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東京大学公共政策大学院 | GraSPP / Graduate School of Public Policy | The university of Tokyo

The 13th Yamakawa Kenjiro Memorial Lecture: Professor Alexandre Debs (Yale University) on the causes of war and nuclear proliferation (Dec. 18-19) November 27, 2018

Deadlines/Event Dates December 18, 2018

The 13th Yamakawa Kenjiro Memorial Lecture: Professor Alexandre Debs (Yale University) on the causes of war and nuclear proliferation (Dec. 18-19)

We are delighted to announce two talks as the 13th Yamakawa Kenjiro Memorial Lecture. Our guest speaker is Professor Alexandre Debs from the Political Science Department at Yale Professor Debs specializes in the causes of war, nuclear proliferation, and democratization.

Please send your inquiries to Nobuhiro Hiwatari, <hiwatari[at]> at the institute of Social Sciences, University of Tokyo

1. TALK 1 @ Komaba
Title: “The Strategic Tensions of the July Crisis”
Date: Tuesday, December 18th. 17:00-19:00
Venue: University of Tokyo, Komaba Campus, Collaboration Room 3 (4th floor), Building 18

Abstract: Accounts of the First World War struggle to explain why leaders were keen to enter into the conflict. Mutual optimism indeed does not appear to stand as a rationalist explanation for war. If one country is optimistic, then its enemy should temper its own optimism; both countries cannot simultaneously believe that they will prevail. This paper presents a formal model to resolve these tensions. Leaders care about how they fight a war. A country’s aggressiveness bolsters its enemy’s claim that it is a victim in the conflict, making its own aggressiveness more attractive. A country’s aggressiveness may also reinforce the belief that the war will be short, and a costly stalemate can be avoided. Thus, the belligerents’ optimism is not only jointly possible, it is mutually reinforcing. This perspective captures key dimensions of the July Crisis and sheds new light on the causes of the war.

2. TALK 2 @ Hongo
Title: “The Strategic Causes of Nuclear Proliferation: Northeast Asia in Comparative Perspective”
(This talk is co-sponsored by the Securities Studies Unit (PARI), and the Graduate School of Public Policy (GraSPP)
Date: Wednesday, December 19th. 12:45-14:15
Venue: University of Tokyo, Hongo Campus, SMBC Academia Hall, International Academic Research Building. 4F.


Abstract: This presentation introduces a strategic framework to understand the causes of proliferation, and the effectiveness of counterproliferation tools, placing Northeast Asia in comparative perspective. Acquiring nuclear weapons takes time and effort. Before a nuclear-weapons program comes to fruition, adversaries and allies may offer threats and assurances to prevent proliferation. The stronger is a potential proliferator, the more likely it is to succeed in its attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. Threats are most effective against weak potential proliferators, and assurances are most expedient when offered to strong potential proliferators. In Northeast Asia, threats of preventive war have been ineffective in preventing North Korea from acquiring nuclear weapons, given its ability to inflict severe damage on Seoul. Assurances have been crucial in getting South Korea and Japan to forgo nuclear weapons. Looking ahead, a coercive approach toward North Korea is unlikely to be effective, and questions about assurances offered to South Korea and Japan risk spurring their proliferation.

Alexandre Debs is Associate Professor of Political Science at Yale University. His research focuses on the causes of war, nuclear proliferation, and democratization. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, the Annual Review of Political Science, International Organization, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, and the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, among other outlets. He is the author of the book Nuclear Politics: The Strategic Causes of Proliferation (with Nuno Monteiro), published by Cambridge University Press in 2017.

Alexandre received a Ph.d. degree in Economics from M.I.T., an M.Phil. in Economic and Social History from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, and a B.Sc. in Economics and Mathematics from Universite de Montreal.