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This volume examines the possibility of a world without nuclear weapons. It starts from the observation that, although nuclear deterrence has long been dominant in debates about war and peace, recent events show that ridicule and stigmatization of nuclear weapons and their possessors is on the rise. The idea of non-nuclear peace has been around since the beginning of the nuclear revolution, but it may be staging a return. The first part reconstructs the criticism of nuclear peace, both past and present, with a particular emphasis on technology. The second part focuses on the most revolutionary change since the beginning of the nuclear revolution, namely the Humanitarian Initiative and the resulting Nuclear Ban Treaty (2017), which allows imagining non-nuclear peace anew. The third and last part explores the practical and institutional prospects of a peace order without nuclear weapons. If non-nuclear peace advocates want to convince skeptics, they have to come up with practical solutions in the realm of global governance or world government.



Chapter 1. Introduction

Nuclear pacifists categorically reject nuclear weapons on ethical grounds. This volume aims to prolong the ideas behind this particular tradition of thought that we would like to brandish as non-nuclear peace. The Nuclear Ban Treaty (2017) shows the impatience by the majority of states in the world with respect to the implementation of the legal promise of getting rid of nuclear weapons, made by the five formal nuclear weapon states in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Regardless of the impact of the Ban Treaty, it is useful to start thinking about the next phase, namely how to imagine non-nuclear peace in light of contemporary and future global political and cultural conditions, and how to reach and sustain a peaceful order without nuclear weapons.
Tom Sauer, Jorg Kustermans, Barbara Segaert

Criticism of Nuclear Deterrence and Proliferation: Old and New


Chapter 2. Conceptions of the Bomb in the Early Nuclear Age

In this chapter, Casper Sylvest explores the role of nuclear weapons in intellectual history during the early decades of the Cold War, predominantly in the US and Europe. The chapter opens with a discussion of the role of nuclear weapons technology in transforming both scientific knowledge about the planet and the landscape of intellectual debate. Sylvest then turns to the conceptions of this technology among policymakers, military figures, scientists and public intellectuals. Four sites of contestation are singled out: the question of morality, the question of use, the question of stability and a more amorphous set of questions associated with the human condition in the nuclear age. In conclusion, Sylvest reflects on the nature of nuclear weapons and our historical understanding of them.
Casper Sylvest

Chapter 3. Nuclear Weapons: Peaceful, Dangerous, or Irrelevant?

Nuclear weapons should be viewed in the context of their era. Nuclear doctrines are based on belief systems that are partially shared across possessor states and within alliances but rarely agreed outside those. At the core of those belief systems is the conviction that nuclear weapons represent a power that only certain countries could enjoy. As the belief in the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence is shifting, the risk calculations are also changing. Arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation measures were part of the old nuclear paradigm and it should not surprise anyone that new approaches to nuclear weapons such as the Nuclear Ban Treaty—or indeed the overt threat of nuclear use—are now being sought.
Patricia M. Lewis

Chapter 4. Vertical Proliferation in Light of the Disarmament Commitment

Nuclear-weapon modernization is an increasingly contested practice. This chapter shows that the relation between vertical proliferation and disarmament is neither straightforward nor unidirectional. On the one hand, while vertical proliferation implies greater numbers, qualitative enhancements, new military capabilities or an increased role of weapon systems, it can have some limited disarmament-inducing side effects. On the other hand, while the primary aim of arms control and disarmament is to reduce the number of and reliance on nuclear weapons, they paradoxically often go hand in hand with commitments supporting vertical proliferation. This chapter approaches the topic from a conceptual and legal point of view, and analyses its technical aspects and practical implementation by showcasing current US modernization and arms control efforts.
Katarzyna Kubiak

On the Road to Non-Nuclear Peace: From Ridicule to Stigmatizing via Prohibition


Chapter 5. Stigmatization by Ridicule: From Dr. Strangelove to Donald Trump

No nuclear-armed states or their closest allies have signed the Nuclear Ban Treaty. These states emphasize that nuclear weapons remain necessary for deterrence purposes, even as many of them also claim to support disarmament in the long run. This inconsistent approach creates an opportunity to stigmatize nuclear deterrence strategy via the use of public ridicule. The chapter examines numerous instances when academics and former policymakers, diplomats, and military leaders have ridiculed nuclear deterrence strategy and/or weapons deployments, often by identifying logical inconsistencies and paradoxes associated with various policies. The conclusion explains that U.S. President Donald Trump’s bellicose nuclear threats create ongoing opportunities for ridicule.
Rodger A. Payne

Chapter 6. The Humanitarian Initiative: A Critical Appreciation

This essay offers a critical evaluation of the campaign on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the resulting 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It highlights both accomplishments and limitations of the treaty. The treaty is a major achievement but is best seen as a stigmatization rather than a disarmament treaty. While the treaty may strengthen the nuclear taboo, the ultimate challenge is to undermine nuclear weapons as a currency of power. The essay reflects on four themes illustrated by the movement of civil society and non-nuclear states to achieve the ban treaty: processes of stigmatization, the democratization of disarmament politics, the advantages and disadvantages of codification, and normative strategies of disarmament more broadly.
Nina Tannenwald

Chapter 7. Nuclear Ban Treaty: Sand or Grease for the NPT?

This chapter analyses whether the Nuclear Ban Treaty provides sand or grease for the NPT review process. The chapter does so in three steps: firstly by looking at the membership of the Nuclear Ban Treaty and its potential to bridge existing divides within the NPT. Secondly, the chapter looks at how the Ban Treaty played out in the Preparatory Committees for the 2020 NPT Review Conference. Thirdly, the chapter will look at the likely short-term future scenarios for the Ban Treaty, and the likelihood and impact of its entry into force.
Michal Onderco

Sustaining Non-Nuclear Peace: Government or Governance in the Longer Term


Chapter 8. What Are the Institutional Preconditions for a Stable Non-Nuclear Peace?

Even with the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), nuclear disarmament will be protracted. The ambition is not just a world without nuclear weapons but non-nuclear peace: the war-prevention functions of nuclear deterrence must be taken over by other means; conflicts that motivate states to possess nuclear weapons must be resolved in order to terminate these motivations. The TPNW, while contributing to a nuclear taboo, is insufficient as institutional foundation for achieving and maintaining a peaceful world without nuclear weapons. New political institutions are needed for mitigating competition among major powers, verification, compliance and enforcement. Contrary to the prevailing discourse, cultural institutions which shape the thinking about nuclear weapons are more relevant than political, military and technical institutions for achieving the final goal.
Harald Müller

Chapter 9. Can the Danger of Nuclear War Be Eliminated by Disarmament?

How can we reduce, or eliminate, the possibility of nuclear war in a world of international anarchy? Several recent initiatives seek to address this problem by stigmatizing the possession of nuclear weaponry and reviving the idea of general nuclear disarmament. If the very possession, not to mention use, of nuclear weapons becomes regarded as morally obscene, peoples and states will eventually divest themselves of the bomb and we will arrive at a world free of nuclear weapons simply by virtue of an ideational shift. In this chapter, I argue that the unique characteristics of nuclear weapons make disarmament in an interstate world impossible. Only the elimination of international anarchy can put a certain end to the possibility of nuclear war.
Campbell Craig

Chapter 10. Conclusion: Towards Non-Nuclear Peace

The history of the nuclear era can be chronologically divided into three debates: the first is the classic debate about the costs and benefits of nuclear weapons and nuclear deterrence, and the desirability of a nuclear weapons free world. The second debate is about the costs and benefits of the Nuclear Ban Treaty. Both debates are still raging. The newest debate has only started at the margins. It is about the question which political and institutional conditions are needed to make a world without nuclear weapons feasible. This volume wants to set up a framework that helps students of international politics grasp the finesses of this crucial (and hopefully) last debate about the future of nuclear weapons.
Tom Sauer, Jorg Kustermans, Barbara Segaert


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