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The Ratification Premium: Hawks, Doves, and Arms Control

  • Sarah E. Kreps, Elizabeth N. Saunders and Kenneth A. Schultz
Extract

This article examines the effect of leaders’ foreign policy preferences on their ability to pursue and ratify arms control agreements. Does it take a “Nixon to go to China,” with hawks more effective than doves, when it comes to the domestic politics of treaty ratification? The authors observe that the theoretical logic correctly identifies an asymmetry between hawkish and dovish presidents, with the latter facing a credibility gap in advocating arms reductions. Although existing accounts assume leaders are captives of their type, the authors argue that dovish executives can overcome their credibility gap by obtaining the endorsement of informed legislators. These executives do so by paying a ratification premium, usually in the form of increased defense effort in areas not covered by the treaty. As a result, doves do not necessarily face a lower rate of success at the ratification stage; their disadvantage manifests itself primarily in the higher premium needed to obtain the same level of support as hawkish executives. The article demonstrates this argument through a formal model and tests the implications with paired comparisons of major arms control treaties in the Cold War and post–Cold War periods. The argument helps to resolve the Nixon-to-China theoretical debate. It shows that dovish leaders are not necessarily captives of their type because they can deploy side payments to achieve their policy goals. It also explains important puzzling features of the arms control record.

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Footnotes
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The authors would like to thank Neil Couch, Sarah Croco, Charlie Glaser, James Goodby, Brendan Green, James Lebovic, James Lindsay, Andrew Little, Austin Long, Michael McFaul, Franklin Miller, Amy Nelson, Janne Nolan, Gary Samore, Anne Sartori, Caitlin Talmadge, James Wilson, Jane Vaynman, and participants in presentations at Cornell Law School, the University of Virginia, the Stanton Nuclear Security Conference, and ISA 2016 for feedback on this research. They are also grateful to Caroline Andridge, Neil Chitrao, Vanes Ibric, and Brian Radzinsky for valuable research assistance; to Sara Mitchell, Brittany Paris, and Charles Stokely for archival assistance at the Jimmy Carter Library; and to the Stanton Foundation and the Council on Foreign Relations for research fellowship support.

Archival data are available at Kreps, Saunders, and Schultz 2018a.

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References
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