Every year scores of official aid agencies, foreign ministries, international organizations, transnational non-governmental organizations, private foundations, and for-profit development organizations design, fund, and implement thousands of projects aimed at advancing democracy in over one hundred countries, spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion. Multiply this annual activity by the fact that such assistance has been underway now for more than thirty years (although it was a smaller field in its early years) and it becomes evident that the total amount of activity making up the domain of democracy assistance is enormous.
T.V. Paul has captured something both intangible and frustrating in debates over nuclear deterrence: the disconnect between strategic and moral thinking. Anyone who has worked on these issues is — or should be — struck by the almost casual way in which planners and strategists speak about the use of nuclear weapons, especially against small nuclear powers or even against non-nuclear states about to cross the nuclear threshold. It is not unusual to hear the use of five, ten, or twenty tactical nuclear weapons being mooted in various scenarios, or even to contemplate the employment of a small number of strategic strikes.
Paul C. Avey has done international security scholars a tremendous service with his research on the role played by nuclear non-use norms in military confrontations. In “Who’s Afraid of the Bomb?,” Avery takes on a key question that has seen surprisingly little attention to date: to what extent do non-nuclear states disregard the credibility of nuclear weapons due to normative considerations? After all, we have good reason to think that norms influence the desirability and use of nuclear weapons. No nuclear weapon has been detonated over an enemy target since 1945. Only a handful of states actually possess nuclear weapons today. And those that aggressively seek nuclear weapons—like North Korea—have such low standing among many other states as to have pariah status. It thus stands to reason that no state would want to commit the outrage associated with delivering the first nuclear attack since the Second World War. Adversaries—especially non-nuclear adversaries—should discount being targets of such an attack in fights against nuclear-armed states.
Scholars of political violence readily delve into policy and strategy but seldom below those levels of analysis. They usually consign concern with operations and tactics to military buffs. As Carl von Clausewitz argued, however, strategic success depends on and is ultimately reducible to tactical success. So predicting how military success or failure affect political and strategic outcomes in war is naturally driven to the operational and tactical levels.
There are many international relations theorists in academia who opine on world order and grand strategy. There are many policy analysts in think tanks with deep understanding of military programs, budgets, and operations. There are not many, however, who combine both sorts of expertise in equal depth. Barry Posen is one of the very best of the very few who do. Since the Cold War he has focused on clarifying the logic of choice among several models of American grand strategy in the context of practical considerations of cost.
Foreign Affairs recently featured a forum on “Obama’s World: Judging His Foreign Policy Record.” Gideon Rose, editor of the journal, started the discussion with an overall positive assessment of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy through August 1, 2015 and the agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. The Islamic State (ISSIL) seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, in June 2014 and emerged as a serious threat in the Syrian civil war as well as in Iraq. As the title of the article, “What Obama Gets Right: Keep Calm and Carry the Liberal Order On,” indicates, Rose favorably emphasizes Obama’s “grasp of the big picture,” his perspective as an “ideological liberal with a conservative temperament,” and his determination to reverse the mistakes of the George W. Bush administration. The Bush Whitehouse, Rose suggests, made many mistakes in the first term, following policies that were “deeply flawed in both conception and execution” (2, 6). Rose concludes that Obama was “better at strategy than implementation” in his focus on preserving the core of the liberal world order by “downsizing the U.S. global role” and reducing the commitment of U.S. resources, particularly U.S. ground military forces, to peripheral areas (10, 7).
American political scientists who perform case studies straddle two very different strategies of inquiry. On the one hand, they seek to understand politics in terms of narratives that explore closely the events in a single historical episode. On the other, they work within a disciplinary framework that emphasizes the statement of general theories, the treatment of events as samples drawn from a larger population, and hypothesis testing using statistical inference as a central activity. That these two perspectives are deeply in tension has been recognized since quantitative social science began in the early twentieth century, and has been the source of seemingly never-ending disciplinary controversy.
John Thompson has been thinking deeply about American politics and foreign policy for almost fifty years. Previously, he has written luminously about the Progressive era and Woodrow Wilson. Now, he has integrated the conclusions of several important articles that he has written over the years and congealed his thinking about the motivations undergirding America’s assumption of global responsibilities.
In Democracy Promotion, National Security and Strategy: Foreign Policy under the Reagan Administration, Robert Pee explores the United States’ attempts to promote democracy abroad during the Reagan administration. The title of Pee’s book captures a central challenge Washington faced with this issue not only during the 1980s but also throughout the Cold War after 1945. Security considerations frequently clashed with efforts to promote democracy, representative government, and human rights versus authoritarian regimes that were allied with the U.S. around the globe. After an overview of the emergence of democracy promotion and its relationship to U.S. Cold War policies under containment and a discussion of problems that disrupted cooperation between Washington and private groups as well as a decline in support for modernization as an effective solution, Pee focuses on debate within the Reagan administration on how to integrate the promotion of democracy with U.S. foreign policy goals, most notably the perception of increased challenges of communism aided by the Soviet Union spreading in the Southern hemisphere. In several chapters Pee explores the debate within the Reagan administration over how to respond to issues such as the effort by the Polish government in 1981 to ban the Solidarity labor movement and whether the effort to promote democracy should be aimed at reinforcing Washington’s national-security goal of challenging the Soviet Union and regimes identified as Communist allies of Moscow from Fidel Castro’s Cuba to the new Sandinista regime in Nicaragua and the Soviet- and Cuban-backed government in Angola.
For scholars engaging in qualitative analysis, the concept of ‘process tracing’ comes in many shapes and forms. In its most basic form, process tracing refers to a set of procedures that uses qualitative evidence in an attempt to establish a causal relationship between one or more explanatory variables and a dependent variable. Notwithstanding the common use of this conventional term in scholarly work in international relations, we still lack conceptual clarity about what ‘good process tracing’ genuinely entails, how to utilize it best in qualitative research, and what its limitations are. This is unfortunate given that one of the advantages of case studies is their potential for illuminating causal mechanisms. Process tracing, in particular, is one of the most useful procedures available to test causality using qualitative evidence. For exactly these reasons, this symposium is of significant importance both for scholars who already believe (mistakenly or not) that the evidence they present amounts to ‘process tracing,’ as well as those who wish to learn how to use this important technique in their future qualitative work.Continue reading