Many years ago, when I was giving a talk in Austin, Robert Divine introduced by commenting that I had stayed with World War I while other diplomatic historians were moving forward in the twentieth century to work on World War II and the Cold War. “I guess I’m just stuck in the same rut,” was my reply. I should have gone on to explain why that was so. One reason is that I have never considered myself to be primarily a diplomatic historian. I have enjoyed studying the interaction of nations, during World War I, for example, the duel over submarine warfare, Anglo-American relations, the House-Grey Memorandum, loans to the Allies, the Armistice, and the peace negotiations. Yet I have always been more interested in the domestic roots and influences behind foreign policy. This was part of a broader interest in political history that spanned domestic and foreign affairs.

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In the age of purported American decline, the rise of China and changes in the international distribution of power, this highly ambitious special issue of Security Studies seeks to chart the emergence of new third-wave “hegemonic-order” theories. For John Ikenberry and Daniel Nexon, the editors of this volume, earlier waves of scholarship, including hegemonic-stability theory and power-transition theories, now need to be supplemented in order to respond to a rapidly changing global order.[1] This new direction in hegemony theory defines itself against earlier forms of scholarship in three distinct ways.

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My route to becoming an academic, and more specifically, a historian of Africa, was a circuitous one. A child of the 1960s, I was raised in a family with a strong concern for social justice in the era of the civil rights and anti–Vietnam War movements.  I joined my parents (a historian and a librarian) as they worked against racism, militarism, and poverty, and my friends who were tackling environmental destruction. Seeking a liberal arts college with a tradition of social justice activism, I found myself at Oberlin College, which had been a pioneer in the nineteenth-century anti-slavery and women’s rights movements.

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Some 30 years have passed since signal constructivist insights entered the international relations canon.[1] In those three decades, scholarship informed by constructivism has shed light on fundamental questions of global politics—from the foundational principles defining international order, to the rise and fall of international norms such as human rights, to the sources and productive effects of the legalization of global politics.[2] In response to early critiques that constructivist scholarship focused on ‘low’ politics and ‘good’ norms, constructivists have shown how the politics of meaning—manifest in ideas, discourse, legitimation, rhetoric, narrative, and the like—have shaped, among other topics, international intervention, territorial conflict, alliance politics, and the making of national security policy.[3]

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In an age of information overload, H-Diplo/ISSF roundtables help you decide which books to add to your reading list and which to leave aside. Robert Mandel’s Global Data Shock is itself a book about information overload, and it does provide readers with a lot of information. For a book about strategic ambiguity, deception, and surprise, however, it may or may not be surprising that the experts in intelligence affairs gathered together here offer ambivalent reviews. All praise the relevance of Mandel’s topic, as well as his skepticism for technocratic solutions to the problem, but they also highlight numerous conceptual and empirical shortfalls. Much as policymakers continue to struggle to make sense of a flood of data in global politics, it seems we still lack clarity on these important matters.

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It was an ordinary noontime at Berkeley in September 1964. The morning fog had burned off, so the sun was shining as we set up our modest bridge tables on the sidewalk just outside the entrance to the University of California campus. There were half a dozen of us at little tables there that day, each handing out leaflets for various causes and groups. I had volunteered to leaflet that noontime for a new play reading-aloud group that met across the street at the YWCA. Our next gathering was to read aloud a play by Kierkegaard. During my years in grad school I tried to mix my studies of politics with concerts, play readings and even field hockey.

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Several currents came together to shape my career as a political scientist with a special interest in the Middle East and in American foreign policy. The first involved two moments of living abroad at a formative time in my life. Then there were a number of fine academics at Stanford and MIT in the 1960s who showed me how to bring an analytical perspective to the study of politics. Finally, I had the chance to serve twice on the staff of the National Security Council in the 1970s, dealing with complex issues surrounding the Arab-Israeli conflict. Below I will briefly spell out how these three sets of experiences brought me to the point of seeing international diplomacy and politics as I do.

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My father, also named Edwin E. Moise, had more influence on the way I think about history than any of the professors who were formally my teachers. He was a mathematician, but had a wide range of other interests, including history both ancient and modern. I always planned to follow him into academia, but the path I followed took some unexpected turns.

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Books on Chinese military issues have traditionally been of interest to a small and inward-looking community of security-minded China-focused academics and policy analysts far from the mainstream of their disciplinary fields and professions. But with China’s growing prominence on the global stage, interest in Chinese defense and strategic matters has also become more widespread. This roundtable on M. Taylor Fravel’s examination of contemporary Chinese military strategy underscores the gradual coming of age of Chinese security studies as an important and relevant component of the general security studies field, and in the process draws attention to a book that is both timely and highly significant.

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For as long as I can remember—and long before I knew there was a field called Political Science with a specialization in International Politics—I was intrigued by politics. This was due to a combination of what must have been my in-born nature, the strongly political atmosphere of New York in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and, perhaps most of all, “events, dear boy, events,” in the words that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan used to explain to an interviewer why his policies had changed.[1] Since I was born in 1940, my first memories were of World War II and then the Cold War. The early years of the latter led me to the question I would grapple with later in exploring deterrence and the spiral model as explanations of and prescriptions for conflict.[2] In fact, I remember pestering my parents about what they thought the U.S. should do in response to the Soviet Union shooting down what I thought were innocent American airplanes in the late 1940’s (I would have been shocked had I been told that the Soviets were correct to label these spy missions). Needless to say, this question recurs not only in my scholarship, but, more importantly, in world politics. When I started writing this essay in late January 2020, the newspapers carried a story about the American strikes against Iranian backed militias in Syria and Iraq in retaliation for a rocket barrage that killed an American contractor. “The key question” according to the American reporter, “is whether the American counter attack can end the cycle of violence of escalate it.”[3]

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