Given recent trends in American strategy, militarily relevant science and technology, and the global balance of power, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is in the process of gaining a new lease on life, regardless of whether Canadian and American politicians wish it to be so. The three analyses under review offer many specific insights and provide a very useful review of NORAD’s institutional history and strategic debates, but they fail to situate the discussion in the broader structural context of world politics, worsening great power military rivalries, and the rapidly developing compounded crisis of anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD).
Stuart Farson and Nancy Teeple identify an interesting puzzle in the history of Canadian public policy. Why, in spite of several periods of open reflection about the matter, does the federal government eschew the setting up of a foreign intelligence service? The idea of foreign intelligence gathering came in and out of Canadian dialogue at each of the following times: while still in the era of the British Empire, around 1905; in the immediate aftermath of World War II during 1945; as a by-product of the McDonald Commission in 1981; in relation to the Special Committee in 1989; and as part of the Tory election manifesto of 2006 (48, 49, 52, 54).
The publication of the first volume of Michael Goodman’s much anticipated official history of the British Joint Intelligence Committee is a major event for students of intelligence and international relations. For nearly eighty years the Joint Intelligence Committee [JIC] has been at the center of the British foreign and security policy machinery. The JIC system for coordinating the analysis and dissemination of incoming intelligence evolved gradually in response to the unprecedented requirements of preparing for and then waging a global war. This system has since served as a model for the organisation of many of the world’s intelligence establishments. The first volume of the official history takes the story from the creation of the JIC in 1936 through to the Suez Crisis of 1956. As the three reviews that follow all make clear, Goodman has done justice to this hugely important topic. Volume I of his official history is an example of official history at its very best.
Will Asia be the site of the next major global conflict or will Asia’s future continue to be characterized by peace and stability? This question has invited a veritable multitude of arguments and counterarguments during the last two decades as scholars have tried to assess the implications of growing Chinese power for the international system. Some have feared that the rest of Asia will build up its armaments in response to China’s growing strength, creating a dangerous and unstable situation. They have even raised the possibility that the United States might get drawn into Asia’s next war. Others have taken a far more sanguine view of the prospects for peace in the region, contending that China’s neighbors do not necessarily see it as a threat and that growing economic interdependence makes military conflict unlikely.
In 2015 the United States faces a number of opportunities to intervene with military force in countries of secondary or even less strategic importance to U.S. policy makers. President Barack Obama’s completion of the withdrawal of American ground combat troops from Iraq, and plans to draw down U.S. troops from Afghanistan, have not reduced either the escalation of recent conflicts such as in Libya and Yemen, or the continuation of destructive ethnic and religious strife with international participation in Syria. As if that were not a sufficient number of states with contested conflict taking place, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) expanded from gradual growth after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2013, migrated into the Syrian Civil War, and in February 2014 charged into western Iraq to seize Mosul and other Sunni dominated areas. Boko Haram in Nigeria also escalated its attacks in northeastern Nigeria and engaged in the kidnapping of school girls, burning of villages, murder of residents, and attacks on Nigeria’s neighbors such as Chad. The list does not even include Russian President Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea from the Ukraine in February 2014 and Putin’s continued support of Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine with weapons, so-called ‘Russian volunteers,’ and funds.
As Geoffrey Blainey, the prominent Australian scholar, wrote long ago, “For every thousand pages published on the causes of wars, there is less than one page directly on the causes of peace.” The field of international security studies seems to have such an alarmist tendency, as most publications focus on conflict and war rather than stability and peace. Regarding cybersecurity, scholars and pundits have sounded alarms for years. In such a context, Jon R. Lindsay’s article is refreshing and unusual. Challenging the conventional wisdom, Lindsay argues that the threat from China on cyberspace is overblown, and Chinese vulnerabilities and Western strengths are underappreciated. Furthermore, cyberspace is fundamentally more stable than we conventionally assume. While the proliferation of information technology might enable “numerous instances of friction below the threshold of violence,” (9) cyberwar between United States and China is highly unlikely. Lindsay does not suggest that we should ignore the existence of cyber threats. What he proposes is an analytical framework that makes sense of these threats. Whether or not readers share his cautiously optimistic view, Lindsay’s article will have an enduring relevance to the discussions of cybersecurity, U.S.-China relations, and international relations. My comments focus on the broad implications of his article for international relations and U.S.-China relations.
How political leaders and their intelligence agencies assess the long-term intentions of their adversaries in international politics, how their assessments change in response to changes in the adversary’s capabilities or behavior, and the extent to which political leaders rely on their intelligence agencies are old questions in the study of international relations. The assessment of long-term intentions is an extraordinarily difficult task, and the development of generalizable theory about the process is equally difficult. Keren Yarhi-Milo’s recent book, Knowing the Adversary: Leaders, Intelligence, and Assessment of Intentions in International Relations, is an enormously valuable contribution to our understanding of these questions. Unlike many studies of intelligence, it is well-grounded in international relations theory, and it effectively builds upon theories of social psychology, cognitive science, and organizational theory. Yarhi-Milo distinguishes herself from many other theorists by emphasizing that the assessment processes of political leaders may differ from those of state intelligence organizations, but at the same time she integrates both within a single overarching theoretical framework. Yarhi-Milo tests her theoretical arguments against leading alternative interpretations in three sets of important and revealing historical cases: British assessments of Germany’s intentions from 1934-1939; and U.S. assessments of Soviet intentions during the years leading to the collapse of détente (1976-1980) and during the end of the Cold War (1985-1988). Yarhi-Milo’s in-depth comparative studies utilize historical archives, published documents, and, for the U.S.-Soviet cases, interviews with key participants.
After thirteen years of war, the loss of many thousand of lives, and the expenditure of trillions of dollars, what has the United States learned? The answer depends on not only who is asking but when. The story of the Iraq war would have different endings, and morals, if told in 2003, 2006, 2011, or 2014, and it will continue to evolve. As for Afghanistan, the narrative there has also shifted over time, and the ending also remains in doubt. Neither disaster has been unmitigated. But few would argue that Washington’s approach to either has been a success worth emulating. So the most important question today is what can be learned from the failures.
Imperial rule inevitably brings about a nationalist reaction. A brief glance at the title of Adria Lawrence’s book might suggest that her argument amplifies an already dominant historical consensus. However, such a view would be mistaken because Imperial Rule and the Politics of Nationalism offers a powerful challenge to the common wisdom about colonialism and nationalism. In Lawrence’s view, based on extensive primary research in French colonial archives, scholars have been far too quick to assume that nationalist responses were the inevitable consequence of imperial rule. In order to understand the politics of nationalism in the French Empire, Lawrence argues that we need to understand the prior importance of demands for political equality because “nationalist demands began when and where the French refused calls for political equality. Exclusion led to nationalist movements seeking to end colonial rule” (xiii-xiv).