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Citation:

M. Subbaiah, P. Nelson, "The Role of Quantitative Empirical Analysis in Identifying and Reducing Proliferation Risk," INMM 56th Annual Meeting, Indian Wells, California, 12-16 July 2015.

Abstract:

By "Quantitative Empirical Analysis" (QEA) is intended the use of statistical methods to infer, from historical data, the characteristics of states that correlate with some designated dependent variable (e.g. proliferation of nuclear weapons). QEA dates back to (Singh & Way, 2004), and has evolved into a very active subfield of academic political science (Fuhrmann & Kreps, 2010). It is distinct from other quantitative methodologies for addressing various aspects of nuclear proliferation, such as the figure of merit developed by Bathke and collaborators (e.g., Bathke, et al., 2012), and the various methodologies collectively referred to in a recent US National Academy of Sciences study (Committee on Improving the Assessment of the Proliferation Risk of Nuclear Fuel Cycles, 2013), henceforth "NAS Study," as "case by case" and "fixed framework." The present work focuses on the question of what, if anything, QEA might provide by way of information useful to those responsible for policy decisions related to proliferation of nuclear weapons. It begins by invoking a simplistic decision-theoretic model of the optimal time for the international community to intervene in a possible proliferation scenario, to ascertain the type of information proliferation-related policy makers might find useful. That optimal time depends upon two essential conceptually quantifiable parameters: the consequences of proliferation, relative to those of intervention; and the rate at which future consequences are discounted, relative to the rate of proliferation. A first insight from QEA then is that differences of opinion as to the urgency of interventions possibly stem from differences in perspective on matters related to one of these issues. The bulk of the paper consists of a discussion of some of the proliferationrelated insights and issues stemming from QEA. An example is the observation by (Gartzke & Kroenig, 2009) that several related works in QEA collectively suggest the beneficial impact that "nuclear weapons do not affect the frequency of conflict, but they do affect the timing, duration, severity, and outcome of conflict." An effort will be made to represent the views of QEA skeptics (e.g., Montgomery & Sagan, 2009).



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