8-1: The Causes of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

Scott Sagan highlights the multiple arguments justifying and refuting nuclear proliferation, providing evidence that either further verifies the claim or disputes it. Regardless, Sagan notes that identification of nuclear proliferation trends because of the country specific parameters.

What I found the most interesting was the higher chance for a democratic nation to pursue a nuclear weapon versus a non-democratic one. This raises an interesting question whether such programs were initially pursued clandestinely, like the United States, or whether public support favored weaponization? It seems unlikely to have a large population consensus for nuclearization. If this is the case then what motivates democratic nations to have a higher chance to pursue nuclear program? Are these programs veiled behind energy endeavors?

In addition, Sagan’s arguments question the effectiveness of the nuclear proliferation treaty? He notes that nuclear weapon states (NWS) have used the treaty to justify not giving non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) nuclear technology or essentially to prevent other nations from obtaining nuclear technology. It is interesting to question whether such a treaty is truly effective without an effective enforcement force? For instance, when India and Pakistan, obtained nuclear weapons there was limited action pursued against the nations beyond rhetoric. If this is the case, then is there a true deterrent from pursuing a nuclear weapon. Similarly, if the nations truly enforcing the NPT with diplomatic and military pressure are the ones with nuclear weapons can the treaty be expected to be fair and effective? It seems unlikely that the NPT to be a stable treaty for longevity.

That said, the NPT does provide guidelines to assess nuclear weaponization attempts. So would it be ideal to design a new NPT that empowers the International Atomic Energy Agency to be able to enforce its sanctions effectively. This does not seem feasible given current situations, but I believe such a discussion could be better flesh out the criterion for determining nuclear weaponization attempts and establish appropriate punishments that would help to limit nuclear proliferation. — Chiraag

2 thoughts on “8-1: The Causes of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation

  1. Going off your question about whether public support favored weaponization, Sagan provides a scenario where it would seem that business interests are more important than public interests and could lead to weaponization. He talks about how countries with successful nuclear power programs want access to the best capital and technology markets in the world to keep their program running, and thus, may be more likely to cooperate with nonproliferation treaties. On the other hand, countries with less successful nuclear power enterprises may be more likely to support weaponization in order to justify the high costs of the nuclear power program. He does not distinguish between democracy and non-democracy as this theory could apply to all governments. Therefore, it is possible to see a scenario where a nuclear bomb could be developed in a democracy without public support. This type of interplay between power and weapons programs could be crucial in the future.

  2. I am interested in your claim that it would be unlikely for a large population to have consensus for nuclearization. For example, in the United States, our program was initially pursued clandestinely, but once we dropped the bomb it was clear to the world that we had nuclear capabilities. And afterward, when the American population believed that the nuclear bombs caused us to win the war (whether or not this is actually true…) I believe that there was a large consensus in favor of nuclearization. We had harnessed “the basic power of the universe.” Suddenly, nuclear weapons were a part of everyday life — allusions to our nuclear power were present in advertisements, movies, etc. I believe that it took a while for the general population to comprehend the atrocities associated with nuclear weapons. So to put myself in the shoes of Pakistan, I would see myself–and the entire population–actively wanting to be measurably more powerful than my enemy, India. To democratic countries, nuclear weapons are a tangible measure of power that can keep the general population, which is also the selectorate, satisfied with their country.

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