Princeton University Library Catalog


Craig, Sarah [Browse]
Senior thesis
Yarhi-Milo, Keren [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year:
119 pages
Summary note:
Nuclear weapons have been an international reality for almost seventy years and will continue to be part of international relations for many years to come. Examination of the factors that lead states to pursue nuclear weapons is critical for successful nuclear negotiation and for preventing further proliferation. Prestige is a recognized component of nuclear decision-making, but there is little analysis of when prestige becomes a leading cause of proliferation. This thesis contributes to prestige nuclear theory through in-depth case study analysis, the comparative testing of three theories of proliferation, and an examination of the conditions under which prestige becomes an important proliferation factor. Drawing mainly on public statements by national leaders and nuclear officials, I hypothesize that prestige becomes a prevalent nuclear justification when a state does not face an imminent security threat, when a state seeks to expand regional influence, and when a state attempts to frame national identity. This thesis first defines prestige and gives an overview of nuclear theory, focusing on national security, domestic politics, prestige, and individual leaders. Using France, Iran, and Pakistan as case studies, I compare the role of prestige to the national security and domestic politics explanations for nuclear weapons pursuit. I also evaluate the validity of my three prestige hypotheses using these case studies. My analysis reveals prestige to be a real and prevalent factor in nuclear decision-making, and it generally supports my three prestige hypotheses. The France and Iran case studies provide strong support for prestige theory. The Pakistan case study shows the limited relevance of prestige when a state faces a direct security threat. I conclude by comparing the outcomes of the France, Iran, and Pakistan case studies in order to explain any differences and to suggest areas for further research. I suggest that future nuclear study should examine what brings certain leaders to hold nuclear development, and nuclear prestige in particular, in such high regard. I argue that the salience of prestige in nuclear decision-making indicates the importance of maintaining a nonproliferation regime. Finally, I argue that an understanding of prestige in nuclear decision-making will help determine which nuclear negotiation strategies will be most effective.