Spring 2019

Nuclear Structures and Political Leaders

Listed in: Political Science, as POSC-230

Moodle site: Course


Eleonora Mattiacci (Section 01)


Following the tense foreign policy exchanges between North Korea and the United States in the fall of 2017, experts disagreed on how to interpret the two leaders' choices of actions and words. Some of them pointed to their personal experiences and traits, such as their lack of prior exposure to foreign policy or their propensity for risky behavior. Other experts emphasized the role of structural factors, such as China’s interests and the US position in the counterproliferation context. These disagreements highlight questions on the interplay between leaders and structural conditions that are both crucial and enduring in the field of nuclear and international security: under what conditions do leaders’ personal inclinations and experiences become pivotal in explaining nuclear policies and strategies? When instead do structural factors such as the balance of power, the spread of nuclear technology, the salience of nuclear concerns among the public, play a key role? This course will explore these puzzles by analyzing key facts and salient debates in nuclear security. In the first part of the course, we will employ traditional teaching techniques, such as lecture and discussion, to explore archival documents and cutting-edge research on this topic. In the second part of the course, we will use instead role-playing analysis techniques to have each student explore the leaders’ decision-making process during nuclear crises.

Requisite: One course in POSC with focus on global politics. Spring semester. Professor Mattiacci.


Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2019-20: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2019