Revisiting Hiroshima in Iran: What Americans Really Think about Using Nuclear Weapons and Killing Noncombatants
Scott Sagan & Benjamin Valentino
International Security, Summer 2017, Pages 41-79
Numerous polls demonstrate that U.S. public approval of President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has declined significantly since 1945. Many scholars and political figures argue that this decline constitutes compelling evidence of the emergence of a "nuclear taboo" or that the principle of noncombatant immunity has become a deeply held norm. An original survey experiment, recreating the situation that the United States faced in 1945 using a hypothetical U.S. war with Iran today, provides little support for the nuclear taboo thesis. In addition, it suggests that the U.S. public's support for the principle of noncombatant immunity is shallow and easily overcome by the pressures of war. When considering the use of nuclear weapons, the majority of Americans prioritize protecting U.S. troops and achieving American war aims, even when doing so would result in the deliberate killing of millions of foreign noncombatants. A number of individual-level traits - Republican Party identification, older age, and approval of the death penalty for convicted murderers - significantly increase support for using nuclear weapons against Iran. Women are no less willing (and, in some scenarios, more willing) than men to support nuclear weapons use. These findings highlight the limited extent to which the U.S. public has accepted the principles of just war doctrine and suggest that public opinion is unlikely to be a serious constraint on any president contemplating the use of nuclear weapons in the crucible of war.
The effect of media attention on terrorism
Journal of Public Economics, September 2017, Pages 32-48
This paper tests for a causal connection between media attention devoted to terrorism and subsequent attacks. Analyzing 61,132 attack days in 201 countries produces evidence that increased New York Times coverage encourages further attacks in the same country. Using natural disasters in the United States as an exogenous variation diminishing media attention, the link appears causal. One additional article is suggested to produce 1.4 attacks over the following week, equivalent to three casualties on average. This result is robust to numerous alternative estimations and it appears unlikely that attacks are simply postponed. If terrorists do not receive media attention, they will attack less.
The MAD Who Wasn't There: Soviet Reactions to the Late Cold War Nuclear Balance
Brendan Green & Austin Long
Security Studies, Fall 2017, Pages 606-641
What do nuclear weapons mean for the stability of the military balance? Mutually assured destruction (MAD) describes a stalemated balance of power where nuclear adversaries possess survivable retaliatory capabilities that ensure neither side can escape devastation in an all-out nuclear war. Moreover, the strong form of this empirical claim, which one might term "deep MAD," is that mutual vulnerability is an inalterable and unchangeable condition. Drawing from recently declassified primary sources, we test several of deep MAD's premises and predictions on one of its foundational cases: Soviet nuclear policy during the second half of the Cold War. We find that Soviet leaders remained seriously concerned about the nuclear balance even in an allegedly deep-MAD environment where warheads numbered in the tens of thousands. Indeed, Soviet leaders were uncertain that they could indefinitely maintain a secure second strike despite strenuous efforts. The reason for these discrepancies, we argue, is that the nuclear balance is actually more malleable than commonly admitted. The possibility that MAD might one day be escaped meant that US attempts to manipulate the nuclear balance during the latter part of the Cold War could carry political weight, even while MAD was still possible.
Causes of the US Hostage Crisis in Iran: The Untold Account of the Communist Threat
Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar
Security Studies, Fall 2017, Pages 665-697
This article provides a revisionist account of the occupation of the US embassy in Tehran in November 1979, one of the most conspicuous manifestations of anti-Americanism in recent history. Drawing solely upon primary documents, largely from various Iranian communists and Islamists, it questions the conventional wisdom that the Islamists' takeover of the embassy was a grassroots reaction to American policies, particularly after President Carter admitted the ailing Shah. It also challenges the argument that the radical students stormed the embassy primarily to bring down the nationalist provisional government. Instead, I introduce a critical overlooked factor and argue that the Hostage Crisis can be better explained as a preemptive act by the Islamists to outbid the leftists' anti-American activities. I demonstrate that the United States and the Islamists were seeking to maintain normal relations during and even after the 1979 revolution. However, various communist organizations that surfaced after the revolution posed an existential threat to the new Islamist-nationalist government, quickly dominating universities, labor unions, and intellectual circles throughout the country and accusing the Islamists and their nationalist allies of collaborating with the United States. In this climate, the Islamists strategically adopted the Left's anti-imperialist language and eventually occupied the US embassy to establish their anti-American credibility.
The "Hearts and Minds" Fallacy: Violence, Coercion, and Success in Counterinsurgency Warfare
International Security, Summer 2017, Pages 80-113
Debates over how governments can defeat insurgencies ebb and flow with international events, becoming particularly contentious when the United States encounters problems in its efforts to support a counterinsurgent government. Often the United States confronts these problems as a zero-sum game in which the government and the insurgents compete for popular support and cooperation. The U.S. prescription for success has had two main elements: to support liberalizing, democratizing reforms to reduce popular grievances; and to pursue a military strategy that carefully targets insurgents while avoiding harming civilians. An analysis of contemporaneous documents and interviews with participants in three cases held up as models of the governance approach - Malaya, Dhofar, and El Salvador - shows that counterinsurgency success is the result of a violent process of state building in which elites contest for power, popular interests matter little, and the government benefits from uses of force against civilians.
Why U.S. Efforts to Promote the Rule of Law in Afghanistan Failed
International Security, Summer 2017, Pages 114-151
Promoting the rule of law in Afghanistan has been a major U.S. foreign policy objective since the collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001. Policymakers invested heavily in building a modern democratic state bound by the rule of law as a means to consolidate a liberal post-conflict order. Eventually, justice-sector support also became a cornerstone of counterinsurgency efforts against the reconstituted Taliban. Yet a systematic analysis of the major U.S.-backed initiatives from 2004 to 2014 finds that assistance was consistently based on dubious assumptions and questionable strategic choices. These programs failed to advance the rule of law even as spending increased dramatically during President Barack Obama's administration. Aid helped enable rent seeking and a culture of impunity among Afghan state officials. Despite widespread claims to the contrary, rule-of-law initiatives did not bolster counterinsurgency efforts. The U.S. experience in Afghanistan highlights that effective rule-of-law aid cannot be merely technocratic. To have a reasonable prospect of success, rule-of-law promotion efforts must engage with the local foundations of legitimate legal order, which are often rooted in nonstate authority, and enjoy the support of credible domestic partners, including high-level state officials.
When human capital threatens the Capitol: Foreign aid in the form of military training and coups
Jesse Dillon Savage & Jonathan Caverley
Journal of Peace Research, July 2017, Pages 542-557
How does aid in the form of training influence foreign militaries' relationship to domestic politics? The United States has trained tens of thousands of officers in foreign militaries with the goals of increasing its security and instilling respect for human rights, democracy, and civilian control. We argue that training increases the military's power relative to the regime in a way that other forms of military assistance do not. While other forms of military assistance are somewhat fungible, allowing the regime to shift resources towards coup-proofing, human capital is a resource vested solely in the military. Training thus alters the balance of power between the military and the regime resulting in greater coup propensity. Using data from 189 countries from 1970 to 2009 we show that greater numbers of military officers trained by the US International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Countering Terrorism Fellowship (CTFP) programs increases the probability of a military coup.
What You Ask Is What You Get: Citizens' Support for Military Action, But Not Diplomacy, Depends on Question Framing
Bernhard Leidner & Jeremy Ginges
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, forthcoming
Drawing on past research on judgment and decision making, as well as preference reversal, we investigated the impact of question framing on support for military versus diplomatic conflict resolution strategies. In three studies with two heterogeneous samples from the United States and one representative sample from Israel, preferences for military action were substantially stronger when asked in isolation (i.e., "yes/no" [support/reject]) rather than in conjunction with the alternative of diplomacy (i.e., "either-or" [military or diplomacy]), sometimes even causing a complete reversal from majority support for military action to majority support for diplomacy. These findings point to problems in public opinion polls and scientific research on military support (usually presenting no alternatives), and address issues important for psychology, political science, sociology, and survey methodology. In a real world context, our findings have important implications for governmental decisions on conflict resolution strategies and the implementation of policies based on public opinion.
Dangerous Days: The Impact of Nationalism on Interstate Conflict
Security Studies, Fall 2017, Pages 698-728
Does an upsurge in nationalism make interstate conflict more likely? This article gives evidence to suggest that spikes in nationalism do have a direct impact on the likelihood of disputes between states. In it, I use national days or anniversaries as occasions that increase the salience of a national identity and its historical wars. I show that in the two months following national days, conflict is markedly higher than would be expected - almost 30 percent more likely than the rest of the year-and particularly likely for states who initiate conflict or who have revisionist intentions. I demonstrate further how nationalist sentiment can increase international tensions with a case study of national anniversaries in China and Japan. Together, this evidence suggests that the increase in nationalism around national days provides both risks and opportunities to regimes and shapes when they choose conflict over cooperation in international relations.
Bad News: The Changing Coverage of National Leaders in Foreign Media of Western Democracies
Mass Communication and Society, forthcoming
This is a study on international news flow based on a computerized analysis of foreign news coverage of national leaders in seven liberal democracies (Canada, Germany, France, Israel, Italy, the U.K., and the U.S.), encompassing a period of 30 years (N = 266,177). The results attest to a longitudinal trend in the coverage of foreign leaders in the political media of three countries - Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.: the tone is becoming increasingly negative. Two main factors account for these variations. The first is the level of political personalization in foreign coverage: Greater focus on foreign leaders is positively associated with increasing negativity toward these leaders. The second factor relates to proximity between countries: Negativity was found to be inversely and significantly associated with value and geographic proximity and to be inversely associated, with marginal significance, with political and economic proximity.
Division at the Water's Edge: The Polarization of Foreign Policy
Gyung-Ho Jeong & Paul Quirk
American Politics Research, forthcoming
Severe party conflict, not a high-minded suspension of politics, now prevails "at the water's edge." Democrats and Republicans fight pitched battles over foreign affairs. But are the two parties polarized in their substantive preferences on foreign policy, or mainly jockeying for partisan advantage? Are they polarized on foreign policy less sharply than on domestic policy? What are the sources of party polarization over foreign policy? Using a new measure of senatorial foreign-policy preferences from 1945-2010, we explore party polarization over foreign policy. We find that foreign-policy preferences have had varying relationships with party politics and general ideology. Since the 1960s, however, the parties have become increasingly polarized on foreign policy. Using a multilevel analysis, we show that foreign-policy polarization has developed in response to partisan electoral rivalry, foreign-policy events, and general ideological polarization. The analysis indicates an increasing influence of domestic politics on foreign policy.
Removing the Mask of Sanity: McCarthyism and the Psychiatric-Confessional Foundations of the Cold War National Security State
Journal of American Studies, forthcoming
In the early Cold War, the US government institutionalized a national security program, centered on the investigation into the political beliefs of federal employees, to safeguard the nation from Communist subversion. Often interpreted as the result of a partisan battle between New Deal Democrats and conservative Republicans, the national security program had deeper origins, reflecting the influence of psychiatric discourse on public understandings of deviancy. Framed by a metonymical logic that linked radical political beliefs, deviant sexual behaviors, and other illicit behaviors under the category of psychopathology, the security program sought to guard against the threat posed by potentially dangerous individuals, a form of protection that necessitated the public disclosure by those deemed security risks of all aspects of their personal lives.
Humiliation and Third-Party Aggression
World Politics, July 2017, Pages 532-568
There is a growing consensus that status concerns drive state behavior. Although recent attention has been paid to when states are most likely to act on behalf of status concerns, very little is known about which actions states are most likely to engage in when their status is threatened. This article focuses on the effect of publicly humiliating international events as sources of status threat. Such events call into question a state's image in the eyes of others, thereby increasing the likelihood that the state will engage in reassertions of its status. The article presents a theory of status reassertion that outlines which states will be most likely to respond, as well as when and how they will be most likely to do so. The author argues that because high-status states have the most to lose from repeated humiliation, they will be relatively risk averse when reasserting their status. In contrast to prior work arguing that humiliation drives a need for revenge, the author demonstrates that great powers only rarely engage in direct revenge. Rather, they pursue the less risky option of projecting power abroad against weaker states to convey their intentions of remaining a great power. The validity of this theory is tested using an expanded and recoded data set of territorial change from 1816 to 2000. Great powers that have experienced a humiliating, involuntary territorial loss are more likely to attempt aggressive territorial gains in the future and, in particular, against third-party states.