[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-War]: Brunts on Bowen and ElBahtimy and Hobbs and Moran, 'Trust in Nuclear Disarmament Verification'
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From: H-Net Staff via H-REVIEW <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Date: Thu, Jan 2, 2020 at 9:32 AM
Subject: H-Net Review [H-War]: Brunts on Bowen and ElBahtimy and Hobbs and
Moran, 'Trust in Nuclear Disarmament Verification'
To: <h-review at lists.h-net.org>
Cc: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.org>
Wyn Q. Bowen, Hassan ElBahtimy, Christopher Hobbs, Matthew Moran.
Trust in Nuclear Disarmament Verification. London Palgrave
Macmillan, 2018. 176 pp. $129.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-319-40987-0.
Reviewed by Steven Brunts (Air University)
Published on H-War (January, 2020)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey
Nuclear weapons play a significant role in the international politics
of today's world. While there are nine nations that currently possess
nuclear weapons (the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France,
China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea), there are other
nations that continue to pursue that capability. As the debates
concerning reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear stockpiles
continue, the authors of _Trust in Nuclear Disarmament Verification_
look at the impact of human factors and more specifically, the role
that trust plays within the disarmament verification process.
In the first three chapters of the book, the authors introduce and
summarize the nature of disarmament verification, provide an overview
of past verification initiatives, and lay out some of the current
challenges associated with verifying nuclear disarmament. These
sections set the stage for the discussion in chapter 4 concerning the
human factors of disarmament verification, most specifically, the
element of trust. Chapters 5 and 6 summarize the research team's
development and execution of a fictional disarmament verification
simulation to determine the potential role of human factors within
the verification process. The final chapter provides conclusions and
recommendations for additional work.
The authors assert that human factors can play a significant role in
the dismantlement verification process, yet these factors and their
resulting influences appear to be the least studied and in practice,
the least considered elements within this process. While this book
initiates a more detailed consideration of those potential impacts on
the process, the authors state right up front that their conclusions
are not exhaustive and acknowledge that further study is required in
this area, especially in scenarios where the participants in the
process are adversarial or where the potential for deception exists.
Nuclear disarmament can never be 100 percent observed due to the
classification and sensitivity of potential design information, as
well as concerns for security and nonproliferation. Since "compliance
beyond all doubt" cannot be achieved through visual observation and
verification of each step, there will always be an element of
uncertainty in the process. The challenge of 100-percent verification
and ensuring compliance beyond all doubt is the difficulty of
"balancing the risk of undetected cheating with the duty to prevent
the transfer of classified information" (p. 53). The authors believe
this is the heart of the challenge in the verification process. This
particular point is well supported, and "uncertainty" is the
foundation of the human factors discussion.
In the absence of 100-percent verification throughout the disarmament
process, blind spots are created that drive varying levels of
uncertainty. These blind spots in the verification process create
gaps between what can be visually verified and what cannot be
physically observed. These gaps in the process (that which cannot be
observed) may affect the perceptions of the participants. While
observable and verifiable processes can generate confidence, trust
must fill in the gaps within the process where observation and
verification are absent but where perceptions can flourish.
Confidence, then, is tangible and evidence-based while trust is an
intangible, lacking any visual evidence.
The research team adopted a simulation-based approach in order to
gather objective data and determine the potential impacts of human
factors within the verification process. The authors provide solid
reasoning for using a simulation as their testing methodology but
also recognize the inherent weaknesses of simulations overall. They
also appear to take reasonable care to ensure objectivity within the
simulation itself in an effort to glean useful data.
The simulation was designed to replicate real-world conditions as
much as possible in an effort to determine how the human elements of
trust and confidence influence the verification process. The scenario
involved an inspection team visiting a single, hypothetical
dismantlement facility that experienced a "break in the chain of
custody in a pre-existing verification regime" (p. 103). The scenario
enabled participants (inspectors versus the inspected) to have a
dialog concerning the causes of the custody break and negotiate its
acceptability in the absence of visible observation.
After conducting the simulation, the authors found that human
factors, most specifically the element of trust, play a "subtle but
powerful role" (p. 151) in the verification process and "it would be
reductive, and even dangerous to think of verification in terms of a
solely technical and evidence-based process" (p. 145). During the
after-action discussions, it appeared clear that human factors (trust
and confidence) played a significant role shaping the perceptions of
the simulation participants.
It is important to reiterate the authors' caution that the
conclusions are not exhaustive and further study is required in this
area. One of the areas for further study concerns how adversarial
relationships will affect the element of trust. While I believe the
authors have made a solid case that human factors do influence the
verification process and must therefore be considered, I can only
imagine that the influence of those factors increases exponentially
in the midst of an adversarial relationship where the opportunities
for deception appear not only possible, but advantageous. The "gap"
between what can be observed (confidence) and what must be accepted
beyond observation (trust) may take on a much more significant role
in real-world scenarios, requiring an even greater degree of
consideration by both parties. Negotiating parties who fail to
consider the impact of human factors, and then compensate for its
potential influence, could easily undermine the overall disarmament
Overall, the book successfully explores a unique, understudied aspect
of the verification process. The authors clearly articulate the
influences of human factors in the process, and the simulations they
conducted provide substantial insights into those influences,
supporting the overall conclusions.
Citation: Steven Brunts. Review of Bowen, Wyn Q.; ElBahtimy, Hassan;
Hobbs, Christopher; Moran, Matthew, _Trust in Nuclear Disarmament
Verification_. H-War, H-Net Reviews. January, 2020.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
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