Understanding the International
The international social environment influences elite decision-making regarding nuclear weapons acquisition, and chapter 1 outlines three major outcomes from that influence: persuasion, conformity, and identification.1 Questions remain, however: what comprises this international social environment, and how does it influence elite decision-making? This chapter provides the theoretical tools that can answer these questions. I draw on social psychology research to examine the processes of persuasion: the different ways norms are transmitted, the different ways actors process those norms, and the different conditions that affect the influence of norms. This discussion is not intended as a comprehensive review of literature on persuasion and influence but rather as an examination of the concepts most likely to shed light on how a social environment can influence policy outcomes. Before discussing how the nuclear nonproliferation regime shapes normative expectations, I first review the larger normative context surrounding nuclear weapons and then discuss the specific aspects of the nonproliferation regime that contribute to this context.
The international normative context surrounding nuclear weapons arose before the first atomic bomb was ever created. In 1914 H. G. Wells published his novel The World Set Free, describing a catastrophic war fought with “atomic bombs” that led survivors to create a world government. The book made such an impact on physicist Leo Szilard, a peer of Albert Einstein’s, that in the late 1930s he lobbied scientists from around the world to keep all research on nuclear fission secret.2 Although his campaign was not successful, he was the first in the line of many scientists who would warn against potential evils of nu-