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Realism for nuclear-policy wonks

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In the United States, the nuclear-policy community considers the realist school of thought the gold standard of analytical excellence. Sometimes equated with theories of nuclear strategy and massive retaliation, sometimes with the inter-war intellectual debate on how to respond to the rise of fascist militarism in Europe, the distinction between realism and idealism effectively predetermines the positions and analytical arguments available for a new generation of policy professionals. This, in turn, leads to a repetitive and theoretically stale debate between the nation’s foremost experts on technical and ethical matters of national interest. In order to stake out a new conceptual baseline for future policy discussions, this article suggests that it would be useful for nuclear-policy analysts to reacquaint themselves with the content and rhetorical strategies of classical realism in order to, firstly, enable a more humble and sociologically oriented form of nuclear-policy analysis and, secondly, make possible a new substantive debate beyond the narrow confines of neorealism on the one hand and classical nuclear strategy on the other. In making this argument, I am combining insights from my own ethnographic fieldwork among Washington’s nuclear-policy elites, recent contextualist scholarship on classical realism, and critical theoretical analyses of the deeper social forces shaping US nuclear-policy making.
TidsskriftNonproliferation Review
Udgave nummer1/2
Antal sider18
StatusUdgivet - 16 aug. 2018
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