Moderation is an elusive but important virtue that is equally valuable in personal and political life. Professor Aurelian Craiutu has previously explored the role moderation–and its absence–played in eighteenth and nineteenth century France. In this volume, he examines the concept itself through close readings of the works of such diverse figures as Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Norberto Bobbio, Michael Oakeshott, and Adam Michnik. He wants to know what it meant to be a moderate in the twentieth century–the age of extreme politics–what ends moderates sought to advance, their view of political life, and the shared characteristics of “moderate minds” in action. Does moderation have a strong normative core? And is there such a thing as a moderate style?
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.
How do states prevail in crises? In “Advancing Without Attacking: The Strategic Game Around the Use of Force,” Dan Altman presents a new way of thinking about strategic interactions in crises. Unlike the established view of crisis strategy, in which states signal resolve (often through brinksmanship) to establish the credibility of their threats, Altman argues instead that states frequently choose to bypass this type of coercive behavior altogether in favor of simply outmaneuvering their opponent through fait accompli. He tests his argument against the traditional coercive explanation in a case study of the Berlin Blockade crisis of 1948-1949.
Nina Silove argues that “the popularity of the term ‘grand strategy’ has increased exponentially since the end of the Cold War” (1). This bold and questionable claim will warrant closer examination later. But its underlying point is nonetheless true. A key-word search for “grand strategy” in articles in refereed journals for the year 2015 produced 21,444 hits. If scholarship is what scholars do, then grand strategy is an important area of study by any standard. In her article, Silove asks what scholars mean when they use the term. Many scholars, she finds, use their own definitions. Some use one or more definitions proposed by others. Some scholars even invoke “grand strategy” to question the importance, coherence, and even the existence of grand strategy. In her view, dissensus reigns in the existing literature. Her purpose in “Beyond the Buzzword: The Three Meanings of “Grand Strategy” is to develop a taxonomy of “grand strategy” as scholars use the term.
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.
Nationalism is back. From the rise of nationalist parties in Europe, to Brexit, to the election of an American President who declares “America First,” nationalism has once again become a buzzword in world politics. Despite its resurgence, however, our understanding of how nationalism shapes international outcomes and politics among nations remains incomplete. Ever since Stephen Van Evera lamented the lack of research on nationalism and war in 1994, there has been only moderate scholarly interest in nationalism in international relations. Jamie Gruffydd-Jones’s work therefore timely and welcome.
Jessica L. Adler, who teaches history and health policy at Florida International University, offers us a valuable, well-organized, and carefully researched history of the origin and early development of what is today the mammoth and often troubled Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. Mammoth it is; the VA treats over 9 million veterans each year in 170 medical centers and over 1000 outpatient clinics staffed by more than 300,000 personnel. It is the largest integrated health system in the nation and costs over $60 billion to operate annually. Although rarely described this way, the VA system is America’s main example of socialized medicine.
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).
With the Trump administration debating whether to certify that Iran is complying with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, this Roundtable on the tortuous path to its conclusion is timely. Our reviewers bring special expertise to the task. Robert Gallucci was the lead negotiator for the 1994 Agreed Framework that sought to end the North Korean nuclear weapons program and is a longtime student and practitioner of nonproliferation policy; Richard Nephew served in both the Bush and the Obama administrations, working on sanctions policies, and is cited in Parsi’s book; Gary Sick was on the Carter National Security Council staff and has continued to study Iran ever since; Mike Singh worked on Iran policy in the Bush administration. From their biographies, one can guess that they will not agree in their evaluations of Parsi’s history of the negotiations with Iran.