Jeffrey Lewis2009/2010 College Debate Topic

The 2009/2010 College Debate Topic is about nuclear weapons.

The United States should decrease its reliance on nuclear weapons.

I was asked for reading suggestions. Mine are:

(1) John Steinbruner, Managing Deterrent Operations, Chapter 2 of Principles of Global Security (Brookings, 2000), and

(2) Ivo Daalder and Jan Lodal, The Logic of Zero: Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons, Foreign Affairs, (November/December 2008).


  1. Andrew Tubbiolo (History)

    Currently there is no major international conflict of interests that requires large alerted military forces to be ready for general war. Given the stability of the international military standoff nuclear weapons can be reduced and de-alerted to a level that reflects real world strategic needs.

  2. Alex W. (History)

    There’s kind of an interesting question here in the prompt itself. Does the US even have a “reliance on nuclear weapons”? If so, what exactly does that mean? (Can you have nuclear weapons without having a reliance on them?)

  3. Major Lemon (History)

    Steinbruner is OK

  4. AWR (History)

    Seems to me there was an article in the Bulletin in July/August 2008, by someone whose name I forgot, that would be really good suggested reading…

  5. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    I stole everything from John, anyway.

  6. J House (History)

    It is clear the U.S. now relies on the use of nuclear weapons for the deterrence of a nuclear attack, but not a conventional one.
    The U.S. will not respond to a devestating attack on its soil or its armed forces with nuclear weapons, whether it be a nation state or sub-national group.
    That was proven on 9/11 and in the low intensity conflict with Iran since the 80’s.

  7. Joseph Logan (History)

    No surprise, but I’m inclined to go the org theory route and proffer Sagan’s Limits of Safety. Not so much a book about “how” but a damn good look at why. I think you recommended to me initially, Jeffrey, and it both inspired and freaked me out.

  8. D Edward Karp (History)

    Great suggestions, but why not also include something with a little more of the road map to zero – in terms of verification, implication and compliance – laid out in plain sight; the model nuclear weapons convention.

  9. Jeffrey Lewis (History)

    I think the model nuclear weapons convention is a bad idea.

    I thought “The Logic of Zero” outlined practical steps toward zeo that would make for some interesting debate cases, but how about:

    James Acton and George Perkovich, Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate.

  10. Steven Dolley (History)

    That’s great news. Folks in the arms control community should be aware this is a terrific opportunity to recruit top-notch college students for graduate programs, fellowships, etc. … or just to sell some very knowledgeable and dedicated young people on arms control as a possible career path.

    Debaters do a ton of research, and often end up pursuing a career in one of the topics they research. That’s how I got into nuclear power and nuclear arms issues.