Capsule Review

The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons; Nonproliferation Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint

In This Review

The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons
The Tradition of Non-Use of Nuclear Weapons
By T. V. Paul
Stanford University Press, 2009, 336 pp. $75.00 Purchase
Nonproliferation Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint
Nonproliferation Norms: Why States Choose Nuclear Restraint
By Maria Rost Rublee
University of Georgia Press, 2009, 296 pp. $64.95 Purchase

These two books are dedicated to the proposition that things that do not happen can be as important as things that do. Rublee is interested in why countries that could have acquired nuclear weapons chose not to, whereas Paul considers why those that chose to acquire them have not used them. Both believe this has something to do with norms, as considerations of reputation and values mix with calculations of self-interest. Paul's book has a lighter touch, but the ground is also more familiar. It is useful to be reminded of the instances in which the weapons might have been used, especially during the early years of the Cold War, before the tradition of nonuse was established. There might be questions about some of Paul's interpretations, but his basic analysis is carefully phrased and well judged.

Along with generations of doctoral candidates in international relations, Rublee has been obliged to go heavy on theory and demonstrate for the umpteenth time that neither the realist nor the liberal approach is adequate on its own. The theorizing does help when she explores the variety of ways that a nonproliferation norm might work. She has also chosen her case studies well, as examples in which a security argument could be made for a nuclear program: she explores Egypt and Japan in considerable detail and provides briefer considerations of Germany, Libya, and Sweden. In the Libyan case, to take one controversial example, she demonstrates that abandoning the nuclear option was not a response to the U.S. invasion of Iraq but part of a considered change of national policy, designed to escape pariah status. The discussion of Japan reveals the constant tension between a security worry and a popular antinuclear mood. All these cases support her contention that social environments need to be examined as carefully as security environments. It has long been claimed that the virtue of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty lies in its establishing an influential norm; Rublee provides a compelling demonstration that this is indeed the case.

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.