Thirty years ago, Francis Fukuyama famously argued that the end of the Cold War was “the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.” I recently argued that Fukuyama was basically correct: Nothing in the past three decades has cast doubt on the verdict that liberal democracy is the most successful form of government by virtually every conceivable measure, and that is not a terribly hard call.
As an undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the mid-1950s, I was excited by the teaching of Robert Kelley, a young and vibrant teacher and who was making his mark in the profession with his accounts of intellectual and cultural influences on past American and British politics. When I arrived as a graduate student at UCLA in the later 1950s, Bradford Perkins was also lecturing about Anglo-American relations while he was working on his renowned trilogy of books dealing with the run-up to the War of 1812. Like Kelley, Perkins in his teaching spoke learnedly and amusingly not only about his specialty in Anglo-American relations but also about U.S. relations with the entire world. He inspired me to take up diplomatic history in part because the field was so broad that I could read almost anything I wanted and call it work.
The adjective ‘timely’ is perhaps overused, but in the case of Nicholas Miller’s Stopping the Bomb—the subject of this roundtable review by four excellent scholars of nuclear politics—it is well-earned. Miller’s book was published in the spring of 2018, just as President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Iran nuclear deal, and months before Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Singapore. Trump vowed to persuade North Korea to denuclearize, even as most nuclear experts, Miller included, argued that that particular train had already left the station. Miller’s book helps provide theoretical and historical context for understanding not only the causes but also the effectiveness of U.S. nonproliferation policy.
John Vasquez’s book adds to the enormous mass of writings on the outbreak and spread of the First World War, with the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War having stimulated a further raft of historical scholarship. Vasquez makes a fresh contribution to the subject, but investigates it anew using the tools of political science, and asks a very different question: how do wars—in general—spread? Using the First World War as an exemplary case study, he looks individually at each pair of countries that declared war on one another, not only during the July Crisis but also in the second and third waves of countries that entered the war in 1915-1916 and 1917-1918. Vasquez draws a sharp distinction between the outbreak and the spread of war, with his work focussing only on the latter, and he treats the First World War as beginning with the outbreak of a local war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia that subsequently spread across the globe.
I arrived at Princeton in the summer of 1975, just months after the fall of Saigon. At the time I was a serving officer in the United States Army and a veteran of the Vietnam War. The army, generously from my point of view, was sending me to graduate school to prepare me to teach at West Point. To emphasize: The army sent me to Princeton not to become a professional historian but to acquire knowledge sufficient to enable me to convey to cadets some basic grasp of U.S. history. After a three-year teaching stint, I would return to soldiering.
There are good reasons to study Russia, China, and U.S. hegemony now. Facing common threats from the West, Russia and China have been moving closer since the 2010s. Are they going to finally form an alliance against the United States.? Will these rising powers seriously challenge or shake up the liberal world order that is built on U.S. hegemony? With Russian annexation of Crimea and China’s assertive diplomacy in the East China Sea as well as in the South China Sea, will a military conflict between the hegemon and rising powers be inevitable in the future? In a word, will “the ill winds” from China and Russia, to borrow Larry Diamond’s phrase, pose fatal challenges to U.S. hegemony and world democracy?
In The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal, William Joseph Burns writes about his life and times in the hope that his reflections—and regrets—will be helpful to the next generation of diplomats. Diplomacy “is by nature an unheroic, quiet endeavor,” as the author puts it, “less swaggering than unrelenting, often unfolding in back channels out of sight and out of mind.” (10) As he was taught early in his career, diplomacy is about managing problems, not solving them.
I am pleased to introduce this H-Diplo/ISSF roundtable on Emma Kuby’s book Political Survivors: The Resistance, the Cold War, and the Fight against Concentration Camps after 1945, an intellectual history of the rise and fall of the International Commission against the Concentration Camp Regime (CICRC). It is also a transnational history based on archival research in at least six countries—Belgium, Spain, Paris, the United States, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. As the reviews suggest, Kuby has written a book that speaks to many fields and indeed many disciplines. Umberto Tulli praises Kuby’s “originality,” her “masterly” efforts to analyze the CICRC’s history “through different lenses,” and the “richness” of her account. In his view, Political Survivors is a “remarkable achievement” that contributes to our understanding of, among other things, the public memory of World War Two. Regarding that same dimension, Padraic Kenney characterizes Kuby’s work as “excellent.” More broadly, Kenney suggests that Kuby has, perhaps, undersold her findings. Lora Wildenthal argues that the book is “worthy of a broad audience,” and she praises Kuby for the balance she strikes between broad themes and fine detail.
In this important article, Ahsan Butt advances an innovative argument for why the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. Countering other common explanations, Butt argues that the United States was not motivated by a desire to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), promote democracy in the Middle East, or satisfy pro-war domestic interest groups. Instead, he maintains, the U.S.-led overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was a “performative war” carried out to generate “demonstration effects” (263)—in particular, to show adversaries and potential challengers that the United States would act with overwhelming force to counter any threats to its power and standing. Backed up by a compelling array of evidence, this argument represents a major contribution to understanding the origins of the Iraq War.
Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations” is the most important contemporary political science thesis in U.S. higher education.
That is not an opinion, and it is certainly not an endorsement. It is a plain statement of fact. The best available source of evidence on how often professors assign readings, the Open Syllabus Project, records that Huntington’s “Clash” appears on syllabi 4,317 times—the 28th most frequently assigned text in all disciplines. That places it ahead of Hamlet (4,283 appearances) and not far off from Plato’s Republic, Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto, or Aristotle, Hobbes, and Machiavelli.
This is surprising. […]