Nuclear Taboo And War Initiation in Regional Conflicts

T. V. Paul
  • Journal of Conflict Resolution, December 1995, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/0022002795039004005

Nuclear Taboo And War Initiation in Regional Conflicts

Why is it important?

This article addresses the role of nuclear taboo or the tradition of nonuse of nuclear weapons in limited wars involving a nuclear- and a nonnuclear-weapon state and the importance of this prohibitionary norm to deterrence theory. It explores nonnuclear states' strategic calculations before launching wars against nuclear-armed states. It discusses the historical, moral, normative, and rational bases of the taboo and explains why nuclear states have refrained from using their capability vis-à-vis nonnuclear challengers. Two cases of nonnuclear states initiating wars—the 1973 Egyptian offensive against Israel and the 1982 Argentine invasion of the British Falkland Islands—and the calculations of these states' decision makers on their adversaries' nuclear capability are addressed. The article concludes by discussing the implications of nuclear taboo for deterrence theory and regional conflicts, the conditions under which it could be broken, and the likely consequences of its infraction.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0022002795039004005

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