The next election looms over nearly all decisions democratic leaders make.  Choices about military strategy are no exception.  Whatever the merits of a particular policy, it could well be overturned, along with the rest of a leader’s agenda, if it prompts voters to remove him or her from office.  Some observers have long worried that electoral pressures give rise to short-term thinking and other pathologies in foreign policy decisionmaking.[1]  Others have argued, on the contrary, that electoral accountability leads to greater caution and prudence about war and peace.[2]  Andrew Payne’s article addresses the important question of how electoral pressures actually worked in an important recent conflict. Its case studies of decisionmaking under the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama during the latter stages of the Iraq War are detailed and compelling.  The evidence reviewed in the article could also speak to alternative theoretical mechanisms that the article does not consider in detail.

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Brendan Rittenhouse Green and Austin Long dispute what they regard as conventional wisdom about the benefits and drawbacks of disclosing clandestine weapons, sensors, or associated hardware or software.  Past international relations scholarship, contend Green and Long, dwelt to excess on the tradeoffs between concealing and revealing elements of military power during times of crisis or war, when political and military leaders issue threats to use force or actually order the sword drawn for battle.  In such cases secrecy is at a premium lest the armed forces forfeit some combat advantage to a watchful, adaptive foe.  The balance between political and military interests tilts toward concealment.  Hence the conventional wisdom among scholars who study intelligence and national security[1]

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This article uses the testimony to the Rattenbach Commission,[1] the official Argentine inquiry into the Falklands/Malvinas War, to refute fallacious explanations for the Argentine decision to invade the islands at the start of April 1982 and to offer an alternative explanation of its own.  Those to be refuted are described as the “diversionary thesis,” which suggests that the war was launched to distract from the domestic woes of the ruling Junta, and the “miscalculation thesis” (34), which suggests that the Junta’s move was premeditated but failed to anticipate the British response. Instead of these theories the authors use prospect theory to argue that the Junta embarked on a military adventure with a high chance of failure in an effort to address a long-term sense of national decline and anxiety.

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When I began my first year as an undergraduate at Brown University in the mid-1990s, I never imagined that I would pursue a career as a historian.  Although I had always enjoyed my history classes, I entered college planning to study chemistry and math, subjects that I had loved and excelled in during high school.  At the time, I envisioned continuing my studies in a graduate program in science and eventually teaching chemistry.  During my first two years of college, I enrolled in numerous math, chemistry, and physics courses.  But I also took advantage of Brown’s open curriculum, which lacks general education requirements and encourages students to experiment and to broaden their worldview by taking classes in a range of subjects and departments.  During my sophomore year, at the same time that I was struggling to understand Organic Chemistry and Advanced Physics, I enrolled in two history courses—Gordon Wood’s course on the American Revolution and Charles Neu’s class on the Vietnam War. Little did I know then that my experience in these two classes would change the trajectory of my life.

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Our planet is approaching an environmental cliff edge.  Deforestation, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change put our future at risk.  Nuclear power, once envisaged as a source of energy that would become ‘too cheap to meter,’ is now regarded by some as a ‘green’ alternative to fossil fuels.[1] For advocates of nuclear power, developments in recent years have brought reasons for optimism. Approximately 30 countries are contemplating, negotiating, or already setting up nuclear power programs.  Eighty percent of them are developing economies, which, given the financial repercussions of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, need access to affordable and clean energy in order to reduce the devastating effects of this economic tsunami. Among the countries aspiring to introduce nuclear power into their energy mix is Israel, whose government hopes that building nuclear power plants (NPPs) would help it reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030.[2]

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Are China and the United States on a dangerous collision course, and if so, is there any hope of avoiding a Sino-American conflagration over the future of the international order?  As important as such questions may be, their ubiquity threatens to render them banal.  Steve Chan’s new book elevates the discourse around these common questions by compelling readers to see them in a new and distinctive light.  With Thucydides’s Trap?  Historical Interpretation, Logic of Inquiry, and the Future of Sino-American Relations, Chan interrogates frameworks commonly used to address such questions without losing sight of their practical significance or the practical consequences of asking and answering the questions in conventional ways.

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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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The story of the development of my professional life as a historian is like history itself: serendipitous, hard to predict, yet wedded to the times.  It has depended on multiple influences and a series of fortuitous accidents.  Special mentors, good friends, and generous colleagues have made a huge difference.  Travel, too, has played an important role and, in some ways, still does.  The inevitable questions that emerge from living among and talking to people in different cultures and societies are best approached by knowing their histories.

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Although history was one of my favorite classes in high school, I chalked that up to an outstanding teacher, John Smith, who first taught me in an elective world history class (which today would be considered more of a comparative cultures class, since the textbook did not pay much attention to crossings or interconnections). I then had the good fortune of taking his U.S. history class (focused on white male political elites, in preparation for the Advanced Placement [AP]  exam), and an independent study political philosophy class, which freed up time in my academic schedule for student council, which Mr. Smith advised.

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NATO’s enlargement after 1999 to include fourteen new member-states from Central and Eastern Europe remains among the most consequential and controversial policies of the post-Cold War era.  In an effort to deepen the debate over enlargement, we edited a special issue of the journal International Politics that included twelve articles by leading scholars representing a diverse array of thinking on the merits of expansion.[1]  A subset of those authors have written for this H-Diplo/ISSF roundtable, highlighting the continued interest in the topic.

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