Friday, November 8, 2013

More on 'the nuclear taboo'

After reading the comment (by Hank) on the preceding post, I punched "nuclear taboo + Tannenwald" into Google, and the first thing to come up was a two-page summary of a 2005 article by her. I'm not sure exactly who wrote the summary, but here's the link (pdf).

The nuclear taboo is defined as a "normative belief that the first use of nukes is an 'unthinkable' policy option" (the quote is from the link).

There are at least two questions that can be asked about this:

1) Should this belief be held -- i.e., if people hold this belief, is it a good thing that they do? -- or is it preferable to view nuclear weapons in the same general light as other weapons, subject to the same kinds of legal/moral analysis as other weapons?

2) Is this belief actually held by publics (and/or policymakers), or not?

The article whose abstract I linked in the previous post is concerned, or so I gather, with question #2. Hank's comment raised issues pertaining to question #1. It's worth keeping in mind that these are different questions -- they may both be worth asking, but they are different.

P.s. (added later): Hank's comment was not out of place, inasmuch as the last line of the preceding post suggested that I think the answer to #1 is: yes, the nuclear taboo is a belief that should be held (whether it is actually held or not).