Achieving Disarmament: Strengths and Weaknesses of International NGOs

The author stresses the importance of NGOs working collectively to reduce risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation, and highlights how one program, the Strategic Concept for the Removal of Arms and Proliferation (SCRAP), can effectively create the needed synergy between all such NGO’s, while complimenting other existing campaigns to end the risks associated with nuclear weapons proliferation.

By Akhshid Javid,6th December, 2015

The Rise of the Global Movement for Disarmament 

Since 1945, nuclear disarmament has been a concern for many organizations around the world.  Moreover, there have been strong waves of public support for disbandment of nuclear weapons across the globe over the last 50 years.

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On Taiwan: An Option between Total War and Withdrawal for the U.S.

For more than a half century, the United States has been able to help deter the use of force by China and Taiwan.  Yet the new dynamic in the area surrounding Taiwan has increased the likelihood of use of force. How the United States responds will have enormous implications for both the Chinese, and the allies of the U.S. in the South and East China sea. To avoid the catastrophic impact of total war and the implications of abandoning an ally, the author examines one option between the two that the U.S. can adopt.

By Noriya Nakazawa,7th November, 2015

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Pyongyang’s Quandary

The provocative rhetoric coming from North Korea could hide a faint sense of desperation.

By Gulshan Roy, 3rd April, 2013

On Saturday 30th March, a statement released by the highest North Korean command warned that it was entering “a state of war” with its feuding southern neighbour. As Koreans on both sides watched the unfolding drama being broadcast on every major international television news channel, Mr Kim Jong-un managed to conjure an even more spectacular artifice by releasing photographs of him discussing with his senior commanders under the backdrop of a ‘Plan to Hit the U.S Mainland’ written in bold. News channels are not often presented with opportunities for such great TV. Yet, Mr Kim’s moment of teeth-showing turned into bathos once it reached its intended audience: instead of injecting any sense of panic on the other side of the Pacific, the images received in Washington were swiftly turned into material fit for some banter over bourbon.

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Iran: The Waiting Game

As talks have resumed over Iran’s nuclear program in Almaty, the failure of the sanctions regime raises serious questions about mainstream diplomatic commonplaces. Far from being the favour it is portrayed to be, the rapprochement effort towards Tehran from the P5+1 is borne out of necessity.

By Gulshan Roy, 8th March 2013

“Iran won’t retreat one iota from its nuclear program” was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s declaration on Iranian national television on the 9th of November 2011. The Iranian President is used to defiant flourishes as evidenced by his repeated promises to ‘finish off’ Israel. To his credit, however, his resolve not to sink in the face of gradually increasing pressure from the West has been steadfast. His country is weathering a deadly sanctions regime that has all but crippled the Iranian economy. Last week, the two sides met in Almaty, Kazakhstan in a desperate attempt to salvage the worsening situation. And as a beaming Mr Ali Baqeri (Iran’s deputy chief negotiator) left the fruitless round of negotiations with the P5+1 (the five permanent Security Council members and Germany), sanction-fanatics in the West were uncomfortably loosening their ties and scratching their moist foreheads. They ought to.

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Resolving Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the west

By Alireza Ahmadian, 7th August, 2012

The two days of talks in Moscow between the representative of P5+1 (US, UK, China, France, Russia and Germany) led by Catherine Ashton, the European Union High Representative and Dr. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, ended with no major breakthrough and the possibility of further negotiations in Istanbul in July. “It remains clear that there are significant gaps between the substance of the two positions,” commented Ashton.

Concerned about uranium enrichment in Iran and the possibility of weaponization of its nuclear programme, the United Nations Security Council has imposed four sets of sanctions, resolutions 1737, 1747, 1803 and 1929 on Iran asking the country to “suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” Moreover, The US House of Representative passed a resolution on May 11, 2012  asking for “the full and sustained suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities.” Jalili, on the other hand, has repeatedly stated  that “enrichment of uranium for peaceful purposes in all levels is an inalienable right.”

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Iran Should Not Allow the Talks to Be a “Success” If …

In this post, Shirin Shafaie offers a policy recommendation paper for Iran ahead of the Moscow talks between the P5+1 and Iran.

By Shirin Shafaie

Iran should not allow the Moscow talks (18 June, 2012) to be announced, declared or referred to as “successful”, “positive”, “constructive” or even “promising” by the other party or the Western media in the absence of absolutely concrete and tangible concessions from the West in terms of sanctions relief and normalisation of Iran’s nuclear file in the IAEA. I explain why.

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Addressing the Asymmetry in Negotiations between Iran and P5+1: a critical review of Oxford Research Group’s briefing

In this article, the author presents a critical review of the briefing, “Iran´s Nuclear Impasse: Breaking the Deadlock”, published by the Oxford Research Group on 1 May 2012. As negotiations over Iran´s nuclear programme stall, the author criticises the lack of neutrality of the briefing by the Oxford-based think tank, and calls for a review of the same in order to avoid some of the mistakes of the past, when pro-war think tanks played a key role in manufacturing consent for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

By Mehrnaz Shahabi, 10 July 2012

The Oxford Research Group’s briefing, Iran’s Nuclear Impasse: Breaking the Deadlock (1 May 2012) [1], published before the second round of negotiations between Iran and P5+1 (permanent Security Council and Germany) in Baghdad on 23 May, whilst proposing some positive principles for a successful outcome of the negotiations – such as Iran’s right to enrichment, “reciprocity”, “defining endgame”, and “taking regime change off the table” – suffers serious drawbacks, which have become even more glaringly clear with the result of the recent Moscow negotiations.

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Disarmament is more practical than we are conditioned to think

In this article, the authors build on a recent piece appeared on Open Democracy titled ‘Restarting Disarmament’. Disarmament, the authors claim, is more practical than we are often conditioned to believe.

By Dan Plesch and David Franco, 14th May, 2012

In a recent article on the progress of the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament talks now under way in Vienna, Rebecca Johnson notes that the newly formed coalition of pro-humanitarian states has the potential to become a game changer. Of all that has happened thus far in Vienna the most exciting news is the statement ↑ by a coalition of 16 non nuclear weapons states, including Switzerland and Norway – an ally of the nuclear weapons states, that nuclear weapons and programmes have catastrophic humanitarian consequences and that they should be abolished.

This initiative is the first involving western states to apply to nuclear weapons the thinking that has moved humanitarian disarmament on land mines, cluster munitions and the arms trade. President Obama’s ↑ cry for nuclear disarmament in Prague in 2009 may have had more effect than skeptics and critics believe. But more needs to be done as disarmament has long suffered from some kind of lethargic paralysis. Paraphrasing Richard Moyes and Thomas Nash, if disarmament were like an old PC it would need to be restarted. Indeed, restarting disarmament is a must, and not only at the nuclear level. The consequences would be immense, including a boost to democratic development as highlighted by Andrew Lichterman ↑ .

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Non-Proliferation: Are we heading in the right direction?

In this article, the author reports from the first session of the Non-Proliferation Treaty Preparatory Committee conference being held in Vienna, Austria. The international community, including Iran and the US, have gathered at the IAEA headquarters to discuss next steps while non-participants Israel, India and Pakistan follow the progress of the conference from the comforts of distance.

By David J. Franco, 2nd May, 2012

Ignored by the mainstream media, the world’s nuclear weapons and energy problems are being tackled by the international community gathered in Vienna. Attended by a gallant but tiny band of NGOs the meeting witnesses states from Iran to the US engaged in the debate, while the non-participants Israel, Pakistan and India cast a shadow over the proceedings.

On Monday, Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, of the Philippines, declared open the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference. Ambassador Cabactulan led a successful process that culminated in the 2010 NPT Action Plan agreed with the consensus of all states parties to the NPT. After his opening statement, in which he emphasized the need to build upon pass success, Ambassador Cabactulan declared elected Ambassador Peter Woolcott, of Australia, as the Chair-designate for the first session of the 2015 NPT review conference cycle.

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Time to reframe the debate on the Iranian nuclear programme

In this article, Paul Ingram* argues it is time to reframe debates on the Iranian nuclear programme. If we want to solve the current impasse, we need to move from a pervasive rhetoric based on security threats and mutual accusations to a cooperative framework more apt for negotiations. 

By Paul Ingram, 25th April, 2012

All too often the story around the Iranian nuclear issue is framed as our effort to contain the wild ambitions of a delinquent revolutionary state that with nuclear weapons given half a chance will threaten the stability of the world. This frame sticks for two key reasons: firstly because it plays into some of our greatest fears, and second, because there is enough of a hint of truth to it that people forget the qualifications, the underlying causes and the contrary evidence. In short, we fail in the face of complexity to understand the challenge, and the role of both sides in creating it. And in fact, many of the accusations made against Iran are mirrored in Tehran in things said about the West.

Western intelligence agencies continue to confirm that there is no strong evidence to back up the claim that Iran is engaged in a technical sprint to fulfil an ‘ambition to attain nukes’. Postulating reasons why Iran might want such capabilities is all very well, but such approaches are fraught with analytical and cultural traps. There are equally persuasive explanations for Iran’s programme that it would be equally dangerous to depend upon, such as the idea that Iran is caught up in an effort to demonstrate its modernity through the development of cutting-edge technologies, or that it is pursuing an energy-mix that both brings in foreign exchange and provides for an ever-increasing energy-hungry economy. The truth probably includes a balance of many explanations, including the fact that its technology development gives the administration a future option for nuclear deployment that may be seen as valuable in itself.

The talks in Istanbul last weekend between the E3+3 and Iran were best summed up by Guardian journalist Julian Borger as a play for a score draw, at least for now. Emerging without recriminations was in itself an achievement. But of course the challenge is how we get beyond this to reaching more substantive agreement in Baghdad on 23 May, when there have been so many factors in the way. Over the coming months, Iran faces some pretty severe additional sanctions, on top of crippling ones recently imposed. When previously people may have accused them of playing for time this is no longer be the case. In fact if anything it was Catherine Ashton, lacking a mandate, who last Saturday was playing for time when Jalili was looking for a deal that would soften impending sanctions. The best way of securing stocks of material in Iran is by negotiating access, not by threats, which only provide Iran an incentive to continue. Israeli protests over Iran’s increasing ‘immunity’ to attack ignores the fact that Iran has every right to protect themselves against illegal military threats. As Peter Jenkins, former UK Ambassador to the IAEA puts it, Iran bought itself immunity from attack by being a member of the United Nations and a signed up member of the NPT. Israeli military threats only make it more difficult for Iranian politicians and diplomats to sell any deal to their constituents.

There are plenty of frameworks out there to negotiate on that take the parties step-by-step in the direction of a technical agreements whilst the underlying trust essential to lasting improvement can be built up. Indeed, this is the only approach that holds any promise of working in negotiations. It will require parties to drop preconditions and talk with a view to understanding the other side’s perspective. Each step will need to involve net gains for both sides, as well as a clear sense of where the process is going. There will need to be maximum exploitation of common interests in other security areas – such as counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics activities. Positive signals such as those given recently by both President Obama and Ayatollah Khameini will need reflection, and negative, hostile rhetoric scaled back.

But we will also, in parallel have to tackle some of the deep-seated fears and attitudes that prevent progress. One such on the western side is a deep-seated exceptionalism around sovereignty that pervades the majority view. How much do we all share the attitude that we have a right to demand unlimited access and control over others’ nuclear programmes whenever we have our own suspicions? We have every reason to develop international systems based upon agreement and universal application, but we cannot force others into agreements, and certainly not those we are not willing to submit ourselves to. As a nuclear weapon state Britain is unwilling to seriously consider abandoning the highly expensive practice of keeping a nuclear submarine at sea at all times, or to share such a practice with France, for example, because we have such a powerful attachment to the concept of British sovereignty based upon the ability to threaten massive retaliation against any other state on the planet. This is bound to drive proliferation, sooner or later. Regionally, the inconsistent focus on Iran without any clear plan to address Israeli possession of a nuclear arsenal cannot be justified by a legalistic appeal to Israel’s non-membership of the NPT. As non-signatories the Israelis may not be directly breaking the law, but if we are to claim that the health of the international community depends upon a strong ethic of non-proliferation, then Israel cannot remain an out-law.

We cannot continue to have partial approaches to dangerous technologies. Did you know that India’s successful missile test this week broke a UN Security Council resolution, just as North Korea’s failed one last week did? Few have reported it.

On the Iranian side, it’s time they evolved the rather male pig-headed pride so ably illustrated in last year’s prize-winning film ‘the Separation’, an approach that too often characterises (though not uniquely) Iranian diplomacy and politics. Standing on one’s rights or maintaining an inflexible position can harm one’s own interests in fundamental ways, and destroy one’s position within the community, international or otherwise. International communities require trust, empathy and reassurance. They also depend upon a level of transparency and responsibility. Iranians have to recognise that for a variety of reasons they have a long way to go to build the trust of their neighbours, the sort of trust that will enable them to overcome the isolation they have suffered, isolation that threatens to deepen as the Syrian government goes down and their allies in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories start to look elsewhere for sponsorship in the context of the Arab Spring.

But the deeper choices lie in the international community’s relationship to nuclear deterrence, and how power has in the past been mediated by possession of nuclear arsenals. If we cannot break free from Cold War theologies that place such magical powers in the possession of nuclear weapons, we will only have ourselves to blame when the weapons spread, and those we fear most acquire the magic we have sought to invoke in defence of our privileged positions.

The views expressed in this article solely reflect Paul Ingram’s personal perspective.


*About the author: Paul Ingram is Executive Director of the British American Security Information Council (BASIC) where he develops BASIC’s long-term strategy to help reduce global nuclear dangers through disarmament and collaborative non-proliferation, coordinating operations in London and Washington. He is also a weekly talk-show host on Iranian TV. This article was first published in Open Democracy on 23 April 2012 (the original article can be accessed here).

The Israeli Embassy Vehicle Attack in New Delhi – Reactions in India

In this article, the author explores the reaction among the media, the government and the people over the attack that took place on the Israeli Embassy vehicle on the 13th of February, 2012. 


By Siddharth Singh, 15th Feb, 2012

In the aftermath of the bomb blast targeting an Israeli embassy car in central Delhi, the reaction of the people and the press has largely revolved around three themes: one, outrage that yet another attack has taken place in India and the condemnation of the current government over its inability to stop such attacks. This perception is strengthened by the “weak” verbal responses by the concerned Indian ministers. Two, pointed criticism that the government couldn’t prevent an attack which is a stone’s throw away from the Prime Minister’s residence. Three, surprise – by people mostly – that Iran is in any way related to this attack. Bomb blasts in India have so far been popularly and officially blamed on home grown terrorist groups and those supported by or originating from Pakistan.

The First Theme: Outrage over the attack and ridicule of the official response

The near-universal condemnation of the United Progressive Alliance government under Dr. Manmohan Singh is a recurrent theme that follows every bomb blast in a big city in the country. While it is true that India is a rather large country with multitudes in a politically and socially unstable neighbourhood, it is equally true that the government can do a lot more to improve the security situation in the country without resorting to the controversial measures such as the U.S. government has. Indeed, the government has failed to put in place effective counter-terror and law-and-order mechanisms.

For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs is overburdened with non-security related tasks such as “implementation of the official language” – Hindi – and welfare of freedom fighters from the pre-Independence era. The long proposed Internal Affairs Ministry has not been set up yet, even though it is an idea accepted by officials on Raisina Hill. Comprehensive police reforms too haven’t seen the light of the day in spite of being on paper for several years.

Additionally, the establishment of an Internal Security University – which would provide long term research and analysis on the internal security scenario in India, apart from providing better trained policemen and administrators – has not been established yet, in spite of being passed by the Cabinet years ago. Currently the officials in the ministry are over burdened with day-to-day crisis management and do not have time to research and plan for the longer run.

The image of the government as an ineffective unit, however, largely comes from the lack of effective communication from the government, in particular its ministers. While the government response is typically greeted with disdain, this time around, it was met with ridicule. One of the reasons is that unlike previous attacks, this one did not result in deaths, making mockery acceptable. The people and media resorted to ridiculing the government over what they referred to as a “cliched, disinterested and monotonous” official statement. This time around, they got to see on their favourite prime time news shows on TV – in the form of Israeli ministers, including Prime Minister Netanyahu – give decisive statements on how such attacks cannot be tolerated and the perpetrators will be hunted down. The Israeli administration was also hasty in blaming Iran for the attack, at a time when the Indian officials were sticking to the story of an “incident” caused due to “unknown circumstances.” The reaction to the blame on Iran will be addressed later in this article.

While this author does not believe that hawkish statements are constructive in the aftermath of such bomb blasts, it is true that the government’s reaction is often trite, and are often replays of every official reaction after every major attack the country has seen in the past many years. This fits into the popular narrative of the government, which lacks effective communicators at the top of the administrative setup. The leader of the political coalition – Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and External Affairs Minister, among others, are not exactly known for their oratory skills. In a hyperactive news TV era, this has become a burden on the political establishment. The media and people in India yearn for effective communicators who can sell governance as much as they can effectively govern in the first place. Even though transparency has been legislated via the Right to Information Act and other instruments, there seems to be opacity in the verbal communication at the top of the administration.

This narrative is popular and cannot be easily undone by the government without a major cabinet reshuffle. It is an issue the government will have to accept and work around.

The Second Theme: Outrage over the location of the attack

The second theme of the reaction has been specific to this incident: the bomb blast took place on one end of Aurangzeb Road, which is a posh neighbourhood in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone (where all the ministers, officials, parliamentarians and chiefs of military reside) in New Delhi. The location of the attack was a stones throw away from the Prime Minister’s official residence at 7, Race Course Road.

Unsurprisingly, this became a talking point, and many commentators and the general public have lamented about the lack of security even in such a high profile area. One news TV host in partcular was at his hyperbolic best when he commented that even the Prime Minister could hear the bomb blast (adding later that it would have been possible only if the Prime Minister was home. The police eventually revealed that the blast wasn’t a loud one).

The Prime Minister’s residence is on the Race Course Road, which is open to the general public. Pedestrians freely walk along the sidewalks on the road, and motorists are free to use this road for their daily commute. This fact once brought praise by a friend from a subcontinental neighbour who lamented that common people in his country couldn’t even step in the neighbourhood of the most important ministers.

The entire Lutyens Bungalow Zone is fully accessible to the public, as it rightly must be. However, this also means that it is easy for a motorist to – say – bring explosives in close proximity of the Prime Minister’s home. The PM, of course, is safe in his multi layered security setup. In fact, he uses a different road (which is fully secured) from the other side of his home for his daily commute.

Lutyens Delhi cannot be made exclusive to the residents of the area. Not only does this area house the representatives of the people, it has the headquarters of the political parties, and several markets where the poor find employment. There is no practical way to fully secure this area. Commentary on this theme of the location of the attack is hence misplaced. The location is immaterial here: that it happened at all is the issue at hand.

The Third Theme: Surprise and confusion over Iran’s involvement

What has been more interesting, however, is the sense of confusion among people and a few reporters about Iran’s alleged involvement in the attack. The only foreign nation Indians are used to hearing get linked to attacks has been Pakistan. (To a much lesser extent, Bangladesh was once on this list too, but now makes headlines for partnering India in its fight against militancy).

Natanyahu’s assertion that Iran had a role in the attack even before the Indian authorities could confirm that it was an “attack” rather than an “incident” came as a surprise to many. Many in the media termed this as a hasty reaction without credible evidence to back the claim. A few in the public commended such naming tactics, recommending India do the same with Pakistan.

Importantly, however, this holds important implications on India’s foreign policy. In case Iran’s role is directly or indirectly established, it would mean that India will have to re-draft its policy in the region, which has so far been fairly neutral so far (barring for a few strategic decisions against Iran on the nuclear issue and the Iran-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline).

Historically, Iran has an image of a cultural “ally” in India. In recent years, the Ahmedinejad administration has brought criticism of official Indo-Iranian relations among those who advocate a more realist foreign policy. However, there is a general acceptance of Iran as an energy supplier nation which can help India meet its growing energy demand.

Indians are in general unaware of the growing tension between Iran and Israel. Reports on the stand off between Iran and the United States are often buried deep inside new papers and have nearly no mention on TV. For these reasons, the very mention of Iran has caught many by surprise. People still don’t fully grasp why India has emerged as a battlefield in the Iran-Israel stand off. The set of challenges for policymakers are profound, and it will be interesting to observe how the foreign policy and security discourse evolves from here.

The Apocalypse in Twenty First Century International Politics

In this article, the author provides a brief overview of the presence of the apocalyptic in twenty first century International Politics by looking at the particular case of the (ab)use of apocalyptic frames in US-originated discourses on nuclear weapons.*


By David J. Franco, 19th December, 2011

The Apocalypse in Twenty First Century International Politics

As often noted the apocalyptic has served as a source of inspiration in literature, philosophy, and culture. Why, then, would international politics be immune from this phenomenon? That apocalyptic thinking was much present during the Cold War has been widely acknowledged. However, apocalyptic rhetoric continued and in some senses increased in the post-Cold War era. As we approach 2012 (a year marked as apocalyptic by some Millennia movements) the apocalyptic continues to be present in international politics as numerous discourses are framed, with varying fortunes, in apocalyptic terms or tone. Thus, examples of apocalyptic rhetoric in twenty first century international politics include: global warming discourses, environmentalism, overpopulation warnings, global war on terror rhetoric, media coverage of the global economic crisis, nuclear weapons discourses, accounts of AIDS, feminism, and many others.

This raises important questions. Amongst these, two are worth exploring separately: Why do actors seek to frame their discourses apocalyptically? What are the effects or implications of using this type of frame and does a secular apocalyptic rhetoric have less negative implications than a religious one? At this stage it is worth noting that just as discourses are intersubjective and contingent to historical context, so too the apocalyptic, as a particular type of frame, is subject to changes in the historical context in which it operates. Hence, apocalyptic meaning and thinking has evolved significantly due to the impact on religion of enlightenment philosophy and the broader, gradual process of secularization. Any study on the apocalypse must therefore seek to reflect upon this historical evolution.

Case Study: The Apocalyptic in Nuclear Weapons Discourses

One particular area where apocalyptic frames are usually employed is in nuclear weapons discourses. Through the study of four different but interrelated discourses originated in the US** I identify three reasons why actors seek to (ab)use this type of frame: first, the choice for apocalyptic frames responds to a strategic move according to which actors seek to arouse and mobilize public support in a manner that would be less obvious with the use of less passionate and universalising frames. Second, apocalyptic rhetoric, especially in its secular or enlightened version, has the capacity to increase the perceived urgency of the threat. And third, apocalyptic frames, also in their secular version, are thought to have the capacity to mobilise men and women to change the course of history (mobilise in its active and passive meanings; that is, by doing something –i.e. taking action- or by not doing anything –i.e. not opposing action).

But apocalyptic frames risk having serious negative implications. Amongst these, I distinguish at least four: first, the risk of apocalyptic rhetoric turning into self-fulfilling prophecies; second, the possibility that an abuse of the rhetoric may lead to a decrease in the credibility of framers; third, the danger of fundamentalists seeking to push harder to see their prophecies fulfilled; and fourth, the risk that the rhetoric may help obscure political agendas. An additional negative implication is where apocalyptic rhetoric has the unintended effect of paralysing the audience (assuming this is not an intended purpose). Accordingly, although a turn to more secularised and less aggressive apocalyptic frames is something to be applauded and encouraged, such a turn does not completely solve or reduce the negative externalities of apocalyptic rhetoric. And this, I suggest, is as valid for nuclear weapons discourses as it is for other discourses found in twenty first century international politics.

The apocalyptic in IR: the need for more research on the functional and the symbolic

Arriving at this point we must ask why apocalyptic frames are still so popular despite their negative implications and their failure to help connect actors and audiences effectively (if they achieved their objectives nuclear weapons would have long been reduced to zero). Is it because there are no alternative frames available? Are there any other reasons besides those based on mere strategic rationale? Asides from a possible functional explanation, my view is that there may also be a symbolic or psychological explanation beneath the surface. It may be that apocalyptic rhetoric is driven by forces other than simply rational and strategic purposes. Accordingly, in examining the apocalyptic one should also seek to address the following questions: what role or roles, asides from a purely functional standpoint, does the apocalyptic play in human life? Does the apocalyptic respond to a mere rational choice or does it also play a symbolic or psychological role for either the messenger or the audience at which the rhetoric is directed (or both)? Is apocalyptic rhetoric expression, or satisfaction, or both, of a buried anxiety originated in past personal or collective traumas? Is it expression of an exacerbated destructive instinct found in human beings?

A comprehensive study on the presence of the apocalyptic in twenty first century international politics simultaneously addressing the functional and the symbolic is therefore necessary. In this regard, existing studies are out of date and only partially relevant. It is also my view that such a study should avoid being confined to the apocalyptic as expressed or projected only in, and by, Western circles or culture. Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud’s short (and failed?) attempt to address the question of “Why War?” in the 1930s should encourage scholars to carry out a similar task perhaps under the heading “Why the Apocalyptic in Twenty First Century IR?”. Ours in an age in which boundaries between disciplines help only maintain the status quo while curtailing the chances of better understanding the world we live in. This is often ignored by mainstream IR theorists who narrowly focus on the rational leaving aside the too often wrongly labelled irrational. My view therefore is that the myopic legacy of mainstream IR paradigms must be sidestepped when analysing the apocalyptic. It is our duty to tear down existing barriers and join disciplines. We can only benefit from such a task.


Western apocalyptic thinking and sensibility permeates numerous twenty first century international politics discourses. In particular, apocalyptic frames are recurrently used in US-originated discourses on nuclear weapons. This is due to the functional or strategic advantages that these type of frames are thought to generate. However, apocalyptic rhetoric, whether religious or secular, risks having serious negative implications for international peace and security.

Further, any study on the apocalypse that addresses the functional and fails to address the symbolic or psychological is incomplete. Accordingly, since existing studies fail to address both elements simultaneously I believe a full comprehensive study on this subject is necessary. Until that happens, I am afraid that any attempt to propose either a re-articulation of the current rhetoric or the use of alternative frames may be premature.

*This article is a summary of a 10,000 words dissertation. Please contact the author for further details or a full list of bibliographical references.

**These include the following four US-originated nuclear weapons macrosecuritisation processes: the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, first appeared in 1947; the Nuclear Threat Initiative launched in 2007 by former US service men; the anti-nuclear weapons campaign launched in 2008 by US social movement Global Zero; and President Obama’s 2009 public speech in Prague.