El Salvador’s civil war claimed 75,000 lives, lasted 12 years, and devastated the country in ways felt to this day. Even so, U.S. counterinsurgency scholars often point to El Salvador as a success story and source of lessons for wars to come. Through military and economic aid, and the deployment of 55 advisers to assist with the counterinsurgency effort, the United States helped the San Salvador regime survive the onslaught of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) in the early 1980s, undergo a process of democratization, reform, and military professionalization, and navigate eventual peace talks, leading to a resolution of the conflict in 1992. To many, the fact that FMLN’s armed revolution failed, that the peace held, and that the regime survived, and better yet democratized, without the United States ever engaging directly in combat, provides a tantalizing illustration of what Washington could achieve, again with limited effort, in other insurgency-threatened parts of the world.

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UN stamp cessession of nuclear testingJulia Macdonald begins her review for this forum by pointing out that nuclear security studies has in the past decade undergone a “renaissance” in both political science studies and international history. Macdonald proceeds to note some of the most influential earlier studies by leading scholars such as Robert Jervis and Kenneth Waltz before discussing the newer studies which include the articles under review. Frank Gavin is one of the authors of an article under review as well as the author of Nuclear Statecraft; History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age, which has a broader focus than that of the forum but addresses the subject of proliferation and its role in U.S. grand strategy during the Cold War and into the Obama administration.[1] As Macdonald emphasizes, the new studies significantly challenge some of the leading earlier works by demonstrating the importance of non-proliferation as a central objective in U.S. Cold-War strategy and the degree to which mutually assured destruction (MAD) did not necessarily contribute to “caution and stability among states, but instead can actually facilitate a range of different behaviors from compromise to aggression.”

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By Jeff Kubina (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsAdam Liff’s “Whither the Balancers? The Case for a Methodological Reset” and Ryan Griffith’s “States, Nations, and Territorial Stability: Why Chinese Hegemony Would Be Better for International Order” seek to re-examine several foundational concepts in international relations scholarship. Liff argues for a more conceptually rigorous and standardized specification of balancing that sufficiently accounts for contemporary state behavior. He does so considering reactions to China by what he terms “secondary states” in East Asia and taking on the body of literature that claims an absence of regional balancing in the wake of China’s rise. Griffiths aims to tackle the issues of self-determination and order, which are fundamental to the existing international system and the study of international politics. He proposes that a globally dominant China that continues to insist on its strongly-held preference for territorial integrity is likely to result in a decline in violence from secessionist movements.

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When the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was created sixty years ago, it was presented as a development agency turning nuclear swords into ploughshares. A small group of nuclear ‘haves’ negotiated the IAEA Statute between 1953 and 1957, securing privileged positions for themselves. Less-developed states were largely ignored during this process. Unsurprisingly, nuclear haves (states with advanced nuclear infrastructure and resources) and have-nots (everyone else) held different preferences about the main purpose of the IAEA: technology diffusion or nonproliferation.

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Tsuyoshi Kawasaki’s article contributes to a modest literature on Canada’s diplomatic, security, and defence relations with the Asia Pacific countries. It provides the reader with a succinct and useful review of emergent China in the larger international community with particular reference to U.S.-China relations.  Derivatively, Kawasaki explores his thesis concerning its implications for Canada.

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By Sanjay Acharya - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7935275What do states do when faced with the threat of oil scarcity?  The three articles under review address different aspects of a single problem: what they might do; what they have done; and whether they should believe that there is any scarcity.  As befits students of international relations, the authors view this problem primarily as one of mercantilist politics for government policy makers.  Taken together, these essays provide an excellent antidote to the feverish claims that have been made repeatedly over at least the last century that oil is an increasingly scarce resource over which wars are necessary.  They also raise important issues about how foreign policy is made, whether high-level policy makers really understand the issues they address, and whether scholars suffer from a suffocating mix of naïveté and self-importance when they think about foreign policy.

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untitledThe mills of historical research grind slowly,” Yale historian Hajo Holborn wrote in the early 1950s. Holborn made his observations with reference to the German delegation to Versailles in 1919. While it would have been “no doubt desirable” to the Germans to have “set into motion an objective study of the causes of the world war” to help them push back against Article 231, the “war guilt” clause, there was no hope such a history could be produced in time.[1]

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Security Studies coverInternational relations scholars have long recognized the importance of status concerns in motivating state behavior.[1] However, surprisingly little work has disentangled status from its association with the distribution of power in the international system to identify clear conditions under which status dissatisfaction will be more or less salient. In this article, Joslyn Barnhart addresses both questions directly, presenting a theory which argues that humiliating events drive states’ efforts to assert their status through competitive behavior. She then supports her argument using evidence from French and German colonial expansion in Africa during the early 1880s. Importantly, these status concerns can occur regardless of the relative power between the state sender and receiver of the humiliation, and regardless of whether the states in question are rising or declining powers. In this way, Barnhart’s article contributes to a growing literature which seeks both to explain and identify the effects of variation in the salience of status insecurity in international relations.[2]

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JoGGS coverWithout saying so, Andrej Krickovic’s “Catalyzing Conflict” makes a compelling case that state power is a function of legitimacy.  And legitimacy, in turn, is driven by a state’s ability to generate some combination of military capability (that, among other things, allows it to monopolize coercion within its borders), economic development, cultural unity, and political stability.  Unquestionably, there is an issue of endogeneity at play in analyzing the relationship between legitimacy and power.  But through his discussion of the security dilemma Krickovic effectively raises the importance of domestic vulnerabilities for the construction of foreign policy.

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Security Studies coverScholars have long studied the causes of World War One. More recently, they have focused on events and processes which occurred after the outbreak of hostilities, including military intervention, war fighting strategies, and especially the war’s duration. In particular, research has explored why the Central Powers and the Entente were unable to reach a peace agreement before autumn 1918 given the obvious stalemate on the Western Front after the failure of the Schlieffen Plan in 1914. Alexander Lanoszka and Michel Hunzeker provide the latest entry into this line of enquiry, arguing that British concerns about national honor made a negotiated peace impossible and extended the war until Germany’s ultimate collapse in November 1918.

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