Roundtable 13-13 on Armed Guests: Territorial Sovereignty and Foreign Military Basing56 min read

Since the end of World War II, the US has relied on a vast network of military bases to project its power across the globe. So ubiquitous are these bases that they often melt into the background of US grand strategy, and are treated “as part of the given background conditions on which contemporary international politics are played out” (3). Recently, it seems that basing is becoming part of a standard repertoire of power politics.  China has established a base of its own in Djibouti. Middle-sized powers, such as Turkey, seek to project their power through permanent, peace-time basing as well.

H-Diplo | ISSF Roundtable 13-13

Sebastian Schmidt.  Armed Guests:  Territorial Sovereignty and Foreign Military Basing.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2020.  ISBN:  9780190097752.

5 August 2022 |
Editor: Diane Labrosse | Commissioning Editor and Chair: Stacie Goddard:  | Production Editor: George Fujii


Introduction by Stacie Goddard, Wellesley College.. 2

Review by Tarak Barkawi, London School of Economics. 5

Review by Molly Cochran, Oxford Brookes University. 8

Review by Brian Rathbun, University of Southern California. 11

Review by Michael Williams, University of Ottawa. 13

Response by Sebastian Schmidt, Johns Hopkins University. 15

PDF Version

Introduction by Stacie Goddard, Wellesley College

Since the end of World War II, the US has relied on a vast network of military bases to project its power across the globe. So ubiquitous are these bases that they often melt into the background of US grand strategy, and are treated “as part of the given background conditions on which contemporary international politics are played out” (3). Recently, it seems that basing is becoming part of a standard repertoire of power politics.  China has established a base of its own in Djibouti. Middle-sized powers, such as Turkey, seek to project their power through permanent, peace-time basing as well.

But Armed Guests reminds us the practice of peacetime basing, of keeping foreign military troops indefinitely stationed abroad on another state’s soil, is hardly a natural part of power politics. As Sebastian Schmidt argues, before World War II, stationing forces during peacetime on another sovereign power’s territory was unfathomable. The “long-term presence of military forces in another state,” he writes “happened only within the context of colonial or occupational regimes—in other words, conditions incompatible with sovereign independence” (2). Imperial powers could station their troops abroad—after all, that was both an instrument and a symbol of political subjugation. On rare occasions, sovereign states would concede to a foreign military presence during a conflict. But allowing foreign troops on home soil contradicted everything that territorial sovereignty signified.

The rise of foreign basing thus represents a massive shift in statecraft, from a world where foreign basing was illegitimate to one where it has become the normal practice of power politics. Schmidt argues that key to this transformation was a shift, not only in material power (the rise of the US) or technology (nuclear weapons), but in policymakers’ practical understanding of the nature of sovereignty. Before the Second World War, policymakers understood sovereignty as entailing “a tight linkage between military presence and territorial authority” (5). To station troops abroad was to claim sovereignty over another state.

In contrast, after World War II, sovereignty was decoupled from military presence. It became possible for leaders to conceive of hosting armed guests on their territory, without seeing this as relinquishing sovereignty. Unlike traditional understandings of sovereignty, where the presence of troops signaled a claim of authority, “the enduring presence of the foreign military instrument does not bring political authority with it, and the host has the capability to decide independently on the desirability of the arrangement” (13). Indeed, this has proven to be more than simply lip-service to sovereign norms. Schmidt opens his book with the story of how, in 2005, Uzbekistan demanded that the US vacate the Karshi-Khanabad airbase. The “basing agreement…had outgrown its usefulness for Uzbekistan, and the Americans had to go. So they did” (2). The US—the far great power—recognized Uzbekistan as a sovereign equal, able to order US troops off of its territory.

What led to this transformation in practical understandings of sovereignty? It is here that Schmidt makes a radical move—or at least, radical for international relations theorists who are accustomed to straightforward theoretical arguments. Rather than identifying one or two variables that changed the meaning of sovereignty to allow for foreign basing, Schmidt adopts a pragmatic perspective. Drawing from the work of John Dewey, he argues that the meaning of sovereignty evolved as leaders struggled to respond to new problems in their everyday environment.[1] Sovereignty, as Schmidt explains, is not a static “norm,” something outside of practice. Rather, sovereignty is “carried along in those practices and the innumerable concrete situations in which notions of sovereignty must be actualized” (49). As with practice-scholars who are influenced by Pierre Bourdieu[2], Schmidt views sovereignty less as a norm than a “socially recognized set of shared habits” (33).  Sovereignty is, in essence, what we do to make it so. Schmidt sees himself as parting from Bourdieu-inspired practice scholarship, however, in his emphasis on creative agency. Policymakers are pragmatic problem solvers. When confronted with a problem, they will start to innovate within a practice, and, in doing so, change the meaning of the practice itself.

This is how understandings of sovereignty transformed in order to allow the possibility of foreign basing. After the war, Schmidt argues, policymakers finally recognized the obsolescence of the link between peacetime military presence and territorial authority. He identifies two primary components of this disruption. First, the “massively increased speed and destructiveness of warfare,” especially with the invention of strategic bombing and nuclear weapons (36). The second is the intensification of the Cold War, especially the rise of what was seen as the transnational, ideological threat of Communism. Both of these shifts meant that projecting military power beyond US frontiers was necessary. To be clear, this is not a functionalist story, where policymakers shifted their practices because of security “needs.” Instead, they worked within pre-existing habits and understandings, and negotiated with their counterparts in order to find possible legitimate solutions. For this reason, understandings of sovereignty did not shift overnight. In his meticulous empirical chapters, all of which are based on copious amounts of original primary research, Schmidt traces understandings of sovereignty and practices of basing through the colonial period through World War II and into the early Cold War. Even before the Second World War, policymakers were grappling with the presence of troops abroad, innovating in ways that allowed for practical solutions to security problems. The transformation from sail to steam, for example, brought on the need for coaling stations. Consistent with understandings of military presence and sovereignty, these were placed in colonial holdings. The Second World War increased the need to station US troops abroad. Here as well, this military presence operated within the parameters of traditional sovereignty, although these efforts would construct wartime bases that eventually became the infrastructure for peacetime basing overseas.

The contributors to this roundtable are uniformly impressed with Schmidt’s identification of a significant and yet overlooked puzzle of grand strategy. As Molly Cochran writes, the book is an excellent example of drawing scholarly “attention to something IR has failed to notice in a taken for granted practice of world politics.” They commend the book’s history as well. As Brian Rathbun writes, “Almost every citation in the case chapters is primary in character. That is extremely rare, even for qualitative scholars, and Schmidt deserves a lot of praise for that.” Tarak Barkawi likewise notes that Schmidt’s “sensitivity to context and contingency delivers careful, historically detailed accounts of the evolution of basing arrangements.” While they agree that Schmidt’s historical work is impressive, most of the reviewers here focus on his theoretical work and, specifically, his commitment to a pragmatic approach. Both Rathbun and Michael Williams call Schmidt’s work “subversive.” Williams argues that the book “provides a bracing challenge to theoretical orthodoxies that take sovereignty as a fixed or static practice.” More broadly, the reviewers see Schmidt as throwing justified skepticism at those seeking to create universal, invariant theories of international politics. So “for anyone looking for generalizable theories of politics, even mid-range, Schmidt might say “good luck,” Rathbun writes.

While all the reviewers agree that this is an important historical and theoretical work, they also draw attention to some unanswered puzzles. Practically all of them question the absence of larger structural forces in Schmidt’s theory. We don’t get much sense of why particular technological or political changes disrupt notions of sovereignty and others do not. There is a sense that much of what a great deal of “a great deal of the substance of international relations remains exogenous to his theory, showing up instead as contingent historical developments.”[3] Does it matter, for example, that basing practices rose just as imperialism was being progressively delegitimated (which Schmidt notes on page 43, but this doesn’t play a central role in his story), as Barkawi highlights. As Williams writes, “it is not enough simply to view shifts in sovereignty as changes in habits, however sophisticated a conceptualization of these we may adopt. Instead, these habits need to be located in wider fields of practice and power.”

Moreover, many of the reviewers seem unconvinced by Schmidt’s concept of sovereignty as a set of habits. Cochran asks what role normative reasoning—so essential for pragmatism—plays in Schmidt’s conception of sovereignty. She would like to would like “to see Schmidt’s examination of sovereign state practice via the actions of state representatives joined with evaluating the ideas and values associated with that action.” For Barkawi, Schmidt adheres all too closely to stock conceptions of traditional sovereignty. Williams asks whether sovereignty is simply a collection of habit or, more significantly, whether or not is involves specific practices surrounding the authority to define exceptional moments in politics.

The contributor’s critiques are sophisticated, engaged, and constructive. They demonstrate not only the quality of the reviewers here, but the quality of Schmidt’s work, which gave them plenty of provocative historical and theoretical material to wrestle with.



Sebastian Schmidt is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on the historical origins and sociological foundations of security strategies, questions of international order, and the modalities of American influence in the world. His work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, and other journals.

Stacie Goddard is the Betty Freyhof Johnson ‘44 Professor of Political Science and Faculty Director of the Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs at Wellesley College.  Her latest book, When Right Makes Might: Rising Powers and World Order was published by Cornell University Press in 2018. Other writings have appeared in International Organization, International Security, and Security Studies, as well as the New York Times and the Washington Post. She currently is a series editor for Columbia University Press, and an editor for The Monkey Cage at the Washington Post.

Tarak Barkawi is Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His scholarship uses interdisciplinary approaches to imperial and military archives to re-imagine relations between war, armed forces and society in modern times.

Molly Cochran is a Reader in International Relations at Oxford Brookes University whose research examines ethical questions in world politics and works within the philosophical tradition of American pragmatism. Her research is focused on democratic global governance and ethical foreign policy with a special interest in historical international relations and women as agents of change. Currently, she is writing a book on the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and its international advocacy in relation to disarmament, the minorities question, and race and empire at the League of Nations.

Brian C. Rathbun is Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Southern California. He is the author of five books, most recently Right and Wronged in International Relations: Evolutionary Ethics, Moral Revolutions, and the Nature of Power Politics, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press.

Michael Williams is University Research Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa, Canada.



Review by Tarak Barkawi, London School of Economics

Sebastian Schmidt has produced an excellent study of the origins of the novel practice of sovereign basing in the wake of the Second World War. The core idea of sovereign basing is that hosting a foreign military base does not compromise the territorial sovereignty of the host state. Schmidt effectively deploys a pragmatist social theory to show how over time sovereign practices were re-articulated to make possible sovereign basing. Prior to sovereign basing, foreign military basing occurred in colonial or other hierarchical contexts in which the basing power exercised forms of territorial control over the host. After sovereign basing, states could host foreign bases in the expectation that they could end leases and that their sovereign rights would be respected. The great strength of Schmidt’s book, and of his pragmatist approach, is that he shows how this new practice originated and developed. That is, he is not focused on the adoption of a new norm, much less a ‘nice’ one, but on how the practice originated in the first place, as policymakers and officials responded to new contexts and challenges.

Schmidt brings together a powerful combination of theory and history. Drawing on the work of John Dewey, Schmidt’s pragmatism emphasizes the deliberation, practices, and experimentation of agents amid the ebb and flow of events.[4] Sovereignty becomes a “bundle of related habits that organize activity in different domains” (34). Habits emerge as “solutions to earlier problems” and have a status quo bias to them (38). They can be disrupted by new developments, which engender processes of deliberative innovation, as agents reflect on how to move forward and experiment with new possibilities: “This deliberative process is creative and recombinatory” (38). Understanding these processes requires placing actors in their historically-changing, socially ‘thick’ contexts in order to trace how new habits arise and become routinized. For Schmidt, we cannot understand the development of novel practices without close, empirical attention to the processual character of social action; he writes, “Actors cannot rank-order preferences that do not yet exist, and they cannot simply apply inherited rules to novel situations” (172).

For Schmidt, the international consists of always ongoing processes and relations, not a set of things, as with the essentialized conceptions of states, sovereignty, interests, norms, and identities that dominate mainstream theories. One upshot is that the ambitions for theory have to be reduced: “The lack of a causal role for structure, the emphasis on context, and the unpredictable implications of understanding action as a creative process mean that pragmatism cannot make use of the traditional positivist presumption that there are general causal laws that define trans-historical regularities in the social and political world” (214-215). We must replace IR theory’s “pretense that we have found the keys to history” with careful historical analysis of change in, and agents’ responses to, social contexts, which Schmidt provides with respect to foreign basing (215).

Schmidt thus offers not only an impressive substantive contribution to the evolving debate over foreign basing, but a model for the historical study of other domains of international relations.[5] In reflecting on this model, I want to identify a problem that arises in leaving structural forces untheorized, conceived only as disruptive events and contingent developments that disturb habits, as happenings that are exogenous to theory. As has often been pointed out, constructivism is a social theory, an account of the social in general and how we should study it.[6] In itself, it is not a substantive theory of international relations or any other specific social domain, although it has implications for such theories. In turning constructivism into a theory of IR, core constructivist commitments to the processual and relational character of the social were often abandoned. For Alex Wendt, for example, states become ontologically primitive units that comprise an international system, even if their identities change.[7] There is nothing in constructivism as an approach to social theory that prioritizes, much less essentializes, sovereign states. The focus on states arose from the IR theories that IR constructivists sought to critique. Put differently, sovereign states are exogenous to constructivist social theory.

Schmidt’s book faces a similar problem. In it, a powerful general approach to social theorizing meets a very specific object of analysis, foreign basing, without any intervening substantive theory of the international or of security relations. This means that the structuring forces that shape both the social context and the actions and responses of agents become contingent, ad hoc. Some of the structural forces that Schmidt argues were crucial to the development of sovereign basing involve the intensification of the Cold War and its transnational ideological divide; the transformation of military power, in particular air power; and, relatedly, the technological and social compression of time and space that we characterize as globalization. Another important factor was the character of US hegemony in a world organized around United Nations’ guarantees of sovereignty. The US ‘empire by invitation’ generally respected the formal sovereignty of subordinate states, while exercising influence by other means.[8]

Schmidt incorporates these structuring forces into his explanation of the rise of sovereign basing. For example, the strategic exigencies of the Second World War played prominent roles in establishing many of the bases Schmidt looks at. So too did the evolving nature of military technology, which placed a premium on the expansion of defensive perimeters. In the Middle East, the desire to counterbalance British influence and protect access to oil drove US interest in a base in Saudi Arabia, and so on (160-161). From the perspective of Schmidt’s theory, these structuring forces are exogenous, but important. What he is interested in is how they shaped the social processes of negotiating basing arrangements, which over time evolved into a new habit of sovereignty, the practice of sovereign basing.

With admirable clarity, Schmidt identifies what falls in and what falls out of his pragmatist approach. His sensitivity to context and contingency allows him to deliver careful, historically detailed accounts of the evolution of basing arrangements. My observation here is that a great deal of the substance of international relations remains exogenous to his theory, showing up instead as contingent historical developments. In many respects, it is these contingent developments—the structuring forces—that create the conditions of possibility for sovereign basing. In itself, pragmatism is no more a theory of IR than constructivism; it is an approach to conceiving and studying the social in general. This is evident in Schmidt’s minimalist definition of sovereignty as a ‘bundle of habits,’ a definition which in pragmatist terms applies to nearly any social domain. In practice, like the IR constructivists, Schmidt has to start from the mainstream approaches to sovereignty that he critiques.

In effect, Schmidt begins his inquiry from a traditional territorial conception of sovereignty. Social process and contingent developments intervene and the outcome is a new articulation of sovereignty that includes sovereign basing. While historically sensitive to the root and branch transformation of world politics occasioned by the world wars, the rise of US hegemony, and the transformation of empires into a UN system of sovereign states, Schmidt does not incorporate this transformation into his theory. Pragmatism is silent on these matters. Decolonization did not involve the simple expansion of sovereignty as traditionally understood in European great power politics. Cold War sovereignty, and the forms of intervention that challenged and compromised it, produced new configurations that are not captured by traditional definitions of sovereignty. To take one example, Okinawa was a Japanese colony that was first liberated, but then occupied by the US in 1945. In 1972, it was ‘returned’ to its former colonial power as ‘national’ territory, US bases included.[9]

Of course, for Schmidt sovereignty is historical. His book is dedicated to exploring change in sovereignty over time. But his problematic is based on traditional IR conceptions of sovereignty, which he shows to be inadequate for understanding the rise of sovereign basing. From my point of view, what requires inquiry are those historically evolving structural forces that shaped world politics and set the context for negotiations over bases, but which fall outside of general social theories, mainstream IR approaches and traditional conceptions of sovereignty.



Review by Molly Cochran, Oxford Brookes University

Sebastian Schmidt directs attention to a taken-for-granted practice of world politics.  Armed Guests looks at norm change in sovereign practices, focusing on foreign military basing, the origins of which are traced to World War II and its aftermath. Schmidt writes that prior to this, military presence was linked to territorial authority and foreign presence was equivalent to occupation in the context of colonialism. Schmidt labels this as “traditional” sovereign practice, whereas “sovereign basing” is the term he uses to identify the shift away from a colonially inflected sovereign practice (13). The aim of the book is to explain this change and its role in shaping contemporary security politics. Schmidt identifies two critical factors in its development: the radically increased speed and scale of warfare and the emergence of the Cold War and ideological threat (5).

Theoretical innovation is on offer in this book, too: Deweyan pragmatism is applied to security studies. Schmidt argues that policymakers engaged in a deliberative process characterized by policy experimentation in relation to the new and acute security problems presented by mid-twentieth century world politics. Deweyan pragmatism was revolutionary within early twentieth century philosophy for turning away from its traditional preoccupation with moral truths and placing real-world human problems at its center.[10] Importantly for Schmidt, Deweyan pragmatism identifies a method of problem-solving which holds that our best practical judgments are made through an experimental attitude. Given that the motor to social scientific inquiry for Dewey are unmet situations of radical doubt, such as those unleashed by a nuclear era of Cold War, experimentation is vital and engrained habits of action are challenged.

Schmidt presents a convincing argument on the limits of the norms literature with respect to explaining norm change. It is his contention that looking at historical practices, focusing on what actors do in the context of a practice, and thinking about how particular social arrangements are made possible through social action within a practice, is empirical work that can produce “a more fine-grained analysis” (12). However, despite Schmidt’s stress on the role of thick institutional and cultural understanding within sovereign practices and his discussion of action having normative dimensions, there is little consideration of the role that values play in social action and within experimental problem-solving in the relationships under study. At this point, I should self-identify as a normative IR theorist who draws upon Deweyan pragmatism. Thus, I would like to see the normativity of the practice of sovereign basing brought forward within Armed Guests. This would mean inquiring into how sovereign basing is more than a set of norms but is in fact highly normative in and of itself.

To do so would require that Schmidt’s examination of sovereign state practice via the action of state representatives included evaluation of the ideas and values associated with that action. Perhaps too one might look beyond the participation of state representatives in problem-solving to include of a wider range of actors who are impacted by the practice. Indeed, on both counts, this is what Dewey’s pragmatism intends.

John Dewey is the pragmatist within this American philosophical tradition who produced a theory of ethics. Social scientific inquiry for Dewey involves asking not only what is, but what ought to be done in relation to shared human problems, engaging both the empirical and normative aspects. His aim is to give philosophy a direct, organic relationship to lived experience. The point about pragmatism is that it is always infused with practice, so it is not going to be an abstract normative theory. Dewey calls normative theorising “valuation,” [11] which he defines as the process of making determinations about the values that should serve as a basis of action within the context of a practice.

Schmidt brackets off this aspect of Deweyan pragmatism, building foremost from its empirical grounding in practice and action. However, the normative carries over to Dewey’s method, which emphasizes epistemic values that are democratic and extend participation beyond elites and experts to include all publics experiencing the effects of a problematic situation. On this logic, theorising should be inclusive of those negatively impacted by sovereign basing and experiment with available social values or trial a prospective value rather than presume the legitimacy of “empire by invitation,” a phrase coined by Geir Lundestad that Schmidt invokes (6).[12] Without valuation and without attention to the publics that are indirectly affected by the processual nature of sovereign practices enacted by state representatives, there is left an implicit and positive normative gloss on US expansion and hegemony that is not attended to or accounted for in the book.

A look at a recent work on empire in the history of political thought can illustrate what a focus on the normativity of a practice might involve and what valuation joined to the superb historical work of Schmidt’s pragmatist analysis might add. In her book, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France, Jennifer Pitts focusses on another narrow window of important change across sixty years of the nineteenth century.[13] The two studies share not only a focus on significant norm change over a short period of time, but each also face the question of how liberal hegemons – the United States for Schmidt and Great Britain and France for Pitts – cope with ethical questions arising from their superior power position. Up to a point, these liberal hegemons also arguably shared in a similar ethical dilemma that Pitts analyses.

Pitts asks the following: how was the nineteenth-century ideology of empire tied to liberalism, a philosophy of universal rights? More than this, how is it that liberalism ended up functioning as a defence of colonial imperialism? Pitts shows that beginning in the late- eighteenth and early nineteenth century, a strong anti-imperialist stance can be found within liberalism. Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, and Jeremy Bentham wrote about the problems associated with European imperial expansion in ways that went so far as to demonstrate respect for cultural difference and to extend to non-Europeans the possibility of self-determination. But by the 1830’s scepticism of empire fell away and John Stuart Mill promoted a civilizing despotism as the normative basis of colonial rule.

To use Dewey’s language, one might say that the background habit of thought associated with European imperial practice was riddled with contradiction. A case in point is Alexis de Tocqueville, whom Pitts describes as a proponent of democracy and critic of slavery, yet in his writing on Algeria he defended French empire and never confronted the contradiction in his values or his ambivalence towards that contradiction. In a Deweyan register of background habit, that ambivalence is the deep cultural effect of normative presumption – the effects of civilizational thinking in particular. Liberal governance was for the civilized peoples of the world, and domination was part and parcel of civilizing the rest. With the assistance of Pitts’s analysis, I argue that there are also ethical questions to be raised in Armed Guests about the liberal hegemony that took place in the practice of sovereign basing. Deweyan pragmatism that joins normative and empirical analysis would include investigation into the normative work that concepts such as empire and civilization performed in mid-twentieth century risk assessments in the shift to sovereign basing practices. What contractions might there be in background valuative processes within sovereign basing which Schmidt finds to be best described by “empire by invitation”? What further transformation of imperial policy might be represented in this moment? What value expressions supported it and how have they changed?

Dewey was particularly interested in the role of normative ideas and values as expressions of action within a practice. And in moments of critical indeterminacy, what Dewey understood to be in play was the prospect that new value premises may be required if old social values where not helping actors in the problem context being faced. New or reworked values may then be offered as speculative ideas to be tried and tested in inclusive and cooperative inquiry that seeks a new integrative concept capable of generating a principle to guide action. This kind of inquiry into values is not the subject of Armed Guests. The historical explanation Schmidt provides through the prism of pragmatist theorising of creative action is extremely well crafted and compelling, but the use of international history here is in the service of empirical inquiry alone. Its methodological intent is more in line with neo-positivist social science. I am asking here for more in the way of an alternative idea of IR as a social science, one that pursues empirical and normative inquiry in tandem. For Dewey, empirical understanding could not be won separated off from normative inquiry.

In this respect, Hedley Bull was a Pragmatist.[14] The general pattern of practice developed within international social life that Bull labels as “international society” is shaped by normative understanding with aims, as he writes, to “promote certain goals or values.”[15] Pragmatist IR needs to ask, as Bull does, what is the stuff of this cultural cohesion and what causes rupture within it such that we are forced to evaluate once again the values and practice of international social life in which we are situated.

It is critical to keep in mind that Dewey’s idea of creative action was fed by diverse experience and collective social-political engagement in line with a democratic epistemology. Any problem needing resolution requires wide participation among those affected and dialogue that is open and in which there is freedom to express dissent. The extent to which any adaptation in response to a crisis or rupture within a practice, like that which is the subject of Armed Guests, can find a stable resolution is optimized by inquiry and action of this kind for Dewey. Thus, I am curious about what else might be generated from a study such as Schmidt’s if it were to consider social action on the part of those who are affected by foreign military basing, for example, the community responses in the early 1980s to decisions to deploy American Cruise and Pershing nuclear missiles in the UK, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. Can the social underpinnings of security policies be understood apart from critiques like that of the transnational peace movement of the 1980s or more recent anti-basing movements like those mentioned by Schmidt in Chapter 7? Whether the American basing network diminishes, or the practice of sovereign basing is indeed generalised, I read Dewey as saying that adaptation to lived indeterminacies within sovereign basing practice is improved by the epistemic inclusion of all affected groups within it.

While I want to see the Deweyan analysis taken further, there is much richness in the pragmatist framework of practice, habit and creative action that Schmidt brings to bear on the study of change within the sovereign practice of foreign military basing. I find value in the theoretical ambition of Armed Guests and the execution of detailed historical work in support of its ambition. Finally, I am hopeful about the potential return for IR of Armed Guests in encouraging more scholarship that explores pragmatist approaches to understanding international norm change.



Review by Brian Rathbun, University of Southern California

Sebastian Schmidt Armed Guests is an extremely well researched book with a provocative account of how norms of sovereignty shifted to accommodate the new practice of foreign basing in the early post-Cold War era. There are painfully few books that engage this deeply with the historical material. Almost every citation in this book’s chapters is primary in character. That is extremely rare, even for qualitative scholars, and Schmidt deserves a lot of praise for that. Nevertheless, I am most taken by the book’s theoretical contribution, which is deeply subversive to mainstream social science. This is the greatest compliment one can give.

What do I mean by subversive? I believe that at the heart of the book is an ontological bet that most of politics, and in this case foreign policy, is a process of fumbling through. Schmidt describes the “spirit of pragmatism in its denial of the search for abstract and eternal truth claims and their translation into historically transposable covering laws of social action” (13). But I think the book goes further than that. It seems to have in its sights even the type of mid-range, historically contingent generalizations that so many of us do. As he puts it, habits are simply “means for…getting on in the world” (30). Pragmatism tries to account for “situated creativity” (11), yet creativity is by definition a mystery, as romantic thinkers have long recognized. Even deliberation, which we tend to associate with goal-directed, truth-seeking action of the Habermasian type is “making it up as [we] go along” (47).

This ontological bet seems to rest on another one, that the world is marked by tremendous uncertainty both in terms of how we achieve goals but also what are goals are in the first place. So for anyone looking for generalizable theories of politics, even mid-range, the answer seems to be, ‘good luck.’ Schmidt’s book is therefore the best statement of pragmatism to date and the kind of book whose argument every more “mainstream” political scientist or IR scholar seeking to do mid-range theory needs to have in their mind at all times. Am I imposing order on something that was disorderly?

As I read it, this is a different ontological basis than historical institutionalism, in which large-scale shocks disrupt existing practices, inducing deliberation that crystallizes into new habits that are taken for granted. And it seems also to differ from the Bourdieuian take that is more structural in nature.[16] We cannot be creative if we are mindlessly repeating existing practices.

And yet it seems that Schmidt sometimes falls back on just such a model. He does not employ a theory of exogenous shocks, yet the context under which new basing arrangements emerge is exactly that, driven by two fundamentally new phenomena: the transnational threat of communism and the rapidly escalating reach of weapons of mass destruction. He calls this ‘disruption,’ but how is that different empirically and conceptually?

One could argue that even so, these exogenous shocks did not have any clear solution. To reason backwards a deliberative process in which the objective environment and what it called for is what Patrick Thaddeus Jackson calls “teleological reconstruction.”[17] Everything was more up in the air than that. To make that point, I would have expected a direct engagement with David Lake’s Entangling Relations, which is a rationalist take of just this type.[18] It was simply efficient, in light of the greater reach of weapons, the asymmetry in power between the US and its allies, and the alignment of interests among the advanced democracies, to put forces on foreign bases.

Yet even I, who think the process was much more contingent on the trusting or distrusting instincts of key American leaders, can see how there was a certain inexorable logic to the overall solution, particularly for the allies. There were not an infinite number of options. A few Europeans and a few Canadians put up a fuss about sovereignty, but they were vastly outnumbered, as Schmidt’s amusing account of the Canadian basing debate shows. Would you rather be dead or put up with some obnoxious house guests?

In that way, the book is exactly right in putting to bed the notion of a clear lesson drawn from the exogenous shock of World War II in which Americans realized that isolationism was ill-suited to modern parameters and engaged in a far-sighted and deliberative effort to build bases abroad. But I think the empirical chapters overstate the reluctance of American allies, who were quite desperate to have the Americans stay. In fact, the 1948 Brussels Pact was just such an effort of demonstrating commitment, urged on by President Harry Truman to convince recalcitrant conservatives that an American security commitment and force deployment abroad would not amount to free-riding. This is my own interpretation.[19]

Turning back lastly to theoretical questions, it was unclear to me what “deliberation” means in Schmidt’s account. In my work on rationality, I think of deliberation as one of the two central aspects of the process of rational thought, with objectivity being the other.[20] Given fundamental uncertainty, to be deliberative in such a context is almost by definition to muddle through and do one’s best. Is this not to be pragmatic? Yet Schmidt seems to reject any such equation of deliberation and rationality. He argues that “the notion that the mind is a unity somehow distinct from the body and standing in relation to the world as subject to object is itself the consequence of Cartesian thought” (19). I don’t believe that Europeans discovered objectivity; everyone has the capacity, but in general human beings are bad at it. We developed the capacity for objectivity whenever we developed consciousness. Rules themselves require an objective, detached viewpoint. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Yet these criticisms are also a compliment, since what Schmidt tries to do is theorize the untheorizable, which might be the hardest task in the discipline. How do we begin to account for behavior that is incredibly contingent? Most of us impose a structure after the fact and pretend that it had to be so, all the while having nagging doubts that we have an overly deterministic theory. Schmidt does not fall into that trap.



Review by Michael Williams, University of Ottawa

Armed Guests is a subtly subversive study. Taking sovereign basing – a central yet generally overlooked component of the global political-military order – as its focus, the book seeks to explain not only how this strikingly novel set of arrangements emerged, but how they became so commonplace and accepted that their novelty and theoretical and practical implications are widely overlooked. Sebastian Schmidt develops the conceptual and political implications of these significant historical shifts with great modesty, but they are substantial and significant. Taking theoretical inspiration from Deweyian pragmatism[21], he shows how profound transformations in core international practices (including ‘hard’ security relations such as sovereign basing) evolved historically as actors sought to adapt their ‘habits’ to changing circumstances and to develop new practices and relations in response to shifting technological and geopolitical imperatives. This provides a bracing challenge to theoretical orthodoxies that take sovereignty as a fixed or static practice, and to political visions that cast security relations in unconvincingly static terms of territorial exclusivity challenged only by occupation or colonial domination.

As these opening comments indicate, there is a huge amount to admire in this book, not least the clarity and cogency with which Schmidt unfolds a complex conceptual and historical argument. Armed Guests marks an important contribution to IR theory. Schmidt is critical of realist theories that take territorial exclusivity as the sine qua non of sovereignty, and his account of the evolution of sovereign basing provides provides extensive demonstrations of the historical inadequacy of those theories. At the same time, the book constitutes an incisive contribution to constructivist thinking, stressing the merits of pragmatism as a contribution to theory, an alternative that he sees as a more sensitive toward creative agency that prevailing views of practice-based approaches dominated by the thought of Pierre Bourdieu and determinism.[22] While one can debate the accuracy of this critique, the case for a pragmatist option has rarely been put more systematically and powerfully, with the detailed historical accounts of how the habits of sovereignty connected to basing foreign forces providing an excellent evidence of its explanatory power, although as I will suggest below, it raises important questions about whether it can stand sociologically on its own.

Before turning to these sociological issues, I want to look at a key conceptual question raised by Armed Guests, that of sovereignty. One of the great strengths of the book is its detailed examination of how the practice of sovereignty changed from a position where territorial exclusivity (exemplified by the unacceptability of foreign troops on sovereign territory even when it might have been advantageous in security terms) to a position where such basing became an accepted practice between sovereign states. Schmidt characterises this as a classic demonstration that sovereignty is a “malleable” practice; as he puts it, “At the center of the change in understandings of sovereignty that accompanies the development of sovereign basing practices is a change in the nature of territoriality, of the link between power and territorial rule” (212). But does this mean that sovereignty is just a “habit,” a “fairly stable constellation of practices” (212) and nothing more? If this is the case, how do we recognized sovereignty – is it just whatever stable constellation of practices that we identify as (or that share) a coherent practice if ‘sovereignty’ at a given point in history?  And if this is true, then how do we know sovereignty when we see it amidst what another Pragmatist, William James, once famously characterized as the “blooming, buzzing confusion”[23] of sensory data – especially when such coherence is lacking or contested?

One response to this dilemma is to turn to a different rendering of sovereignty, that identified by (and with) Carl Schmitt. For Schmitt, as for Schmidt, the institutions and practices of sovereignty are almost infinitely variable. But what makes them recognizable as practices of sovereignty is the principle of decision and right and practical ability to decide upon exceptions.[24] In cases like foreign basing, this might entail the right and ability to decide when a foreign military presence is a violation of sovereignty and when it is not. In such a view, sovereignty does have an essence, but that essence is not a fixed set of practices or norms, it is rather in the ability to decide when previous norms no longer apply. Schmitt may have gone a little far when he declared that “The exception is more interesting than the rule. The rule proves nothing; the exception proves everything: It confirms not only the rule but also its existence, which derives only from the exception. In the exception the power of real life breaks through the crust of a mechanism that has become torpid by repetition,”[25] but his basic insight is telling. Indeed, from this perspective, the shifting practices of sovereign basing are a striking illustration of sovereignty as exception: in the post-war era, states have increasingly exercised this prerogative, declaring that the presence of foreign forces is not a violation of their sovereignty, and that it is an essential element of their sovereignty that they have the right to do so.

If this is the case, then Armed Guests provides an illustration not only of the inadequacy of essentialized views of territorial sovereignty found in realism, but also a way of connecting a different realist tradition of thinking about sovereignty, which is in part indebted to Schmitt, with pragmatist and constructivist theories that focus on the historical contingency of those practices. The capacity to exercise sovereignty as exceptionality is not atemporal but depends on a wide set of practices in which the right is recognized as legitimate by others (or, in contested cases, is fought for). Here, Schmidt’s empirical observations, such as the striking case in which the Uzbek government first agreed to host American forces during the conflict in Afghanistan and then asked for them to leave – and had the request acceded to, despite the vast power differentials between the parties – attest to the wider set of practical transformations around sovereign recognition that that have become so powerful in post-World War Two world politics.

This brings me back to the question of sociology. For one of the open questions raised in Armed Guests is whether pragmatism with its focus on habits, common sense, and the importance of a degree of comfort or security in how to go on, has an adequately capacious sociological vision to capture the wider transformations the book traces. If the above analysis of sovereignty makes sense, then it is not enough simply to view shifts in sovereignty as changes in habits, however sophisticated a conceptualization of these we may adopt. Instead, these habits need to be located in wider fields of practice and power. Here, I wonder if Schmidt’s dismissal of Bourdieu’s approach is not unnecessarily limiting, for it is exactly these kinds of the structures and the interactions between agents and structures that the sociological tradition he initiated tries to uncover. Does sovereign basing depend on a doxa of sovereignty that is part of a ‘liberal’ world order? If so, would (or does) the erosion of this order change the wider field of practice in which such practices operate viably?

The implications of these questions are not purely theoretical. As Schmidt shows, the practice of sovereign basing now includes arrangements with non-liberal states, including China. If requested to leave, will they? Or will a request to leave even be made by a host government if it reliably believes that a powerful lessee will reject them? Or is sovereign basing founded in accepted habits of property rights that provide a reliable foundation for the current practices to endure?  The extension of sovereign basing arrangements means that much rests on the nature and power of the practices or habits at work and their relations to wider structures of international order. Armed Guests provides a remarkably challenging and timely invitation to thinking about these key questions in the domain of sovereign basing and beyond.


Response by Sebastian Schmidt, Johns Hopkins University

I would first like to thank those who participated in the roundtable. Tarak Barkawi, Molly Cochran, Stacie Goddard, Brian Rathbun, and Michael Williams were very generous with their time, that most valuable of resources, in reading my book and thinking critically about the argument it makes. I am grateful to have such an esteemed panel of scholars consider my work. I would also like to thank Stacie Goddard for organizing the roundtable and H-Diplo for hosting it.

Armed Guests developed out of an effort to explain a phenomenon that I stumbled upon quite by accident in reading about broader issues connected to sovereignty. Specifically, I was struck by the form that contemporary foreign military presences often take as something distinct from long-established practices of colonial control or occupation. At the time, there was already an emerging literature on foreign basing and the peculiar political dynamics connected to these installations; the works of Alexander Cooley and Kent Calder represent the beginning of a broader and more sustained engagement with foreign basing in the political science literature than had emerged to that point.[26] There was already some discussion about the novelty of the postwar situation but little engagement with the historical peculiarity of this practice or how it originated.[27] Significant portions of my book are therefore concerned with showing that what I call “sovereign basing” had a specific historical origin and that the practices of sovereignty before and after this development were distinct. As my work continued, the analytical focus on origins became the central concern of the argument. This pushed me beyond the available theoretical tools of the trade. I had an empirical question in need of a theoretical explanation: how did this historically novel practice, which is so integral to contemporary security politics, come about? The standard approaches across the major IR paradigms and the sociological theories they are implicitly based on did not provide an adequate answer.

John Dewey’s pragmatism, with its focus on the reflexive capacity of actors, the recombinatory potential of action, and the centrality of habit, provides a way to grasp creativity without resorting to a deus ex machina. This approach, which highlights the importance of process and context in revealing new possibilities for action, has broad theoretical implications and sets up a number of contrasts with the major IR paradigms. Specifically, pragmatism 1) questions the premise that preferences can be known and ranked a priori, 2) suggests limits to the utility of structural accounts, 3) questions the essentialism on which much IR theory is based, and 4) undermines the notion of historically transposable and substantive “laws” of how the world works. The book concretizes this broader metatheoretical critique in its discussion of the nature of normativity. It therefore critiques several aspects of the literature on norms: the focus on norm entrepreneurs, the essentialized and discursively grasped nature of norms, the emphasis on internalization, and the idea that norms are primarily constraints on state action. With its empirical focus on the origins of sovereign basing, the book is more broadly targeted at how novel practices – and their attendant normative orientations – emerge through processes of deliberative innovation in contexts of high uncertainty, and how these new practices are incorporated into the taken-for-granted way in which the world works.

The reviewers have developed a number of interesting critiques of the argument. In what follows, I will address what I see as a common thread in their readings of the book and then delve into more specific issues.

A recurring theme in the reviewers’ comments is the lack of analysis of the broader context within which sovereign basing practices emerged. For example, Tarak Barkawi argues that I leave “structural forces untheorized,” and Michael Williams similarly notes that habits of sovereignty “need to be located in wider fields of practice and power.” To an extent, I must agree with the issue that these critiques raise. Deweyan pragmatism, as an analysis of social dynamics, is primarily a theory of action. It is in this sense arguably not a “complete” social theory, but a theoretical perspective that focuses its gaze on the individual, the ongoing relations and processes in which they are embedded (and which constitute them), and the persistence and reconstitution of activity in a complex world.[28] This perspective fits nicely with Dewey’s longstanding interest in education and the cultivation of progressive habits. It also provides important tools for making creativity and the question of origins more analytically tractable. Perhaps not surprisingly given the emphasis of the creativity of action,[29] Dewey lacks a well-theorized alternative to structure in his work. Indeed, drawing out the implications of Dewey’s thought in today’s terms reveals a flat ontology that eschews sociological abstractions like “forces” and “structures.”[30] In this way, his work is a natural ally of actor-network-theory and Bruno Latour’s critique of the “sociology of the social.”[31]

There are essentially two ways in which terms like “structure” can be used, but in practice there is slippage between the two. On the one hand, structure can be used as a shorthand to denote a relatively stable set of macrosociological circumstances. On the other, structure is a reality that scholarship can apprehend and whose specific effects can be traced. Pragmatism has no problem with the former use of structure; in pragmatist terms, structure would be a shorthand reference to a relatively stable complex of interlinked, possibly self-reinforcing habits. To say anything more, however, would require close empirical examination of the extensive relations and transactions between actors, for a pragmatist approach discounts the idea that “structure” has an essence distinct from the specific and ongoing relations between agents. Often, it is structure in the latter sense, underlain by a set of assumptions – like the primacy of the pursuit of power, autonomy, or capital (symbolic or otherwise) – that allow scholars to define fields of action, lend specificity to their theories, and make them historically transposable.

As noted, the analytical focus of the book is the process through which state representatives established the novel practice of sovereign basing. While I do discuss the significance of the broader conditions within which this process took place, my working assumption is that they were constellations of activity that serve as the background from which practitioners perceived and addressed specific challenges. I therefore have to give the unsatisfying answer that these developments are outside the scope of a fairly specific concern of the investigation: the origination of a new practice. All studies must curtail their field of view somewhat in order to bring the object of analysis into sharp relief. These contextual – or “structural” – factors are not investigated in depth, not because of a supposed lack of importance, but because to problematize them from a pragmatist perspective would have required a significant marshaling of additional evidence on a micro level to more specifically define the transactions to which they refer within the period under study. There are certainly ways to address these structures within the confines of a tractable study by shifting the focus of the investigation and engaging in trade-offs.

I have a similar (and perhaps similarly unsatisfying!) response to Brian Rathbun’s related critique that I fall back on a model of exogenous shocks while ostensibly trying to avoid this kind of theoretical construction. Major developments like technological change and the sharpening of ideological conflict play a central role in the book’s effort to shed light on the transformation of sovereign practices. Like the broader “structural” context, however, I did not investigate these developments on their own terms. It is probably not a controversial statement that, in the end, everything except perhaps meteorite strikes is endogenous to ongoing social relations (although with the advancement of space technology, these might unfortunately soon be endogenized as well…). Pragmatism takes this proposition seriously by understanding the individual as deeply constituted by a pre-existing web of social and material relations and by emphasizing the recursive relationship between means and ends. In this sense, it may simply be that the ontological commitments of the theory outstrip the analytical capacity of any one study: my resources in this instance are devoted to elucidating the process through which sovereignty was reconstructed. The development of military technology is complex on its own terms and has of course a much longer history than what I mobilize in the book. These dynamics could be addressed by a reorientation of the focus of the study, which would, in turn, necessarily leave other aspects untheorized.

Taking a different approach, Molly Cochran, whose critique is rooted in a pragmatist tradition of normative theorizing, notes that an analysis of the broader normative context of action – specifically that of empire and civilization – is largely missing. I understand this critique as suggesting that such discourses and value orientations informed, and perhaps facilitated, the emergence of sovereign basing and the specific form it took.[32] While I do discuss how colonial practices inflected the emergence of sovereign basing, I must concede that these aspects are only covered insofar as they impinged directly on the process of practical recombination. At the same time, however, while the book is largely silent on these matters, its argument is compatible with the idea that the practice of sovereignty was inflected by a broader racialized/imperial imaginary of world politics. After all, colonial exploitation continued alongside practices of sovereign basing that were largely confined to the west. The case of Saudi Arabia would take on added importance in such an analysis to more clearly trace the impact of race and colonial thinking on basing practices, and I am sure that there is much more additional work to be done on this aspect.

In sum, the reviewers are correct in putting their fingers on the relatively narrow concerns of the argument. Apart from ontological arguments about structure, which are generally incompatible with pragmatist theorizing, I would argue that these issues are amenable to a reorientation of the study and the inherent tradeoffs that such a move would require.

There are a few other points I would like to address. The first is Barkawi’s statement that, similar to IR constructivists who work with a social theory and not a substantive theory of world politics, “Schmidt begins with a traditional territorial conception of sovereignty.” Indeed, I do identify the outlines of sovereign practice prior to the Second World War as congruent with (particularly) realist ideas of the state. However, I do not get to this point by assumption, but by following how practitioners of the time referred to what they considered legitimate state practice and the prevailing link between the disposition of the military instrument and state authority as it was understood at that time. This is not to say that sovereignty “actually” worked this way in all instances: sovereignty was eminently divisible, particularly in the colonized world, and Western powers had no problem developing all sorts of hierarchical regimes for the sake of imperial control. Among themselves, however, European (and settler colonial) states imagined sovereignty to be territorially absolute with regard to the disposition of the military instrument. Incorporating the various geographies of sovereignty as Cochran’s critique suggests would better make the point that I am not depending on straightforward assumptions about sovereignty.

Williams’s use of Schmitt’s decisionism to critique my understanding of sovereignty is an interesting provocation, and one that I am inclined to agree with. It lends form to sovereignty without presupposing a timeless substance. Indeed, I would argue that one can draw a number of interesting parallels between the work of Carl Schmitt and Dewey, particularly in how they understand the relationship of the abstract to the concrete, a pairing of strange bedfellows if there ever was one. I am also very sympathetic to the importation of the work of Pierre Bourdieu into IR, as it has provided the foundation for incredibly useful insights into international politics.[33] There are, however, some inherent tensions in relating his logic of practicality to the structural cast of a lot of his work, as the latter constrains, possibly in arbitrary ways (since structures are defined by the scholar), the working of the former. As a result, the issue of how to incorporate creativity remains a problem for structural perspectives, and I have noted as much in a brief forum contribution that builds off Anthony King’s critique of Bourdieu.[34] I would argue that it is not so much that the “wider fields of practice and power” cannot be grasped by a pragmatist approach, but that these can only be grasped piece by piece and in their particular contexts and concrete instantiations. This may, I must concede, rob pragmatism of the appearance of a “capacious sociological vision.” At the same time, the insights of pragmatism can be effectively mobilized for grasping world-historical changes, but these will necessarily be tied to action in a specific context. Dewey himself remarked on such broader changes: specifically, the emergence of industrial society and how political institutions, inherited from an earlier era, were maladapted to the new circumstances.[35] My work is done in the same spirit.

In addition to the issue of civilizational and imperial value orientations, Cochran raises another important normative concern: the scope of the deliberative process. In response, I must concede that my story is basically one of elite decision making. The processes of deliberation I look at encompassed only a very small slice of those whom the issue of foreign military basing would impact. The concerns of the broader population were not completely absent, but they were felt only indirectly, largely through anticipated reactions should the issue of foreign basing become a political football, which many elites clearly hoped it would not. Through this process, however, deliberation effectively remained an elite affair, and so I think my account faithfully reflects the significant dynamics around the reconstitution of sovereignty. The point remains, however, whether this is a desirable situation. An interesting study would work to understand in greater detail the processes through which this deliberation was cordoned off from the broader population. While in many ways distinct, it likely bears some relationship to the conditions under which basing relationships are sometimes politicized today.[36]

Rathbun raises the important issue of the potential alternatives to the basing arrangements that emerged after the war. After all, central to the idea of creativity and contingency – and all efforts at theorizing that aspire to distance themselves from determinism in general – is that things may have ended up differently. As Rathbun notes, those that held out in Canada against an American presence were clearly in the minority. However, perhaps the lesson is that the important shift in practices and attendant attitudes had already been wrought by that point, at least in Canada. The endless fussing over the provisions of the Destroyer for Bases leases suggest that despite the existential threat posed by the Nazi conquest of much of continental Europe, the British were not yet comfortable with such arrangements. In addition, it was not some small faction in the British government which fretted about this agreement, but the Foreign Ministry as a whole, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s personal intervention in the matter was needed to seal the deal (103). Similarly, the leadership of Belgium prior to the war effectively opted for assured destruction rather than entertaining the idea of a peacetime foreign military presence (64). In terms of concrete alternatives to sovereign basing, we may have instead witnessed a robust American presence in an occupied Germany with only “maintenance covenants” (page citation) or rights of US passage elsewhere. We actually did get something approaching this, or an indication of what it might have looked like, with the expulsion of all foreign forces from France in 1967: this effectively nationalized much of the infrastructure on which the resupply of the forward American presence depended. I would add that even if the outcome we know of seems in retrospect to be overdetermined, it is still compelling to understand how practitioners arrived at that point since, from their point of view, the outcome simply could not be known. In this vein, I must concede that overlooking David Lake’s work was a missed opportunity to engage with mainstream rationalist thought on this specific issue and to better outline the pragmatist understanding of rationality. In any case, I would argue that the alternatives that never materialized only appear relatively unworkable to our eyes because the solution that actually did emerge seems so normal.

I am grateful for the opportunity to respond to the reviewers’ comments, and I hope I have addressed, at least to some extent, the concerns of the reviewers and the readers who may share them. I think the book will have done its job if it answers some questions while raising new ones.



[1] See e.g., John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct 1922. The Middle Works of John Dewey, 1899–1924. Vol. 14. Edited by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University, 1988); Logic. The Theory of Inquiry. The Later Works, 1925–1953. Vol. 12., edited by Jo Ann Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University, 1991).

[2] Pierre Bourdieu, Logic of Practice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990)

[3] See the review by Tarak Barkawi in this roundtable.

[4] On Dewey, see e.g. John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct in JoAnn Boydston, ed., The Middle Works of John Dewey, 1899-1924, vol. 14 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press [1922] 1988).

[5] On foreign bases, see, for example, Alexander Cooley, Base Politics: Democratic Change and the US Military Overseas (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008); Catherine Lutz, ed., The Bases of Empire: The Global Struggle against U.S. Military Posts (New York: New York University Press, 2009).

[6] Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (New York: Anchor Books, 1966).

[7] Alexander Wendt, “Anarchy is What States Make of It: the Social Construction of Power Politics,” International Organization 46:2 (Spring 1992): 391-425.

[8] On these structuring forces, see e.g. Michael S. Sherry, The Rise of American Air Power: The Creation of Armageddon (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987); Neil Smith, American Empire: Roosevelt’s Geographer and the Prelude to Globalization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).

[9] See Lisa Yoneyama, Cold War Ruins: Transpacific Critique of American Justice and Japanese War Crimes (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016).

[10] John Dewey, Reconstruction in Philosophy (New York: John Holt and Company, 1920).

[11] John Dewey, Theory of Valuation (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939).

[12] Geir Lundestad, “Empire by Invitation? The United States and Western Europe,” Journal of Peace Research 23:3: 263-277.

[13] Jennifer Pitts, A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009).

[14] Molly Cochran, “Hedley Bull and John Dewey: Two Middle Grounders and a Pragmatic Approach to the Nuclear Dilemma” in Cornelia Navari, ed., Ethical Reasoning in International Affairs: Arguments from the Middle Ground. (London: Palgrave Macmillan. 2013).

[15] Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society: A Study of World Order in World Politics (London: Macmillan, 1977), 4.

[16] Vincent Pouliot, “The Logic of Practicality: A Theory of Practice of Security Communities,” International Organization 62:2 (2008): 257-288.

[17] Patrick Thaddeus Jackson, “Defending the West: Occidentalism and the Formation of NATO,” The Journal of Political Philosophy 11:3 (2003): 223-252.

[18] David A. Lake. Entangling Relations: American Foreign Policy in Its Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

[19] Brian C. Rathbun. Trust in International Cooperation: International Security Institutions and the Domestic Politics of American Multilateralism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

[20] Rathbun, Reasoning of State: Realists, Romantics and Rationality in International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).

[21] For example, Jonn Dewey, The Later Works of John Dewey, 1825-1953, edited by JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1986.

[22] For various perspectives in International Relations, see Emanuel Adler and Vincent Pouliot, “International Practices,” International Theory 3:1 (2011): 1-36; Rebecca Adler-Nissen, ed., Bourdieu and International Relations: Key Concepts (London: Routledge, 2012).

[23] William James, The Principles of Psychology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981 [1890]), 462.

[24] Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, translated by George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

[25] Schmitt, Political Theology, 15.

[26] Alexander Cooley, Base Politics: Democratic Change and the US Military Overseas (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008); Kent E. Calder, Embattled Garrisons: Comparative Base Politics and American Globalism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007).

[27] See for example Christopher T. Sandars, America’s Overseas Garrisons: The Leasehold Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

[28] See especially John Dewey, “Human Nature and Conduct,” in The Middle Works of John Dewey, 1899–1924, Vol. 14, ed. JoAnn Boydston (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988).

[29] On this point, a useful interpretation that builds on Dewey is Hans Joas, The Creativity of Action (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1996).

[30] François Dépelteau, “Relational Sociology, Pragmatism, Transactions and Social Fields,” International Review of Sociology—Revue Internationale de Sociologie 25:1 (2015): 45-64. DOI: 10.1080/03906701.2014.997966; Mustafa Emirbayer, “Manifesto for a Relational Sociology,” American Journal of Sociology 103:2 (1997): 281-317. DOI:

[31] Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2005), 9.

[32] Another possibility is the discourse of American exceptionalism, which establishes distinctions among western states in addition to those between “the west and the rest.”

[33] Commonly cited works include Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice, translated by Richard Nice (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1990); Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, translated by Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977).

[34] Simon Frankel Pratt, Sebastian Schmidt, Deborah Avant et al., “Pragmatism in IR: The Prospects for Substantive Theorizing,” International Studies Review 23:4 (2021): 1933-1958. DOI:

[35] John Dewey, The Public and Its Problems (Athens: Ohio University Press—Swallow Press, 1927; reissued in 1991).

[36] Cooley, Base Politics.