The domestic politics model and institutional democratisation
Having reviewed the work of several prominent realist authors and their critics, we may now both identify the main gaps in the literature and outline ideas for improving our understanding of the causes and consequences of NWS nuclear disarmament. In doing so, our inquiry will come to focus on the concept of institutional démocratisation. Before outlining precisely what this idea entails, it is necessary to briefly summarise our findings from the preceding discussion. First, despite several authors—including from within the realist tradition—noting the domestic political impacts of nuclear possession, including on such crucial areas as liberty and democracy, their main focus when debating this subject remains on the international level and the ways in which anarchy is moderated by the balance of power and nuclear weapons.
Mainstream and realist international relations scholarship thus principally understands the advent of nuclear weapons as a ‘revolutionary’ development within the anarchic system, with great significance for national and international security. This is because the defence-offence equation was changed so that the great powers moved to deterrence-based relationships. According to most of, if not all, the authors reviewed above, the period of unprecedented great power peace and stability that existed during the Cold War may, albeit to an extent that cannot be precisely specified or proven, be significantly attributed to the impact of this nuclear revolution. Furthermore, for many of these authors, great power nuclear disarmament is thus both clearly undesirable, given the risks of instability and conflict it poses, but also likely unreal-isable given the political and technical obstacles it faces.
A related question, which our reading of the realist literature raises, is whether NWS nuclear disarmament can occur within anarchy, for example, as a result of a two-track process of domestic political reform and international cooperation to mitigate fear and uncertainty, or whether it requires anarchy to be replaced by some sort of hierarchy, for example, a world government. Deudney’s analysis complicates this question by adding a third structure— negarchy—to the mix. Would one of these three structures be better suited to nuclear disarmament than the other? In response to these questions, we may optimistically, but still cautiously, suggest at this early stage of our inquiry that nuclear disarmament could imaginably be possible within each structure and that negarchy, whilst under-specified as a means of supporting disarmament processes, is particularly promising.
Furthermore, as we have seen, of the three structures, there is much more informed debate about the consequences of anarchy and the possibility of mitigating its effects in order to achieve nuclear disarmament. But as with the ambivalent response of some scholars to the nuclear revolution itself, our conclusion regarding the possibility of great power nuclear disarmament under anarchy, as one of—if not the—biggest possible within-system changes, must remain hopeful yet inconclusive. Whilst this is a frustrating outcome, we should remind ourselves of the inherently speculative nature of our subject matter and aim to provide clearer responses to these questions after having conducted our review of nuclear politics in and between NWS in Part 11 of this study. Moreover, we may still constructively propose at this point that institutional démocratisation provides important problem-solving tools within each structure, not least because of the ever-present need to hold powerful actors accountable for their actions and ensure that political processes enjoy popular legitimacy.
Leaving aside structural questions for now, several of the authors we reviewed have noted that nuclear weapons decision-making is—at least in part—driven by internal politics as well as external factors. Moreover, as Deudney makes clear, nuclear weapons have important domestic political consequences for the states that possess them. If we are therefore to imagine how nuclear disarmament might come about, it is incumbent upon us to look at both the internal and the external political arenas when discussing the meaning and significance of nuclear possession. Additionally, many of the authors reviewed above either do not fully outline what they imagine the causes and consequences of nuclear disarmament to be, nor provide well-rounded considerations of the goals of, and conditions and indicators for, disarmament.
Where authors do engage meaningfully with disarmament concepts—such as Glaser and, to an extent Craig and Deudney—there are gaps in their analysis, particularly at the domestic level. It is possible to explain the different reasons why this is the case for each author. Some, such as Mearsheimer and Waltz, are strongly supportive of the nuclear revolution, for example, because it benefits the US-led global order—which they generally see as liberal and benign, and because they believe nuclear possession contributed much to the maintenance of peace and stability during the Cold War. Other authors, such as Jervis, Glaser and Deudney, are much more ambivalent about the nuclear revolution—particularly given the dangers of the second nuclear age. And whilst some, such as Craig, Schelling and Herz, see nuclear disarmament as potentially beneficial, they also feel that its requirements— which may include: domestic political transformations; the development of effective conventional deterrence; robust monitoring and verification; and world government—present very steep, if not insurmountable, hurdles. Given the rejection of or scepticism regarding nuclear disarmament, mainstream
Theories of nuclear possessionldisarmament 61 international relations scholarship—and realist works in particular—thus understandably spends little or no time considering the domestic sources of political change that might facilitate nuclear disarmament nationally and internationally. This absence is ultimately a symptom of structural realism’s pessimistic theory of political change, which focuses—albeit in different ways according to the author—on anarchy as the main factor determining a state’s international behaviour.
One of the other main reasons why nuclear politics tend to be treated in this limited fashion is that the subject, in both mainstream and more critical security discourses, is very often viewed in terms of the material and military qualities of the weapons themselves. However, as scholars such as Jervis appreciate, of equal if not greater importance are the ideational and political implications of the bomb—which are much more difficult to measure, especially given the secrecy surrounding nuclear arsenals. The next step in our study must therefore be to find a means of investigating in more depth the domestic causes and consequences of nuclear possession in and between NWS in order to then understand the domestic causes and consequences of nuclear disarmament in and between NWS. First of all, this requires us to analyse the internal nuclear politics of each NWS to flesh out what Deudney’s ‘diagnosis of the misfit between the state system and nuclear explosives’ means in practice for each NWS.191 By undertaking this analysis we will then be much better placed to: i) appreciate the political obstacles to and opportunities for nuclear disarmament in and between the NWS, ii) consider what domestic and international political changes are required to advance and realise nuclear disarmament, including what domestic and international political forces are needed to drive such changes forward.
In order to consider the requirements of NWS taking unilateral, bilateral and multilateral nuclear disarmament action, in addition to looking at the circumstances of each NWS individually, this also means assessing the pertinence of different political solutions. For example, if the elimination of nuclear arsenals is to collectively occur for the NWS, will each NWS ultimately have to become a non-nuclear democracy within a global republican federation, or are there less extreme but still effective options? It is reasonable to suggest that the answer to this question will only become clear at some point after the disarmament process has begun and will likely depend on questions such as the level of irreversibility required for each NWS, the answer to which will inform what this process comes to mean politically for each NWS.
Returning to the question of how we can move beyond our previous discussion of mainstream international relations approaches to nuclear possession and disarmament, it is important to recognise that we will also need to revisit the issue of how nuclear disarmament has been justified, as previously outlined in Chapter 1. By reviewing the powerful objections to global nuclear disarmament relating to the stability of a disarmed world, and the supposed security dilemmas that this would generate, we have gone part of the way to accomplishing this task. This is because we can identify useful ideas andinformation from the literature that opposes, is critical or ambivalent towards the idea of nuclear disarmament—which we can adapt and borrow from—in addition to familiarising ourselves with key arguments we need to provide rebuttals to. The next step in constructing a new approach to nuclear disarmament involves drawing on ideas and analysis from those sympathetic to or supportive of nuclear abolition, particularly concerning the domestic and international causes and consequences of nuclear possession and disarmament and the way in which these two levels interact.