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In Disarmament Campaigns, the Messenger Matters

In Disarmament Campaigns, the Messenger Matters

Context:

Resonating with security elites, obtaining goals and spurring debate—if only all nuclear disarmament initiatives were effective on these levels…but they aren’t. Peace Science provides insight-through disarmament campaigns from former  U.S. Statesmen like Shultz, into how the perceived legitimacy, power, and language of certain people can influence our thinking and impact policy concerning nuclear disarmament efforts.

In the News:

“Nuclear weapons are a threat to the world. Any large-scale nuclear exchange would have globally catastrophic consequences. Conscious of this reality, President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, the leader of the Soviet Union, worked in the 1980s to reduce the number of nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal of getting rid of them. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987, was a major step toward this goal, eliminating a large class of nuclear weapons that were viewed as particularly destabilizing. The treaty is still in force, although both the Obama and Trump administrations have said that Russia is in violation. Whatever the case, we need to preserve the agreement rather than abandon it, as President Trump has threatened to do.”

“Determined leaders like Mr. Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev could see the need to limit the threat of nuclear weapons, and they acted on it. In their first meeting, they agreed that a nuclear war could never be won and must never be fought. Today, we need leaders who understand the destructive power of nuclear weapons and are willing to work against them. On Oct. 19, 2017, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said: “’f you ask me whether nuclear disarmament is possible or not, I would say, yes, it is possible. Does Russia want universal nuclear disarmament or not? The answer is also yes — yes, Russia wants that and will work for it.’ The United States’ Nuclear Posture Review, published in February, includes this statement: ‘The United States remains committed to its efforts in support of the ultimate global elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. It has reduced the nuclear stockpile by over 85 percent since the height of the Cold War and deployed no new nuclear capabilities for over two decades.’ Recent rhetoric has undermined the meaning of these statements, but they are part of the record, and the United States and Russia should strive to live up to them.”

Insight from Peace Science:

In the below research, the authors apply philosopher Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory to gain insight into how the perceived legitimacy, power, and language of certain people can influence our thinking and impact policy concerning nuclear disarmament efforts. The authors analyze the nuclear disarmament initiative by former United States statesmen, Shultz, Perry, Kissinger, and Nunn. From 2007 to 2011, the statesmen worked together to advocate for nuclear disarmament through interviews, high-profile speeches, an op-ed series in the Wall Street Journal, and other media sources. By analyzing text from the statesmen’s initiative, the authors study how and why their campaign stood apart from nuclear nonproliferation initiatives by other prominent public officials.

  • When considered competent, respectable, and honorable, nuclear abolition advocates trigger increased attention and debate on disarmament issues.
  • When considered competent, respectable, and honorable, nuclear abolition advocates are able to gather more peer support for their campaign.
  • When considered competent, respectable, and honorable, nuclear abolition advocates can impact policy from the outside of political offices.
  • Nuclear abolition campaigns are more successful and reach larger audiences when campaign leaders are perceived as legitimate authorities on the issues they are campaigning for.

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