Nuclear Proliferation and the Psychology of Political Leadership: Beliefs, Motivations and Perceptions, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Nuclear Proliferation and the Psychology of Political Leadership

Beliefs, Motivations and Perceptions, 1st Edition

By Kelly P O'Reilly


236 pages

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This book offers a novel approach to understanding the puzzle of nuclear proliferation by examining how leaders’ beliefs and perceptions about the international system influence states' decisions to acquire nuclear weapons.

Today, there is a persisting dilemma over the spread of nuclear weapons for both practitioners and scholars of international affairs. Uncertainty remains whether determined proliferators can be stopped, as shown by the cases of North Korea and Iran. These instances of proliferation raise questions about regional stability, the use of pre-emptive military action, and the potential for reactive-proliferation by neighbouring countries. Despite the serious implications surrounding the spread of these weapons, proliferation scholarship has thus far failed to solve what has been described as the "proliferation puzzle"- why do some countries choose nuclear weapons while others do not?

The author argues that understanding basic psychological motivations, such as the role of power and perceptions of self and others, forms a strategic context which provides answers about a leader’s willingness to proliferate. Proliferation willingness is a critical, yet frequently overlooked, part of the proliferation equation. Ultimately, it is the combination of willingness and proliferation opportunity (i.e. technical and scientific capabilities) that determines whether a country 'goes nuclear'. By examining several historical instances of proliferation decision-making—in South Africa, India, Libya and Australia—the book's findings highlight the fundamental role of leaders’ beliefs in shaping proliferation outcomes.

This book will be of much interest to students of nuclear proliferation, political psychology, security studies and IR in general.

Table of Contents

1. The Persisting Proliferation Dilemma 2. Analyzing Nuclear Proliferation Decisions 3. South Africa: The Apartheid Bomb 4. India: Crossing the Lakshman Rekha 5. Australia: Waltzing with Atomic Matilda 6. Libya: A Rogue Redeemed? 7. Conclusions: Perceptions on Proliferation

About the Author

K.P. O’Reilly is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Global Studies at Carroll University.

About the Series

Routledge Global Security Studies

Global Security Studies is a series for cutting-edge monographs and books on international security. It emphasizes cutting-edge scholarship on the forces reshaping global security and the dilemmas facing decision-makers the world over. The series stresses security issues relevant in many countries and regions, accessible to broad professional and academic audiences as well as to students, and enduring through explicit theoretical foundations.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / Arms Control
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security