“This impressive book is a model of judicious scholarship and a landmark in the study of nuclear proliferation. Focusing on the strategic interactions between would-be proliferators, their adversaries, and their allies, Debs and Monteiro present a simple and powerful theory explaining why some states seek the bomb while others choose to forego it. The logic of their argument is straightforward and the evidence they present is compelling. No one interested in strategy, security, or the role of nuclear weapons can afford to ignore this work.” —Stephen Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, Massachusetts
“Nuclear Politics is an important book. Debs and Monteiro show that the spread of nuclear weapons is best understood as a three-way strategic interaction between a government contemplating getting the bomb, its adversaries considering how best to stop such acquisition, and its allies calculating whether to coerce or threaten to abandon the ally, to offer renewed security assurances, or to acquiesce in its nuclear proliferation. The authors combine stunningly clear analytic logic with rich historical case studies to produce a major work of social science that should be read by political scientists, historians, and policymakers.” —Scott Sagan, Caroline S. G. Munro Professor of Political Science, Stanford University, California
“Nuclear Politics marks an important step forward in our understanding of nuclear proliferation. Focusing explicitly on the strategic interaction between the potential proliferator and its allies and adversaries, the book accounts for patterns of proliferation that no other approach has been able to explain. We see for example why even though nuclear weapons are often described as the ‘weapons of the weak’, weak states that also lack cover from a great power are unlikely to develop nuclear weapons and, indeed, historically never have.” —Robert L. Powell, Robson Professor of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
“Nuclear Politics significantly advances our understanding of nuclear proliferation by applying a penetrating analytic lens to this critical topic. Debs and Monteiro develop a theory of strategic interaction between the potential proliferator, its adversaries and its allies. Their theory integrates existing insights about the causes of proliferation, demonstrating how they are related to and intertwined with each other; and it gives new prominence to underappreciated features of the potential proliferator’s strategic environment, including the possibility that preventive attacks convince states not to acquire nuclear weapons. The book provides impressive empirical support for its theoretical insights.” —Charles L. Glaser, Director, Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University
“Why have we seen surprisingly few nations obtain the bomb since Hiroshima? Alexandre Debs and Nuno Monteiro provide the most powerful answer to this question yet. Blending painstaking empirical research with a robust theoretical architecture, they show that the major nuclear powers, above all the US, have long deployed ruthless – and effective – policies of nonproliferation, not out of some selfless idealism but because states with bombs threaten their preponderance. The strategic conditions established by these policies, Debs and Monteiro demonstrate, make it relatively uncommon for a nation to be both willing and able to go for the bomb. This elegantly written book provides both authoritative scholarly analysis and a clear blueprint for future US nonproliferation efforts.” —Campbell Craig, Cardiff University, and co-author of America’s Cold War
Here is the video of a talk I gave on “The Strategic Causes of Nuclear Proliferation” as part of the security speaker series at Indiana University’s Center for American and Global Security. The talk summarizes my book (with Alexandre Debs) Nuclear Politics: The Strategic Causes of Proliferation, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press later this year. You can read the Preface and Introduction to the book here.
I have reviewed G. John Ikenberry’s edited volume on Power, Order, and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014) for H-Net reviews. This is a terrific collection of essays inspired by Robert Gilpin’s classic War and Change in World Politics. You can find the review here.
My article “The Strategic Logic of Nuclear Proliferation” (with Alexandre Debs) is now out in the latest issue of International Security. You can get the PDF version here (ungated for the time being) and here is the abstract:
When do states acquire nuclear weapons? To address this question, a strategic theory of nuclear proliferation must take into account the security goals of all of the key actors: the potential proliferator, its adversaries, and, when present, its allies. To acquire nuclear weapons, a state must possess both the willingness and the opportunity to proliferate. Willingness requires the presence of a grave security threat against which no ally offers reliable protection. Opportunity requires that the state pursuing nuclear weapons possess high relative power vis-à-vis its adversaries or enjoy the protection of a powerful ally. Whereas a relatively weak state without a powerful ally lacks the opportunity to develop a nuclear capability, one with such an ally lacks the willingness to do so. Therefore, only powerful states or relatively weak states with allies that do not guarantee fulfillment of at least some of their key security goals will acquire the bomb. These claims are supported by the overall pattern of nuclear proliferation as well as detailed analyses of the Soviet, Iraqi, Pakistani, South Korean, and West German nuclear development cases.
In late 2015, Cambridge University Press will publish our book with an expanded theory and empirical analysis. You can read the book’s abstract and Table of Contents here.
My book Nuclear Politics: The Strategic Logic of Proliferation (With Alexandre Debs) is now under contract with Cambridge University Press and will be out in late 2015. You can read an abstract and Table of Contents here. Please contact me if interested in reading the manuscript.
My article (with Alex Debs) on the strategic logic of nuclear proliferation will be out in the Fall 2014 issue of International Security. You can read the latest draft here. And here is the abstract:
When do states acquire nuclear weapons? This article introduces a strategic theory of nuclear proliferation that takes into account the security goals of all key actors: the potential proliferator, its adversaries, and, when present, its allies. In order to acquire nuclear weapons, we argue, a state must possess both the willingness and the opportunity to proliferate. Willingness requires the presence of a grave security threat that is not covered by a reliable ally. Opportunity requires high relative power vis-à-vis the state’s adversaries or the protection of an ally. While relatively weak states without a powerful ally lack the opportunity to go nuclear, those with a reliable ally that covers all their security goals lack the willingness to do so. Therefore, only powerful states or those protected by an ally that does not reliably cover some of their security goals will acquire the bomb. We evaluate our theory against all historical instances of nuclear development and trace its logic in the Soviet, Iraqi, Pakistani, South Korean, and West German cases. We conclude with implications for the study of proliferation and for U.S. non-proliferation policy.