When Leaders Matter: Rebel Experience and Nuclear Proliferation
37 Pages Posted: 15 Jul 2012 Last revised: 9 May 2013
Date Written: 2013
This paper contributes to a growing literature on leaders in international politics by explaining why and how the background experiences of leaders influence nuclear proliferation. Given nuclear weapons' crucial role in world politics, examining the importance of leaders for nuclear proliferation represents a key development in research on leaders. We argue that leaders with a particular experience -- participation in an armed rebellion against the state -- are more likely than their non-rebel counterparts to pursue nuclear weapons. Former rebels are aware of the contingency of their rule and more likely to value weapons that could bolster national independence. Drawing on a new dataset on leader participation in rebel activities, we analyze 1,322 leaders in office from 1945 to 2000. The results strongly support our theory, even when accounting for leader selection. Our findings underscore the value in using leaders -- not just states -- as a unit of analysis in international relations research.
Keywords: leaders, nuclear proliferation, rebel experience, nuclear weapons, international relations
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