The Duck of Minerva

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Trans-Partisan Challenge

October 27, 2012

My daughter is very anxious that Mitt Romney might win the election. Before that she was worried about the European monetary crisis and what might happen if Greece defaults. This suggest that the problem is less one of our partisanship than of growing up the kid of international-affairs specialists who listen to the news during the morning commute.

Regardless, her anxiety suggested it was time for “the talk.” We’d already had the “Republicans are good people” talk. It went something like this: “your grandfather is a Republican, and he’s a wonderful human being. We just disagree on what’s best for the country. And whether your schoolfriend’s mommies can choose to get married.” So this time we explained that the parties periodically switch control over various branches of government, they do good things and bad things, and life goes on.

Anyway, this got me thinking about the “good things and bad things” part of the discussion. So here’s my challenge:  can you identify a policy where the “other side” is likely to do better?

In other words, if you’re pro-Obama, tell us about a positive change that a Romney administration is likely to make in US policy. If you’re pro-Romney, identify something that Obama did right and that Romney would mess up. If you’re one of those third-party types, probably best to skip this one.

My answer is below the fold.

I think that a Romney administration would be better, overall, on nuclear strategy and nuclear posture. I’m fine with the Obama Administration’s embrace of  “Global Zero”  as an aspirational policy. The problem is that too many people within the Administration think that “Global Zero” ought to guide every aspect of nuclear strategy. In consequence, the people doing serious work on US nuclear posture are ignored and marginalized.

That’s not good. The growth of pre-nuclear escalation options–from highly-accurate conventional payloads to cyber attacks–requires sustained high-level attention to US nuclear-weapons policy. The number of nuclear powers is likely to increase. Our technicians and designers are aging. Yet national security officials in the Obama administration remain concerned about interfering with the “Global Zero” message. This is one area of national-security policy where I expect a Romney administration would do better.


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Daniel H. Nexon is a Professor at Georgetown University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Government and the School of Foreign Service. His academic work focuses on international-relations theory, power politics, empires and hegemony, and international order. He has also written on the relationship between popular culture and world politics.