Is the nuclear nonproliferation regime dead? Is it in danger of dying? In the arena of nuclear weapons, the U.S.-India nuclear deal, a handful of nuclear-armed states outside the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) framework, lingering questions about the extent of the A.Q. Khan proliferation network, and the Iranian nuclear program have led some analysts to argue that the nuclear nonproliferation regime should be discarded because of ineffectiveness. But how are we to evaluate this claim? International regimes are dynamic structures and are the product of a range of interconnected processes and norms. So how should we assess regime health at any given time? What metrics should we use to determine whether any particular regime is in a period of emergence, dynamic change, stasis or demise?

Unfortunately, previous work on international regimes tends to set apart WMD and other security regimes as somehow different than those in other issue areas. While this differentiation might seem necessary given the potentially existential consequences associated with WMD proliferation, it contributes to an unhelpful analytical context in which the consequences of regime change are uncritically conflated with the underlying political processes that drive that change. Observed regime deficiencies could be signals of the demise of the regime—but they could also be part of the normal ebb and flow of regime dynamics. Any discussion of the health of regimes must be conceptually clear on what regimes are and be nuanced enough to attempt to isolate the specific aspects of the regime that actually are in trouble. Otherwise, crisis mentalities are likely to flourish and could lead to abandonment of these regimes or alteration in unnecessary or ineffective ways, with serious, negative consequences for global security.


Jason Enia and Jeffrey Fields. Diagnosing Weapon Regimes. Advance contract with University of Georgia Press.

Jeffrey Fields and Jason Enia. “Behavior in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime: A New Database.”


Jason Enia and Jeffrey Fields (2014) “The Relative Efficacy of the Biological & Chemical Weapon Regimes,” The Nonproliferation Review 21(1): 43–64.

Additional published correspondence: Jason Enia and Jeffrey Fields (2014) “Jason Enia and Jeffrey Fields Respond,” in response to Marie Chevrier and Jenifer Mackby, “A Worthy Endeavor with the Wrong Conclusion,” The Nonproliferation Review, 21(2): 117–122.

Jason Enia (2014) “Explaining Dynamics and Stasis in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime: The Challenges of a Multiplicity of Public Goods,” in Jeffrey Fields (ed.), State Behavior and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press.

Jeffrey Fields and Jason Enia (2009) “The Health of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime: Returning to a Multidimensional Evaluation,” The Nonproliferation Review 16(2): 173–196.