What convinces a country to adopt policies it might have previously eschewed as unimportant or against its interests? In practice, the global governance toolbox is notoriously limited. States, international organizations, and Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that want other actors to change their behavior are typically reduced to selecting between the unsatisfying options of economic sanctions, military force, or some kind of ‘naming and shaming.’ Often, sanctions and military force are considered too severe, too ineffective, or too politically difficult or economically costly to adopt and implement. As a result, actors commonly use naming and shaming because they can apply it across a range of practices, whether or not they have ready access to military or institutional power capabilities, at relatively low cost to themselves. Naming and shaming is a broad category of tools that involves publicizing the normatively-unacceptable behavior of actors (usually states) in order pressure them into adopting a more normatively-acceptable behavior. Yet its effectiveness has been a frequent matter of debate.
In his recent article in Security Studies, Yuan-kang Wang tackles a vitally important question in international relations: is unipolarity durable? Two opposing views can be derived from the extant literature. Declinists posit that unipolarity is doomed due to the formation of counter-unipolar balancing coalitions, the unipole’s imperial overstretch, and the uneven growth rate between the unipole and the potential challenger. Primacists generally focus on the case of the United States and postulate that American unipolarity will endure because balancing under unipolarity is too costly to be considered as a viable option. While much of this literature has approached the question through the use of theoretical frameworks that privilege structure over agency, Wang offers something novel.
I came to diplomatic history when the methods and knowledge base of my home discipline, musicology, were not quite sufficient to answer the questions I needed to ask. I am still a musicologist. But my engagement with diplomatic history, and with history more broadly, has been formative for my work. I believe, too, that musicology has insights to offer diplomatic history as well.
For a half-century, from 1959 until his death in 2009, Ernest May was in the front rank of historians studying the interactions of the United States with the world. He left an enormous and fascinatingly readable body of work and touched many lives. That is perhaps why this forum stimulated such a remarkable and contrasting set of substantial essays.
For over seventy years, the policy and academic communities have debated the effects of nuclear weapons on interstate relations. In this saturated field of study, there is little consensus except that a nuclear war would be devastating and that nuclear weapons aren’t going away any time soon.
Becoming a historian was perhaps over-determined in my family. My father, Brian Fitzpatrick, wrote books on Australian economic and labour history; my mother Dorothy taught history; and my younger brother, David Fitzpatrick, would become a distinguished historian (of twentieth-century Ireland) in his turn. But both David and I tried at first to avoid our fate, he with mathematics and I with the violin. I was well-trained as a historian at the University of Melbourne, although I did not fully appreciate this until later in life, but what hooked me was writing my history honours essay in my fourth year. The topic was Soviet music and my question was whether, as claimed, it had in fact succeeded in overcoming the growing chasm between popular and “serious” music evident in the West. I concluded that it hadn’t, which may have been partly wrong (if a reasonable conclusion at the time), but the search for an answer fascinated me. Decades later, working in the archives of the Soviet Society for Foreign Cultural Relations (VOKS) in Moscow, I stumbled upon my own letter of enquiry to VOKS, the Soviet society for foreign cultural relations, carefully typed on a blue aerogramme and sent from Melbourne in 1960. (They answered.)
The H-Diplo and ISSF editors are deeply saddened by the passing of Bob Jervis, a distinguished and award-winning scholar who was also well known for his limitless kindness and generosity (and sense of humor). Bob was a longstanding contributor to and supporter of H-Diplo. In 2009, in partnership with the H-Diplo editors, he founded the International Security Studies Forum (ISSF) and became its Executive Editor.
In this article Wyn Bown, Jeffrey Knopf, and Matthew Moran examine Syria’s possession and use of chemical weapons (CW) and third-party response. In this context, they assess how compellence succeeded in Syria when deterrent efforts had initially failed. President Barack Obama had set a ‘red line’ that signaled U.S. commitment to punish the Syrian regime if it used CW. Although the president did not follow through on his deterrence approach, the Syrian regime agreed to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) after its attack on Ghouta in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people. The destruction of a sizable portion of its CW stockpile followed. However, the Bashar al-Assad regime ordered additional CW attacks that included the use of chlorine and sarin agents from 2014-2018, some of them on a large scale. The authors ask why compellence succeeded after the easier task of deterrence had failed? Based on the case study and existing literature, the authors identify conditions of effective and ineffective coercion.
My career has been, I suppose, that of a changeling – an historian trapped in a political scientist’s body, an occasional bureaucrat and diplomat, a Dean and a pundit. My field has been that of ‘hard,’ i.e., military national security, but also military history, and some topics much further afield, to include a current project on William Shakespeare. It has been an exceptionally fulfilling and generally (although not always) a happy one. Much of it owes to good fortune, but the greatest part to all those who helped me along the way. Of all these, I will say at the outset, the important have been family – grandparents, parents, my wife, children and even grandchildren. It would be an intrusion on their privacy to say much on that score, but unquestionably they played the most important role in forming me, to include my professional career.
Growing up in 1970s Phoenix was hardly an obvious starting point for a career as a historian of Modern Europe. In formal terms of American history, Arizona was one of the newest political entities of the New World, having only acquired statehood in 1912, the last territory in the contiguous United States to do so, followed by Alaska and Hawaii in 1959. The state’s cultural identity oscillated between the poles of Texas and California, and loyalties to sports teams generally split along these lines, especially since the state only had one major sports franchise at the time. Phoenix was a fairly sleepy town through the 1970s, mostly serving as an overland stop on the way to the beaches of San Diego and Los Angeles, or a winter holiday destination for retiree ‘snow birds’ from the Midwest looking to play golf and tennis in January. Geographically and culturally, the East Coast was very far away, to say nothing of Old World Europe. Local history taught in school was provincial and colonial, pivoting on recounting the glories of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) and the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, landgrabs trumpeted as triumphant tales of Manifest Destiny. The typical diet of national(ist) history was occasionally complemented by forays into a more open-minded “world history,” usually conveyed in UNESCO-style “separate but equal” modules on Egyptian, Aztec, Greek and Roman Civilizations. I don’t remember much of it, mainly because school knowledge of history was tested exclusively through tedious multiple-choice examinations. I was able to memorize facts and dates quite easily, so that meant that I did well in history courses and probably carried on with them for that reason, with not much thought devoted to it.