The Inadvertent Effect of Assurance on Nuclear Proliferation
Air War College Air University Maxwell AFB United States
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This paper examines the potential for assurance guarantees to drive nuclear proliferation. In their quest to better understand nuclear nonproliferation, scholars often isolate their analytic focus to the effectiveness of assurances at preventing an allys acquisition of nuclear weapons and do not consider how these assurances can simultaneously compel an adversary to proliferate. Assurance of the ally can exacerbate a security dilemma between the U.S. and an adversary to a point that increases an allys incentive to possess a nuclear weapon. Paradoxically, this could then mean that an initially effective assurance guarantee can compel the assurer to invest even more time and resources into assuring the ally to further nonproliferation ad infinitum. This paper provides a deductive evaluation of existing nonproliferation models and then demonstrates the argument through historical analysis of U.S. policy decisions on the U.S.-Japan and U.S.-India alliances. A discussion on the application behavioral economics in national decision making is proposed to explain why the U.S. responds to allies that are notoriously insecure about our commitment to their defense.