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Title:Proliferation signals: information, uncertainty, threat perception and response
Author(s):Robinson, Todd
Director of Research:Diehl, Paul
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Diehl, Paul
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Vasquez, John A.; Flint, Colin; Singer, Clifford
Department / Program:Political Science
Discipline:Political Science
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Nuclear weapons
Nuclear proliferation
Nuclear nonproliferation
International relations
Foreign policy
Dual-use problem
Abstract:This dissertation is broken into two interrelated parts. The first explores the consequences of what is often called the "dual-use problem," that many of the technologies and knowledge required for the production of nuclear weapons may be obtained either directly or indirectly from other processes, whether they be civilian, commercial, or conventional military. As there is no real "smoking gun" that indicates that nuclear weapons are being developed, other than the conduct of a nuclear test (which, as Hymans 2010 has argued, is a poor indicator of weapons development), nor is there an independent body either capable of or charged with identifying occurrences of proliferation, I argue that states must make their own determinations as to 1) whether proliferation is occurring or has occurred and 2) whether and to what extent it constitutes a threat. To do this, they rely on the interpretation of information, which I classify as being either political (membership in the NPT, for example) or technical (reactor design, as an example), that may suggest, either one way or another, whether proliferation is likely. This interpretation, however, is subject to what I call relational-driven interpretive bias, such that, when compared to states that have more neutral relationships with potential or suspected proliferators, states with more historically conflictual relationships are likely to view the nuclear related activities of other states as proliferation and, therefore, threatening. Conversely, states with more cooperative relationships with potential or suspected proliferators are less likely to view actions and/or behaviors as proliferation than those with more neutral relationships. The second part of the dissertation looks at the relationship between the perception of threat and the likelihood that states will 1) choose to respond to proliferation-related activity and/or behavior and 2) how they will do so, if they elect to respond, with particular attention paid to those forms of response that are generally viewed as aggressive, destabilizing, or hostile (such as reciprocal proliferation, the conduct of military attacks, the imposition of sanctions, etc.). I argue that the bias affecting the interpretation of information has a direct effect on both the likelihood and hostility of responses, such that states with more conflictual relationships are more likely to respond and do so in ways that may appear aggressive or hostile. States with cooperative relationships, on the other hand, are less likely to respond and, when they do, do so in less aggressive ways. To investigate the hypotheses produced by the central theoretical mechanism presented in the dissertation, that of relational-driven interpretive bias, I construct a new dataset consisting of 1) all instances of nuclear technology development (which informs the construction of a pool of potential proliferators), 2) political and technical signals, and 3) responses to proliferation (coded dichotomously and categorically). I employ quantitative methods to test the explanatory power of the framework and find that, although conflictual states are generally more likely to respond and do so in ways that may appear aggressive or hostile (confirming one of the principle expectations of the given theory) than either neutral states or cooperative ones, cooperative states are no less likely to respond than those with more neutral relationships. This suggests that the bias is not symmetrical, but asymmetrical. This result is significant for a number of reasons. First, membership in institutions that are meant to signal compliance with the nonproliferation norm, such as the NPT, do not affect, in any meaningful way, the likelihood that conflictual states will respond to the development of nuclear weapons-related technologies. Only those that have compliance mechanisms have an effect on the likelihood of responses to proliferation. This brings their fundamental utility into question. Second, that proliferation may lead conflictual states to adopt actions and/or behaviors that may themselves be destabilizing, either dyadically or regionally, has implications both for academic research and policy-making. From an academic perspective, it suggests that research should not only focus on the causes of proliferation, but on its consequences. From a policy-making perspective, it indicates that it is not enough to focus on preventing or deterring proliferation, it is also necessary to address how other states, particularly those with a history of conflictual interactions with potential or suspected proliferators, respond to said actions and/or behaviors.
Issue Date:2015-01-21
Rights Information:Copyright 2014 Todd C. Robinson
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-01-21
Date Deposited:2014-12

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