In Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa, Alan J. Kuperman has assembled a diverse set of international scholars with different backgrounds ranging from Ph.D. candidates, to practitioners, to a distinguished professor emeritus. The book’s purpose is to contribute to a debate over whether “accommodation” or “integration” is the optimal constitutional design for African states (2-3). It is upfront in acknowledging that there are considerable methodological challenges to such a study, which Kuperman lists as “causal variable, outcome variables, endogeneity, omitted variables, selection effects, and degrees of freedom” (9).
In 1965, four years after leaving the White House, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower published the second volume of his presidential memoirs, which covered the years 1956-1961. In it he recounted how his administration responded to the shock of the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Eisenhower stressed in particular how pleased he was with his designation of James Killian of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the nation’s first presidential science advisor:
Cyber-threats seem to be everywhere these days. In the past two weeks alone, we have learned that Russia has hacked into critical infrastructure sectors upon which citizens depend for daily survival, including nuclear, water, and aviation; that Iran has stolen massive amounts of data and intellectual property from professors around the world (such activities have previously been attributed primarily to China); and that the self-professed lone hacker who claimed to have provided stolen Democratic National Committee e-mails to Wikileaks, was actually working for the Russian military intelligence agency to meddle in electoral politics. Finally, after months of concern about Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns, new revelations about how big tech companies like Facebook furthered these efforts, have amplified profound questions about the future of representative governance, national sovereignty, and self-determination.
How should we greet the recent outpouring of works on the history of international thought since the Victorian era? Sent to trace this tidal wave back to its epicenter, will we point to George W. Bush’s steroidal cocktail of American exceptionalism and democracy promotion; the tightening noose of big data on Google Earth; the 1930s’ mantras and 1890s’ gilt of Donald Trump’s America; the false prophets of history’s end circa 1991; or the diminishing life support systems on Spaceship Earth? While the answer most likely eludes us at present, the persistent appeal of the topic indicates that it is no fad. If humanity maintains course toward mounting accumulations of wealth, inequality, hotspots, carbon, and hyperlinks, will we not be borne ceaselessly into the past in search of answers to how we arrived here, and where we might go next?
How do great powers respond to rising challengers? Few questions generate as much attention among international relations theorists and historians. This is not surprising, given the stakes. Pessimistic accounts play up the danger of great power war, as ambitious rivals seek to upend the existing order. Flush with nationalism and brimming with confidence, rising powers may be willing to take extraordinary risks that lead to terrible violence. The existing leaders, for their part, may be unwilling to watch passively as their advantages diminish, and they may gamble on preventive war rather than wait to be overtaken. Other scholars are more sanguine, noting a number of possible factors that mitigate the chances of conflict. It may be possible to integrate a rising power into existing international institutions and create deep economic ties that give it a reason to choose cooperation.
Our reviewers agree that Stephen Brooks and William Wohlforth have produced what Rosemary Kelanic describes as “an extremely useful book that should be required reading for all students of US grand strategy.” The reviewers have paid Brooks and Wohlforth the deep compliment of taking their arguments seriously, and any course on American foreign policy would do well to assign American Abroad and these responses to it.
Bertrand Badie is one of France’s leading IR theorists; it is yet another mark of the fact that the discipline of international politics is not itself highly international that he is so little known in the United States. A personal confession may not be out of place: I would not have known of his work had I not met him at a conference in Europe several years ago, and an informal poll of my colleagues reinforces my point. I think this Roundtable is then particularly important for pointing American scholars to research they do not know.
For alliance scholars who are interested in institutional design and U.S. foreign policy in Asia, Victor Cha’s 2010 International Security article, “Powerplay: The Origins of the U.S. Alliance System in Asia” is a valuable resource. Cha has expanded his article-length treatment into a thoughtful and timely book, and in so doing has given us much to digest and discuss.
The bitter rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is more than just a contest for regional influence. It is certainly no run-of-the-mill cold war as far as U.S. officials are concerned, as it involves issues that have dominated polity attention for the last two decades: terrorism, nuclear weapons, and oil. The conflict threatens U.S. forces directly in overlapping civil wars in Iraq and Syria. And support for the Saudi war against Iranian-linked Houthis is increasingly controversial in Washington, where congressional opponents are questioning the legal basis of U.S. policy.
Joining the growing list of international relations (IR) scholars who are turning to historical analyses of alternative, non-Westphalian diplomatic systems for insights into the creation and maintenance of political order is Ji-Young Lee, whose book, China’s Hegemony: Four Hundred Years of East Asian Domination, provides an empirically rich and theoretically insightful account of premodern East Asian international relations. The core argument of her book is that China’s hegemony was not a direct product of either its material power or its cultural appeal. Rather, Chinese hegemonic authority, measured in terms of compliant tributary practices, was co-constructed by a dominant China and its less powerful tribute-paying neighbors via mutual interactions. In particular, the book emphasizes how the domestic legitimation needs of less powerful states, such as Korea and Japan, played a key role in constructing (while sometimes adapting) Chinese hegemony during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing dynasty (1636-1911).