As Max Abrahms tells the tale, terrorism, which is the use of violence against civilian targets to achieve positive political objectives, is doomed to failure.  He supports this observation with quantitative and qualitative analysis, which draws heavily on contemporary history and the literature on terrorism and political psychology, to explain how and why terrorism fails as a strategy.  The work is sophisticated.  It incorporates explanations of phenomena occurring at various levels of analysis to explain why terrorism is a losing proposition.  Abrahms is careful not to suggest that attacking government or military targets is a recipe for success or to assess if only an occasional attack against civilians will doom some rebel enterprise.  Nevertheless, he is unequivocal in his assessment that killing innocents is simply a recipe for political failure.

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“Israelis and Palestinians have both suffered greatly from their long-standing and seemingly interminable conflict,” begins Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People, the Trump administration’s 181-page policy document on the subject, informally called “The Deal of the Century.”[1] To resolve the conflict, it identified and proposed to solve two problems: the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, and that between Israel and the Muslim world. The latter solution manifested itself in the so-called “Abraham Accords”: bilateral economic, cultural, and trade agreements establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, that were signed in 2020.[2] Not by coincidence, Bahrain hosted a “Peace to Prosperity” workshop in June 2019 at which Gulf states and President Donald Trump’s advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner discussed pooling investment for Palestinian economic development in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, the latter two of which host large refugee camps.[3] Six months later, in January 2020, Peace to Prosperity was published, offering what it called a “realistic two-state solution,” meaning that Palestinian self-government was limited by the “Israeli security responsibility and Israeli control of the airspace west of the Jordan River.” Although referring to a “Palestinian state,” the document acknowledged that it would lack “certain sovereign powers.” In the place of actual sovereignty, it proposed a three-pronged “Trump Economic Plan.”

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As Donald J. Trump took office on January 20, 2017, observers expected little from his administration’s human rights policy – traditionally the extent to which government officials take account of human rights violations and protections as they formulate foreign policy.  Specifically, few anticipated that the administration would weigh the human rights records of foreign governments as it determined military and economic assistance, formal as well as informal alliances, and high-level visits.  The prospect of such an approach raised concerns as it would have represented a break from decades of U.S. foreign policy.  The administration’s record ultimately exceeded anxious speculation – not only was the United States largely unconcerned with the protection of human rights internationally, but also observance of human rights in the United States was undermined in many ways, and the administration laid a foundation for drastically revising American human rights commitments had the president won a second term.  Many Americans have long conceived of human rights violations as an external phenomenon, but during the Trump presidency, human rights were under assault at home and abroad.

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America has had its share of sins, many of them forgiven, largely because of its countervailing virtues.  Now it stands in stark relief against an unforgiving world, or at least a skeptical one.  In particular, European allies’ doubts about the U.S. global role have grown to unprecedented levels.

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Donald Trump’s disdain for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is no secret.  Since launching his presidential bid in June 2015, he has offered up memorable soundbites and caustic tweets, touching off a steady parade of transatlantic tizzies.  On the campaign trail in 2016, the reality television star-turned-Republican presidential candidate famously lambasted the Atlantic Alliance as “obsolete.”[1]

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I didn’t set out to become a transnational historian, but then again, I’m not sure anyone did in the 1970s. My story begins with women’s history.  In 1969, after my first year at Bryn Mawr College and a summer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying French, where I first saw a poster for what was then called “Female Liberation,” I found a name for what I had felt since I was a young girl: I was a feminist.  I had already fallen in love with history, so the next step felt inevitable.  I set my sights on women’s history.  I had started college thinking I would major in psychology or political science, but it was history that grabbed me.

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The oldest question in the study of international relations (IR) is: what helps armies win their battles?  This is the IR question the ancients struggled over more than any other.  The Old Testament, for example, is replete with discussions of armies fighting and trying to win battles, such as the Israelites hoping the Ark of the Covenant would bring them victory, and successfully using an ambush feint at the Canaanite city of Ai.  Over the millennia, scholars, and observers from Thucydides to Sun Tzu to Machiavelli to contemporary political scientists have been keen to move beyond exploring material answers to this question, that bigger armies with better weapons win, to developing non-material answers, that cultural, ideational, political, and social factors might help explain war and battle outcomes.[1] Are the armies of some kinds of societies more likely to win?  Self-servingly, some have asked, might some noble virtue hard wired into our national identity also help us win at arms?  Conversely, might some fatal flaw within our cultural or political genetic code fate us to be destroyed?

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After President Donald Trump’s four years in office the U.S.-Russian relationship ended where it began: hostile, recriminatory, unproductive, and disengaged.  Thus, the Biden administration starts from where roughly the Obama administration left off, only the hole is deeper, because Russia’s cyber intrusions have added a paralyzing dimension to the mix of problems.  But where precisely do things stand, and how do Biden and his team appear to assess the challenge?  How are they likely to address the challenge, and with what chance of success?  And, if recent and prospective U.S.-Russia policy can be improved, how might that be?

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It is a very common belief to perceive women as more peaceful than men.  Female stereotypes are connected to care, communication, tolerance and compassion.  The first wave of feminists promoted this ideal of not only peace loving but peace bringing women.[1]  These very traditional attributes of the female role model became even more politically relevant during the current COVID-19 crisis.  Female heads of state were commended for their female crisis management, for showing compassion and extraordinary sympathy with their people while managing the pandemic.  The media described German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other female leaders as caring and motherly, wondering whether women are the better leaders and crisis managers.[2]  The connection of women to everything peaceful and pacifying has long prevailed.

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“Engage.” This was the captain’s signature command in the liberal internationalist sci-fi classic, Star Trek, the Next Generation.  It is clear why.  Engagement is the lifeblood of diplomacy.  Maintaining dialogue and manifold ties with allies and rivals alike is the way to nourish relationships and forge new common ground.  In US foreign policy, expansive engagement can be defined as “a broad-based grand strategic orientation,” or as Bill Clinton’s National Security Advisor Anthony Lake described it “active American engagement abroad on behalf of democracy and expanded trade.”[1] At the very least, you can’t get to yes without keeping the lines of communication open.

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