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.[1] 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.[2] 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.

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In her article “Proliferation and the Logic of the Nuclear Market,” Eliza Gheorghe argues that the distribution of power in the international system and the intensity of great power rivalries shape the supply-side environment for nuclear weapons proliferation.  Her article offers an international system-level explanation for why potential proliferators were more successful at acquiring foreign support for their nuclear weapons programs during the early part of the Cold War but were less so during the détente period of the Cold War and the unipolar period after its conclusion. Notably, Gheorghe predicts that the multipolar period into which the international system is emerging poses the greatest supply-side risks for nuclear weapons proliferation.

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Andrew Cottey’s article “Europe and China’s Sea Disputes” analyzes Europe’s approach to China’s maritime territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas.  The author argues that there are three major European approaches toward Chinese maritime disputes: “a normative approach emphasizing the resolution of disputes within the framework of international law; a power balancing approach, led by France and the United Kingdom, involving support for freedom of navigation operations and strengthened bilateral and EU ties with other Asian states; and de facto acquiescence to Chinese advances in the region” (473). The article further notes that these three approaches also follow a sequence.  That is, Europe first took the normative approach, and then turned to power balancing when the normative appeal was not effective.  Nevertheless, the author suggests that Europe has not taken a unitary stance regarding China’s territorial disputes; rather, divisions exist among European Union (EU) member states, with some members acquiescing to China.

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Scholars and policymakers are increasingly focused on understanding how coercion can take place in non-military domains. At the same time, China’s expanding military and economic clout has drawn greater attention to its use of coercive measures.[1] Against this backdrop, Ketian Zhang provides a timely contribution toward understanding the conditions under which states decide to use coercion and which coercive tools they choose to employ, with particular application to understanding China’s use of coercion.

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Do we really need another analysis of NATO enlargement? Hasn’t the topic been done to death? According to M. E. Sarotte’s article, “How to Enlarge NATO: The Debate inside the Clinton Administration, 1993–95,” there are some compelling reasons to reopen the debate on one of the most pivotal decisions of the post-Cold War era. Investigating the decision to enlarge NATO, Sarotte zooms in on a critical period of the history of the alliance between 1993-1995, when many of the key decisions were made within the Bill Clinton administration. She argues that another investigation of this period is essential, not just because of what was at stake in Europe—in Clinton’s own words “the first chance ever since the rise of the nation state to have the entire continent live in peace” (9) – but also due to the release of newly declassified sources including records of conversations between Presidents Clinton and Russia President Boris Yeltsin about the timing and process of the enlargement policy. The article thus largely avoids the more studied historical debate about whether NATO should have been expanded, and the implications of that decision for relations with Russia, and focuses on the important questions of when and how.

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In the age of purported American decline, the rise of China and changes in the international distribution of power, this highly ambitious special issue of Security Studies seeks to chart the emergence of new third-wave “hegemonic-order” theories. For John Ikenberry and Daniel Nexon, the editors of this volume, earlier waves of scholarship, including hegemonic-stability theory and power-transition theories, now need to be supplemented in order to respond to a rapidly changing global order.[1] This new direction in hegemony theory defines itself against earlier forms of scholarship in three distinct ways.

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In this tightly-written and richly-sourced article, Rosella Cappella Zielinski and Kaija Schilde offer a theory to explain why some U.S. presidents have been able to make targeted military spending cuts according to strategic needs whereas others were forced into blunt across-the-board cuts to assuage entrenched domestic interests. Although developed from U.S. cases, the authors expect that their theoretical framework has generalizability to other countries.

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There are good reasons to study Russia, China, and U.S. hegemony now. Facing common threats from the West, Russia and China have been moving closer since the 2010s. Are they going to finally form an alliance against the United States.? Will these rising powers seriously challenge or shake up the liberal world order that is built on U.S. hegemony? With Russian annexation of Crimea and China’s assertive diplomacy in the East China Sea as well as in the South China Sea, will a military conflict between the hegemon and rising powers be inevitable in the future? In a word, will “the ill winds”[1] from China and Russia, to borrow Larry Diamond’s phrase, pose fatal challenges to U.S. hegemony and world democracy?

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In this important article, Ahsan Butt advances an innovative argument for why the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Countering other common explanations, Butt argues that the United States was not motivated by a desire to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), promote democracy in the Middle East, or satisfy pro-war domestic interest groups. Instead, he maintains, the U.S.-led overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a “performative war” carried out to generate “demonstration effects” (263)—in particular, to show adversaries and potential challengers that the United States would act with overwhelming force to counter any threats to its power and standing. Backed up by a compelling array of evidence, this argument represents a major contribution to understanding the origins of the Iraq War.

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Sixteen years after the beginning of the Iraq War, American public support for the war remains a puzzle. Why would the public, scarred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and overwhelmingly supportive of sending troops to Afghanistan to capture al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and fight terrorism,[1] be willing to use military force on a different country, one not directly involved in attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon? The 9/11 attacks psychologically shook the public[2] and reshaped politics and society in the U.S., perhaps no more so than by involving the U.S. in two overseas wars that continue today. American support for wars is generally contingent[3]; Americans are more supportive of war when the war is expected to be short with few casualties, when military force is multilateral, and when the aim is military restraint rather than humanitarian. In times of crisis, the public does “rally around the flag,” increasing their support for the president and giving him more room to maneuver on foreign policy, an area where presidents already have an advantage.[4] Americans may be supportive of realist foreign policy,[5] but even if we allow for the framing of the war in Iraq as being in part of the War on Terror[6] and in the U.S. national interest George W. Bush administrations, we cannot fully explain why the public was supportive of the war as early as January 2002, as the authors document (3).

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