The Nuclear Waltz: Rational Actors, Deterrence and Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Australian Journal of Political Science

Author/s (editor/s):

William T. Tow

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Published in Australian Journal of Political Science, 49(3) 2014: 541-546.

Kenneth Waltz argued that more nuclear weapons may be better for securing international order. This argument stands apart from the majority view that nuclear non-proliferation plays an integral role in international stability. Waltz asserted that all states are inherent rational actors that are deterred from conflict escalation by other states that acquire nuclear weapons capabilities. Scholars have criticised Waltz for an inconsistent application of rational choice theory at different levels of analysis, evident disregard of the moral implications of nuclear proliferation, and neglect of politico-cultural differences that may mean that ‘states of concern’ are not deterred from using their nuclear weapons in various circumstances. Notwithstanding these criticisms, Waltz’s views remain a formidable component of the ongoing nuclear weapons debate.

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