Dong-Joon and Gartzke – Determinants of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation 

This week we move on from military human enhancement to nuclear proliferation. We begin this topic by looking at ‘Determinants of Nuclear Weapons Proliferation‘ by Dong-Joon Jo, and Erik Gartzke (Journal of Conflict Resolution, Volume: 51 issue: 1, page(s): 167-194), available here. It is a great study using mixed methods to analyse what factors affect nuclear proliferation. Here are our thoughts:


In this paper the authors conduct a statistical analysis of nuclear proliferation and offer some insight into factors influencing proliferation, and trends going forward. While I have little to offer in terms of the practical application of the study itself (I am not a statistics scholar), I find some of the conclusions quite interesting. Most notably perhaps is the fact that the authors claim ‘there is no difference between democracy and autocracy in terms of a tendency to pursue nuclear weapons production programs’ (186). To be honest, I’m not really sure how much we can take from this conclusion, as I would suggest this trend has more to do with the outcomes of the Second World War, and the following Cold War, than it has to do with nuclear weapons per se. I wonder then if perhaps the authors are confusing symptom and cause? 

Mike Ryder, Lancaster University 


I found this paper to be excellent. I love the surety that the quantitative analysis brings to this study, and indeed found the conclusions to be wonderful. It must be disappointing to those who put so much effort in to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and continue to work for its application for it only to result in ‘modest or marginal impacts on nuclear proliferation.‘ The article also looks at reasons for this. But it made me wonder if there are better option for arms control? If the NPT does very little, what options could there be to create a greater impact? As mentioned in previous weeks, soft law might be an option, but is also problematic. I remember in Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature the suggestion that taboo plays a very large role in preventing WMD use, but negative press are hardly going to be of concern to a nation using a nuclear strike as the last hope for state survival. Perhaps, a concerted effort from all angles is required. 

Joshua Hughes, Lancaster University 

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