Looking for Balance coverWill Asia be the site of the next major global conflict or will Asia’s future continue to be characterized by peace and stability? This question has invited a veritable multitude of arguments and counterarguments during the last two decades as scholars have tried to assess the implications of growing Chinese power for the international system. Some have feared that the rest of Asia will build up its armaments in response to China’s growing strength, creating a dangerous and unstable situation. They have even raised the possibility that the United States might get drawn into Asia’s next war.[1] Others have taken a far more sanguine view of the prospects for peace in the region, contending that China’s neighbors do not necessarily see it as a threat and that growing economic interdependence makes military conflict unlikely.[2]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Worse Than a Monolith coverThomas Christensen has written an important book in which he examines several key episodes during the Cold War in Asia, including the Korean War, the Taiwan Strait crises of 1954–55 and 1958, and the Vietnam War. In Worse than a Monolith, Christensen uses these Cold War flashpoints to test and refine existing theories of alliance politics and coercive diplomacy, arguing that a state’s use of coercive forms of diplomacy, including containment and deterrence, is hampered when one’s adversaries are divided. Christensen finds ample fodder for this argument by focusing Worse than a Monolith on looking at America’s efforts to contain the “revisionist” communist alliance during the Cold War in Asia. Disagreements between Moscow and Beijing often caused the two to try to outdo each other in supporting revolutions such as the one in Vietnam, and from the perspective of America’s policy makers, this made the communist alliance “worse than a monolith.”  Christensen’s thesis is intriguing.  I am interested to know whether during the Cold War, leaders on one side or the other expressed the view internally that they were bedeviled by their adversary’s inability to control its “troops.”

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