The Distinction of Peace coverCatherine Goetze’s The Distinction of Peace is an important book. It breaks new ground in viewing peacebuilding as a field, and analyzing what attracts people to it and what enables some of them to remain. It contributes to research agendas on interventions in conflict zones, power in international encounters, and peacebuilding as a form of practice. What Goetze does particularly well is to show how seemingly commonsensical arguments about the desirability of peace and non-violence are used to create and sustain boundaries of a field, whose tentative insiders draw on the authority embedded in these arguments to position themselves in pursuit of distinction.

 

 

 

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National Identities and IR coverThroughout the 1990s, the study of nationalism, and state and national identities gained momentum in the discipline of International Relations (IR). With the emergence of ethno-national claims across the globe and the dissolution of multinational states, authors sought to comprehend what drove national interests and behaviors both domestically and internationally. Recently, literature on identities and cultures has again been burgeoning—with one major difference. In the 1990s, national identities and cultures were largely depicted as uniform, cohesive ‘units’ that would explain states’ behaviors and interests. Literature on strategic culture is a relevant case in point.[1] Currently, authors seem to be focusing instead on the diversity of identities and recognition of difference. Andrew Hurrell’s decade-long research agenda on pluralism and global international relations is an illustrative example.[2]

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Quite a few scholars in International Relations (IR) date its origin as a field of study from 1919; others, including this reviewer, see the years directly after World War II as the point of origin. Either way, IR is the new gang on the block, seriously short on street cred. The block housing the social sciences itself is newish and not much respected in the neighborhood; lots of kids in the newer gangs like to brag about where their ancestors come from, how great they were back then, how they set the tone for everybody in the neighborhood, how it is good to go back and look at what they had to say about life in the ’hood. Our gang does this more than any of the others, or so it seems to me. I do it—a lot. It’s easy, it’s fun, it makes us feel good, it’s not likely to get much notice down the block. Which is also good: the other gangs don’t give us much grief. And not so good: they still don’t give us much respect. Anyway, it’s a game, a kid’s game, a story-telling game, “an amusing jeu d’esprit” (4), as the editors of The Return of the Theorists tell us.

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Nic von Wielligh’s new book on the history of the South African nuclear project is a timely contribution to the on-going scholarly debate on why and how countries choose to develop, maintain and dismantle nuclear weapons programs. Since South Africa is the only country to date that has undergone a voluntary complete nuclear roll-back, its history is particularly important to scholars of nuclear proliferation, especially in the contemporary context of the debate surrounding Iran’s nuclear program and its trajectory. The author, nuclear physicist Nic von Wielligh, began his involvement in South Africa’s nuclear program in 1975, graduating into a managerial position in South Africa’s Atomic Energy Corporation a decade later. This unique position enabled von Wielligh, with the assistance of his daughter, Lydia von Wielligh-Steyn, to write the book from an insider’s perspective, revealing many previously unknown details and filling-in some much sought-after gaps in the literature on South Africa’s nuclear endeavour.[1]

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JoGGS coverJoGSS is a new security journal in the International Studies Association’s (ISA) stable of journals. Frank Gavin asked me to write a brief essay for ISSF on the origins and foundation of this new journal, which aims “to publish first-rate work addressing the variety of methodological, epistemological, theoretical, normative, and empirical concerns reflected in the field of global security studies. More importantly, it encourages dialogue, engagement, and conversation between different parts of the field.”[1]

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We thank Michael Horowitz for his response to our article, “The Spread of Military Innovations: Adoption Capacity Theory, Tactical Incentive and the Case of Suicide Terrorism.”[2] We are glad for Horowitz’s close reading of our work, and for the several insightful and constructive comments that he has offered. Such comments significantly contribute to the academic debate on the diffusion of military innovations and should drive further research in the field. However, Horowitz’s response to our article fails to address the problems we originally raised. As a result, the conclusions we reached in our article are still valid: because of the problems in Horowitz’s research design, we cannot conclude that the variation in organizational constraints across terrorist groups explains the variation in adoption and non-adoption of suicide bombing.

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The Good War coverThe Good War: Why We Couldn’t Win the War or the Peace in Afghanistan is aptly named and sure to find its lasting place as the first full narrative of the U.S.-led intervention from 2001 through 2014. The timeframe is something of a moving target, depending on where you begin and end, and the theme is richly explored. This review will refer to several other of the more revealing books that fall into what could now be properly labeled a genre of Afghan War literature.[1]

 

 

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In “The Spread of Military Innovations,” Andrea Gilli and Mauro Gilli question the importance of organizational factors in explaining whether violent non-state actors decide to use suicide bombing. Instead, they argue that the strategic environment faced by groups generates tactical incentives that better explain who adopts suicide bombing. While they are right to point out that tactical incentives shape the choices made by groups (a perspective shared by adoption capacity theory, the argument they criticize), their argument is based on a misunderstanding of the way that adoption capacity theory functions in the case of suicide bombing. Reassessing their evidence shows that Gilli and Gilli’s results actually demonstrate the strong robustness of adoption capacity theory, showing how organizational factors significantly influenced whether violent non-state actors adopted suicide bombing between 1981-2007. It is only their alternative measure of organization size, one inappropriate for testing adoption capacity theory, that is not significant. This reassessment also reveals new insights about the overall relationship between organizational politics and military innovation for both state and non-state actors, including the conceptual risks involved when importing ideas from the business innovation literature, and the utility of accounting for both capacity and interests in future research.

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Logics of War coverThe book produced by Alex Weisiger is a substantial contribution to rationalist theory in international relations.  Weisiger investigates the effects of commitment problems in international bargaining on the conduct, duration, and destructiveness of wars.  The book is among only a few works that closely analyze international history from the perspective of recent developments in the theory of international bargaining.  Weisiger is superb at framing history as a series of mysteries, the answers to which he dramatically unravels.  In addition to its contribution to research on international conflict, therefore, the book is immensely valuable as a teaching tool.

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Twenty-five years ago, Francis Fukuyama advanced the notion that, with the death of Communism, history had come to an end.[2] This somewhat fanciful, and presumably intentionally provocative, formulation was derived from Hegel, and it has generally been misinterpreted. He did not mean that things would stop happening— an obviously preposterous proposal.

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