Since the end of the Cold War, international ethicists have focused largely on
issues outside the traditional scope of security studies, such as human rights,
humanitarian intervention, refugees, and economic globalization. Consequently,
the "nuclear ethics" literature that emerged during the Cold War has
not developed further while the strategic and policy literatures on post-Cold
War nuclear proliferation have proceeded apace. The nuclear ethics literature
thus needs to be revived and reoriented to systematically address the new and
evolving 21st century nuclear threats and policy responses.
In this paper, I propose a nuclear ethics research agenda for the opening decades of the twenty-first century. I begin by situating this agenda against the main themes of the Cold War nuclear ethical literature. I then propose an initial research agenda for three areas: the possible decay of the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) regime, the threat that nuclear weapons pose to democratic institutions, and the relationship between ethics and the domestic political dimensions of nuclearization. My aim is not to present definitive positions, but to initiate debate with the hope of advancing our ethical understanding of these complex issues.
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