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'Method in the Madness or Just Madness? :Neorealism and Nuclear Proliferation''

Jason Douglas
University College Cork
Jason Douglas
University College Cork
Open Panel

Abstract

This paper seeks to address the position of neorealist scholars in relation to nuclear weapons. Scholars such as Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, in differing ways, advocate the proliferation of nuclear weapons as a means of creating stability in the international system. Neorealist theory posits that states, the most important actors in the international system, are driven by anarchy to attain security. According to neorealist logic, this is the most fundamental goal of a state. Nuclear weapons, it is argued, ensure security. Waltz argues that nuclear weapons make outcomes so predictable, and war so unprofitable, that possessing them provides absolutes security. Thus, he argues, “More May be Better”. Mearsheimer, for his part, is much more ambiguous about the deterrent power of nuclear weapons. The paper assesses the subtle differences between both scholars’ positions and evaluates their contribution to policy debates on the subject of nuclear proliferation. With horizontal proliferation a continuing and very real phenomenon among new nuclear aspirants, this paper seeks to place the arguments of both scholars in context and evaluate their viability. These ideas represent a departure from international opinion on nuclear proliferation, but they should not be dismissed. Rather, they should form part of the contribution to the current policy debates on nuclear policy and proliferation in general.