Moral Norms and Nuclear Disarmament
Nexon, Daniel H
The history of nuclear weapons is at least as much about their restraint as it is about their proliferation, value, or use. Many forms of nuclear restraint have been considered extensively (deterrence, nonproliferation, non-use), but comparatively little scholarly attention has been paid to the idea of nuclear disarmament. Dismissed by international theorists and many practitioners as implausible, disarmament has featured prominently in American nuclear diplomacy since Hiroshima, including on four occasions in which the U.S. has offered to eliminate its nuclear arsenal in the context of formal negotiations. With the Baruch Plan in 1946, the McCloy-Zorin Accords in 1961, the signing of the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968, and in Reagan's conversations with Gorbachev at Reykjavik in October 1986, American proposals provided for the elimination of nuclear weaponry. Examining these cases shows major differences--1946 and 1961 were the product of careful and considered policy processes that took the offers quite seriously, while the later cases were subject to different procedures.Explaining disarmament offers is difficult for existing international theory, which has few tools for allowing norms to evolve over their life cycle, to be linked with related norms, and for explaining why norms are normative to states. The dissertation argues that a theory of normativity, a concept drawn from analytic philosophy, is necessary to answer this last question. By developing a typology of norms that distinguishes between them according to the types of reasons they can pose to states, the dissertation develops a framework for charting the evolution of the disarmament norm and explaining the cases as responding to the evolving norm. Two features of the norm are crucial to explaining specific instances of norm adherence: first, the association between nuclear disarmament and other norms of nuclear restraint and, second, the normative status of the disarmament norm. Importantly with respect to normative status, this review shows that the cases cannot be understood without reference to the moral character of nuclear disarmament, which provided policymakers with constraints and incentives but also directly influenced others.