The Cold War and After coverThe relations between the disciplines of history and political science have always been both close and, partly for that reason, contested.   Political science grew in part out of history, which led its practitioners to be both deeply imbued with historical knowledge and to need to differentiate themselves from the study of history. Until about fifty years ago, the overlap between the disciplines was especially great in the international area, and the first issues of World Politics, the founding journal of international relations, had numerous articles by historians. For a variety of reasons, the gap widened, but in the sub-field of security studies contact never disappeared, in part because, as Stephen Schuker notes, scholars interested in this subject were marginalized in both disciplines. From my vantage point as a political scientist, it has seemed that the relationship has been less than fully balanced, with our interest in history not being fully reciprocated by our historian colleagues. I remember going to see Raymond Sontag (with whom, Schuker notes, Marc Trachtenberg studied) when I was a graduate student at Berkley to talk to him about my attempt to use history. He was too gracious to visibly wince at the idea of history being used in this way and did make clear that he was glad to see political scientists being interested in history, but it was also clear that he didn’t think we had much to contribute.

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How Wars End coverHistorians and political scientists alike should appreciate Dan Reiter’s How Wars End. It eschews statistical analysis for comparative case-studies because the answers are “complex and nuanced” (6) and defers formal proofs for plain-language explanations. The six empirical chapters are based on case-specific puzzles rather than theory-driven questions. The three reviewers—Dale Copeland, Hein Goemans, and Zachary Shirkey—find few major flaws with How Wars End, although each has some reservations over aspects of the argument. Because some readers might not be versed in rationalist theories on war that Reiter engages, this introduction will first provide an overview of them and then discuss the reviews in the next section.

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China the United States and Global Order coverIn this new book, British scholars Rosemary Foot and Andrew Walter attempt to identify the factors that shape Chinese and American behavioral consistency (or lack thereof) with global governance norms and structures. They compare U.S. and Chinese compliance with five sets of norms: the non-use of force except in self-defense and the responsibility to protect, international macroeconomic surveillance regarding exchange rates, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, and global financial regulatory norms. According to the authors, three factors determine the extent of behavioral consistency: the level of domestic social and political significance, the degree of procedural legitimacy and material distributional fairness, and the distribution of power. With conceptual sophistication and empirical richness, the authors are able to demonstrate that China’s compliance has increased as its economy has become more interdependent with the rest of the world, although in selective ways that reflect particular economic and security interests. Although the United States created the initial institutions, it has performed inconsistently, unable to rein in important domestic constituencies that have an interest in seeing certain norms violated. As a result, the authors were able to weave together three broad issues in one volume: global governance, great-power politics, and international regimes.

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Fixing the Facts coverThe U.S. intelligence failures associated with 9/11 and with Iraqi weapons of mass destruction generated renewed interest in the question of intelligence failure, the study of which had been disproportionately influenced by the study of the failures at Pearl Harbor, Barbarossa, and Yom Kipper.[1] The Iraqi WMD case in particular focused more attention on the question of the politicization of intelligence, an age-old problem but one that had been neglected in studies of the classic cases. The subsequent scholarly literature has focused on the policy question of the proper relationship between intelligence and policy, and on the causal questions of where and when politicization is most likely to occur and the role it plays in the processes leading to intelligence failure.[2]

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Terrorism and National Security Reform coverInternational crises often give rise to commissions designed to assess the origins of the crises and to generate reforms that might improve American foreign and defense policies. Jordan Tama’s exceptional study assesses the impact of fifty-one Congressional and Executive commissions established between 1961 and 2006 that focused on issues of national security and terrorism.

 

 

 

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Intelligence and US Foreign Policy coverIntelligence is an odd area of study.  While it has always been fascinating to the general public, until recently it was the “missing dimension” of foreign policy, ignored by serious scholars because information was lacking and it had the stigma of being the playground for cranks if not frauds.  The increasing availability of documents, a changed political atmosphere, and a flood of books and journals have created a very different situation.  A second unusual characteristic is that while some of the recent studies have been written by people who have worked in the academy, more are produced by scholars who have spent time in the intelligence community (IC) and by former members of the IC.

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Perceptions of Cuba coverLana Wylie has enhanced our understanding of Canadian and U.S. policies toward Fidel Castro’s Cuba by providing a comparative perspective that extends from 1959 to the present.  Wylie applies a constructivist approach which proposes that “culture and identity are integral to a complete understanding of the dynamics of international relations.” (6) Wylie proposes to move from a “focus on systemic-level analysis” to examine “national-level identities in order to understand differences in foreign-policy behavior.” (8)  Furthermore, Wylie examines not only state action at the international level but also domestic factors.  “It is not just international culture that constructs a state’s identity and corresponding behavior,” Wylie suggests, “but also domestic-level culture, identity, and ideas.” (9)

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In Uncertain Times coverThis edited volume makes a unique contribution to the field of American foreign policy by bringing together scholars and policy makers to assess two key turning points in American politics: the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  As the editors, Melvyn P. Leffler and Jeffrey W. Legro, write, “The aim of this book is to extrapolate from the aftermath of the most dramatic events in recent international history for the purposes of improving strategic thinking and strategic planning.” (3)  Foreign-policy crises typically prompt reassessments of U.S. interests and priorities, and the editors aim to identify how those efforts can be better informed by those who develop policy and those who evaluate it (and several contributors to the volume have been active in both areas).

 

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The Threat on the Horizon coverWith The Threat on the Horizon, Loch Johnson adds to his distinguished record of publications on the topic of United States intelligence.  The book is part monograph, examining the Aspin-Brown Commission tasked with reforming intelligence in the 1990s; part autobiography, drawing on Johnson’s role as the Chairman’s assistant on the Commission; and part policy analysis, using the first two sections to draw out more general observations on the intelligence process.

 

 

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Worse Than a Monolith coverThomas Christensen has written an important book in which he examines several key episodes during the Cold War in Asia, including the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait crises of 1954–55 and 1958, and the Vietnam War. In Worse than a Monolith, Christensen uses these Cold War flashpoints to test and refine existing theories of alliance politics and coercive diplomacy, arguing that a state’s use of coercive forms of diplomacy, including containment and deterrence, is hampered when one’s adversaries are divided. Christensen finds ample fodder for this argument by focusing Worse than a Monolith on looking at America’s efforts to contain the “revisionist” communist alliance during the Cold War in Asia. Disagreements between Moscow and Beijing often caused the two to try to outdo each other in supporting revolutions such as the one in Vietnam, and from the perspective of America’s policy makers, this made the communist alliance “worse than a monolith.”  Christensen’s thesis is intriguing.  I am interested to know whether during the Cold War, leaders on one side or the other expressed the view internally that they were bedeviled by their adversary’s inability to control its “troops.”

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