International Security coverIn this article, the Tufts University historian David Ekbladh recalls the intellectual and institution-building work of a pre-Cold War professor of international relations, Edward Mead Earle (1894-1954).[1] Earle was one among many progressive (in his case a self-identified “new historian”) critics of American imperialism in the 1920s who revised their views and in some cases political allegiances in response to the challenge of “totalitarianism.” Ekbladh’s next book studies the interwar origins and dissemination of ideas in support of “a new American globalism” after World War II. The conceit of this essential, stand-alone piece on Earle is that he matters more than current practitioners know to the “birth” of the field of “security studies,” one strand of this new muscular globalism (or, better, interventionism). Security studies wasn’t a response to the Cold War, as virtually every insider account of its evolution insists, but rather to “the unraveling of international order” ten years earlier, and Earle was “[t]he central figure in its rise” (108, emphasis mine). Ekbladh identifies him as a “prophet” for having written a grant application in 1939 calling for “a historical and critical grand strategy for the United States” (119), although others were also busy at the time writing books of this type, and Earle never actually delivered on the promise.

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Intelligence and US Foreign Policy coverIntelligence is an odd area of study.  While it has always been fascinating to the general public, until recently it was the “missing dimension” of foreign policy, ignored by serious scholars because information was lacking and it had the stigma of being the playground for cranks if not frauds.  The increasing availability of documents, a changed political atmosphere, and a flood of books and journals have created a very different situation.  A second unusual characteristic is that while some of the recent studies have been written by people who have worked in the academy, more are produced by scholars who have spent time in the intelligence community (IC) and by former members of the IC.

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The Shadow of the Past coverGregory Miller’s book begins with a theoretical discussion of the importance of ‘reputation’ in international politics, before analysing its role in four case studies taken from European diplomacy before 1914. To a quite unusual extent, his study consists of an extended critique of a single book – and one published in the same series with the same editors – Jonathan Mercer’s Reputation and International Politics.[1] Three of Miller’s case studies were used also by Mercer, and the two writers draw on very similar source material. Miller repeatedly cites and refutes Mercer’s work, up to four times on a single page (p. 176). To a large extent Miller’s book must be read as a foil to an earlier contribution rather than as a stand-alone study.

 

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Perceptions of Cuba coverLana Wylie has enhanced our understanding of Canadian and U.S. policies toward Fidel Castro’s Cuba by providing a comparative perspective that extends from 1959 to the present.  Wylie applies a constructivist approach which proposes that “culture and identity are integral to a complete understanding of the dynamics of international relations.” (6) Wylie proposes to move from a “focus on systemic-level analysis” to examine “national-level identities in order to understand differences in foreign-policy behavior.” (8)  Furthermore, Wylie examines not only state action at the international level but also domestic factors.  “It is not just international culture that constructs a state’s identity and corresponding behavior,” Wylie suggests, “but also domestic-level culture, identity, and ideas.” (9)

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Many of the specific questions raised about our article’s limitations by the commentators are, indeed, true, but they reflect the stated approach of the paper.  North Korea is a country where the uncertainties are great, and this is no truer than in trying to anticipate a future North Korean government collapse and potential transition to Korean unification.  Moreover, information on North Korea is scarce and difficult to interpret in large part because of North Korean information denial and falsification efforts.  As a result, it is important to note our statement of the purposes of our article: “First, we seek to bring into the public debate a discussion of the scale of the problems that the collapse of North Korea’s government could create, and the potential for dire consequences, both humanitarian and strategic, if stability efforts were delayed or failed altogether.  We describe the military missions that might be necessary to stabilize North Korea and estimate the force requirements for those missions. …  Second and more broadly, this analysis sheds light on international intervention in collapsing states.” (86) With their comments, the reviewers have certainly contributed to our first objective, and their comments add to what we have contributed on the second.  Moreover, we developed estimates of the military force requirements because we felt they would help motivate a public debate.

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In Uncertain Times coverThis edited volume makes a unique contribution to the field of American foreign policy by bringing together scholars and policy makers to assess two key turning points in American politics: the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  As the editors, Melvyn P. Leffler and Jeffrey W. Legro, write, “The aim of this book is to extrapolate from the aftermath of the most dramatic events in recent international history for the purposes of improving strategic thinking and strategic planning.” (3)  Foreign-policy crises typically prompt reassessments of U.S. interests and priorities, and the editors aim to identify how those efforts can be better informed by those who develop policy and those who evaluate it (and several contributors to the volume have been active in both areas).

 

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The Threat on the Horizon coverWith The Threat on the Horizon, Loch Johnson adds to his distinguished record of publications on the topic of United States intelligence.  The book is part monograph, examining the Aspin-Brown Commission tasked with reforming intelligence in the 1990s; part autobiography, drawing on Johnson’s role as the Chairman’s assistant on the Commission; and part policy analysis, using the first two sections to draw out more general observations on the intelligence process.

 

 

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Samuel Moyn’s study of human rights movements is a path-breaking book.  It moves the study of human rights out of the realm of virtue and into the realm of politics.  By desacralizing the subject, he has historicized it, and thereby has enabled us to measure the claims of human rights against other political claims and projects.   Trained both as a lawyer and as an intellectual historian, Moyn tilts the chronology of human rights history towards a bifurcation, between a period of failed activism prior to 1970 and of successful mobilization in the form of a set of popular trans-national movements after that date.  Why the divide?  Because prior to 1970, other utopias, especially the Marxist one in Europe and elsewhere, as well as its anti-colonial variants in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, still commanded the loyalty and commitment of millions.  After that date anti-colonialism had more or less completed its historical mission, and Marxism, as a theory of action and as a political movement, slowly and then spectacularly collapsed.  Into the vacuum rushed human rights as a political weapon of choice.

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International Security coverBruce Bennett and Jennifer Lind provide what can only be described as a most timely analysis of the challenges facing external actors in the event of a collapse in North Korea following “the most difficult challenge that such regimes face: succession” (84).They correctly identify not only the internal weaknesses of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the daunting prospect of a truncated transition period, but also the difficulties and dangers faced by the international community in addressing a potential collapse. Underlying trends leading to collapse include the destabilizing effects of a chronic lack of food combined with uncertainty about who is in power (91). The authors see Kim Jong-il’s sudden death or incapacitation as the potential trigger for a power struggle and subsequent government collapse, due to the limited time spent grooming his successor, Kim Jong-un, and the candidate’s extreme youth (84). And a “government collapse in North Korea could unleash a series of catastrophes on the peninsula with potentially far-reaching regional and global effects” (84). These effects would include a humanitarian crisis leading to a massive outflow of refugees, North Korean weapons of mass destruction (WMD) finding their way onto the international black market, and, potentially, in the absence of sufficient international coordination, conflict between the countries likely to intervene, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and the United States (85).

 

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Nicolas Guilhot and Ido Oren both contribute useful insights, in the paper Guilhot published in Behavioral Sciences, and in Oren’s review of it here. I would like to offer a more personal perspective based on my own experience. As a young History student at Columbia College from 1969 to 1973 I did, nevertheless, hover on the edges of the Political Science Department and its Institute of War and Peace Studies, the hotbed of IR at Columbia. From 1973 to 1981 I was a graduate student in IR at the Institute—and a direct observer of all of this. William T. R. Fox was my mentor, seconded by the nuclear weapons theorist Warner R. Schilling. Fox’s impact on the field has been dimmed by time but merits greater attention—it was he, after all, who coined the term “superpower,” and whose participation in a study group with Bernard Brodie led to the first systematic attempt to consider the international implications of the atomic bomb in The Absolute Weapon.[1]

 

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