In 1959 Bernard Brodie’s book Strategy in the Missile Age 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.
Something about the decline of great powers provokes great debates, and this roundtable is no exception. In his latest work, Geir Lundestad deploys the formidable learning he has acquired in a distinguished and prolific career as a diplomatic historian to dissect the current debate on American decline. He considers contemporary concerns in a broad historical context, ultimately reaching a markedly measured assessment: The United States is in relative decline, but it retains unparalleled wellsprings of strength; no power seems likely to […]
Benjamin Lambeth and Jerome Slater share a common interest in the military meaning of Arab-Israeli confrontations of the last decade, but they come at the battles very differently. Whereas Lambeth is interested in analyzing the Israel Defense Forces’ effectiveness and learning curve, Slater is focused upon the morality of Israel’s actions, calling Operation Cast Lead (2008-09) a “moral catastrophe.” (44) Even though the authors cover some of the same events, one would be hard-pressed to develop a common narrative because they hold very different perspectives on Arab-Israeli events and history.
Boaz Atzili’s Good Fences, Bad Neighbors: Border Fixity and International Conflict explores the impact of the norm of border fixity that has arisen in world politics since 1945. He questions the view that a norm of border fixity reliably promotes peace; instead, he argues, the effect of the norm depends on conditions, and under today’s conditions the norm causes more war than peace.
Daniel Byman’s A High Price straddles two literatures: that on Israeli military and security history, and that on the burgeoning field of counterterrorism studies. On the whole, one should say, it draws on the former to inform the latter, which explains some of the reviewers’ reaction to it. It is of interest that counterinsurgency, as Americans understand it, is not part of Israeli strategic discourse: that reflects both the real Israeli predicament and how Israelis have understood it. Byman’s own judgment about Israeli successes and failures tacitly acknowledges that the Israelis have never really believed that they can solve their security problem, only manage it.
Robert 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. 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.
The 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.
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. 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. 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.
A little more than a decade ago, the world’s leading academic experts on terrorism could be gathered in a not very large conference room to discuss the state of the field. As a relatively junior researcher at the United States Institute of Peace at the time, I was in such a room several times. The gathered experts rued the lack of attention most academics paid to the phenomenon of terrorism. Mainstream political science of the time was wedded to understanding the actions of states. With the exception of a few pioneers such as Martha Crenshaw and David Rapoport, the view of many was that terrorism was properly seen as the province of diplomats, intelligence operatives and abnormal psychologists.
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.