The Kennan Diaries (cover)An eleven year old George Kennan began keeping a diary on January 1, 1916. At the very start of the diary he wrote “In this simple, little book, A record of the day I cast; So I afterwards may look back upon my happy past” (684). Due to Kennan’s remarkably lengthy and prolific career as a policymaker, diplomat, and scholar, as well as the undeniable impact he has had on the direction of American foreign policy during the Cold War, historians have long been attracted to studying his thoughts and actions. No one could ever plausibly claim that Kennan has been ‘understudied’ and his two volumes of memoirs also offered many personal insights into his inner thoughts.[1] However, with the publication of Frank Costigliola’s edited collection of Kennan’s diaries from the period between 1916 and 2004, there is little doubt that scholars will continue to be fascinated by the complexities of Kennan’s life and career. It is a life that was certainly not simple and, despite all of his accomplishments and honors, the diaries make it abundantly clear that happiness was never Kennan’s dominant mood.

Continue reading

The Warrior State coverIn Charles Tilly’s oft-cited formulation, “War made the state, and the state made war.”[1] In other words, the relationship between insecurity and state capacity is a direct one. As was the case in Europe, the need to fight wars caused states to develop economically and build strong state capacity, which led to the modern state. Yet, as T.V. Paul observes in The Warrior State, Pakistan, a state that has organized itself principally as a national security state, has failed to develop economically and failed to build a strong state capacity. To explain this paradox, Paul develops an innovative argument that states can suffer from a geostrategic curse, which is akin to what has been termed ‘a resource curse.’ Essentially, a resource curse occurs when states that have access to an abundance of resource wealth (e.g., Saudi oil) use that wealth to forestall calls for political reform and economic development by buying off domestic groups. Paul argues that Pakistan has faced an analogous geostrategic curse: because of its strategic importance (during the Cold War, during the War on Terror, and its proximity to the Sino-Indian border), Pakistan has received considerable military aid, which it has been able to use to forestall political and economic change. Consequently, while other national security states have developed strong state capacity in order to wage war, Pakistan has relied on the largesse of others, while resisting calls to modernize.

Continue reading

The Warrior State coverIn Charles Tilly’s oft-cited formulation, “War made the state, and the state made war.”[1] In other words, the relationship between insecurity and state capacity is a direct one. As was the case in Europe, the need to fight wars caused states to develop economically and build strong state capacity, which led to the modern state. Yet, as T.V. Paul observes in The Warrior State, Pakistan, a state that has organized itself principally as a national security state, has failed to develop economically and failed to build a strong state capacity. To explain this paradox, Paul develops an innovative argument that states can suffer from a geostrategic curse, which is akin to what has been termed ‘a resource curse.’ Essentially, a resource curse occurs when states that have access to an abundance of resource wealth (e.g., Saudi oil) use that wealth to forestall calls for political reform and economic development by buying off domestic groups. Paul argues that Pakistan has faced an analogous geostrategic curse: because of its strategic importance (during the Cold War, during the War on Terror, and its proximity to the Sino-Indian border), Pakistan has received considerable military aid, which it has been able to use to forestall political and economic change. Consequently, while other national security states have developed strong state capacity in order to wage war, Pakistan has relied on the largesse of others, while resisting calls to modernize.

Continue reading

I want to thank H-Diplo for publishing this response, and James A. Russell for taking the time to read and review my book. I also want to thank Robert Jervis for the additional comments on Russell’s review. Because the review did not fully address the book’s main arguments and findings, thereby missing the main points of the book, I wish to briefly describe and clarify the book’s main goal, as well as some of its important findings.

Continue reading

Reconceptualizing Deterrence coverIn 1959 Bernard Brodie’s book Strategy in the Missile Age[1] augured in an interesting but relatively short-lived debate over the impact of nuclear weapons on the prospect of war between the United States and the Soviet Union. It appeared amidst a spasm of scholarship on nuclear strategy, deterrence, escalation ladders, limited war and coercive bargaining frameworks. Brodie sensibly concluded that the presence of these weapons had inevitably led the United States into a strategy of deterrence, in which the overarching goal was to prevent the occurrence of war between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Continue reading

Charles Kupchan. How Enemies Become Friends: The Sources of Stable Peace. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010, 2012. ISBN: 9780691142654 (cloth, $29.95); 9780691154381 (paper, $24.95). 9781400834419 (eBook, $24.95). Published by H-Diplo/ISSF on 25 October 2012Charles A. Kupchan has written an important book that poses fundamental questions for international relations scholars and policy makers: First, how do enemies in world politics become friends? Specifically, through what pathways can pairs or groups of states succeed in setting aside their geopolitical competition and construct enduring relationships that preclude the possibility of armed conflict? Second, when and why do enemies become friends (and vice versa)? In other words, under what circumstances are such zones of peace more likely to form and under what circumstances are they likely to dissolve?

Continue reading

The Right Kind of Revolution coverBy any qualitative and quantitative measure, Michael Latham ranks as a pioneer in the now-burgeoning historical scholarship on America’s efforts to “modernize” or “develop” the rest of the world in the latter half of the twentieth century.  Appearing at the turn of the present century, Latham’s Modernization as Ideology was  the first full-fledged historical monograph on modernization theory and its application by American government agencies.[1]  Based on Latham’s UCLA dissertation, Modernization as Ideology elaborated upon the argument of its title – that modernization was an ideology, a special case of American liberalism that shaped how American officials understood and acted towards those countries they perceived as economically backward.  It contains three case studies that show, on the one hand, how modernization functioned as an ideology in the Kennedy administration, and on the other how that ideology appeared across very different U.S. government agencies dealing with the different parts of the world; the cases included an individual organization (Peace Corps), a broad development campaign (Alliance for Progress, a western-hemisphere program), and a military/economic tactic (so-called strategic hamlets in the escalating Vietnam conflict).  Widely praised for its originality and insights, Modernization as Ideology continues to receive attention.  According to the “Web of Knowledge” (known, in less marketing-oriented days, as the Social Science Citation Index), Latham’s book has been cited well over 100 times in scholarly articles.  Indeed, the book is bucking the typical trend of declining interest over time; 80% of the citations to Modernization as Ideology appeared six years after the book first appeared.

 

Continue reading

In the following exchange Dan Reiter defends his argument that democratic states win most of the wars that they fight primarily because they choose which wars to engage in more carefully than authoritarian states do.[1] This is called the “selection effects” explanation because democracies are selecting which wars to fight and which to avoid. Here, Reiter is replying to previously published criticism by Michael C. Desch and Alexander Downes that detailed examinations of several historical cases that Reiter cites do not in fact support his arguments.[2] Desch and Downes respond and then Reiter has a rebuttal.  They primarily debate both how historical evidence should be interpreted and how their hypotheses should be evaluated in the 1920 Russo-Polish War, the 1956 Sinai War, the 1967 Six Day War, the 1982 Lebanon War, and the 1965 escalation of the Vietnam War.

Continue reading

Are democracies more likely to win the wars they fight? This question has been of interest to historians and philosophers since Thucydides. During the Enlightenment, the question was highly relevant to the great issues of the day, as thinkers such as Thomas Paine wondered how emerging republics like the United States and France would fare in war against monarchies. It reemerged in the twentieth century, when some worried whether the Western democracies had the stuff to stand up to Nazi Germany and its fascist allies. After World War II, Westerners fretted that an American Athens would ultimately fall short against a Soviet Sparta.

 

Continue reading