International Organization

Research Article

Pariah states and nuclear proliferation

Robert E. Harkavy

In recent years, a new international actor—the pariah state—has mounted the global stage. Although rough historical precedents may be discerned, the present international system appears to have produced a novel phenomenon, whereby some isolated small states, lacking assured and credible outside security support, find themselves unable to take advantage of traditional balance-of-power mechanisms. Taiwan, South Africa, and Israel fit this description best, South Korea less so; Pakistan and Chile are also candidates.

Insecurities about conventional arms sources and big-power support in crises involving national survival have driven pariahs to consideration of nuclear “equalizers,” notwithstanding dilemmas involving the viability of applicable nuclear strategic doctrines. There are also some indications of nascent interpariah security ties, perhaps nuclear ones. Although there are some prospects for amelioration of the situations of some pariahs—in part because of threats to go nuclear—serious impasses remain for U.S. and other major powers' policies.