Nonproliferation Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint

Nonproliferation Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint

Nonproliferation Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint

Nonproliferation Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint

Synopsis

Too often, our focus on the relative handful of countries with nuclear weapons keeps us from asking an important question: Why do so many more states not have such weapons? More important, what can we learn from these examples of nuclear restraint? Maria Rost Rublee argues that in addition to understanding a state's security environment, we must appreciate the social forces that influence how states conceptualize the value of nuclear weapons. Much of what Rublee says also applies to other weapons of mass destruction, as well as national security decision making in general.The nuclear nonproliferation movement has created an international social environment that exerts a variety of normative pressures on how state elites and policymakers think about nuclear weapons. Within a social psychology framework, Rublee examines decision making about nuclear weapons in five case studies: Japan, Egypt, Libya, Sweden, and Germany.In each case, Rublee considers the extent to which nuclear forbearance resulted from persuasion (genuine transformation of preferences), social conformity (the desire to maximize social benefits and/or minimize social costs, without a change in underlying preferences), or identification (the desire or habit of following the actions of an important other).The book offers bold policy prescriptions based on a sharpened knowledge of the many ways we transmit and process nonproliferation norms. The social mechanisms that encourage nonproliferation-and the regime that created them-must be preserved and strengthened, Rublee argues, for without them states that have exercised nuclear restraint may rethink their choices.

Excerpt

This project began during my one-year tenure in the U.S. intelligence community, where I analyzed countries with nuclear weapons programs. We focused a great deal of time and effort on these states: what activities they were engaged in, and more important, how we could stop them. However, a few months into the job, a series of questions struck me: What about the 95 percent of states that are not trying to develop nuclear weapons? Why aren’t they? What can we learn from them? in our intelligence work, we were selecting on the dependent variable: examining only the states that wanted nuclear weapons. If we studied states that could develop a nuclear option but chose not to, what could we learn? Could we unearth insights to assist us in dealing with countries that did seek nuclear weapons? Given that almost all states have exercised nuclear restraint, was there a systemic variable at work—one that for some reason lacked influence in our rogue states?

That set of questions fueled the research that led to my dissertation and this book. I began by examining traditional approaches to proliferation and quickly found them wanting. Achieving better understanding of nuclear proliferation and its prevention required two dramatic changes. First, instead of focusing primarily on cases of proliferation, we also need to examine nonproliferation— the states that have considered the nuclear option and exercised restraint. Second, instead of focusing solely on a state’s security environment, we also need to examine the social environment—the norms and ideas shaping how state elites conceptualize “security” and “success.” the common refrain that state decisions about nuclear weapons are motivated by “security” is meaningless. the question is, what do states consider to help or hurt their security? Why do most states believe their security does not require nuclear weapons, while a few believe the opposite? How is it that a state such as Egypt—having lost in conflict against a nuclear-armed adversary and with regional competitors known to be working on nuclear weapons—does not require nuclear weapons for security, whereas South Africa—a state facing few external security threats—did want them?

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