In Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa, Alan J. Kuperman has assembled a diverse set of international scholars with different backgrounds ranging from Ph.D. candidates, to practitioners, to a distinguished professor emeritus. The book’s purpose is to contribute to a debate over whether “accommodation” or “integration” is the optimal constitutional design for African states (2-3). It is upfront in acknowledging that there are considerable methodological challenges to such a study, which Kuperman lists as “causal variable, outcome variables, endogeneity, omitted variables, selection effects, and degrees of freedom” (9).
We are thankful to the editors of H-Diplo/ISSF for giving us the chance to respond to Laura Sjoberg’s critique of “In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict.” Criticism often improves and hones arguments, so we welcome it. We feel that the structuration of male-female relations within a society has profound ramifications for that society’s horizon of stability, resilience, and security, and that the practice of brideprice is an excellent example of that linkage.
In 1965, four years after leaving the White House, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower published the second volume of his presidential memoirs, which covered the years 1956-1961. In it he recounted how his administration responded to the shock of the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Eisenhower stressed in particular how pleased he was with his designation of James Killian of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the nation’s first presidential science advisor:
“In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict” by Valerie Hudson and Hilary Matfess makes the argument that ‘brideprices’ in patrilineal societies warp marriage markets. These warped marriage markets enable terrorist groups to capitalize on men’s need to pay marriage money to women’s families as a motivation to join. The authors suggest that terrorist and rebel groups, in response to warped marriage markets, provide cheaper marriage, and encourage violent behavior to obtain access to marriage (21). The article provides a lengthy theoretical discussion of the costs of marriage in patrilineal societies. It then explores three brief cases, in Nigeria, South Sudan, and Saudi Arabia, arguing for the importance of controlling brideprices and contributing to the security of women in order to reduce conflict in places where there is a real threat from terrorist or rebel groups.
For all their differences, Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama have taken remarkably similar approaches to Afghanistan. Both entered office, conducted reviews of the domestically unpopular American-led war, and ultimately decided to increase the U.S. troop numbers there while continuing to support shaky, often corrupt, Afghan government partners.
Cyber-threats seem to be everywhere these days. In the past two weeks alone, we have learned that Russia has hacked into critical infrastructure sectors upon which citizens depend for daily survival, including nuclear, water, and aviation; that Iran has stolen massive amounts of data and intellectual property from professors around the world (such activities have previously been attributed primarily to China); and that the self-professed lone hacker who claimed to have provided stolen Democratic National Committee e-mails to Wikileaks, was actually working for the Russian military intelligence agency to meddle in electoral politics. Finally, after months of concern about Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns, new revelations about how big tech companies like Facebook furthered these efforts, have amplified profound questions about the future of representative governance, national sovereignty, and self-determination.
How should we greet the recent outpouring of works on the history of international thought since the Victorian era? Sent to trace this tidal wave back to its epicenter, will we point to George W. Bush’s steroidal cocktail of American exceptionalism and democracy promotion; the tightening noose of big data on Google Earth; the 1930s’ mantras and 1890s’ gilt of Donald Trump’s America; the false prophets of history’s end circa 1991; or the diminishing life support systems on Spaceship Earth? While the answer most likely eludes us at present, the persistent appeal of the topic indicates that it is no fad. If humanity maintains course toward mounting accumulations of wealth, inequality, hotspots, carbon, and hyperlinks, will we not be borne ceaselessly into the past in search of answers to how we arrived here, and where we might go next?
Why is the number of rebel groups espousing extremist ideology—Salafi jihadism in particular—on the rise? And why have these extremist groups seemingly thrived while their moderate counterparts have struggled? Or, to reframe this question in the context of Syria’s civil war, why was the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) far more effective at obtaining recruits and financing than the moderate Free Syrian Army?
How do great powers respond to rising challengers? Few questions generate as much attention among international relations theorists and historians. This is not surprising, given the stakes. Pessimistic accounts play up the danger of great power war, as ambitious rivals seek to upend the existing order. Flush with nationalism and brimming with confidence, rising powers may be willing to take extraordinary risks that lead to terrible violence. The existing leaders, for their part, may be unwilling to watch passively as their advantages diminish, and they may gamble on preventive war rather than wait to be overtaken. Other scholars are more sanguine, noting a number of possible factors that mitigate the chances of conflict. It may be possible to integrate a rising power into existing international institutions and create deep economic ties that give it a reason to choose cooperation.
Our reviewers agree that Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth have produced what Rosemary Kelanic describes as “an extremely useful book that should be required reading for all students of US grand strategy.” The reviewers have paid Brooks and Wohlforth the deep compliment of taking their arguments seriously, and any course on American foreign policy would do well to assign American Abroad and these responses to it.