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Nuclear Proliferation in the Twenty-First Century: Realism, Rationality, or Uncertainty?

Whether the spread of nuclear weapons in the twenty-first century should be feared or welcomed has been the subject of considerable debate. Much of this debate presumes the explanatory and predictive power of realist international system theories (realism) and rational deterrence theory (rational deterrence). Although these bodies of thought offer some important insights about the likelihood and consequences of nuclear weapons spread, they omit important aspects of the problem both theoretically and empirically. Unlike during the Cold War, a multipolar world of regional nuclear rivalries may create an unmanageable stress test for hypotheses built on realism or rational deterrence.

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