The currently adopted nuclear nonproliferation policy of the United States employs a two-pronged approach in the effort to stem further nuclear weapons proliferation: enact and support measures that reinforce the resolve of voluntarily compliant states; and compel compliance from states that choose not to adhere to established nonproliferation norms. Missing is any attempt to understand and influence the factors that impel a given state.s decisions. Toward that end, the question I endeavor to answer in this dissertation is, “What are the contextual factors that are both necessary and sufficient to explain the nuclear weapons choices states make?”
I contend that two small groupings of variables, which I explicitly define and label Security and Stature, successfully explain the full range of states' proliferation decisions, ranging from the disavowal of nuclear weapons to their possession.
This hypothesis builds upon, yet distinctly diverges from, the various approaches to this subject that have been promulgated to date. The majority of the extant propositions are limited in their focus and therefore in their applicability; that is, their explanatory power is restricted to either a particular set of states or a singular aspect of nuclear proliferation (e.g., weapons acquisition). Further, many of these proposed models employ variables selected in conformity with the particular international relations framework (e.g., Neorealism) to which their proponent subscribes.
The Security/Stature hypothesis, however, is intended to elucidate the issues that impel any state in the system to select any of the nuclear weapons options available to it. Moreover, I selected the Security and Stature variables deductively from the expansive list of potentially explanatory factors discussed throughout the body of nuclear proliferation scholarship. I provide an overview and a critical assessment of the most salient literature reviewed in chapter 2.
Last, I apply the Security/Stature hypothesis to three case studies: Japan, Brazil, and North Korea. Collectively, these cases include virtually all of the nuclear weapons choices I desired to explain, and the consistently demonstrated co-variance between these choices and my chosen variables offers compelling, if limited, evidence of the validity of my proposed solution to the research question.