Works in Progress

Dissertation

An Illusional Nuclear Taboo: Mechanisms of Public Support for Extreme Methods of War (Committee: Dr. Güneş Murat TezcurDr. Andrew Boutton, Dr. Konstantin Ash)

My dissertation studies public and political elite attitudes toward nuclear weapons. What factors influence public and elite willingness to support the usage of nuclear weapons? What causes do individuals offer as moral justifications for the use of nuclear weapons? Despite the many efforts to reduce the significance of nuclear weapons in foreign policy and countries’ defense strategies, they remain at the forefront of international politics and a matter of scholarly debate. Situated in the intersection of international relations, comparative politics, and social psychology, it offers an understanding of the political conditions and individual characteristics that lead to support for the usage of nuclear weapons.

Numerous polls have shown that publics are largely against the production, existence, and use of nuclear weapons. Corroborating the apparent aversion in polling results, influential strands of scholarship have argued that both political elites and the public have internalized anti-nuclear norms ( Bunn 1999; Carranza 2018; Tannenwald 2018b, 2005, 1999, 2007; M.R. Rublee 2009b; Schelling 2005). These scholars suggest normative inhibitions against the use of first strike nuclear weapons and nuclear testing. Leaders as well as the public then have shared expectations and standards of right and wrong with a normative belief. However, recent scholarship that employs experimental methods to explore public opinion challenges this conventional wisdom about the robustness of anti-nuclear norms. They assert that the moral nuclear taboo lacks robustness. Noticeably, the aversion toward nukes seemingly decreases once publics are confronted with realistic threats from terrorists or state actors in computerized self-administered questionnaire experimental surveys. People become more willing to use extreme force as their perceived threat to security increases (C. Carpenter and Montgomery 2019; Sang Kim 2019; Smetana and Vranka 2019; Post and Sechser 2017).

Despite this recent push to explore public opinion on the use of force in survey experiments and exploration of causal mechanisms characterizing support for the use of nuclear weapons remains underexplored. The causal mechanism brought forward in the literature such as Moral Foundations, political cues, definite utility in using nuclear weapons, troop protection and war aims underdeveloped. The former misses a comparative perspective and the latter considers international relations isolated from other social science fields. For example, psychology influence humans’ decisions to use force. Furthermore, three of the recent studies have yet to pass peer-review.

To address these shortcomings, I employ two original survey experiments of the Israeli and US adult populations to identify the factors influencing why some individuals are less willing to subscribe to a nuclear taboo than others. I build on insights from social psychology, terror management theory, to explore why the public is more likely to support the use of conventional and nuclear force during times of crises. Additionally, the work examines through a Bayesian modelling strategy the conditions that explain leaders’ attitudinal patterns and tests factors that influence. Overall, this research advances current understanding of domestic pattern as to why nuclear weapons disarmament, elimination, and non-proliferation is deeply challenging.
It is worrisome that some democratic publics show hawkish tendencies when it comes to foreign policy choices. It is even more worrisome if they support the existence, use, and proliferation of nuclear weapons. To reduce such hawkishness in order to decrease the risk of militaristic foreign policies, it is crucial to understand the underlying motivations of support for nuclear weapons. Exploring this phenomenon will advance scholarly literature and policymaking. Scholars have spent decades exploring the challenges to nuclear weapons disarmament, elimination, and non-proliferation. This dissertation will center on the roots of these obstacles. It will advance the current push to explore public opinion on the use of force in survey experiments.

Other

A Violated Norm: The Use of Chemical Weapons from Colonial Warfare to Civil Wars, with Dr. Güneş Murat Tezcür 

ABSTRACT: The taboo against chemical weapons (CW) has a long history going back to the late 19th century. The repeated CW attacks during the Syrian civil war have raised new questions about the robustness of this regulative norm. This paper takes a longer historical approach and investigates the justifications employed in CW attacks and international responses in reaction to these attacks. The analysis suggests that the norm against CW is conditional on the identity of victims. Attacks targeting certain groups are more readily justifiable and generate relatively ineffective and inconsistent reaction from the international community. Consequently, chemical attacks take place only against certain groups of people. Employing process tracing, this paper consults a variety of rich archival resources including primary language documents to explain this variation in international responses to these attacks. The historical cases analyzed include three late colonial wars during the interwar period, and three Middle Eastern civil wars.

The Efficiency of Conventional Military Strikes versus Cyber Weapons in Nuclear Counterproliferation (Under Review)

Under what conditions can the use of cyber weapons be effective in nuclear counterproliferation? With continued interest in nuclear proliferation expressed by Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, a discussion of the effectiveness of counterproliferation measurements remains relevant. Through the comparative case study of Operation Orchard 2007 and Stuxnet 2011, this work explores conventional and cyber weapons to prevent nuclear proliferation. The work finds that (1) cyber weapons are effective in the short-term if the attack remains clandestine, (2) conventional weapons are especially effective against countries in early stages and cyber weapons in advanced stages of nuclear development, and (3) cyber weapons appear to be only temporary solutions to halt nuclear proliferation, but not to avert future nuclear ambitions. In its conclusion, the work suggests implications to halt Iranian nuclear proliferation and discusses the silent consent of the international community to both measurements.