states is both analytically deficient and can subvert the successful design of positive and negative inducements regarding nonproliferation.

By contrast, identifying the domestic conditions underlying nuclear decisions takes us several steps beyond conventional studies largely concerned with external security. Nuclear weapons programs have been more likely to emerge, on average, from domestic political landscapes dominated by hostility to economic openness. Conversely, leaders oriented to . . .

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