University of Twente Student Theses


Explaining US nuclear non-use between 1991 and 2022

Schütz, Leonie (2023) Explaining US nuclear non-use between 1991 and 2022.

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Abstract:Nuclear weapons have not been used for eight decades. This continued abstinence is puzzling researchers and fosters several explanation of the phenomenon. The most prominent and best researched explanations are nuclear deterrence and the nuclear taboo. Another explanatory approach, lying in between the constructivist, normative explanation of the taboo and the realist deterrence explanation, is the tradition of non-use. This Master-thesis investigates in how far the nuclear taboo, well researched until 1991, still holds to explain US nuclear non-use between 1991 and 2022. Therefore, the thesis tests the deterrence explanation and the tradition of non-use explanation against the taboo. To do so, the process of the development of the USA’s public- and scholarly opinion as well as the stance of the political elite on nuclear issues is traced back through official US documents regarding nuclear strategy, congressional hearings as well as public opinion research and think tank pieces. The results suggest that the nuclear taboo is still present across the different levels analyzed, however it is not the sole explanatory factor of non-use. All data analyzed entails a strong deterrence discourse, and hints towards a tradition of non-use can be found as well.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:89 political science
Programme:European Studies MSc (69303)
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