In 1939, E.H. Carr published The Twenty Years’ Crisis,[1] which argued that the world was divided into two camps: utopians and realists. Utopians like President Woodrow Wilson and his followers had made a mess of the world through their well-intentioned but naïve attempts at international cooperation. Realists were those, like Carr, who recognized that the struggle for power and survival were perennial features of human life and politics among nations. Carr wanted policymakers to face the facts, acknowledge reality, and not get lost in idealistic dreams. ‘Realism’ as a professionalized academic school of international relations was born.

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On 14 February 2019 a suicide bomber struck an Indian Central Military Reserve Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, killing about 40 Indian paramilitary personnel and injuring numerous others. Responsibility for the attack was swiftly claimed by the Pakistan based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, and confirmed by Indian authorities, immediately dragging the subcontinent—yet again—into a period of crisis. Expectedly, on 26 February, a poll-bound India retaliated with an unprecedented set of airstrikes on suspected Jaish camps in Balakot in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. Pakistan responded the next day with airstrikes of its own, with the consequent dogfight resulting in an Indian aircraft being brought down in Pakistani territory and its pilot captured alive.

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John Mearsheimer has written a stinging indictment of post-Cold War policy as being founded on a form of liberalism that ignores the realities of nationalism and the limits of the power of even the strongest states. It is reviewed here by four scholars of differing political and intellectual orientations, all of whom agree that this is an important and stimulating book. The clarity of the argument, the verve of the writing, and a willingness to stake out a strong claim on an important subject are the hallmarks of Mearsheimer’s scholarship and fully on display here. For Jennifer Pitts, this book is bracing and salutary; Jack Snyder says that this is “an incisive book that deeply analyzes the tendency of self-deluded post-Cold War liberalism to overreach in its efforts to remake the entire world in a liberal mold.” For William Wohlforth, Mearsheimer gives us “refreshingly bracing prose whose bluntness cannot conceal the profound learning it conveys,” and Christopher Layne writes that the great Delusion “Is an important book.”

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No president has cast as much uncertainty over American alliances as Donald Trump. Despite the assiduous damage control of his rotating secretaries of State and Defense and national security advisors, comments from the chief executive matter; uncertainty has increased. Moreover, the unexpected willingness of the president to undertake direct, high-level contacts with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are both promising and unsettling. Do these contacts augur peace on the peninsula? Or are they but another example of the long-standing North Korean effort to drive wedges between the alliance partners? And looming still larger over these questions is the role that China’s rise might have in determining the alliance’s future. Will it, for example, strengthen as China’s capabilities increase and become more threatening? Or will the desire to accommodate Beijing pull South Korea away from the United States?

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In “The Demographic Transition Theory of War,” Deborah Jordan Brooks, Stephen Brooks, Brian Greenhill, and Mark Haas set out to show that the likelihood of experiencing the onset of interstate conflict shifts dramatically downward as states pass through a demographic transition. Demonstrating this trend statistically is no easy task. Interstate conflicts are rare events, which typically involve a confusing multi-state mix of actors. Yet, Brooks and her colleagues, who make some innovative methodological choices, succeed in convincingly demonstrating that this expected downward trend can be observed in at least four standard demographic measures—median age, the youth-bulge ratio, total fertility rate, and life expectancy at birth. Perhaps most interesting, for their set of interstate conflict data (1960 to 2001) the authors find that the peak probability of onset for interstate conflict is not at the earliest extremes of these variables.

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As the Cold War ended in 1989-1990, scholars made contradictory predictions about the effect this would have on United States foreign policy. Those who saw the extensive and expensive commitments of the previous forty years as the product of a sense of threat induced by Soviet and Communist power anticipated some retraction of these commitments, together with a significant reduction in the resources devoted to national security and even in the degree of involvement in world politics. On the other hand, those who saw it as in the nature of great powers to extend their sway as far as possible expected that the collapse of one of the poles in a bipolar international order would lead to an expansion in the scope of the other pole’s ambitions.[1]Continue reading

On 5 August 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted the state of Jammu and Kashmir autonomy within India, including a separate constitution, a state flag and control over internal administrative matters. At the same time, Modi’s government also abolished Article 35A, which is part of Article 370, and which mandated that only permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir could own property in the region. Fearing unrest, India deployed tens of thousands of additional troops to the region, and blacked out most communication.

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Nationalism—the principle that a people sharing a common culture should possess their own sovereign state—is widely regarded as the most powerful political ideology in the modern world. But it is not the unstoppable force sometimes described by international relations scholars, who tend to pay more attention to insurgencies than to stable multinational states and empires. As Matthew Adam Kocher, Adria K. Lawrence, and Nuno P. Monteiro helpfully remind us in their analysis of Nazi-occupied France, nationalism does not always generate immediate, substantial resistance to foreign domination.

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Stability on the Korean Peninsula took a beating in 2017. The year began with Kim Jong-un’s New Year’s Address that declared North Korea had “entered the final stage of preparation for the test launch of [an] intercontinental ballistic missile”[2] and President-elect Donald Trump tweeted in response, “it won’t happen.”[3] The subsequent twelve months witnessed North Korea’s sixth nuclear test and over 20 missile launches, including the long-range Hwasong-15 that demonstrated the range to reach the continental United States. Rhetoric was equally contentious, as both sides exchanged fiery language and insults. Tensions reached unusually high levels, even for Korea, and threats to use force became commonplace throughout the year.

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The relationship between war, taxes, and public opinion has long interested scholars of democracy and international security. In theory the fiscal costs of war should restrain leaders from starting them, especially if those costs are born by the public on whose support they rely. According to Sarah Kreps, however, American leaders have not been constrained in this way for decades. They have learned to find alternatives to the kind of war taxes that concentrate public attention. They have also fought prolonged wars with volunteer forces. No draft, no tax, no protest.

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