Analyses of drones often generate more heat than light, but Aqil Shah’s article is a welcome change. Shah argues U.S. drone strikes do not cause “blowback” in Pakistan or anywhere else, basing his claims primarily upon field interviews conducted in Pakistan. As he summarizes, “I find no evidence of a significant impact of drone strikes on the recruitment of militants either locally or nationally” (49).
Preventing sovereign states from acquiring and deploying a military technology that all but guarantees their security is beyond difficult. Early in the nuclear age, many United States policymakers and analysts thought that nuclear nonproliferation efforts were, at worst, impossible, and, at best, too costly. Despite this pessimism, the U.S. has made nuclear non-proliferation a priority of American grand strategy since 1945, and has been willing to pay a high price, ranging from breaking its tradition of no permanent peacetime alliances to pressuring Cold-War allies such as West Germany and South Korea while cooperating with a bitter geopolitical and ideological rival, the Soviet Union, to stem the spread of nuclear weapons. No one expected these nuclear nonproliferation policies to be easy or completely successful. If you had told even the most optimistic American decision-maker in 1965 that half a century later (2015) no nuclear weapons would have been detonated against another state, either in anger or by accident, and that the number of states possessing nuclear weapons remained in the single digits, they would have been overjoyed (and likely would have thought that you were crazy).
In April 2011, Pakistan tested a new missile, the Hatf-9 Nasr, designed to deliver nuclear warheads to targets within a 60-kilometer range. While scholars had inferred that Pakistan’s nuclear posture might require it to employ nuclear weapons against tactical targets on the battlefield, this was the first platform designed explicitly for that goal. This missile milestone occurred simultaneously with an impressive expansion in Pakistan’s production of fissile material, permitting it greater latitude to consider apportioning its growing force between a mix of battlefield and strategic targets.
How do we understand the nuclear strategies of regional powers and how successful are those strategies in deterring conflict? These are obviously important questions for students of world politics, but unfortunately they are also questions that have been largely ignored as scholars focused their attention on the nuclear superpowers of the bipolar era. Of course, the relative lack of attention paid to regional nuclear powers would not matter all that much if these states acted similarly to the superpowers, but it is clear that they have acted quite differently. For example, none of the regional nuclear powers has attempted to build the large arsenals possessed by the superpowers during the Cold War. In his important and ambitious new book, Vipin Narang attempts to explain the decisions made by regional nuclear powers and to develop a new theoretical framework that will be relevant to understanding the current and future dynamics of what he calls the “second nuclear age”(1).
Last year, Scott Sagan declared – on H-Diplo – that we are in the midst of a renaissance in nuclear studies, driven by first-rate work by younger scholars. Two qualities in particular mark this scholarship. First, many of these young scholars combine both methodological innovation and rigor while engaging new archival sources. Second, these scholars are unafraid to challenge long-held conventional wisdoms about the nuclear age. The three commentators to this forum – a roundtable on Andreas Wenger and Roland Popp (eds.), “Special Issue: The Origins of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime,” in The International History Review — are exemplars of these trends. Eliza Gheorghe has mined new sources to explore the previously unknown and fascinating history of Romania’s nuclear program, in the process generating important insights into nuclear dynamics between superpowers and smaller states. Nicholas Miller has identified the key moments in United States nuclear nonproliferation policy, helping us understand the motivations and tools driving these efforts. Jane Vayman has built upon recent historical research to model the causal dynamics behind the surprising superpower collusion to stem the spread of nuclear weapons. As their previous work and their reviews here reveal, all three are equally conversant in the most recent historical scholarship and the newest trends in international relations theory involving nuclear dynamics.
Understanding the nature of insurgencies has long been an important objective for political scientists, historians, and policymakers. In Networks of Rebellion, Paul Staniland argues that scholars have paid insufficient attention to the different organizational structures of insurgent groups. In his view, understanding organizational structure is crucial because “states and their foes spend far more time and resources on organization building and institutional survival than on formulating intricate strategies of violence…Like logistics, organization consumes the attention of professional war-fighters” (220). What explains the different organizational structures of insurgent organizations? Staniland argues that a crucial determinant of the structure of insurgent groups during wartime is the nature of prewar political life. While organizational structures can and do change during wartime, he argues that the prewar ties between elites and local communities “determine the strength of central and local organizational control when rebel leaders mobilize that based for rebellion” (9).
The dangers of writing about terrorism and terrorist groups, most especially al-Qa’ida, are twofold. The first is that the field is so inundated with punditry and scholarship on the subject that new entrants easily can be lost in the noise; the second is that in order to avoid being lost in the noise the temptation is strong to exaggerate claims and to assert over-strenuously the importance of one’s conclusions.
Why did the United States, despite vigorous public debates over the wisdom of invading Iraq, pursue an ultimately disastrous war with Iraq in 2003? After all, as John Stuart Mill and others have suggested, such debates in the ‘marketplace of ideas’ should surely have led to a solid consensus against such a course. Explaining why American foreign policymakers repeatedly commit such mistakes is the broad task that Christopher Fettweis sets for himself in his new book. In his view, the primary source of blunders in American foreign policy is the nation’s deep and collective attachment to a series of pathological beliefs that he groups into the categories of fear, honor, glory, and hubris. These four pathologies do not lead to random errors in foreign policy making, but instead “almost always lend support to the most hawkish, belligerent position in any foreign policy debate. Fear, honor, glory, and hubris rarely convince leaders to cooperate with rivals or foes; these categories of belief expand the set of casus belli far more widely than any rational calculation would support” (14).
In a timely article, John Mitton seeks to show how the enduring rivalry between India and Pakistan has hampered NATO’s efforts in Afghanistan and contributed to its failure. The author is careful in noting that while the rivalry is not the only reason for failure, it certainly is a factor. The author also cites many noted regional specialists who also have argued that the Indo-Pakistani rivalry has played a role in determining the outcome of the current war in Afghanistan. In that sense, the author is correct in considering such regional factors to explain the failures in Afghanistan. The article also raises many more interesting questions worth exploring. In this review, I summarize the argument and findings, point out its strengths and weaknesses, and highlight the possible directions future research in this area could take, given the article’s conclusions.
In Charles Tilly’s oft-cited formulation, “War made the state, and the state made war.” 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.