Jennifer L. Erickson’s Dangerous Trade is a powerful reminder of the manifold ways in which arms control raises the most enduring questions in the study of international politics. The ability to regulate violence capacity on a given territory is central to the very idea of the modern state. The unfettered capacity to wield organized violence externally in pursuit of collective interest is the central preoccupation of governments. In the middle of the last century, thinkers such as Bernard Brodie, Henry Kissinger, Thomas Schelling, and Hedley Bull were preoccupied with the special incentives nuclear weapons might generate to overcome barriers to cooperation in anarchy and accept limits on states’ violence capacity in their own (and the world’s) best interest. As scholars such as Robert Jervis and Charles Glaser later made clear, however, explicit or implicit inter-state cooperation on conventional arms control could play a critical role in moderating the security dilemma. Those works and the studies they inspired bore deep into the core questions of security-seeking and cooperation under anarchy, but often abstracted away from important related question of domestic politics, the origins of state interests, and the role of norms and ideas in inter-state relations. Subsequent lines of research began formally to incorporate domestic political incentives, and, inspired by the landmark collection edited by Peter J. Katzenstein, The Culture of National Security, collectively held ideas and norms.
No one is sure what effect Russia had on the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community and private sector cybersecurity firms are confident that Russian intelligence agencies sponsored efforts to steal and release information from the Democratic National Committee, and from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. The stolen emails were mostly banal, but the Trump campaign used them as evidence that Clinton and her party were corrupt and untrustworthy. This may have had the effect of increasing support for Trump, or at least depressing the turnout among would-be Clinton voters. Even small shifts might have changed the result, given the razor-thin margins in key states. But the election was so peculiar in so many ways that it is difficult to attribute the outcome to a single cause. Alleged Russian ‘doxing’–the term for stealing and revealing private information–may or may not have been terribly important compared to other factors in a historically strange campaign.
Max Paul Friedman and Tom Long argue that Latin American foreign policies, particularly those of Argentina, Colombia, and Mexico, constitute a case of ‘soft balancing’ against the United States in the early decades of the twentieth century. Rather than engaging in issue-specific contestation or bilateral negotiations with Washington, Latin American leaders and diplomats focused on building regional institutions and shaping norms in favor of nonviolent dispute resolution and respect for state sovereignty. The named foreign policy doctrines of Argentine jurist and Foreign Minister Luis María Drago, Argentine diplomat Carlos Calvo, and Mexican Foreign Minister Genaro Estrada not only anchored the arguments of international lawyers and the foreign policies of their countries, but also circumscribed, constrained, and influenced U.S. foreign policy in the Americas. Ultimately, the authors argue, Latin American statecraft generated the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s Good Neighbor Policy, a commitment to non-intervention that reversed more than three decades of North American military practice in the circum-Caribbean (135, 152).
President Donald Trump has now assumed control over the nation’s arsenal of more than 4,000 nuclear weapons. What will he do with them? We do not yet know the Trump administration’s approach to nuclear strategy, but Trump has offered some clues to his mindset. He has denounced nuclear arms control, declaring that he would welcome a renewed nuclear arms race with Russia. He has indicated that he might be willing to allow Japan and other U.S. allies to acquire nuclear weapons. And he has suggested that he might be willing to use nuclear weapons against the Islamic State.
Rumors of a Russian connection with the Trump administration continue to proliferate and leaks from the intelligence agencies show no signs of stopping. The Trump administration responds with accusations of its own; most recently, that Trump was illegally wire-tapped on the orders of President Barack Obama. We are far from the bottom of any of this, so it is difficult to write about allegations of improper relations between the Trump team and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Russia with any certainty, let alone with the historian’s preferred tool of hindsight. In fact, I write knowing that this essay is already almost surely out of date.
Why do combatants engage in sexual violence during civil and interstate wars? This research question has received much-needed attention from scholars across multiple disciplines in recent years. It forms part of a larger research agenda focusing on why combatants deliberately seek to harm civilians in a variety of ways, whether through massacres, forced population movement, torture, terrorist attacks, indiscriminate bombing and shelling, and so on. This research agenda is an important one for the scholarly understanding of conflict. In particular, it addresses the puzzle of why combatants would resort to targeting civilians, when there is considerable evidence that doing so can, under a range of circumstances, undermine the likelihood that they will achieve their political and military objectives. This work also holds the promise of devising interventions that could minimize human suffering during conflict. Research on sexual violence is an important part of this movement, and scholars working this area have begun to identify the strategic, organizational, and cultural factors that drive rape and other forms of sexual abuse during wartime.
Donald Trump’s election will be “the biggest f**k-you ever recorded in human history,” predicted the film-maker Michael Moore in the summer of 2016. He reminded his Midwestern audience that it was Trump who had the audacity to meet with CEOs of Ford Motor Company and warn them: if you move your factories to Mexico, I will slap a 35% tariff on all your imports to the United States. We laughed. Trump won. Moore became a prophet.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Series asks, among other questions, what diplomatic history and international relations theory tell us about the future of the U.S. in the world. I attempt to answer from the historian’s side, by focusing on economic nationalism in the 1930s. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 represents the most famous case of trade protectionism in American history, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s rejection of the World Economic Conference three years later added to the U.S. economic nationalist response to world affairs. Both issues inform us of the possible consequences of Donald Trump’s approach to the global economy. I think history offers some dismal lessons.
On the night of November 9, 1989, it was apparent to everyone on the scene in Berlin, and to spectators across the world, watching on TV, that history had reached a turning point. The ramifications of the opening of the Berlin Wall, as was also widely understood at the time, would not be limited to central Europe, but would reverberate around the globe. A little less than a year later, U.S. president George H.W. Bush, addressing Congress, articulated this understanding in calling for a ‘new world order.’ Separating this phrase both from its rhetoric of Cold War triumphalism and the various conspiracy theories that have grown up around it, I would suggest that the 1990s actually did see the development—tentative, hesitating, contradictory and incomplete—of a new world order, one reflecting the turbulent events of 1989 across the Eurasian land-mass, as well as the aspirations that propelled these events, the promises of 1989. But by the end of that decade and the beginning of the new millennium, a reaction to that order was beginning to emerge, which would strengthen across the early years of the twenty-first century. The two political upheavals of 2016, the Brexit vote, and the election of Donald Trump as American President, are major signs of the triumph of that reaction, the end of the new world order, and the failure of the promises of 1989.