Tag: nuclear doctrine

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

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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Debating the Benefits of Nuclear Superiority, Part III

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

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

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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