The next election looms over nearly all decisions democratic leaders make. Choices about military strategy are no exception. Whatever the merits of a particular policy, it could well be overturned, along with the rest of a leader’s agenda, if it prompts voters to remove him or her from office. Some observers have long worried that electoral pressures give rise to short-term thinking and other pathologies in foreign policy decisionmaking. Others have argued, on the contrary, that electoral accountability leads to greater caution and prudence about war and peace. Andrew Payne’s article addresses the important question of how electoral pressures actually worked in an important recent conflict. Its case studies of decisionmaking under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the latter stages of the Iraq War are detailed and compelling. The evidence reviewed in the article could also speak to alternative theoretical mechanisms that the article does not consider in detail.
Category: Article Reviews
Brendan Rittenhouse Green and Austin Long dispute what they regard as conventional wisdom about the benefits and drawbacks of disclosing clandestine weapons, sensors, or associated hardware or software. Past international relations scholarship, contend Green and Long, dwelt to excess on the tradeoffs between concealing and revealing elements of military power during times of crisis or war, when political and military leaders issue threats to use force or actually order the sword drawn for battle. In such cases secrecy is at a premium lest the armed forces forfeit some combat advantage to a watchful, adaptive foe. The balance between political and military interests tilts toward concealment. Hence the conventional wisdom among scholars who study intelligence and national security
This article uses the testimony to the Rattenbach Commission, the official Argentine inquiry into the Falklands/Malvinas War, to refute fallacious explanations for the Argentine decision to invade the islands at the start of April 1982 and to offer an alternative explanation of its own. Those to be refuted are described as the “diversionary thesis,” which suggests that the war was launched to distract from the domestic woes of the ruling Junta, and the “miscalculation thesis” (34), which suggests that the Junta’s move was premeditated but failed to anticipate the British response. Instead of these theories the authors use prospect theory to argue that the Junta embarked on a military adventure with a high chance of failure in an effort to address a long-term sense of national decline and anxiety.
Our planet is approaching an environmental cliff edge. Deforestation, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change put our future at risk. Nuclear power, once envisaged as a source of energy that would become ‘too cheap to meter,’ is now regarded by some as a ‘green’ alternative to fossil fuels. For advocates of nuclear power, developments in recent years have brought reasons for optimism. Approximately 30 countries are contemplating, negotiating, or already setting up nuclear power programs. Eighty percent of them are developing economies, which, given the financial repercussions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, need access to affordable and clean energy in order to reduce the devastating effects of this economic tsunami. Among the countries aspiring to introduce nuclear power into their energy mix is Israel, whose government hopes that building nuclear power plants (NPPs) would help it reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030.
The repressive policies deployed by the Chinese party-state towards its Muslim population in the western region of Xinjiang has been at the forefront of international media attention. Beyond the sharp increase in the security presence in the region and the widespread use of technology-intensive policing, the extra-legal internment of 1 to 3 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups has been the most notable of these repressive policies. The so-called “Xinjiang papers,” a leak of internal Chinese documents revealed by the New York Times in 2019, have contributed to unveil the policy shift that has occurred in this region since early 2017. This tightly-written article by Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Myunghee Lee, and Emir Yazici endeavors to explain this evolution. It also stresses the transnational security dimension of these policies and aims at situating the Chinese case in the broader literature on political violence and domestic repression.
In this article Marina Henke takes an interest in force generation processes in European Union (EU) peacekeeping operations. Even though the EU is the subject of the research, force generation in multilateral peacekeeping operations is indeed an overlooked phenomenon in general. As such, and beyond the carefully studied and researched case that Henke examines here, her findings and the network theory of force generation that she offers have great potential for further empirical testing and validation in the framework of the operations of other organizations such as the United Nations or NATO.
In their recent article, “Dangerous Confidence? Chinese Views of Nuclear Escalation,” Fiona S. Cunningham and M. Taylor Fravel outline both the causes and consequences of Chinese views concerning conventional and nuclear warfare, limited or otherwise.
Nicolas Blarel and Jayita Sarkar have written a valuable article on the intra-state politics of foreign policy. An extensive line of research in recent years has examined how domestic political competition (i.e. elections and parties), public opinion, and leaders can shape foreign policy. Yet bureaucracies within the state – what Blarel and Sarkar refer to as ‘sub-state organizations’ or SSOs—are often powerful actors, especially in technical domains that often escape the detailed attention of the public or politicians. The authors aim to revive an older research approach—perhaps most associated with Graham Allison’s Essence of Decision – that took bureaucracies seriously as actors in international politics.
With the advent of nuclear weapons came the question of how their very existence changed the way we conduct and think about warfare. Nearly seventy five years after their first (and, to date, only) use at the end of World War II, the question remains far from resolved, as nuclear ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’ continue to debate what Andrew H. Kydd presents as a seemingly simple question: “Is the world better off with nuclear weapons or without?” (645). Kydd’s goal in this article is not to definitively adjudicate the question and come down conclusively on either side, but rather to add the conceptual element of ‘expected costs’ to the debate. In doing so, he introduces a useful meeting point for the two camps.
The technology of war is changing. Remarkable developments are underway in artificial intelligence, cyber technology, autonomous weaponry, hypersonic munitions delivery vehicles, additive manufacturing, remote sensing, stealth, and precision guidance. The ability of forces endowed with state-of-the-art warfighting technologies to see, target, and act efficiently and effectively on the battlefield is arguably greater than it has ever been, and is only likely to continue to improve. Recognizing that no single state is likely to create a monopoly on such technologies, and that it will be even less likely to maintain it if one is established, many observers argue that these advances have the potential to be profoundly destabilizing. The capabilities afforded to the most technologically advanced belligerents in future conflicts will likely spark arms races, create incentives to strike first in crises, and make the conduct of war more costly and painful for both combatants and for civilians on the home front. In short, the developing conventional wisdom suggests that while the capabilities afforded by these emerging technologies may be magnificent, their consequences for strategic stability are likely to be very dangerous.