Away from Nuclear Mythology

  • Bruce Russett
Part of the Advances in Foreign Policy Analysis book series (AFPA)


The chapter by Kenneth Waltz1 is courageous, stimulating, and utterly wrongheaded. I sincerely admire several aspects of the chapter. It addresses the security issues that are central to the political decisions states make to acquire or abstain from acquiring nuclear weapons. That is, it takes seriously security and other political motivations and thus avoids the common fallacy of imagining that nuclear acquisitions can be affected primarily by manipulating technical conditions of access to nuclear material or know-how. It is forthright about asking what happens if, or when, the nonproliferation regime substantially fails. That is, unlike much of the earlier writing on this topic, it leaves us with some hope and some direction for policy in the event of failure. Finally, it is courageous in taking an unpopular position. It argues forthrightly, developing a line of reasoning that, until recently at least, has risked ostracism for its proponent.2 Waltz’s readiness to dare opprobrium by challenging conventional wisdom deserves respect at the same time that it deserves vigorous rebuttal. I want to move to that rebuttal, but in the context of a real appreciation for what the author has done and risked.


Expected Utility Nuclear Weapon Global Community Downside Risk Probable Gain 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 4.
    Wayne Ferris, The Power Capabilities of Nation-States (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1973).Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    McGeorge Bundy, “To Cap the Volcano,” Foreign Affairs 48 (October 1969), 10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 18.
    Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth (New York: Knopf, 1982).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Bruce Russett 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce Russett

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations