With Justice He Judges and Makes War: Elite Leadership Choices, Nuclear Weapons Decisions, and Religious Cultural Heritage

By Brian Muzas.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Global Studies

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International politics, as a practice and as an academic discipline, has been adjusting to nuclear realities since the first atomic bomb. World religions also have sought to accommodate their understandings to the nuclear age. Nuclear weapons pose the ultimate realist test and ethical challenge by throwing questions of security, power, interest, and morality into stark relief. The cultural heritage of the nine nuclear-armed states includes the five great world religions. Does religious cultural heritage influence nuclear decision-making? Realism predicts decisions will be driven solely by questions of security and power, but religious cultural influences might affect nuclear decisions in ways state-level or system-level analysis would not predict. If religious cultural heritage affects leaders’ nuclear decisions, evidence of influence should be present in the decision-making. In this paper, I go beyond the operational code framework of political psychology and international relations to study the influence of religious cultural heritage on nuclear decision-making. First, I survey prior work on nuclear proliferation, nuclear ethics, religion, strategic culture, international politics, and operational code. I then go beyond the operational code methodology by proposing a model of how religious cultural heritage can influence decision-making frameworks and by offering a tool to characterize decision-making frameworks. I illustrate how my methodology could be applied in practice. A summary concludes the paper.

Keywords: Operational Code, Nuclear Weapons, Religion

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Global Studies, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.11-22. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 730.355KB).

Brian Muzas

Doctoral Candidate, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, USA

Brian Keenan Muzas graduated summa cum laude with a B.S.E. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University in 1996. Although a graduate-level course in energy and environmental policy foreshadowed his current enrollment at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at The University of Texas at Austin, he first used a National Science Foundation Fellowship to obtain an M.S. in aeronautics from the California Institute of Technology in 1998. He then entered seminary. After receiving an M.Div. in pastoral ministry, an M.A. in systematic theology, and two John Paul II Medals for academic accomplishment at Seton Hall University, Father Muzas was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003. Assigned to a parish, he used his days off variously to teach computer science or international relations at Seton Hall or to work in the NGO community at the United Nations, even serving as co-chairman of an NGO annual conference subcommittee. Despite such well-rounded activities, it is his Harrington Doctoral Fellowship that allows Father Muzas to pursue scholarship that draws on all aspects of his background. Now a doctoral candidate, his research interests include international security, defense systems, and ethics. His dissertation focuses on state leaders, religions, and nuclear weapons.