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Reviving Nuclear Ethics: A Renewed Research Agenda for the Twenty-First Century [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 24.3 (Fall 2010)

September 28, 2010

Ethics & International Affairs

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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