Living with the Bomb: The Public and Nuclear Weapons
Policy Briefs

Living with the Bomb: The Public and Nuclear Weapons

APLN Policy Brief 13

The following is a summary. Click on the adjacent link to download the full brief.

Mass public action against nuclear weapons may have helped initiate some nuclear arms control negotiations, but has had disappointing impact on limiting growth in nuclear arsenals or on dissuading states from acquiring nuclear weapons. Public activism may also have contributed to the tradition of non-use of nuclear weapons since 1945, but other factors are likely to have been more significant, particularly policymakers’ understanding of the potentially catastrophic consequences of such use. The limited mainstream public support for nuclear disarmament was understandable during the Cold War but this situation continues, with nuclear disarmament essentially moribund as a mass public movement. Public action should be a forceful voice in nuclear weapons policy making, compelling governments in the nuclear‐armed states to justify convincingly their nuclear weapons decisions both in security/defence terms and as an effective use of public money. If this is to happen, far greater numbers of the general public will need to become engaged on nuclear weapons issues. Without nuclear weapons becoming a mainstream issue prospects for achieving a nuclear-weapon-free world are dim. The expertise of political campaign strategists, social psychologists and media experts, who understand how beliefs form, how hardened beliefs change, and how civic engagement on key issues is fostered, should be used to help identify and deliver nuclear weapons messages that have a better chance of mobilizing mass opinion.

About the Author

Tanya Ogilvie-White is Research Director at the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. Previously, she was Senior Analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, and Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.

John Page is a research officer at the Centre for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament. He is a former officer of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and served on the Secretariats of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons and the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.


Image: Pixabay stock, code404.

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