Priorities and constraints : presidential decision making and nuclear nonproliferation policy in the first decade of the NPT
MetadataShow full item record
The signing and ratification of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) had the potential to be an inflection point in presidential decision making regarding nonproliferation policy. The norm-creating treaty was a new tool for presidents to use to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and reduce the possibility that states would someday participate in a nuclear war. However, the NPT had only a limited impact on presidential nonproliferation policy in the years after the implementation of the treaty, and it failed to lead to a standard response to proliferation challenges. While most attempts to understand U.S. nuclear policy after the enactment of the NPT center on arms control, this dissertation explores why and how presidents developed nonproliferation policy in the decade after the signing and ratification of the NPT. It is an historical analysis of how and why presidents made decisions to either prioritize or deprioritize nonproliferation policy as compared to pursuing other objectives. Presidential preferences for nonproliferation varied greatly depending on their personal commitments to nonproliferation as well as their calculations of threats that stemmed from proliferation. Other actors like Congress, the public, the nuclear industry, the Soviet Union, and allies placed restraints on the president’s ability to enact his preferences. Although Congress generally gives the president a large amount of leverage in determining the direction of foreign policy, it proved to be a particularly strong domestic check on presidential preferences for nuclear policy. Geopolitical objectives, especially Cold War goals, overwhelmed presidential preference for nonproliferation policy. When nonproliferation goals aligned with Cold War objectives, presidents directed resources towards achieving those goals; however, if pursuing a nonproliferation policy would reduce American power or its ability to compete with the Soviet Union, presidents repeatedly deprioritized nonproliferation goals in favor of Cold War objectives.