The Cold War and After coverThe relations between the disciplines of history and political science have always been both close and, partly for that reason, contested.   Political science grew in part out of history, which led its practitioners to be both deeply imbued with historical knowledge and to need to differentiate themselves from the study of history. Until about fifty years ago, the overlap between the disciplines was especially great in the international area, and the first issues of World Politics, the founding journal of international relations, had numerous articles by historians. For a variety of reasons, the gap widened, but in the sub-field of security studies contact never disappeared, in part because, as Stephen Schuker notes, scholars interested in this subject were marginalized in both disciplines. From my vantage point as a political scientist, it has seemed that the relationship has been less than fully balanced, with our interest in history not being fully reciprocated by our historian colleagues. I remember going to see Raymond Sontag (with whom, Schuker notes, Marc Trachtenberg studied) when I was a graduate student at Berkley to talk to him about my attempt to use history. He was too gracious to visibly wince at the idea of history being used in this way and did make clear that he was glad to see political scientists being interested in history, but it was also clear that he didn’t think we had much to contribute.

Continue reading

Cutting the Fuse coverRobert Pape and James Feldman in Cutting the Fuse: The Explosion of Global Suicide Terrorism and How to Stop It build on Pape’s earlier work, Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.[1] This volume is designed to further develop the earlier argument in Dying to Win that the occurrence of suicide terrorism is overwhelmingly explained by a foreign occupation in a particular region, and that ultimately the removal of foreign troops, when possible, will limit the number of suicide terrorist attacks. The book consists of two analytic chapters laying out the basic theories and arguments, eight chapters with valuable case studies (Sri Lanka, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Al Qaeda, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, Chechnya), and a concluding chapter. In the analytical chapters the authors reaffirm what we already know—that suicide terrorism is not uniquely related to religious groups. Those who continue to believe this popular misconception need to be disabused. They also note that suicide attacks are directed against democracies rather than non-democratic states. The eight country studies provide important information for scholars and students and are quite valuable. These chapters are also used to promote the basic idea that suicide terrorism is linked to foreign occupations broadly defined.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Intelligence and National Security coverThe special issue of Intelligence and National Security, Volume 26, April-June 2011 continues the process of bringing intelligence in from the cold.  It is to be hoped that the reviews here contribute to the parallel process of familiarizing diplomatic historians with what is known about intelligence and bringing in two fields closer together.  We are still a long way from understanding the degree to which intelligence influenced or reflected international politics during the Cold War, but the reviewers agree that this special issue on “The CIA and U.S. Foreign Policy Since 1947” is a significant contribution.

 

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

Cultures of War coverSeveral years before the 1979 publication of his Harvard doctoral thesis, Empire and Aftermath: Yoshida Shigeru and the Japanese Experience, 1878-1954, John Dower had already earned a reputation within the fields of Asian and international studies as a pioneer radical historian and keen critic of U.S. cold war policies and the fraught relationship between the U.S. and Japan.

 

 

Continue reading

The Limits of US Military Capabilities coverJames Lebovic’s book, The Limits of U.S. Military Capability: Lessons from Vietnam and Iraq, provides the basis for a rich and topical debate, not only about America’s capacity to intervene effectively in unconventional and asymmetric conflicts, but also about Afghanistan, the recent intervention in Libya, and more broadly about questions of power and primacy.

 

Continue reading

Neoconservatism cover

Justin Vaïsse has emerged in recent years as perhaps the most perceptive French analyst of current American politics and foreign policy. But he is a historian by training, and in writing his book on neoconservative movement, his primary goal was to understand the neoconservative movement as a historical phenomenon. The book is not a polemic or a journalistic account. It is a scholarly analysis, based not just on published materials, but also on a series of interviews and on a good deal of archival work, especially in the Rosenblatt papers at the Johnson Library and in the papers of the Committee on the Present Danger at the Hoover Institution.[1] Given that sort of approach, Vaïsse, as John Ehrman writes in his comment, is able to deal in a fair-minded way with a topic that “seems to arouse great passions.”  Robert Kaufman, the most critical of the four reviewers here, basically agrees. Vaïsse, he notes, “has raised the tone and the substance of the debate about who neoconservatives are and what neoconservatism means.”

 

Continue reading

Journal of Strategic Studies coverKevin Woods and Mark Stout have provided a valuable service to the scholarly community by using the trove of primary source documents captured by American forces in Iraq to try to reconstruct Saddam Hussein’s strategic thinking.  Those who follow this case will be familiar with their arguments, which they (and other authors) set out in The Iraqi Perspectives Report (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2006) and The Mother of All Battles (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2008).  The former dealt with Iraqi (which is to say, Saddam’s) decisions in the 2003 war and the latter with how Iraq behaved in the Gulf War of 1990-91.  Woods and Stout, in footnote 3, assure readers that a “recent decision by the Department of Defense will in the near future make portions of this collection available to non-governmental scholars” on the model of how Washington dealt with documents captured during World War II.  I hope that they have read the Pentagon’s thinking on this correctly, and I hope that the “portions” are pretty close to 100%.  It is hard to imagine what national security rationale there would be for classifying the internal deliberations of a defunct foreign regime.

Continue reading