Reid Pauly

Dean's Assistant Professor of Nuclear Security and Policy
Room 335
Areas of Expertise Nuclear Weapons, US Foreign Policy
Areas of Interest Nuclear proliferation, nuclear strategy, coercion, wargaming, international security.


Reid Pauly writes and teaches about coercion and nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear strategy and wargaming, and interstate secrecy and deniability. Prior to joining the Brown faculty, Reid was a Stanton postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University, a predoctoral fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, and a Summer Associate at the RAND Corporation. Reid earned a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Security Studies Program. He has a B.A. from Cornell University. His wife, Natalie, is a Brown alum.


Reid Pauly studies coercion, nuclear weapons proliferation, nuclear strategy, interstate secrecy and deniability, and wargaming.

His first book examines the “assurance dilemma” at the heart of coercion—when and why targets of coercion believe that they will not be punished after they comply with demands. It is forthcoming with Cornell University Press.

He also studies why states sometimes cover up the transgressions of adversaries. This work applies especially to the nuclear nonproliferation regime, where the deniable nature of dual-use technologies actually aids enforcers. Violators are more likely to come into compliance if they can deny that they were ever out of compliance.

He is also working to bring wargaming methods to the study of international relations. Wargames can introduce human interaction to the social scientific study of crisis decision-making—all of the human fallibility, miscommunication, emotions, hubris, pride, and reputations that color decision-making in group settings.


Peer-Reviewed Articles:

“The Assurance Dilemma in International Coercion” International Security (forthcoming).

“The Psychology of Nuclear Brinkmanship” International Security, Vol. 47, No. 3 (Winter 2022/2023): 9-51. With Rose McDermott.

“Wargaming for International Relations Research,” European Journal of International Relations, Vol. 28, No. 1 (2022): 83-109. With Erik Lin-Greenberg and Jacquelyn Schneider. Reviewed in H-Diplo.

“Deniability in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime: The Upside of the Dual-Use Dilemma,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 66, Iss. 1 (2022).

“Caught Red-Handed: How States Wield Proof to Coerce Wrongdoers,” International Security, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Fall 2021). With Cullen G. Nutt.

“Would U.S. Leaders Push the Button? Wargames and the Sources of Nuclear Restraint,” International Security, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Fall 2018): 151-192.

“Bedeviled by a Paradox: Nitze, Bundy, and an Incipient Nuclear Norm,” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 22, Iss. 3-4 (2015): 441-455.

Policy Writing:

“Putin and the Psychology of Nuclear Brinkmanship,” Foreign Affairs, May 30, 2023. With Rose McDermott and Paul Slovic.

“Don’t Be So Confident in Nuclear Decision-Making,” Lawfare, February 26, 2023. With Rose McDermott.

“What to Do When Predicting Pandemics,” Foreign Policy, September 11, 2020.

“Why Invading Iran Would Be a Military Disaster,” The National Interest, January 12, 2020. With Daniel Khalessi.

“This is Why Trump’s Strategy for Iran Will Fail,” The National Interest, December 21, 2017. With Mahsa Rouhi and Sahar Nowrouzzadeh.

“The Tangled Fates of Pittsburgh and Paris,” War on the Rocks, June 12, 2017.


The Politics of Nuclear Weapons, Undergraduate Lecture, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2024

The Shadow of Power, Undergraduate GISP, Spring 2024

Coercion: Deterrence and Compellence, Undergraduate Seminar, Fall 2020, Spring 2022

Foundations of Security, Undergraduate Lecture, Spring 2023

Nuclear Proliferation and International Security, Graduate Seminar, Spring 2021

Recent News

News from Watson

The Psychology of Nuclear Brinkmanship

Reid Pauly and Rose McDermott recently co-authored a paper published in the January issue of International Security titled, "The Psychology of Nuclear Brinkmanship."
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News from Watson

Reid Pauly Wins Nuclear Security Grant

Reid Pauly recently won a Nuclear Security Grant from the Stanton Foundation, which focuses on international nuclear security issues. The grant will support Pauly's forthcoming research, "Threats That Leave Something to Chance."
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