Nicolas Guilhot and Ido Oren both contribute useful insights, in the paper Guilhot published in Behavioral Sciences, and in Oren’s review of it here. I would like to offer a more personal perspective based on my own experience. As a young History student at Columbia College from 1969 to 1973 I did, nevertheless, hover on the edges of the Political Science Department and its Institute of War and Peace Studies, the hotbed of IR at Columbia. From 1973 to 1981 I was a graduate student in IR at the Institute—and a direct observer of all of this. William T. R. Fox was my mentor, seconded by the nuclear weapons theorist Warner R. Schilling. Fox’s impact on the field has been dimmed by time but merits greater attention—it was he, after all, who coined the term “superpower,” and whose participation in a study group with Bernard Brodie led to the first systematic attempt to consider the international implications of the atomic bomb in The Absolute Weapon.
Category: Article Reviews
Nicolas Guilhot has established himself as arguably the leading disciplinary historian of post-World War II international relations (IR). In an earlier, “must-read” essay Guilhot painstakingly documented how, in the 1950s, the Rockefeller Foundation bankrolled a network of realist scholars and practitioners who set out to build a theory of IR. Although they could not agree on the meaning of “theory,” members of the group, including Hans Morgenthau of the University of Chicago and William Fox of Columbia University, were nearly all opposed to the creed that Morgenthau famously attributed to “scientific man”: the “conception of the social and physical world as being intelligible through the same rational processes” and the attendant view that “the social world is susceptible to rational control conceived after the model of the natural sciences.” Guilhot cogently interpreted the group’s effort to “theorize” IR as a defensive reaction to the surge of the behavioral movement in the social sciences, a movement that appeared to embrace the creed of “scientific man” and that was generously funded by the Ford Foundation. For Morgenthau and his associates, creating “IR theory” was a way of delineating “an independent disciplinary territory” for the field, rendering it “immune to the cues of behavioralism.” 
If successful grand strategy requires balancing a state’s commitments and its resources, a great power in decline might be expected to retrench. According to Paul MacDonald and Joseph Parent, however, the conventional wisdom is that retrenchment rarely occurs and, when it does, rarely succeeds. “Retrenchment pessimists,” they note, contend either (1) that strategic retrenchment is dangerous because it signals weakness and invites attack, or (2) that retrenchment is desirable, but cannot be achieved because of domestic cultural and/or political constraints (9-10).
Contemporary scholarly examinations of John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress are surprisingly thin on the ground. This is a trend, moreover, that has been as true with respect to broad studies of the entire program as it has for more specific assessments of individual case studies. There is a difference between a field that is only partially developed, of course, and one that is barren: a number of important works relating to the Alliance are already in existence, while the article under review here suggests a number of ways that the extant literature can be further developed in accordance with emerging work on the history of development and on Latin America’s place in the Global Cold War. By providing a detailed examination of the Alliance’s implementation in Bolivia, Thomas Field significantly enriches our understanding of what remains a complex and thorny period in inter-American relations. Constructed upon rhetorical foundations characterised by noble ideals of development, democracy and social progress, the subsequent deterioration of Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress into a morass of missed targets, worsening inter-American relations, and the support of a range of authoritarian regimes, has long puzzled scholars of U.S. policy in the region. Why did the Kennedy administration’s benevolent intentions, scholars have typically asked, go awry as the Alliance failed to meet its grand goals?
Over the last two decades international relations (IR) scholars, who tend to be political scientists, have developed an impressive body of knowledge on the evolution, institutionalization, and globalization of human rights. They have benefitted, and will continue to benefit, from the detailed and careful historical research of the sort authored by Margaret McGuinness and William Schabas. But there is the possibility that the IR-based literature might also aid historians as they continue to create an international history of human rights.
In “Commerce and Complicity,” Elizabeth Borgwardt exhumes the elided history, distorted memory, and unpredictable legal legacy of the Nuremberg trials. By tracing the evolution of three critical principles long associated with those trials—universal jurisdiction, crimes against humanity, and individual status within the international community—she provides a nuanced explanation for Nuremberg’s relevance to the emergence of postwar human rights that helps explain why postwar human rights were both so attenuated and so unexpectedly resilient. Her essay begins to provide an answer to the question of how historians should evaluate human rights efforts that “seem simultaneously to be losing the battle but winning the war” (639).
Jacqueline Newmyer provides an excellent overview of how the Chinese military discovered the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), and how it is apparently trying to adapt the RMA to its own purposes. She correctly traces the origins of the contemporary information technologies-led RMA back to Soviet Marshal Nikolai V. Ogarkov’s writings on “the military-technological revolution,” and to subsequent analyses by American analysts (particularly Andrew Marshall, Andrew Krepinevich, and Eliot Cohen) in the 1990s (485-486). These analysts argued that rapid innovations in information technologies (IT) over the past couple of decades have permitted militaries to transform their warfighting capabilities to such an extent that they constituted a “paradigm shift in the nature and conduct of military operations,” and as such were viewed as a “discontinuous” or “disruptive,” change in the character, concept, and mode of warfare. 
Last April, the Obama administration announced that the “United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.” This declaration appeared to sharply constrain the conditions under which any U.S. leader would consider using nuclear weapons. After all, most of the world is made up of non-nuclear states in good standing with the NPT, meaning that there is a very small list of potential targets to attack. Moreover, the administration went further by declaring that the fundamental purpose of nuclear weapons was deterrence and that such weapons were reserved for “extreme circumstances to defend the vital interests of the United States or its allies and partners” (quoted in Gerson, 7-8).
Brian Rathbun asks an arresting question, and a fair one. Several years ago Jeffrey Legro and Andrew Moravcsik hurled down the gauntlet by asking “Is Anybody Still a Realist?” Their answer was: not really. If Legro and Moravcsik are correct that nearly every IR scholar today considers domestic factors causal in some fashion, then we must ask whether that makes everyone a liberal. And if the answer turns out affirmative, is that not a problem for liberalism? If we are all liberals now, then does liberalism have any meaning in IR research?
Kevin Woods and Mark Stout have provided a valuable service to the scholarly community by using the trove of primary source documents captured by American forces in Iraq to try to reconstruct Saddam Hussein’s strategic thinking. Those who follow this case will be familiar with their arguments, which they (and other authors) set out in The Iraqi Perspectives Report (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2006) and The Mother of All Battles (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008). The former dealt with Iraqi (which is to say, Saddam’s) decisions in the 2003 war and the latter with how Iraq behaved in the Gulf War of 1990-91. Woods and Stout, in footnote 3, assure readers that a “recent decision by the Department of Defense will in the near future make portions of this collection available to non-governmental scholars” on the model of how Washington dealt with documents captured during World War II. I hope that they have read the Pentagon’s thinking on this correctly, and I hope that the “portions” are pretty close to 100%. It is hard to imagine what national security rationale there would be for classifying the internal deliberations of a defunct foreign regime.