Putin, Snowden, and How Credibility Works in International Politics

Our old friend Max Boot has a post at Commentary that demonstrates a common confusion about how credibility works in international politics. Boot argues that Russian President Vladimir Putin offered NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum because he doesn’t fear Obama because Obama hasn’t yet gone to war in Syria… or something. I’ll let him explain:

Obama understandably doesn’t want to get stuck in the Syrian morass. But he should understand that when the president of the United States makes threats and then fails to make good on them, that has consequences for America’s dealings with the rest . . .
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The Ever-Shrinking Odds of Nuclear Terrorism

For over a decade now, one of the most oft-repeated threats raised by policymakers—the one that in many ways justified the invasion of Iraq—has been that of nuclear terrorism. Officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations, including the presidents themselves, have raised the specter of the atomic terrorist. But beyond mere rhetoric, how likely is a nuclear terrorist attack really?

While pessimistic estimates about America's ability to avoid a nuclear terrorist attack became something of a cottage industry following the September 11th attacks, a number of scholars in recent years have pushed back against this trend. Frank Gavin . . .
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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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Less Defense Spending, More Nuclear Weapons?

Adam Lowther’s recent piece over at The National Interest discussing how lower defense budgets brought on by America’s current fiscal crisis demand an increase in the number of strategic nuclear weapons is, unfortunately, something of a mess.  To make his case Lowther, a political scientist at Arkansas Tech, cites the “New Look” policy adopted by President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration at a time when budget constraints were being imposed on the Pentagon.  The New Look called for an emphasis on building strategic nuclear weapons and a doctrine of massive retaliation to deter potential Soviet aggression, therefore making conventional war less likely . . .
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