For decades, political scientists have been taught that it is dangerous if not forbidden to search on the dependent variable. By looking only at cases in which the effect of interest occurs, we cannot infer causation because the factors that we think are powerful may be only necessary conditions, which means that they can be present in cases in which the effect does not appear. They then cannot readily be labelled as causes in the sense of distinguishing between instances in which the effect is present and those in which it is absent. Yet almost all studies of intelligence failures have looked only at the failures themselves, without making comparisons with successes. This was true even of scholars who not only knew about this problem, but had stressed it in their teaching. I can say that with some confidence because I am in that category. While I urged others to look at successes as well as failures, I did not do so. Erik Dahl, one of our reviewers, recently used this methodology, but our reviewers agree that until this volume, no one had sought such careful and controlled comparisons that are developed here.Continue reading
This is a significant article which attempts to document something that many political scientists have suspected—that negotiated settlements of civil wars increased greatly after the Cold War and have declined since 9/11. This finding is significant because it implies that 1990-2001 may be an atypical period in conflict resolution and that generalizations based on behavior during that time may be misleading as guides to future actions, an unsettling suggestion to scholars and practioners alike. The authors argue that this change in behavior is the result of a change in international norms, driven by changes in the international environment. I think this is interesting, but rather to my surprise I am not persuaded by the article’s empirical foundation.
It was not difficult to find reviewers for The Future of War: A History because any book by Lawrence Freedman—really Sir Lawrence Freedman because the British know how to convey respect to their leading academics—is to be welcomed. Although one of our reviewers has serious criticisms of one part of the book, all speak highly of it. Beatrice Heuser calls it “a masterpiece,” Mara Karlin judges it “a readable, thoughtful, and useful addition to the literature,” Joshua Rovner calls it an “engaging and wide-ranging history,” and Douglas Gibler, whose criticisms I will note below, calls it “a fun read and an excellent review of large swathes of military history.” The reviews are all concise and to the point, and so I need only note a few things from them.
In Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa, Alan J. Kuperman has assembled a diverse set of international scholars with different backgrounds ranging from Ph.D. candidates, to practitioners, to a distinguished professor emeritus. The book’s purpose is to contribute to a debate over whether “accommodation” or “integration” is the optimal constitutional design for African states (2-3). It is upfront in acknowledging that there are considerable methodological challenges to such a study, which Kuperman lists as “causal variable, outcome variables, endogeneity, omitted variables, selection effects, and degrees of freedom” (9).
We are thankful to the editors of H-Diplo/ISSF for giving us the chance to respond to Laura Sjoberg’s critique of “In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict.” Criticism often improves and hones arguments, so we welcome it. We feel that the structuration of male-female relations within a society has profound ramifications for that society’s horizon of stability, resilience, and security, and that the practice of brideprice is an excellent example of that linkage.
In 1965, four years after leaving the White House, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower published the second volume of his presidential memoirs, which covered the years 1956-1961. In it he recounted how his administration responded to the shock of the 1957 Soviet launch of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite. Eisenhower stressed in particular how pleased he was with his designation of James Killian of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as the nation’s first presidential science advisor:
“In Plain Sight: The Neglected Linkage between Brideprice and Violent Conflict” by Valerie Hudson and Hilary Matfess makes the argument that ‘brideprices’ in patrilineal societies warp marriage markets. These warped marriage markets enable terrorist groups to capitalize on men’s need to pay marriage money to women’s families as a motivation to join. The authors suggest that terrorist and rebel groups, in response to warped marriage markets, provide cheaper marriage, and encourage violent behavior to obtain access to marriage (21). The article provides a lengthy theoretical discussion of the costs of marriage in patrilineal societies. It then explores three brief cases, in Nigeria, South Sudan, and Saudi Arabia, arguing for the importance of controlling brideprices and contributing to the security of women in order to reduce conflict in places where there is a real threat from terrorist or rebel groups.
For all their differences, Presidents Donald Trump and Barack Obama have taken remarkably similar approaches to Afghanistan. Both entered office, conducted reviews of the domestically unpopular American-led war, and ultimately decided to increase the U.S. troop numbers there while continuing to support shaky, often corrupt, Afghan government partners.
Cyber-threats seem to be everywhere these days. In the past two weeks alone, we have learned that Russia has hacked into critical infrastructure sectors upon which citizens depend for daily survival, including nuclear, water, and aviation; that Iran has stolen massive amounts of data and intellectual property from professors around the world (such activities have previously been attributed primarily to China); and that the self-professed lone hacker who claimed to have provided stolen Democratic National Committee e-mails to Wikileaks, was actually working for the Russian military intelligence agency to meddle in electoral politics. Finally, after months of concern about Russian disinformation and propaganda campaigns, new revelations about how big tech companies like Facebook furthered these efforts, have amplified profound questions about the future of representative governance, national sovereignty, and self-determination.
How should we greet the recent outpouring of works on the history of international thought since the Victorian era? Sent to trace this tidal wave back to its epicenter, will we point to George W. Bush’s steroidal cocktail of American exceptionalism and democracy promotion; the tightening noose of big data on Google Earth; the 1930s’ mantras and 1890s’ gilt of Donald Trump’s America; the false prophets of history’s end circa 1991; or the diminishing life support systems on Spaceship Earth? While the answer most likely eludes us at present, the persistent appeal of the topic indicates that it is no fad. If humanity maintains course toward mounting accumulations of wealth, inequality, hotspots, carbon, and hyperlinks, will we not be borne ceaselessly into the past in search of answers to how we arrived here, and where we might go next?