By Sanjay Acharya - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7935275What do states do when faced with the threat of oil scarcity?  The three articles under review address different aspects of a single problem: what they might do; what they have done; and whether they should believe that there is any scarcity.  As befits students of international relations, the authors view this problem primarily as one of mercantilist politics for government policy makers.  Taken together, these essays provide an excellent antidote to the feverish claims that have been made repeatedly over at least the last century that oil is an increasingly scarce resource over which wars are necessary.  They also raise important issues about how foreign policy is made, whether high-level policy makers really understand the issues they address, and whether scholars suffer from a suffocating mix of naïveté and self-importance when they think about foreign policy.

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Cyber War versus Cyber Realities coverIt is great pleasure to write an introduction to this roundtable on Cyber War Versus Cyber Realities by Brando Valeriano and Ryan Maness. This is an important book, one of the very few that addresses the new cyber age from a theoretical as well as an empirical perspective. The reviews are written by notable scholars who are well versed on relevant substance, theory, and methods.  Each brings an important perspective to bear on the challenges at hand.  And each provides important critiques in highly constructive terms.  This book is also somewhat controversial in its purpose as well as its theoretical views, analysis, and execution.

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narrative-and-the-making-of-us-national-security-coverAmerican Presidents are often maligned for their rhetoric. U.S. leaders’ words are not to be trusted: they will use whatever language allows them pander, to bluster, even to deceive their audiences. Yet as Ronald R. Krebs demonstrates in this impressive new work, presidential rhetoric is far from cheap. Indeed, it lies at the core of national security politics: under the right conditions, a leader’s rhetoric tells the public a story about national security, in the process creating a narrative that shapes the president’s understanding of the political world, and lays the foundation for grand strategy.

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IAEA FlagSixty years ago, on 23 October 1956, an international conference at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York adopted the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The document is almost as long as the UN Charter and remains the legal foundation of ‘the Agency,’ as the world nuclear organization is widely called.[1] This H-Diplo/ISSF policy roundtable uses the anniversary as an opportunity to discuss the IAEA’s mandate and role in history and current affairs. Does the IAEA Statute, which was written in a very different context, stand up to scrutiny today? What does the answer suggest about the IAEA and institutions of global nuclear governance more generally? How can the IAEA be strengthened?

 

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untitledThe mills of historical research grind slowly,” Yale historian Hajo Holborn wrote in the early 1950s. Holborn made his observations with reference to the German delegation to Versailles in 1919. While it would have been “no doubt desirable” to the Germans to have “set into motion an objective study of the causes of the world war” to help them push back against Article 231, the “war guilt” clause, there was no hope such a history could be produced in time.[1]

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Peaceland coverIn Peaceland: Conflict Resolution and the Everyday Politics of International Intervention, Séverine Autesserre argues convincingly that a wide variety of international peacebuilders, however different they may seem at first glance, form a distinct cultural group who share everyday practices, narratives and habits. Moreover, she argues, these shared everyday elements are counter-productive and actually contribute to peacebuilding ineffectiveness. Weaving together extensive ethnographic research from conflict zones including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Afghanistan, Burundi, and Timor Leste, alongside reflections of personal experiences as a peacebuilder, Autesserre offers, in the words of reviewer Sarah Bush “many of the best things that social science research has to offer, including a clear, original theory about an important topic (the determinants of peacebuilding effectiveness) and a wealth of new empirical evidence designed to test that theory.”

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Security Studies coverInternational relations scholars have long recognized the importance of status concerns in motivating state behavior.[1] However, surprisingly little work has disentangled status from its association with the distribution of power in the international system to identify clear conditions under which status dissatisfaction will be more or less salient. In this article, Joslyn Barnhart addresses both questions directly, presenting a theory which argues that humiliating events drive states’ efforts to assert their status through competitive behavior. She then supports her argument using evidence from French and German colonial expansion in Africa during the early 1880s. Importantly, these status concerns can occur regardless of the relative power between the state sender and receiver of the humiliation, and regardless of whether the states in question are rising or declining powers. In this way, Barnhart’s article contributes to a growing literature which seeks both to explain and identify the effects of variation in the salience of status insecurity in international relations.[2]

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The China Challenge coverFew political scientists enjoy a level of respect within the discipline comparable to that of Thomas Christensen. His work is always theoretically informed, but also open to the insights of a variety of paradigms and approaches rather than being the captive of a single school of thought. Both of his previous books on alliance politics and Sino-American conflict in the Cold War, as well as numerous articles, are superb examples of how theoretically informed historical research and area expertise can advance scholarship in both disciplines.[1] Christensen has also helped formulate recent U.S. policy towards East Asia, most recently as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs during the Bush administration.

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JoGGS coverWithout saying so, Andrej Krickovic’s “Catalyzing Conflict” makes a compelling case that state power is a function of legitimacy.  And legitimacy, in turn, is driven by a state’s ability to generate some combination of military capability (that, among other things, allows it to monopolize coercion within its borders), economic development, cultural unity, and political stability.  Unquestionably, there is an issue of endogeneity at play in analyzing the relationship between legitimacy and power.  But through his discussion of the security dilemma Krickovic effectively raises the importance of domestic vulnerabilities for the construction of foreign policy.

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Security Studies coverScholars have long studied the causes of World War One. More recently, they have focused on events and processes which occurred after the outbreak of hostilities, including military intervention, war fighting strategies, and especially the war’s duration. In particular, research has explored why the Central Powers and the Entente were unable to reach a peace agreement before autumn 1918 given the obvious stalemate on the Western Front after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan in 1914. Alexander Lanoszka and Michel Hunzeker provide the latest entry into this line of enquiry, arguing that British concerns about national honor made a negotiated peace impossible and extended the war until Germany’s ultimate collapse in November 1918.

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