“Divided priorities: why and when allies differ over military intervention” by Ronald R. Krebs and Jennifer Spindel is an important piece of research. The authors challenge the validity of the claim that weaker allies value their patrons’ hawkish postures in distant conflicts. This claim, first put forward by Glen Snyder in Deterrence and Defense (1961), reasons that a patron’s limited foreign interventions make allies feel reassured of their own defense commitment with their patron state: if their benefactor is willing to fight for places of trivial intrinsic and strategic importance, it will surely also be willing to fight for them if the necessity arises.
Category: Article Reviews
“We need to rethink how democratic politics relate to foreign policy behavior” (444). This is how Vipin Narang and Paul Staniland describe the objective of their article, one that they achieve with theoretical sophistication and a deft grasp of the literature on the democratic difference in security studies.
Few issues arouse as much debate as the Iraq War. The decision to invade in 2003 was a milestone for U.S. foreign policy and Middle Eastern politics. Advocates of the war believed that the prior status quo was unsustainable, and that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s regime was a ruthless anachronism. The fact that Saddam had not abandoned his interest in so-called weapons of mass destruction made his removal all the more necessary. Critics warned, however, that regime change was not in the U.S. national interest, and that by invading the country that U.S. would set in motion events it could not control. Years of grisly civil violence seemed to vindicate their warnings. The critics took their arguments further in the aftermath, casting the war as symptomatic of a deep and enduring interventionist bias in American grand strategy.
The panorama of terrorism comprises not only prominent groups such as al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), but also webs of relationships among these organizations and their lesser-known allies. Around the world, terrorist groups team up for joint attacks, training, and even moral support. Although such cooperation has occurred for decades, it is only in the past several years that a wave of research on the subject of terrorist group alliances has emerged. Tricia Bacon’s scholarship, including this article, is an important part of this body of work.
Analyses of drones often generate more heat than light, but Aqil Shah’s article is a welcome change. Shah argues U.S. drone strikes do not cause “blowback” in Pakistan or anywhere else, basing his claims primarily upon field interviews conducted in Pakistan. As he summarizes, “I find no evidence of a significant impact of drone strikes on the recruitment of militants either locally or nationally” (49).
The theory of diversionary war posits that domestic turmoil creates incentives for leaders to distract their publics by initiating conflict abroad. The canonical example of such behavior is the Falklands/Malvinas War of 1982 between Argentina and England, a conflict initiated by Argentina’s military junta while in the grip of an economic crisis, and which ultimately resulted in the junta’s demise when England defeated Argentina. The foundations of diversionary war theory rest on the conflict-cohesion hypothesis in sociology, which states that conflict with an outside group can promote cohesiveness within a group and increase support for the group’s leader. Aware of this phenomenon, insecure leaders can stir up these feelings by initiating conflict in order to preserve their reign. As the sixteenth-century political philosopher Jean Bodin put it, “[T]he best way of preserving a state and guaranteeing it against sedition, rebellion, and civil war is to keep the subjects in amity with one another, and to this end, to find an enemy against whom they can make common cause.”
<dropcap>T</dropcap>he rise of China as a regional and global power, and the implications of this development for the international system, has become *the* great geopolitical story of the early twenty-first century. China’s attainment of novel clout and influence on the world stage has been fueled by its phenomenal economic growth of the last four decades, a process that began rather modestly but has taken off dramatically since around 2000. The reactions of political commentators and scholars have ranged across a wide spectrum. Some suggest that China will inexorably replace the United States as the world’s greatest power, setting the international agenda and introducing a new political outlook, combining the domestic promotion of prosperity and nationalist pride in tandem with internal authoritarian rule and the comprehensive suppression of dissent, together with the utilization of economic and, where appropriate, military strength to achieve China’s external objectives with maximum efficiency. To such observers, who have a penchant for quoting the hallowed wisdom of The Art of War, the famed treatise of the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu (545-470 BCE), the roadmap to Chinese world hegemony appears almost preternaturally well organized, with the country’s leadership apparently proceeding inexorably along a meticulously planned highway to international predominance.
In a “Means of First Resort: Explaining ‘Hot Pursuit’ in International Relations,” Lionel Beehner explores variation in the practice of “Hot Pursuit” by different countries. The author defines Hot pursuit as “a limited violation of sovereignty by a state…using military forces in pursuit of violent…non-state actors” (3). Hot pursuit can entail a number of different tactics—from commando raids, to border incursions, to air strikes, and can vary in intensity. However, in Beehner’s definition, hot pursuit “must involve the physical transgression of an international territorial border” (4). In framing the article, Beehner argues that there is little work on this subject and that this is likely due to hot pursuit inhabiting a “hard-to-define gray zone between interstate and intrastate wars” and rarely garners media coverage due to low casualties or its covert nature (2). Beehner’s main focus is not on whether hot pursuit occurs but in variation in attitudes and practices of hot pursuit across states and time.
Jean-Christophe Boucher’s scholarly essay, “Yearning for a Progressive Research Program in Canadian Foreign Policy” and Brian Bow’s invited response, “Measuring Canadian Foreign Policy,” offer a timely discussion of the state of Canadian Foreign Policy (CFP) analysis. Boucher’s essay should be applauded for its boldness and its diagnosis of some problems encountered in the discipline. Whether or not one agrees with Boucher’s conclusions, his analysis has the merit of shaking up the field of CFP and providing the basis for a well overdue discussion of methods and scientific progress in the study of CFP. As for Bow’s response to Boucher, I believe it is relevant and provides a broad perspective for reflecting on the state of the discipline, although I take issue with his main argument.
Michael Beckley’s article argues that East Asian military forces possess local anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities to effectively balance the power projection of Chinese military forces in scenarios in Taiwan, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea. As a result, the U.S. can rely on its current level of security commitments, rather than giving up or dramatically increasing its security commitment, to achieve its strategic objectives in the region.