Ogilvie-White, Tanya, and David Santoro, eds. Slaying the Nuclear Dragon: Disarmament Dynamics in the Twenty-First Century.

Author:Michelsen, Niall
Position:Book review

Ogilvie-White, Tanya, and David Santoro, eds. Slaying the Nuclear Dragon: Disarmament Dynamics in the Twenty-First Century. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2012. xx + 338 pages. Cloth, $69.95.

This edited volume from political scientists Tanya Ogilvie-White and David Santoro brings together eight scholars from the U.S. and beyond to address the current status of research into the perennial questions involving nuclear weapons. The editors claim that this is a particularly auspicious time for this issue to be debated and understood. On the one hand are forces moving towards nuclear disarmament. These include unilateral steps by (some) nuclear states to decrease their arsenals; widely read and discussed comments favoring disarmament by the so-called Four Horsemen (Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, William Perry, and George Shultz); and President Barack Obama's speech in Prague in 2009. The editors claim these and other hopeful signs indicate that nuclear disarmament has moved from the realm of utopian fantasy to potential interest-based reality. There is, on the other hand, the steady expansion of nuclear knowledge and the general acknowledgment that some nuclear proliferation has and will happen. Examples include the U.S. decision to partner with India rather than sanction it for its legal but norm-defying acquisition of nuclear weapons, and the continued insistence by nuclear states that their arsenals serve legitimate political purposes. Such positions strengthen the general view that nuclear weapons are here to stay and that it is rational for states to acquire them. While remaining neutral about the outcome, the contributors of the present volume adopt a pro-disarmament position generally. Beyond shedding light on the particular cases examined here, the editors seek to lay the groundwork for a theory of nuclear disarmament. The book ends with a call for future research in directions they believe will contribute to that theory.

Early on, the book acknowledges that the issues of nuclear disarmament and proliferation are intimately connected. Yet it seems unable to offer complete discussions of these connections or of the perplexing problem of extended nuclear deterrence, which lies at the core of many plans to stem proliferation. This weakness derives in part from the contributors' methodological choice of focusing on states rather than on grand theoretical questions.

The contributors defend their state-level approach on the grounds that the...

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