It is not typical for H-Diplo to publish a roundtable on an article. But Daniel Bessner and Fredrik Logevall’s “Recentering the United States in the Historiography of American Foreign Relations” is not a typical article. Before it was published, it was already provoking hallway conversations at conferences. The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations (SHAFR) scheduled a rare debate-style panel for its 2020 conference on the still-unpublished article. Surely the attention has been helped by the fact that both Bessner and Logevall are prominent figures: Bessner an up-and-coming young scholar with a polemical social media presence who helped advise the Bernie Sanders campaign on foreign policy; Logevall a recent past president of SHAFR and winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in History for his book, Embers of War.
I thought of myself as calm. Competing for a grant that paid for three years of graduate study at any university in the nation seemed straightforward, even though $100,000 was at stake and I had at most $500 in savings. The interview should have been easy, plus I was hard to rattle.
My journey towards becoming a feminist scholar has taken a somewhat unusual route. My interest in international affairs, especially working towards a more peaceful and just world, began when I was a child experiencing the bombing of London during World War II. After the war we moved to the United States where my father worked for the United Nations. I got my MA from Yale University’s international relations program, an interdisciplinary one that was being phased out. Yale had an excellent political science department to which one of the three female graduate students moved (yes there were only three of us, the expectation being that we would get married and give up our careers), but it was heavily influenced by the new trend towards behavioral science. With a history degree from the University of London, and totally lacking in quantitative skills, I performed poorly in Karl Deutsch’s class, so I decided that this was not the path for me. Nonetheless, I admired Deutsch greatly; he had a brilliant mind and an amazing breadth of knowledge. (I remember him once giving an impromptu lecture on the invention of Chinese water clocks). So, fulfilling the expectations of the times. I put my career on hold during my children’s early years. In 1975, before I returned to graduate school, I spent a year in Geneva, Switzerland, where Johan Galtung, a leading peace researcher, was teaching a course on self-reliance as a development strategy.
Robert Trager’s Diplomacy: Communication and the Origins of the International Order focuses on the role of communication in diplomacy with emphasis on the role of costless exchanges such as private discussions between two foreign policy ministers versus costly signaling such as moving troops to the frontier of an adversary or a drone strike on a hostile paramilitary force. Trager makes use of two related datasets from the Confidential Print of the British Foreign Office’s communications between 1855 and July of 1914 with emphasis on detailed case studies on significant historical events including the negotiations leading to the outbreak of World War I.
On Becoming Me. I can’t think of a better title. Being an historian is an essential, but not the only, part of ME. I’m writing this professional obituary during the COVID-19 pandemic which drives home the tenuousness of ‘normal.’ I cannot imagine that my rather peculiar and idiosyncratic stumbling into becoming a professional teacher-historian will be inspiring or even interesting to others—except perhaps my seven grandkids.
With the advent of nuclear weapons came the question of how their very existence changed the way we conduct and think about warfare. Nearly seventy five years after their first (and, to date, only) use at the end of World War II, the question remains far from resolved, as nuclear ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’ continue to debate what Andrew H. Kydd presents as a seemingly simple question: “Is the world better off with nuclear weapons or without?” (645). Kydd’s goal in this article is not to definitively adjudicate the question and come down conclusively on either side, but rather to add the conceptual element of ‘expected costs’ to the debate. In doing so, he introduces a useful meeting point for the two camps.
I have seldom followed a straight road in my writings on history. Rather, I have wandered where my interests at the time led me, leading a military history friend to urge that I concentrate my forces. The one constant in my working life has been an abiding interest in diplomacy. From the research and writing of my doctoral thesis until now, I have written about many types of diplomacy over many centuries, and the interactions over boundaries of people, institutions and states remain central to my research and writing.
I entered Northwestern in the fall of 1969 certain that I would become a lawyer. I was a dedicated debater in high school. Northwestern had an excellent debate program, and many of its majors in Public Address & Group Communication had gone on to top law schools.
The technology of war is changing. Remarkable developments are underway in artificial intelligence, cyber technology, autonomous weaponry, hypersonic munitions delivery vehicles, additive manufacturing, remote sensing, stealth, and precision guidance. The ability of forces endowed with state-of-the-art warfighting technologies to see, target, and act efficiently and effectively on the battlefield is arguably greater than it has ever been, and is only likely to continue to improve. Recognizing that no single state is likely to create a monopoly on such technologies, and that it will be even less likely to maintain it if one is established, many observers argue that these advances have the potential to be profoundly destabilizing. The capabilities afforded to the most technologically advanced belligerents in future conflicts will likely spark arms races, create incentives to strike first in crises, and make the conduct of war more costly and painful for both combatants and for civilians on the home front. In short, the developing conventional wisdom suggests that while the capabilities afforded by these emerging technologies may be magnificent, their consequences for strategic stability are likely to be very dangerous.
I was born in the Bronx in 1939 to a first-generation mother and a father who spent the first eight years of his life in western Russia. When, during the Cold War, I had to fill out a biographical form for my Hewlett, Long Island, elementary school, I wrote that my father was born in Poland, which was not true. My mother, who graduated from Brooklyn College, was a homemaker for most of her married life until her divorce in 1956, after which she flourished working for philanthropic agencies. My father, who never quite finished City College of New York (CCNY), worked in his uncle’s commercial paper business.