Inside Nuclear South Asia
Scott D. Sagan
THERE IS AN OLD SAYING IN WASHINGTON THAT “politics ends at the water's edge.” The sentiment behind this aphorism—that foreign policy and security policy should be bipartisan—has always been more of an ambition than a reality. But the saying is certainly accurate when describing both popular and scholarly knowledge of other countries' foreign and defense policy: our understanding of domestic politics too often ends at the water's edge. Policy makers and scholars find it easy to understand how conflicting domestic political interests and bureaucratic infighting can influence major foreign policy decisions—even decisions involving crucial national security issues like nuclear weapons policies—in their own countries. American analysts, for example, find it quite natural to focus on differences between Democratic and Republican administrations, and their ability to control shifting majorities in Congress, when examining support for national missile defense programs or to examine differences between the position of the secretary of state and the secretary of defense, and who has the president's ear, when explaining the U.S. stance in an international arms control negotiation. Yet when these same analysts focus on similar national security issues in other countries, they too often simply assume that decisions are made by a unitary rational actor and that objective national security interests, not competing domestic political parties or parochial bureaucratic interests, are the key determinant of policy choice. Studies of nuclear weapons proliferation are particularly vulnerable to this kind of analytic bias. Sensitive policy decisions inside countries seeking to develop nuclear weapons are typically made in a highly secretive manner within tightly compartmentalized government decision-making bodies.