Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Nuclear operations, Nuclear proliferation, Nuclear strategy, Nuclear weapons
Social and Behavioral Sciences
What factors explain the origins of command and control systems in emerging nuclear powers? Why do some states implement robust administrative, physical, and technical controls over their nuclear arsenals, while others limit safeguards against nuclear use?
The nature of a state’s nuclear command and control systems underpin the deterrent capacity of a state’s nuclear arsenal, determine the likelihood of accidental or unauthorized nuclear use, and affect the likelihood of conventional conflict escalating across the nuclear threshold. Despite the importance of command and control systems for nuclear stability and security, however, detailed analysis on the sources of nuclear command and control remain scarce outside the context of the Cold War superpowers. Current explanations of command and control in regional nuclear powers are largely built upon lessons from the U.S. nuclear experience, but these explanations prove unpersuasive under empirical scrutiny.
In this dissertation, I analyze the origins of command and control systems in regional nuclear powers. My dissertation makes three broad contributions to the study of nuclear strategy and operations. First, I develop a typology of nuclear command and control systems that measures the administrative, physical, and technical controls that a state deploys over its nuclear arsenal. With these indicators, I identify three ideal types of command and control that categorize command and control frameworks by when political leaders delegate the capability to use nuclear weapons to lower-level commanders: delegative control systems that delegate nuclear use capability during peacetime, conditional control systems that delegate nuclear use capability early in crises, and assertive control systems that delegate nuclear use capability late in crises.
Second, I provide a theoretical framework that incorporates three variables to explain variation in command and control arrangements across regional nuclear powers: the presence of a conventionally superior adversary, the severity of domestic threats to the political regime, and the level of military organizational autonomy. This framework generates specific predictions for command and control outcomes in regional nuclear powers and identifies the conditions under which each variable influences command and control systems.
Third, I evaluate my argument and a series of alternative explanations with a combination of historical and primary source material. Specifically, I draw upon archival and original interview data with political and military elites from India, Pakistan, and apartheid-South Africa to describe and explain nuclear command and control arrangements in these states. By employing extensive primary source evidence to evaluate the competing perspectives, my dissertation offers the descriptive accuracy and theoretical leverage necessary to explain command and control arrangements in regional nuclear powers.
Arceneaux, Giles David, "Beyond the Rubicon: Command and Control in Regional Nuclear Powers" (2019). Dissertations - ALL. 1080.