Winners of the 2008 Doreen and Jim McElvany Challenge Competition

Keynote Speaker

Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)
Chair, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee


Ward Wilson (Grand Prize)

The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence

Nuclear deterrence is sometimes treated as a known quantity—a definite thing that keeps us safe and ensures our security. It has also often been used as a justification for possessing nuclear weapons. Nuclear deterrence, however, is based on an unexamined notion: the belief that the threat to destroy cities provides decisive leverage. An examination of history (including recent reinterpretations of the bombing of Hiroshima) shows that destroying cities rarely affects the outcome of wars. How is it possible that an action that is unlikely to be decisive can make an effective threat? Recent work on terrorism suggests that attacks against civilians are often not only ineffective but also counterproductive. And a review of the practical record of nuclear deterrence shows more obvious failures than obvious successes. Given this, the record of nuclear deterrence is far more problematic than most people assume. If no stronger rationale for keeping these dangerous weapons can be contrived, perhaps they should be banned.


Nathan Pyles (First Runner-Up)

Building Political Will: Branding the Nuclear-Free-World Movement

This article explores the value of effective brand messaging to achieve public policy goals. Policy makers and advocacy organizations working toward a nuclear-free world need to become more effective communicators with the general public if they wish to build broad-based political support. Effective communication includes: a specific long-range goal, an urgent time schedule, a plan to marshal time and resources, and the ability to communicate the goal in simple language. With a unique brand name and tagline for a specific nuclear-free-world proposal, policy makers and advocacy groups can better facilitate communication between citizens and their elected representatives. Well-executed branding also serves to: simplify a complex issue, influence public opinion, be memorable and emotionally appealing, and help unify diverse groups around a common platform. By developing a common language between policy makers, politicians, and the general public, a complex and seemingly insurmountable issue can be transformed into a coherent and achievable platform.


Grégoire Mallard (Best Student Essay)

Can the EURATOM Treaty Inspire the Middle East? The Political Promises of Regional Nuclear Communities

This article examines whether and how the delegation of sovereign regulative powers in the nuclear field by states to supranational regional authorities can further nonproliferation objectives. More precisely, it asks whether the second Rome Treaty, which instituted the European Community of Atomic Energy (Euratom), could serve as a model for the creation of other regional authorities in the nuclear field, particularly among Middle Eastern and Arab nations. It argues that the Euratom Treaty provides interesting technical provisions, particularly regarding 1) safeguards against the diversion of fissile materials by state and non-state actors, 2) confidence-building measures for state actors when they establish R&D in nuclear technologies, and 3) fuel supply assurances for state actors. Building on archival research of the Euratom Treaty negotiations and the Euratom Commission, the article argues that, today, supranational provisions included in the Euratom Treaty would have stronger nonproliferation effects than looser forms of international cooperation. However, the article also points to specific weaknesses in the Euratom Treaty and outlines how legal scholars and diplomats can avoid some of its pitfalls.


Russell Leslie (Best Student Essay)

The Good Faith Assumption: Different Paradigmatic Approaches to Nonproliferation Issues

There are a number of competing paradigms on nonproliferation issues, each with their own self-consistent set of axioms that have to be dealt with on their own terms. If these different approaches are not appropriately acknowledged during discussions, they can become a permanent barrier to the resolution of underlying issues. This article identifies some of the key interest groups that are involved in discussions of nuclear nonproliferation issues and seeks to delineate the paradigmatic differences between these groups. These differences in approach can give rise to the perception that one or more of the parties to any discussion are arguing in bad faith. While bad faith may be a cause of at least some of the disputes that arise on nonproliferation issues, assuming bad faith as an explanation for these differences is counter-productive; it prevents any serious discussion of the issues underlying such disputes and obstructs attempts to reach a common understanding.

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