With one very important exception, and despite a number of rhetorical and stylistic differences, the Trump Administration’s approach to the Middle East is not substantially different from that of the Obama Administration. President Barack Obama prioritized the fight against Salafi jihadist groups (al-Qaeda, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS], and their offshoots) above other regional goals, as does President Donald Trump. Both came to office evidencing a general reluctance to get involved in large-scale military actions, reflective of their common perception that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake, though in both cases they proved willing to use military force in the region. Both publicly committed their administrations to finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Obama’s efforts there failed and the first ventures by Trump do not look promising. While Trump criticized Obama during the 2016 campaign for ignoring the interests of traditional American allies in the region, it is hard to sustain the proposition that the Obama Administration substantially altered American policy toward Israel and Saudi Arabia and that the Trump Administration is thus ‘restoring’ past ties.
In July 2017, the Washington Post reported that the new leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were planning on updating the agency’s museum in the Ronald Reagan building in the nation’s capital. Given that the museum had opened just three days before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the move was transparently based on political motivations rather than on needed maintenance. That the most significant reported change was the replacing of an exhibit about President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) with a display of coal came as no surprise to anyone who had been following the Trump Administration’s approach to regulating the environment. In particular, the EPA has been at the center of the administration’s position that climate change is probably not a threat and certainly not one that humans can control anyway.
I would like to begin by thanking Brandon Valeriano for reviewing my article “What is the Cyber Offense-Defense Balance?” I am also grateful to H-Diplo for publishing the review of my article and providing the opportunity to respond.
Malfrid Braut-Hegghammer’s new book Unclear Physics: Why Iraq and Libya Failed to Get the Bomb should find itself on the shelf of any serious student of nuclear proliferation, international security, and the internal and external security dynamics of dictatorial regimes. It is by far the best history of Iraq’s and Libya’s failed attempts at acquiring nuclear weapons, leveraging diverse archival material and primary interviews to illuminate new and interesting features of both programs. It argues that due to a lack of state capacity, Iraqi and Libyan dictators Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi stunted their own nuclear programs, but to varying degrees. The Libyan program was terminally ill from the beginning, but Saddam and his son-in-law, Hussein Kamil, according to Braut-Hegghammer, were on the cusp of a major breakthrough in their nuclear program on the eve of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. She argues that while both programs suffered from deep pathologies, Kamil’s management of the program pushed Iraq farther along by 1990 than anyone had realized. The implication is that, had Saddam not invaded Kuwait, Iraq might have successfully acquired nuclear weapons. The historical value of the book alone is worth the price of admission. It has no peer in its discussion of these nuclear programs. And the implicit theoretical argument raises a host of fascinating questions about the ability of some types of regimes to effectively pursue nuclear weapons, advancing work done by Jacques Hymans and, more recently, myself.
Throughout the 1990s, the study of nationalism, and state and national identities gained momentum in the discipline of International Relations (IR). With the emergence of ethno-national claims across the globe and the dissolution of multinational states, authors sought to comprehend what drove national interests and behaviors both domestically and internationally. Recently, literature on identities and cultures has again been burgeoning—with one major difference. In the 1990s, national identities and cultures were largely depicted as uniform, cohesive ‘units’ that would explain states’ behaviors and interests. Literature on strategic culture is a relevant case in point. Currently, authors seem to be focusing instead on the diversity of identities and recognition of difference. Andrew Hurrell’s decade-long research agenda on pluralism and global international relations is an illustrative example.
In a political climate characterized by daily claims of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts,’ it is hard to think of a subject more relevant to our time than the American presidency and the politics of deceit. In his new book, John Schuessler demonstrates that the issue of deception and American foreign policy long predates the Trump era. Deceit on the Road to War examines three important case studies: Franklin’s Roosevelt’s maneuvering of the American people into support for the war in Europe, Lyndon Johnson’s deceitful efforts to justify greater American military involvement in North and South Vietnam, and George W. Bush’s overselling of the war in Iraq. Of course, not all cases of presidential deception are exactly the same and the results can also vary. Unlike Johnson and Bush, FDR’s use of deception was probably necessary given the situation he faced, and America’s victory in the war has subjected him to far less historical scrutiny than presidents whose deception ended in defeat.
Perhaps the most important question in modern cyber security revolves around the issue of the efficacy of cyber operations. We know very little about how states achieve their goals in cyberspace, whether in deterring action, which is maintaining the status quo and preventing attacks, or in compellence, which is changing behavior by going on the offensive.
“Identity matters for security outcomes”, writes Jarrod Hayes in this fascinating roundtable on his 2013 book, Constructing National Security. Is there anyone working on international security today who can possibly think otherwise? Even the most diehard rationalist must surely recognize the importance of identity to President Donald Trump’s worldview, and to how other states, whether allies or adversaries, are developing their security policies in response to Trump’s election. But how much does identity matter? And when does identity matter? These are thornier issues. In answering these questions, both Constructing National Security and the contributors to this roundtable offer much food for thought.
The American political class has been working itself into a lather over the hacking of a number of email accounts, evidently by Russian intelligence, and the subsequent leaking of information from those emails during the recent presidential election campaign. Those leaks, it is said, hurt Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and might well have cost her the election.
Any new book by John Krige is always likely to offer original insights to our understanding of the interconnections between the history of science and international politics, and Sharing Knowledge, Shaping Europe is no exception. As all the three contributors to this H-Diplo Roundtable make abundantly clear, it is a significant contribution to the scholarly literature on the Cold War, on U.S. foreign policy, on European integration, and on nuclear non-proliferation. In this brief introduction, I shall first group together the many positive things the three reviewers say about the book and then I shall give a brief separate overview of some of their critical observations.