A Unisyn Voting Solutions precinct-count OpenElect Voting Optical Scan (OVO) ballot scanner, ready to scan a ballot marked by an OpenElect Voting Interface (OVI) ballot marking device.No one is sure what effect Russia had on the 2016 presidential election. The U.S. intelligence community and private sector cybersecurity firms are confident that Russian intelligence agencies sponsored efforts to steal and release information from the Democratic National Committee, and from Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta. The stolen emails were mostly banal, but the Trump campaign used them as evidence that Clinton and her party were corrupt and untrustworthy. This may have had the effect of increasing support for Trump, or at least depressing the turnout among would-be Clinton voters. Even small shifts might have changed the result, given the razor-thin margins in key states. But the election was so peculiar in so many ways that it is difficult to attribute the outcome to a single cause. Alleged Russian ‘doxing’–the term for stealing and revealing private information–may or may not have been terribly important compared to other factors in a historically strange campaign.

 

Continue reading

The nuclear football

This football comes only in black…

President Donald Trump has now assumed control over the nation’s arsenal of more than 4,000 nuclear weapons. What will he do with them? We do not yet know the Trump administration’s approach to nuclear strategy, but Trump has offered some clues to his mindset. He has denounced nuclear arms control, declaring that he would welcome a renewed nuclear arms race with Russia.[1] He has indicated that he might be willing to allow Japan and other U.S. allies to acquire nuclear weapons.[2] And he has suggested that he might be willing to use nuclear weapons against the Islamic State.[3]

 

Continue reading

US_Navy_041113-M-1250B-016Rumors of a Russian connection with the Trump administration continue to proliferate and leaks from the intelligence agencies show no signs of stopping.  The Trump administration responds with accusations of its own; most recently, that Trump was illegally wire-tapped on the orders of President Barack Obama. We are far from the bottom of any of this, so it is difficult to write about allegations of improper relations between the Trump team and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Russia with any certainty, let alone with the historian’s preferred tool of hindsight. In fact, I write knowing that this essay is already almost surely out of date.[1]

 

Continue reading

Leviathan by Thomas HobbesDonald Trump’s election will be “the biggest f**k-you ever recorded in human history,” predicted the film-maker Michael Moore in the summer of 2016.[2] He reminded his Midwestern audience that it was Trump who had the audacity to meet with CEOs of Ford Motor Company and warn them: if you move your factories to Mexico, I will slap a 35% tariff on all your imports to the United States. We laughed. Trump won. Moore became a prophet.

 

 

Continue reading

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.[1]

Continue reading

Greetings_from_Peoria,_Ill_(64734)The H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Series asks, among other questions, what diplomatic history and international relations theory tell us about the future of the U.S. in the world.  I attempt to answer from the historian’s side, by focusing on economic nationalism in the 1930s. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930 represents the most famous case of trade protectionism in American history, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s rejection of the World Economic Conference three years later added to the U.S. economic nationalist response to world affairs.  Both issues inform us of the possible consequences of Donald Trump’s approach to the global economy.  I think history offers some dismal lessons.

Continue reading

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1986-0813-460 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia CommonsOn the night of November 9, 1989, it was apparent to everyone on the scene in Berlin, and to spectators across the world, watching on TV, that history had reached a turning point. The ramifications of the opening of the Berlin Wall, as was also widely understood at the time, would not be limited to central Europe, but would reverberate around the globe. A little less than a year later, U.S. president George H.W. Bush, addressing Congress, articulated this understanding in calling for a ‘new world order.’  Separating this phrase both from its rhetoric of Cold War triumphalism and the various conspiracy theories that have grown up around it, I would suggest that the 1990s actually did see the development—tentative, hesitating, contradictory and incomplete—of a new world order, one reflecting the turbulent events of 1989 across the Eurasian land-mass, as well as the aspirations that propelled these events, the promises of 1989.  But by the end of that decade and the beginning of the new millennium, a reaction to that order was beginning to emerge, which would strengthen across the early years of the twenty-first century.  The two political upheavals of 2016, the Brexit vote, and the election of Donald Trump as American President, are major signs of the triumph of that reaction, the end of the new world order, and the failure of the promises of 1989.

Continue reading

Constructive Illusions coverThe study of perception and misperception in international relations is often driven by the implicit belief that understanding the source of biased judgments will lead to mutual understanding and better relations between states.  But what if cooperation between two states is based on mutual misperception? Is collaboration dependent on positive illusions?

 

Continue reading

Return To Cold War coverAs President Donald Trump’s administration begins, relations between the United States and Russia make the headlines almost every day. No one seems able to agree on what Russian President Vladimir Putin did or did not do to try to influence the 2016 U.S. elections, much less on what his ultimate aims are. Trump’s own cabinet picks, not to mention the U.S. Congress and Senate, are split on whether the U.S. should try yet another ‘reset’ with Russia, or instead punish Putin further for his actions. Meanwhile European countries allied with the U.S. in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are undergoing their own wrenching debates about Russia, with some leading politicians believing that Russia intends to break NATO or perhaps even invade the Baltics, while other European political parties openly cooperate with Putin. Business interests in both North America and Europe seek an end to the Western sanctions imposed on Russia after its seizure of Crimea and intervention in eastern Ukraine in 2014, but human rights groups argue to the contrary that even stronger sanctions are warranted.

Continue reading

A number of the essays in this series have grappled with the question of how big a departure Donald Trump’s presidency is from the theory and practice of American foreign policy and international relations more broadly.  Having published a book on presidential deception not too long ago, I have been reflecting on this theme with particular reference to Trump’s strained (perhaps broken) relationship with the truth.[1]  Trump’s carelessness with the truth is by now well known.  The fact-checking site PolitiFact awarded Trump’s statements “Lie of the Year” in 2015.  As of 3 February 2017, it had rated fully 69% of his statements either “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.”[2]  By comparison, Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival in the 2016 presidential election campaign, was charged with making “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” claims 26% of the time.[3]

Continue reading