nuclear weapons

Doing the Stability-Instability Dance

by on 2014-04-26- 2 Comments

The stability-instability paradox is a concept from nuclear deterrence land: that if two sides both have nuclear weapons that can survive a first strike, it might just create deterrence at the strategic level AND free up both sides to engage in violence at lower levels.  Sounds just like an air-headed theory that would never happen in reality because, you know, NUKES!*

* To be clear, I have not studied deterrence theory closely since grad school, so I may not have this entirely right, but I am pretty sure I have the basics.

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The Importance of Angry Letters

by on 2013-12-12- 5 Comments

Editor’s Note: this is an abbreviated version of a post that originally appeared on my personal blog.

How can international institutions foster cooperation given that they lack enforcement capability? One view, quite simply, is that they can't. This view is shared by realists and many outside the academy. HansBrix

Many would argue this critique is unfair. It is too easy to jump from "can't control rogue states" to "completely worthless" or "false promise" or what have you. Even states that view one another as friends sometimes fail to reap all the possible benefits of international cooperation due to coordination problems, collaboration problems, etc, and institutions may help such states leave a little less money lying on the ground. There's also pretty strong evidence that UN peacekeeping works, particularly when it has the consent of all the parties involved. Sure, that's an important caveat, but we shouldn't trivialize the large number of lives that have likely been saved as a result of the UN's efforts.

But let's set those things aside. Is the best we can say about the UN that it helps those who want to be helped but is of no real consequence to the behavior of "rogue" states? I would argue that the answer is "sort of, but only if we adopt a fairly extreme definition of 'rogue'." But if we don't define "rogue" states as those that do misbehave, but those who would like to, then the answer is almost certainly no, the UN does not just allow the good guys to do a little bit better on the margins. It actually changes the intentions of those we might otherwise see as bad guys.

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What if Iran Did Get the Bomb?

by on 2013-09-19- 3 Comments

Casual observation suggests that the two most common answers to the question above are: 1) there's a very good chance that they'd start a nuclear war with Israel; and 2) there's no real reason to think any other state would be impacted in any significant way. I find both unpersuasive for reasons I'll discuss below.

nukeiran

Before I do, though, let me get something out of the way---in this post, I will argue neither for nor against the use of force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. To answer questions of what should be done, one must not only draw upon some set of beliefs about the likely consequences of the available options, but one's value judgments about the outcomes and the costs likely to be incurred along the way to producing them. I'm willing to try to persuade you to change your views about the likely consequences of certain outcomes, but I'm going to keep my value judgments to myself.

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Are Weapons Inspections about Information or Inconvenience?

by on 2013-08-20- 1 Comment

Editor's note: this is a guest post by William Spaniel, a doctoral candidate at the University of Rochester.  See this previous Duck post describing some of his work, and this post at his own blog providing more information about the research discussed here.

Spurred by a new International Organization article by Alexandre Debs and Nuno Monteiro (DM), the Duck of Minerva has recently hosted a debate on the cause of the Iraq War (see here, here, and here). To sum, DM argue that the United States’ imperfect knowledge of Iraq’s weapons programs led to a rational war. In contrast, speaking strictly from a unitary actor standpoint, this post argues that imperfect information cannot explain the conflict. Just prior to the start of the fighting, Saddam took credible steps to reopen negotiations with the United States. The Bush administration outright ignored these efforts. War began soon thereafter.

I divide this post into three parts, based on work from my dissertation. First, I review DM’s main theoretical contribution. Second, I briefly run down the logic of nuclear negotiations. And third, I argue that weapons inspections increase the cost burden on a potential proliferator, which in turn makes nonproliferation commitments credible. I then trace this logic in the lead up to the Iraq War.

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North Korea is an ‘Upper Volta with Missiles’ who Cried Wolf Too Often

by on 2013-05-05- 3 Comments

The North Korea flap seems to be calming down, so here I reprint my original essay from the Diplomat a few weeks ago on the crisis, plus a follow-up ‘response to my critics’ essay from the China Policy Institute Blog of the University of Nottingham and e-IR. Together, I think they make a nice whole, although it's a little long for a blog-post. I would like to thank Harry Kazianas of the Diplomat, John Sullivan of Nottingham, and Max Nurnus of e-IR for soliciting me.

“North Korea is the ‘Boy who Cried Wolf’: There will be No War” (first essay, from April 10)

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Replacing Nuclear Weapons

by on 2013-04-30- 4 Comments

B2This is a guest post by Jarrod Hayes. He is Assistant Professor in the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. He received his PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Southern California in 2009. His research broadly focuses on the social construction of foreign and security policy. 

They are complex weapons.  They are expensive.  They require high levels of engineering expertise to develop, maintain and operate.  They are the purview of the most advanced developed economies in the world.  Nuclear weapons?  Nope, modern major conventional weapons systems.

The title of this post exaggerates of course, but I think there might be something to it.  My thinking on this subject is prompted by a recent story on quiet pressure being applied by policymakers the United States to their colleagues in the United Kingdom.  The Americans want the Brits to scrap their submarine deployed nuclear weapons in favor, one assumes, of more conventional military capabilities.

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Debating the Benefits of Nuclear Superiority for Crisis Bargaining, Part IV

by on 2013-03-29- Leave a reply

KroenigEditor's Note: Back in February I riffed on a post by Erik Voeten in which Erik discussed two articles in International Organization (IO). One, by our colleague Matt Kroenig, argued that nuclear superiority gives states advantages in crisis bargaining (PDF). Another, by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann, rejects this claim (PDF).

After the two posts sparked some interesting discussion--both on- and offline--I approached all three about doing a mini-symposium at the Duck of Minerva. They agreed.  Kroenig kicked us off with objections to Sechser and Fuhrmann, and soon after we ran Sechser's and Fuhrmann's critique of Kroenig's article. Next, Sechser and Fuhrmann respond directly to Kroenig's earlier post. This is Kroenig's answer.

This is a guest post by Matt Kroenig. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University.

As I stated in my previous post, my new article, “Nuclear Superiority and the Balance of Resolve: Explaining Nuclear Crisis Outcomes,” develops the first coherent theory for why nuclear superiority matters even when both states possess second-strike capabilities.  The article then goes on to present a wide array of empirical tests demonstrating that states with a nuclear advantage are more likely to achieve their basic goals in nuclear crises.

Readers may be interested to know that when I began this research almost four years ago, I fully expected to find that nuclear superiority did not matter, but over time I became convinced by the unambiguously strong correlation between the nuclear balance of power and nuclear crisis outcomes in my empirical tests.  Turning up what was initially a surprising result, I spent several months racking my brain, and re-reading sixty-years-worth of literature on nuclear deterrence theory, until I was eventually able to develop a coherent logical explanation that accounted for these findings to my satisfaction.  I proudly present the result of these years of labor in my new article.

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Bargaining, Capabilities, and Crisis Outcomes

by on 2013-03-28- 3 Comments

I have enjoyed the recent exchange between Kroenig and Sechser & Fuhrmann (see here, here, and here).  One interesting point that came up regards the role of conventional military capabilities in determining crisis outcomes.  Kroenig says that the MCT data S&F analyze must be flawed because their results indicate that conventional military capabilities don't matter whereas we have good reason to believe that the strong do what they will while the weak suffer what they must.  S&F reply that there's nothing odd about their non-finding because this is precisely what bargaining models predict.  They are essentially correct about that, but I think they fail to appreciate what this very argument implies about their findings regarding the impact of nuclear weapons.
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Debating the Benefits of Nuclear Superiority, Part III

by on 2013-03-28- Leave a reply

Sechser and FuhrmannEditor's Note: Back in February I riffed on a post by Erik Voeten in which Erik discussed two articles in International Organization (IO). One, by our colleague Matt Kroenig, argued that nuclear superiority gives states advantages in crisis bargaining (PDF). Another, by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann, rejects this claim (PDF).

After the two posts sparked some interesting discussion--both on- and offline--I approached all three about doing a mini-symposium at the Duck of Minerva. They agreed.  Kroenig kicked us off with objections to Sechser and Fuhrmann, and soon after we ran Sechser's and Fuhrmann's critique of Kroenig's article. In this post, Sechser and Fuhrmann respond directly to Kroenig's earlier post.

This is a guest post by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann. Sechser is an Assistant Professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. Fuhrmann is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University.

First, we want to thank Dan Nexon and the folks at the Duck of Minerva for the opportunity to participate in this important exchange.

The key question in our debate with Matthew Kroenig is whether nuclear weapons (or nuclear superiority) are credible and effective tools of coercion.  Nuclear weapons may be useful for deterrence, but can they also coerce?  Our theories reach opposite conclusions: we say no; Kroenig says yes.  Both sides marshal evidence to support their arguments.  So who is right?  Our goal in this post is to evaluate Kroenig’s empirical results and respond to his critique of our article.

We begin with Kroenig’s response. We appreciate his engagement with our research, but his harsh criticisms generate more heat than light.  Kroenig’s critique of our article boils down to two basic points:


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Debating the Benefits of Nuclear Superiority for Crisis Bargaining, Part II

by on 2013-03-25- 3 Comments

Sechser and FuhrmannEditor's Note: Back in February I riffed on a post by Erik Voeten in which Erik discussed two articles in International Organization (IO). One, by our colleague Matt Kroenig, argued that nuclear superiority gives states advantages in crisis bargaining (PDF). Another, by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann, rejects this claim (PDF).

After the two posts sparked some interesting discussion--both on- and offline--I approached all three about doing a mini-symposium at the Duck of Minerva. They agreed.  Earlier we ran Kroenig's piece. In this post, Sechser and Fuhrmann critique the claims he made in his IO article. Both sides will have an opportunity to respond.

This is a guest post by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann. Sechser is an Assistant Professor in the Woodrow Wilson Department of Politics at the University of Virginia. Fuhrmann is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University.

Iran’s nuclear program has been a source of international concern for a long time. Some observers in Israel and the United States are now pushing for war, arguing that a nuclear Iran would brandish its capability like a club, waving it around recklessly and bullying neighbors and rivals into submission with nuclear threats.

This fear stems from a common belief that nuclear weapons are more than just weapons of self-defense and deterrence – they are offensive diplomatic tools as well.  But is this view correct?  Are nuclear weapons useful for coercion and intimidation?

We recently conducted a study that found a surprising answer.  Our study, published in the journal International Organization, investigated whether nuclear states enjoy more coercive success than other states. We found that they do not: nuclear weapons have little impact on the effectiveness of coercive threats.  (Note that we use the term “coercive” to refer to attempts to persuade an adversary to change its behavior or give up something valuable.  This is distinct from deterrence, where the goal is to preserve the status quo, not change it.)

Our conclusion challenges conventional thinking about nuclear weapons, which holds that nuclear weapons are useful for coercion – and not just deterrence – simply because they are so destructive.  This view argues that nuclear-armed states can more easily compel others to make concessions in international crises – and that they can do so without actually going to war.  But the conventional view fails to fully appreciate two important limitations of nuclear weapons.

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Debating the Benefits Nuclear Superiority for Crisis Bargaining, Part I

by on 2013-03-25- 10 Comments

Kroenig Editor's Note: Back in February I riffed on a post by Erik Voeten in which Erik discussed two articles in International Organization. One, by our colleague Matt Kroenig, argued that nuclear superiority gives states advantages in crisis bargaining (PDF). Another, by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann, rejects this claim (PDF).

After the two posts sparked some interesting discussion--both on- and offline--I approached all three about doing a mini-symposium at the Duck of Minerva. They agreed. In this post, Kroenig critiques the claims made by Sechser and Fuhrmann. Seschser's and Fuhrmann's piece follows later today.

This is a guest post by Matt Kroenig. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at Georgetown University. Todd Sescher's and Matthew Fuhrman's piece will appear tomorrow.

What determines the outcomes of nuclear crises? For decades scholars have debated whether nuclear superiority (an advantage in the size of a state’s nuclear arsenal relative to an opponent) or the balance of resolve (the relative willingness to run a risk of nuclear war), determines which state achieves its goals in high-stakes nuclear crises, like the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In my new article, “Nuclear Superiority and the Balance of Resolve: Explaining Nuclear Crisis Outcomes” (PDF), published in the current (Jan 2013) issue of International Organization (IO), I synthesize these arguments to create a new theory of nuclear crisis outcomes. I demonstrate that nuclear superiority reduces a state’s expected cost of nuclear war, permitting it to run a greater risk of nuclear war in a crisis, and, therefore, improving its prospects for victory. In so doing, I also provide the first, coherent, rationalist account for why nuclear superiority matters even when both states possess secure, second-strike capabilities.  This is an important theoretical contribution and also has implications for other related debates, such as whether nuclear arms racing is rational under certain conditions.

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The Politics of “Political Science”: Mushroom Cloud Edition

by on 2013-02-11- 4 Comments

Mushroom CloudErik Voeten has a nice piece up about recent research on the benefits of nuclear superiority. Does nuclear superiority provide an advantage to states engaged in crisis bargaining?

In the most recent issue of International Organization (ungated version) my colleague Matthew Kroenig argues that in a crisis between two nuclear powers, the state that enjoys a nuclear advantage is willing to run more risk than its opponent. This gives the nuclear superior state greater “effective resolve,” meaning that the other state is less likely to think that the state with nuclear superiority will back down.

However:

The same issue of International Organization contains an article (ungated version) by Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrman, who claim that nuclear weapons are of no use in increasing the credibility of threats to seize territory or another asset. Moreover, using nuclear weapons is costly. Thus, they find that while nuclear weapons are extremely useful for deterrence, they do little for “compellence” (making a threat to force an opponent to take some desirable action). They show with a different data set of crisis bargaining that threats from nuclear states are not more likely to succeed than threats from non-nuclear states.

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Trans-Partisan Challenge

by on 2012-10-27- 11 Comments

My daughter is very anxious that Mitt Romney might win the election. Before that she was worried about the European monetary crisis and what might happen if Greece defaults. This suggest that the problem is less one of our partisanship than of growing up the kid of international-affairs specialists who listen to the news during the morning commute.

Regardless, her anxiety suggested it was time for "the talk." We'd already had the "Republicans are good people" talk. It went something like this: "your grandfather is a Republican, and he's a wonderful human being. We just disagree on what's best for the country. And whether your schoolfriend's mommies can choose to get married." So this time we explained that the parties periodically switch control over various branches of government, they do good things and bad things, and life goes on.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the "good things and bad things" part of the discussion. So here's my challenge:  can you identify a policy where the "other side" is likely to do better?

In other words, if you're pro-Obama, tell us about a positive change that a Romney administration is likely to make in US policy. If you're pro-Romney, identify something that Obama did right and that Romney would mess up. If you're one of those third-party types, probably best to skip this one.

My answer is below the fold.

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Explaining Butter for Bombs Agreements

by on 2012-10-16- Leave a reply

In 1963, JFK predicted that there would be as many 25 nuclear powers by the 1970s.  Yet here we are, some 70 years later, and the number of states believed to possess nuclear weapons has grown from 4 to 9.  Why haven't more states joined the club?

A variety of factors are undoubtedly at work (see this piece by Gartzke and Joon for a good attempt at bring systematic evidence to bear on this question). In this post, I am going to discuss one in particular: what William Spaniel refers to as "butter-for-bombs" agreements, wherein one state makes concessions to another in attempt to dissuade them from proliferating.

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Observations from Day One of 3MSP-CMC

by on 2012-09-11- Leave a reply

At multilateral "Meetings of States Parties (MSP)" conferences, delegates are there to review progress made since the establishment of some treaty standard or another -
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The Triumph of Liberal Internationalism?

by on 2012-09-09- Leave a reply

Robert Golan-Viella reflects on a tectonic shift in partisan foreign-policy debate, i.e., the fact that the Democrats have the upper hand. He chalks this up to campaign
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Why N Korea Gets Away with its Stunts: a Response to Jennifer Lind

by on 2012-04-16- 13 Comments

Jennifer Lind has a good piece up on Foreign Affairs this week on why NK seems to regularly get away with with hijinks like last
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Seoul 2012 Nuclear Security Summit

by on 2012-03-22- Leave a reply

<img alt="" galleryimg="no" onload="var downlevelDiv = document.getElementById('39a9b327-049d-42ff-89a6-8805837907d6'); downlevelDiv.innerHTML = "";" src="http://lh6.ggpht.com/-UbJX2HPCMYo/T2qWLpzhJEI/AAAAAAAAAIA/1lSWV8LilMk/video8ab88f2e0645%25255B33%25255D.jpg?imgmax=800" />K-schmaltz! : where’s Dr. Strangelove when you need him to bomb Arirang back to
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Scholarship and Advocacy: Bomb Iran Edition (UPDATED)

by on 2011-12-22- Leave a reply

My colleague, Matt Kroenig, has generated a ton of buzz (and not a little vitriol) for his Foreign Affairs piece in which he advocates imminent US
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Is Herman Cain Angling to Defeat LBJ?

by on 2011-11-01- Leave a reply

At about 13.10 GOP poll-leader Herman Cain reveals the shocking news that the People's Republic of China is seeking nuclear-weapons capability. Watch Monday, October 31,
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