The Ratification Premium: Hawks, Doves, and Arms Control
48 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2017
Date Written: April 14, 2017
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? We 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. However, while existing accounts assume leaders are captives of their type, we argue that dovish executives can overcome their credibility gap by obtaining the endorsement of informed legislators. They 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 primarily in the higher premium needed to obtain the same level of support. We demonstrate this argument through a formal model and test the implications with paired comparisons of major arms control treaties in the Cold War and post-Cold War periods. Our argument offers a resolution to the Nixon-to-China debate; shows that dovish leaders are not necessarily captives of their type but can deploy side payments to achieve their policy goals; and explains puzzling features of the arms control record.
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