For a half-century, from 1959 until his death in 2009, Ernest May was in the front rank of historians studying the interactions of the United States with the world.  He left an enormous and fascinatingly readable body of work and touched many lives.  That is perhaps why this forum stimulated such a remarkable and contrasting set of substantial essays.

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Eric D. Weitz was a colleague and friend who was taken from us prematurely on July 1, 2021.  Fittingly, H-Diplo is hosting a forum to honor his memory.  When I approached Taner Akçam, Anne Kornhauser, Norman Naimark, and Mary Nolan to participate, they accepted without hesitation.  I selected these scholars in order to cover the various phases and dimensions of Weitz’s illustrious career and extensive oeuvre: we have appraisals by a historian of German culture, one of German and Soviet communism, and one of global genocide and human rights.  In his eulogy, Taner Akçam adds a personal appreciation of Weitz’s assistance in the early phases of his career that enabled him to stay and become the foremost scholar of the Armenian genocide in the United States rather than elsewhere.  Such solidarity with a foreign scholar who had a precarious status in the U.S. was characteristic of Eric.  Everyone I have come across who knew Weitz has a story to share about gestures that attest to his generosity of spirit.  Perhaps his evident delight in shared human company compensated for the darkness of the subjects we research.

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Because Germany is Europe’s most populous country (excluding Russia), its most productive economy, and the European Union’s indispensable member, its elections are necessarily significant.  Yet even by this standard, the federal election held on 26 September was particularly consequential and unusual.  It marked the end of Angela Merkel’s sixteen-year tenure as Chancellor, during which she established herself as the preeminent figure in German domestic politics, an influential presence on the international stage, and a stabilizing temperament during a tumultuous era of global politics.  As the forum’s contributors note, this election was the first in the Federal Republic’s history (except for the first) in which the sitting chancellor did not seek reelection.  At the same time, the election exemplifies the gradual abandonment of some of the mainstays of postwar German politics.  For instance, the standard center-left/center-right faceoff (between the Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands and the Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands–Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern alliance) has given way to a fragmented political landscape in which no less than five parties claimed over ten percent of the vote.  Meanwhile, the growing personalization of German politics explains the success of the Social-Democratic candidate Olaf Scholz, who played on his stature as Finance Minister in Merkel’s coalition government, as well as the lackluster performance of the Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands candidate Armin Laschet.  At the same time, the vote’s dispersal across multiple parties makes it probable that Germany will have its first three-party governing coalition since the 1950s.  Another novelty resulting from the election is that the two leading kingmaker parties—the Greens and the liberal Freie Demokratische Partei —have committed to aligning their own platforms before deciding which party they will being to power.

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Paul W. Schroeder, emeritus professor of history and political science at the University of Illinois and perhaps the most distinguished diplomatic historian of his generation, died last December at the age of 93.  In the course of his long career Schroeder wrote four major books:  The Axis Alliance and Japanese-American Relations, 1941 (1958);  Metternich’s Diplomacy at Its Zenith, 1820-1823 (1962);  Austria, Great Britain, and the Crimean War: The Destruction of the European Concert (1972); and his masterpiece, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848 (1994).[1]  He also published a large number of articles, some of which were quite influential, dealing mostly with European great power politics in the century and a half before the outbreak of the First World War, but covering other subjects as well.[2]

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As Max Abrahms tells the tale, terrorism, which is the use of violence against civilian targets to achieve positive political objectives, is doomed to failure.  He supports this observation with quantitative and qualitative analysis, which draws heavily on contemporary history and the literature on terrorism and political psychology, to explain how and why terrorism fails as a strategy.  The work is sophisticated.  It incorporates explanations of phenomena occurring at various levels of analysis to explain why terrorism is a losing proposition.  Abrahms is careful not to suggest that attacking government or military targets is a recipe for success or to assess if only an occasional attack against civilians will doom some rebel enterprise.  Nevertheless, he is unequivocal in his assessment that killing innocents is simply a recipe for political failure.

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When Ben Rhodes, a top foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama, dubbed the Washington foreign policy establishment the “Blob,”[1] one question that probably occurred to many H-Diplo/ISSR readers was, “What will Jervis think of this?”

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It was the third day of demonstrations around the White House.  The president had called out some 10,000 military forces, including paratrooper units of the 82nd Airborne Division, to handle the protesters.  His chief of staff proposed recruiting teamsters to provoke violence.  The president enthusiastically agreed: “they’ve got guys who’ll go in and knock their heads off.” “Sure,” said his aide, “Murderers.  Guys that really, you know, that’s what they really do… it’s the regular strikebuster-types and all that…hope they really hurt ‘em.  You know, I mean go in with some real – and smash some noses.”  Looking for ways to discredit the protesters and undermine their image for television audiences, the aide mentioned two prominent activists, Rennie Davis and Abbie Hoffman, who had been tried for conspiracy to riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago: “Fortunately, they’re all just really bad-lookin’ people. There’s no, there’s no, uh, semblance of respectability.” “Aren’t the Chicago Seven all Jews?” asked the president?[1]

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John Vasquez’s book adds to the enormous mass of writings on the outbreak and spread of the First World War, with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War having stimulated a further raft of historical scholarship.[1] Vasquez makes a fresh contribution to the subject, but investigates it anew using the tools of political science, and asks a very different question: how do wars—in general—spread? Using the First World War as an exemplary case study, he looks individually at each pair of countries that declared war on one another, not only during the July Crisis but also in the second and third waves of countries that entered the war in 1915-1916 and 1917-1918. Vasquez draws a sharp distinction between the outbreak and the spread of war, with his work focussing only on the latter, and he treats the First World War as beginning with the outbreak of a local war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia that subsequently spread across the globe.

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On 5 August 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir autonomy within India, including a separate constitution, a state flag and control over internal administrative matters. At the same time, Modi’s government also abolished Article 35A, which is part of Article 370, and which mandated that only permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir could own property in the region. Fearing unrest, India deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to the region, and blacked out most communication.

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Efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons have been in the news lately, given the U.S. negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons facilities and missile sites and with Iran after President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement that President Barack Obama and the leaders of other nations had finalized with Iran to halt its nuclear program. Recent studies on nuclear weapons with respect to nonproliferation policies as well as efforts to control the nuclear weapons arms illustrate the challenges in attempts to halt the spread of nuclear capabilities as well as in containing the development of new missiles by the major powers.[1] This special issue of The International History Review, which focuses on the 1970s, includes with twelve articles, as well as an introduction by editors Leopoldo Nuti and David Holloway, a penetrating historiographical article by Nuti, and a succinct conclusion by Holloway.[2]

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