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Nuclear Weapons.docx

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Political Science
POLI 244
Mahesh Shankar

THURSDAY, JULY 19, 2012: Nuclear Weapons and their Proliferation  The development of nuclear weapons fundamentally changed the cost analysis in warfare and international politics. Recent developments in nuclear technology have made these stakes even higher. In game theory terms, nuclear weapons changed the nature of international politics from the prisoner’s dilemma to a game of chicken, as the cost is now nuclear annihilation.  By the end of the 1960s the USA, USSR, China, France, and the United Kingdom had developed nuclear weapons. At this point, non-proliferation efforts began (non-proliferation treaty was signed in 1968) and all other actors in the international system were expected to sign away their right to develop nuclear weapons while the states who already possessed them were allowed to keep them.  International relations scholars debate the issue of whether nuclear weapons are a good or bad thing. Does it make the world more or less secure?  Why (not) go nuclear?  Neo-Realism uses a security/systemic explanation. It is the dominant explanation in nuclear weapons. In a self-help system, they cannot trust other states’ intention, and they do this by acquiring the best possible military capabilities to deter the other states from launching an attack. Nuclear weapons serve as the ultimate deterrence because they threaten the ultimate in pain, so states naturally seek them as the ultimate deterrent. They explain nuclear weapon proliferation in that states balance against their adversary—they have been termed “the great equalizers.” Proliferation begets proliferation, and when your adversary is seeking nuclear weapons you also must seek nuclear weapons. It is a security driven chain. (ex. Once the US got nuclear weapons, the USSR was quick to get them to balance against the US, and France and the UK soon followed in response to the USSR’s because they could not be sure the US could protect them. China then got them after the Korean War to balance the US, and as their relations were deteriorating with Russia. India then followed in response to China, and Pakistan in response to India). Some countries do not seek them (ie. Canada) because they don’t need them— we are a member of NATO and are under the nuclear security blanket of the United States as an ally. States develop them only when their security is threatened. States will only commit to non-proliferation if they believe their main adversaries are also committed.  The domestic level explanation—sometimes factors, or parochial bureaucratic interests at this level may push countries to go nuclear. From this perspective, 3 actors are significant. The nuclear facilities and employees and officials within it, elements within the military establishment (esp. air force), and politicians in the countries where either parties and the mass public favour nuclear weapons. Each of these actors has strong bureaucratic or parochial interests for pursuing nuclear weapons. In each case, the belief that the acquisition of such weapons will bring more resources and prestige (ex. the nuclear labs would get more economic resources, or the units in the military has incentives because they would get more resources, and politicians want more prestige to influence perceptions). When all of these interests are strong enough to dominate the political system, the likelihood of states acquiring nuclear weapons grows. In this explanation, external threats do not play a large role, they only matter in that domestic actors can manipulate that as an explanation for going nuclear. Ex) This has been used to explain India’s acquisition, because rather than security interests, their nuclear tests were driven by domestic interests. A bureaucratic battle occurred in India over whether or not to develop nuclear weapons after China developed them. If it was truly in response to external threats, India would have tested their weapons earlier (China had nuclear weapons since 1962), but they did not do so until 1974. This means that the government was testing them not due to security concerns, but to increase the government’s prestige. Similarly, with their 1998 nuclear test, the nuclear lobby was growing, but they justified it as a response to nuclear threats by China and Pakistan.  The normative/ideational explanation suggests that decisions of restraint are shaped by the symbolic functions in shaping and reflecting a state’s national identity. There are deep-shared norms at the domestic level about what is right and legitimate in international relations, and these understandings drive decisions about nuclear acquisition. Nuclear acquisition reflects what leaders see as appropriate and modern behaviour (producing them as a symbol of modernity to some, or relinquishing them reflecting a prevalent norm that nuclear weapons are dangerous). ex) France acquired them because of the symbolism that was attached to the nuclear acquisition—they thought it was essential to the status states would be granted in the international system. They wanted to secure the grandeur and retrieve France’s falling status by becoming a nuclear power (ex. acquisition as “swaggering” for prestige). Most states, like Canada, despite capabilities, are signatories to the non- proliferation treaty, and other states, like Ukraine, gave up their weapons at the end of the Cold war. In these situations, they are reflecting the norms that states that do not seek nuclear weapons are seen as responsible.  What are the implications for non-proliferation? If you believe they pursue them for systemic or domestic roles, states will only adhere to non-proliferation to the point where their security is not in peril or until there is a domestic coalition that pushes the nuclear lobby.
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