Nuclear weapons hold out the promise of peace through the prospect of devastation. That is a dangerous bargain. The number of wars that have occurred when only one side has nuclear weapons suggest that it is also a fragile one. Regardless of whether one views nuclear weapons as a benefit or danger to humanity, they are not likely to disappear anytime soon. Like many other students of nuclear politics, then, I believe that it is important to grapple with the nature and the limits of the nuclear shadow. This book represents one contribution to that effort.
It is common in acknowledgments to note that many individuals had a profound influence on the final product. I never fully appreciated just how true that was until I went through the process myself. This book is very different today from when it began. Its strengths are due to the patience of many friends and colleagues who took time to engage with this project. Its weaknesses remain those of its author.
My biggest intellectual debt is to Michael Desch. The idea for this book took hold while I was working with him on a separate project at Notre Dame. Mike is a model for how to be a scholar, and his support has been instrumental at every stage of this book and in my career. Keir Lieber, Dan Lindley, and Sebastian Rosato shaped much of my thinking on international relations. They have each read and offered incisive comments on multiple drafts, particularly during the critical early period, and continue to provide guidance today. Frank Gavin, Todd Sechser, Nicholas Miller, James Wilson, James Cameron, and Tim McDonnell all graciously read the entire manuscript and gave up a full day to meet to discuss it. Their insightful suggestions led to significant changes that made the book much stronger. Eric Jardine, Barry Posen, Robert Reardon, Joshua Shifrinson, (p.x) Rachel Whitlark, and Zachary Zwald all read multiple chapters, in many cases multiple times, and provided detailed feedback. At Cornell University Press I thank Roger Haydon, the anonymous referee, and the series editors for their direction and careful reading of the manuscript. Their suggestions helped me clarify many key claims.
Portions of this book draw on material previously published in Paul C. Avey, “Who’s Afraid of the Bomb? The Role of Nuclear Non-use Norms in Confrontations between Nuclear and Non-nuclear Opponents,” Security Studies 24 (2015), reprinted by permission of Taylor & Francis Ltd.
I benefited greatly from the diverse intellectual environments at several institutions that provided me space to work on this book. I am grateful to each one. The research began at the University of Notre Dame and expanded with the support of the Managing the Atom and International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University. The Stanton Foundation provided generous funding to allow me to spend a year with MIT’s Security Studies Program. I thank Chris Alkhoury for his excellent guidance through the Iraqi documents then held at the Conflict Records Research Center. The John G. Tower Center for Political Studies at SMU offered me the ability to refine my thinking at a key stage of the project. I owe special thanks to Joshua Rovner for his support and willingness to discuss a wide range of issues while I was there and since. I finished the book as a faculty member in the political science department at Virginia Tech, which offers a collegial and stimulating environment spurred on by a wide range of perspectives. It is a great place to call home.
For helpful conversations, feedback, and support, I thank Megan Becker, Mark Bell, Kirstin J. H. Brathwaite, Robert Brathwaite, Stephen Brooks, Matthew Bunn, Peter Campbell, Mauro Caraccioli, Fotini Christia, Owen Coté, Rebecca Davis-Gibbons, François Debrix, Priya Dixit, Melissa Emmert, Greg Endicott, Charles Fagan, Patrick Flavin, Gene Gerzhoy, Nicholas Goedert, Kim Hedge, James Hollifield, Karen Hult, Caitlin Jewitt, Jason Kelly, Karin Kitchens, Margarita Konaev, Alexander Lanoszka, Christine Leah, Chad Levinson, Timothy Luke, Susan Lynch, Sean Lynn-Jones, Richard Maass, Martin Malin, Jonathan Markowitz, Steven Miller, Vipin Narang, Scott Nelson, David Palkki, Soul Park, Abigail Post, Bruce Pencek, Dianne Pfundstein Chamberlain, Miranda Priebe, Besnik Pula, Ray Rafidi, Matthew Reitz, Joli Divon Saraf, Ji Hye Shin, Gregory Shufeldt, Ray Thomas, Edward Weisband, and William Wohlforth. My sincere apologies to anyone I have forgotten.
Most of all, I thank my family. I dedicate this book to my parents, Kathy and Donald. Their support at each stage of my life has been unwavering. I would not have been in a position to even begin this book without them. Their biggest influence, though they may not know it, has been through their own example of humility, fairness, and hard work. I have tried to (p.xi) bring these traits to my research and how I live my life. My sister, Laura, has offered her encouragement as long as I can remember. I could not ask for a better one. Finally, I thank my wife and best friend, Megan. Her grace and good humor while we moved from Indiana to Massachusetts to Texas to Virginia made completing this book possible. She is an unfailing source of love and support to a grateful husband. (p.xii)