Japan Won't Go Nuclear: Should We Care if it Did?

A former classmate of mine, Mira Rapp-Hooper, recently had an excellent post at The Diplomat laying out the case for why Japan is unlikely to pursue its own nuclear deterrent. Mira is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and her thoughts on matters of nuclear proliferation are always worth reading. That being said, a discussion of whether this country or that will go nuclear at some point always raises a simple question in my mind:  should the United States really care?

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This question is commonly answered in the affirmative, as the general assumption seems to . . .
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Alliances and balancing during a structural power shift

I have recently been preoccupied with the Asia pivot, or more generally the structural shift towards Asia—not in the serious research way, but more like the European pondering in the park while smoking a pipe way (figuratively speaking—I usually don’t go outside; I sit inside tweeting). By sheer coincidence the other day I came across Stephen M. Walt’s 2009 article “Alliances in a Unipolar World,” which applies alliance theory and frameworks to the peculiar period of unipolarity we are in currently. Walt mentions the rising powers in Asia and the long list of countries allied or aligned with the . . .
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Geopolitics, Soccer, and the Korean Peninsula

The Korean Peninsula is never far from the news cycle. Between the presence of nuclear weapons and thousands of U.S. troops, it seems a military confrontation is always just around the corner on the 38th parallel. Even mildly positive developments, such as North Korea recently agreeing with the United States to suspend its uranium enrichment program in exchange for food aid, are met—appropriately—with skepticism and criticism. But occasionally you need to look beyond the level of the nation-state for hope. Inspiration, however small and fleeting, can come from individuals and institutions outside of high diplomacy. Enter global soccer and . . .
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Multipolarity, Syria and a New Concert

Dan Trombly had, as he often does, an interesting blog post the other day on the possibility of a new concert. Not one with Bruce Springsteen, but rather a global concert of great powers akin to the 19th century Concert of Europe, where nation-states acted by a set of unwritten rules to maintain peace (this came in response to a previous post by Dan Nexon over at the Duck of Minerva). The shadows of Libya and Syria veritably loom over the text as the discussions of intervention and R2P (Responsibility to Protect) have stirred up an interesting debate on . . .
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The U.S. Navy Now or 1917?: A Quick Answer to Politico's "Epic Fail"

There’s a ridiculous meme making the rounds from defense budget-boosters that needs to be put to rest.  Mitt Romney broadcast it to a national audience at the South Carolina Republican primary debate on January 16th when he claimed that the United States Navy “is smaller than its been since 1917.  Following the debate the nonpartisan political “fact check” organization, PolitiFact, gave the former Massachusetts governor a “Pants on Fire” rating for the statement.  Which, in turn, led to Politico’s “Morning Defense” news round up giving PolitFact an “Epic Fail” for its rating.  So who’s right:  Romney and Morning Defense . . .
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The Wrong Way to Argue Against Nuclear Disarmament

Last Monday, the blog for the Weekly Standard offered an argument against President Obama’s nuclear disarmament agenda so filled with factually errors and serial inaccuracies it is amazing the magazine’s editors allowed it to run.  The post, by Mark Davis, a former speechwriter for George H.W. Bush, makes three claims in particular need of challenge:  uncritically repeating the flawed findings of a Georgetown University team about the size of China’s nuclear arsenal, misstating the conclusions of the IAEA’s most recent report on Iran, and flat-out lying about President Obama’s stated timeframe for achieving the goal of nuclear disarmament.

The . . .
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Some Thoughts on the New Defense Strategy

It’s hard to say a lot about the new strategic guidance released by the Pentagon on Thursday since the document (pdf), titled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” doesn’t say all that much.  A more detailed assessment may be possible when the defense budget is released in February.  It’s noteworthy that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted that the new defense plan did not factor in the $500 billion is cuts over the next decade mandated by the supercommittee’s failure to reach a deal late last year.  According to Panetta, if a compromise isn’t reached and . . .
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A MAD, MAED World?

A recent report from the RAND Corporation seeks to elucidate several scenarios by which the United States and China could become embroiled in armed conflict.  While much will be made of a single sentence at the beginning of the report that predicts the possibility of a China stronger than Soviet Russia during the Cold War or Nazi Germany during World War II—and despite providing excellent summaries of potential East Asian flashpoints—the authors actually judge the probability of great power conflict in the Asia-Pacific to be relatively low.  More interesting are the recommendations offered for decreasing conflict—particularly, the section on . . .
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Nuclear Alarmism and China's New Great Wall

A recent foray in the Wall Street Journal by Bret Stephens touches on an interesting subject but is so needlessly alarmist it makes one long for the days of his ruminations on Lady Gaga and American’s standing in the Middle East.  The main idea of his most recent offering is that current estimates of China’s nuclear arsenal are far too low, and that it is quite possible that Beijing has far more nuclear weapons than anyone previously believed.  Unfortunately for Stephens, past history and basic nuclear strategy make it unlikely that the Chinese nuclear primacy he fears will come to fruition . . .
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Taiwan: Arms Sales and the Strategic Costs of Provocation

Last week the New York Times reported that the Obama administration has decided not to sell F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan. Instead, the U.S. will help the Taiwanese refurbish their current fleet. Of course, members of Congress are up in arms (no pun intended) about what is seen as buckling to pressure from China. Debate over Taiwan and its implication on U.S.-Sino relations is nothing new, but it is getting increasingly difficult for the United States to balance obligations to Taiwan while maintaining cordial relations with China. If you boil down the issue, and the caricature-like debate, it is . . .
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