Let me start by reiterating my enthusiasm from Prof. Harvey’s book and the skillful way in which he uses counterfactuals to expose and challenge the political assumptions that guide most liberal studies of the Iraq War. He does an effective job of demolishing the “neocon” thesis by demonstrating that there was wider opposition to Saddam Hussein and concern about his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. His responses to my concerns are well put. In this rejoinder I do not want to critique his critique of my critique, but rather to step back from the exchange and say a few words about different counterfactual research strategies.
Tag: United Kingdom
Richard Ned Lebow admits, in his very insightful review of my book on the Iraq war, that his initial reaction was to scoff at my counterfactual about an Al Gore presidency taking the same path to war, “until (he) read the book.” I suspect anyone who takes the time to read the book will recognize the effort I invested in getting the ‘facts’ and the history right. The application of comparative counterfactual methodology was the ideal tool to construct, in my view, a more compelling, complete, historically accurate, logically informed, and theoretically grounded account of the path-dependent momentum that guided the coalition to war in 2003. I suspect the book will have a very hard time getting any real traction in academic or policy communities, for reasons noted in Lebow’s review and covered at length in my conclusion: the arguments contradict very entrenched (and politically motivated) ‘memories’ of what transpired. Democrats are unlikely to accept ‘any’ responsibility for the decisions, intelligence assessments or general threat narrative that led to war, and Republicans are very happy to distance themselves from the ‘neocons’ whom, they claim, hijacked U.S. foreign policy. Similarly, many scholars will reject my version of history because it directly challenges their widely accepted, and very popular first-image (leadership) theories of the war. Most people are comforted by the thought that a relatively simple change in leadership would have changed (or will change) foreign policies. With these systemic biases in mind, I am very grateful to Lebow for his careful and balanced comments on the book and the methodology.
Frank Harvey is to be congratulated for producing an exemplary book. It makes sophisticated use of counterfactual argumentation to challenge the conventional wisdom about the causes of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq.
For methodological and substantive reasons it should be read by everyone with an interest in foreign policy. Any assertion of cause implies that, ceteris paribus, the outcome in question would not have occurred in its absence. In circumstances where context or the “lessons” of the past are important or determining – which describes most historical events of interest – statistical tests are meaningless as the “cases” that constitute any data set would be neither comparable nor independent. We can only evaluate causal claims through intra-case comparison, of which counterfactual argumentation is a variant. Historical intra-case comparison is possible when we have closely grouped events or decisions in which key features of context are constant. Austro-Hungarian policy in the July 1914 crisis is a case in point. The government had considered war with Serbia on four occasions between 1911 and 1914, but only drew its sword on the last occasion. We can plausibly argue that novel features of context – the nature of the provocation and the absence of Franz Ferdinand from the decisionmaking process — were determining. In most decisions or events of interest we must introduce intra-case comparison through counterfactual experimentation, as Harvey does.
Gregory Miller’s book begins with a theoretical discussion of the importance of ‘reputation’ in international politics, before analysing its role in four case studies taken from European diplomacy before 1914. To a quite unusual extent, his study consists of an extended critique of a single book – and one published in the same series with the same editors – Jonathan Mercer’s Reputation and International Politics. Three of Miller’s case studies were used also by Mercer, and the two writers draw on very similar source material. Miller repeatedly cites and refutes Mercer’s work, up to four times on a single page (p. 176). To a large extent Miller’s book must be read as a foil to an earlier contribution rather than as a stand-alone study.
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.
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.
How does peace between states become an established social fact or part of the unquestioned order of things? This question drives Vincent Pouliot’s International Security in Practice, an innovative and provocative contribution to the theoretical literature on international security, with an empirical focus on post-Cold War Russian-Atlantic security relations. While the challenge of theorizing the causes and conditions of war and peace between states is ‘ancient’ in the discipline of International Relations (IR), the challenge of enacting transatlantic peace became a novel and urgent practical concern in world politics following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the U.S.-USSR superpower rivalry, a set of events which opened up a rare opportunity for the pacification of relations between former enemies. Although there were initial promising signs in the early 1990s of great transformations in security relations between Russia and the West, transatlantic peace has materialized only as a fragile and somewhat fleeting achievement. Why was the hope of a robust and enduring post-Cold War transatlantic peace stillborn (p. 191)?
Large military institutions are often portrayed as being inherently conservative and having a tendency to cope poorly with innovation. However, since some such challenges have been handled highly effectively, this knee-jerk assumption is clearly inaccurate. Moreover, it leaves open an interesting question: how can we explain the discrepancy between successful and unsuccessful adaptation to change? Why is it that an army or navy that responds extremely effectively to one challenge can fail to cope with another? It is this question that Gautam Mukunda seeks to address using a body of theory borrowed from business studies. The result is an article that is an interesting and rewarding read, which adds to an understanding of both naval warfare in the First World War and also the process of coping with innovation. There are many aspects to commend and also a few areas where the theory might usefully be further developed.