It seems obvious that an understanding of the nature and value of diplomacy should be of central importance to the study of international relations. However, as Brian Rathbun argues in his important new book, the sad reality is that international relations theorists have devoted little time or attention to systematically exploring the value of diplomacy. In his view, the main reason for this lack of emphasis on diplomacy can be explained by the discipline’s traditional focus on structural elements of the international system, such as anarchy and the distribution of power. Drawing on psychological theories of motivation and negotiation, Diplomacy’s Value offers important arguments about why leaders adopt various negotiating styles and how these styles facilitate or impair the negotiation of international agreements. These arguments are then applied to two of the more fascinating examples of twentieth-century international diplomacy: the Locarno era negotiations of the 1920’s and the Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy of the 1990’s.
It is a pleasure to read Feng Zhang’s Chinese Hegemony: Grand Strategy and International Institutions in East Asian History. This book is an exemplar in its serious treatment of Chinese history, its holistic approach to East Asian history covering Inner Asia as well as Korea and Japan, its simultaneous analysis of the foreign policy strategies of both imperial China and its neighbors, and its meticulous examination of fluctuating normative and instrumental strategies in particular periods and in particular relations. It will no doubt become required reading in the International Relations literature.
When released in July 2016, The Report of the Iraq Inquiry elicited the familiar reactions to other government post-mortems about a controversial policy. People noted its size and demanded to know what was new. When few ‘sensational’ details emerged, most observers concluded that the report confirmed what they already believed–good and bad.
A Note from the H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Roundtable Editors
Imagine the best panel discussion or listserv conversation, where experienced professionals strip away academic jargon and get to the heart of debates over current security controversies.
H-Diplo wants to capture the essence of these conversations in a new series, the International Security Studies Forum Policy Roundtable. The ISSF policy roundtable is an opportunity for policymakers and scholars to discuss important issues in a format that is somewhat less formal than a journal correspondence. We want experienced professionals to help readers make sense of complex events, identifying the big issues that are sometimes obscured. And as with our other ISSF publications, we encourage writers to use history to illuminate and add context to current controversies. We believe that readers will find these roundtables useful for understanding the fundamental issues at stake.
Joshua Rovner, Frank Gavin, and Diane Labrosse
Where do new theories come from? In his landmark Theory of International Politics, Kenneth Waltz suggested that “the long process of painful trial and error will not lead to the construction of a theory unless at some point a brilliant intuition flashes, a creative idea emerges. One cannot say how the intuition comes and how the idea is born. One can say what they will be about.”
If intelligence has now received sufficient attention so that it is no longer the hidden dimension of international politics, Soviet intelligence still fits this categorization. Our three reviewers welcome Jonathan Haslam’s lively overview of the subject and commend him for drawing on so many of the documents which, although revealing as far as they go, remain tantalizingly limited. As Paul Pillar, a career government official with excellent scholarly qualifications, notes, “Near and Distant Neighbors deserves to be read as a standard work on Soviet intelligence.”
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.