The Psychology of Nuclear Proliferation: Identity, Emotions, and Foreign Policy
By Jacques E. C. Hymans
Cambridge University Press, 2006, 286 pp.
As Hymans notes, nuclear proliferation is too often seen as a function of technical capability bolstered by crude strategic imperatives, and so an original take on the subject is a valuable contribution. In reality, a decision to go nuclear is a "leap into the dark" bound to be taken at the highest political levels. It will therefore be influenced by a leader's views about what difference nuclear weapons might make to the nation's international position. This point is confirmed by case studies examining the different experiences of France, Australia, Argentina, and India. The middle two are rather neglected in the literature because in these cases the ultimate decision was to abstain from a weapons program. The originality of Hymans' account is somewhat obscured by the introduction of an overelaborate theory, based on conceptions of national identity, which manages to at once simplify (by putting complex belief systems into neat categories) and complicate (by using these categories even where they add little analytic value). The case studies do demonstrate that although it is important to stress the importance of a leader's way of looking at the world, this still needs to be looked at in the context of a developing strategic environment.