Samuel Moyn raises many questions in his new, provocative book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. The four reviews, by Anne Kornhauser, Jana K. Lipman, Tejasvi Nagaraja, and Scott D. Sagan, engage deeply, appreciatively, and critically with Moyn’s workFor Nagaraja the book’s key question is, “how the post-9/11 Forever War became so durable.”  Moyn asserts at the outset, “Endless war has become part of the way Americans live now” (4).

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The United States is inexorably linked to the stain of white supremacy. It is a stain that has been difficult to erase despite multiple inflection points and opportunities to reckon with America’s racist past. The Reconstruction Era of 1865 to 1877 that followed the Civil War provided the first opportunity for the United States to achieve some semblance of racial equality, and witnessed the adoption of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments. The passage of these amendments, on paper, banned slavery and gave citizenship and the right to vote to Black Americans. Other important laws were also adopted, such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) Act of 1871, which were deemed necessary by Congress given that the KKK was carrying out wanton acts of brutality to stifle measures to provide civil and political rights to Blacks. Vigilantism and acts of terrorism perpetrated upon the Black population that killed thousands in the United States post-Civil War made the paper advances, in the form of the Reconstruction Era Amendments and other laws (like the KKK Act), seem aspirational.

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Much of the scholarly debate about President Donald Trump’s foreign policy concentrated on whether he had renewed traditional U.S. skepticism of entangling alliances with European states. Jason Davidson’s America’s Entangling Alliances argues that such a view is inaccurate. The United States made alliances from its birth. And, in doing so, it secured important American interests over the past two hundred years.

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After all the controversy, accusations, angry tweets, impeachment hearings, and conspiracy theories, how is the Trump administration’s Russia policy to be assessed? Russia consumed an unprecedented amount of domestic energy during Trump’s presidency, casting a shadow over the White House during the four years Trump lived there. And yet there has been scant systematic analysis of US–Russian relations under Trump, or of the troubled relationship he bequeathed to the Biden administration. With hindsight, the practical results of Trump’s Russia policy were less damaging internationally than was initially anticipated, but they had a pernicious and corrosive impact domestically that has survived into the Biden era.

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In late August 2021, Afghans huddled in military airplanes amidst a massive evacuation. Crowds at the airport gates were denied access, then targeted by suicide bombers. These dramatic images encapsulate how security studies scholars typically view migration: refugees as a collateral consequence of conflict; innocent women and children in need of humanitarian assistance; asylum applicants vetted to filter potential terrorists. Too often, academics simply mirror how policymakers and the media talk about migrants as threats. Deportation flights filled with Haitians in September 2021 provide another recent example of imagery overriding analysis.[1]

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In this article Wyn Bown, Jeffrey Knopf, and Matthew Moran examine Syria’s possession and use of chemical weapons (CW) and third-party response.  In this context, they assess how compellence succeeded in Syria when deterrent efforts had initially failed.  President Barack Obama had set a ‘red line’ that signaled U.S. commitment to punish the Syrian regime if it used CW.  Although the president did not follow through on his deterrence approach, the Syrian regime agreed to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) after its attack on Ghouta in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people.[1] The destruction of a sizable portion of its CW stockpile followed.  However, the Bashar al-Assad regime ordered additional CW attacks that included the use of chlorine and sarin agents from 2014-2018, some of them on a large scale.  The authors ask why compellence succeeded after the easier task of deterrence had failed?  Based on the case study and existing literature,[2] the authors identify conditions of effective and ineffective coercion.

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The November 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in myriad discussions about German reunification.  In addition to questions about the domestic future of Germany, concerns over who would be responsible for Germany’s security and stability and with whom the new German state would ally persisted.  Marc Trachtenberg revisits the February 1990 meeting wherein United States Secretary of State James Baker assured the Soviet Union that the U.S. would not support NATO’s eastward expansion if Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev would accept its presence in a newly reunified Germany.  While both the Soviet Union and the United States expressed an understanding of the consequences of leaving Germany to unilaterally reestablish its own security, Baker’s statement was remarkable.  Perhaps even more remarkable, though, was the Soviet Union’s willingness to accept this condition knowing that it would likely alter the global balance of power, at least in the short term.  Thirty years later, Germany remains a successful example of reunification as a democratic state reintegrated into the international system.  A key exception from what was envisioned in that February meeting, however, is that in the same thirty-year period NATO grew from sixteen to thirty member states – it expanded significantly further than Baker’s “one inch” east promise.[1] The United States’ ultimate decision to support and advocate in favor of NATO expansion post-Cold War was met with Russian condemnation which persists to this day.

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The United States repeatedly tried to overthrow foreign governments during the Cold War.  More often than not, U.S. leaders chose covert regime change rather than overt military intervention.  Their persistence suggests that the story of the Cold War has as much to do with secret maneuvers as it does with nuclear strategy or conventional military force.  Again and again, Washington opted for the dark arts, despite its rhetorical commitment to liberal norms.  There was something irresistible about manipulating foreign politics without claiming credit.

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Forewarned by a number of other world leaders, French President Emmanuel Macron was well-prepared for the infamous Donald Trump handshake.  On 25 May 2017 at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Brussels, the two world leaders met for the first time.  With cameras clicking and video rolling, President Trump praised Macron’s “tremendous victory” in the 2017 French presidential elections that the “whole world is talking about” and expressed his eagerness to work with Macron on “terrorism” issues.  Trump then extended his hand to the brand-new French president, which Macron gripped tight.  An awkward, white-knuckled struggle ensued, with Trump wincing and trying to disengage multiple times before Macron released him.[1] In the zero-sum game of testosterone laden death grip handshakes, the score:  Macron 1, Trump 0.

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The United States faces a host of strategic geopolitical challenges today, many of which have long been brewing as a result of structural changes and some of which have been self-inflicted by successive administrations, most recently and most especially the Trump Administration.  In An Open World, Rebecca Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper deliver a lucid and incisive diagnosis of these multidimensional strategic challenges that is strengthened by their admirable restraint in dwelling on where any blame should be apportioned and is written in precise and elegant prose.  Their goal is to provide a clear-eyed assessment of the current geopolitical landscape facing the U.S. and to chart a strategy for how the U.S. should navigate the world it faces today in order to advance its national interests in a manner that is in line with its values — and they succeed, to a very large extent, on both counts.  An Open World is an important and timely contribution from two scholar–practitioners who wrote this immensely relevant book with the explicit aim of bringing rigorous research to bear on American foreign policy and are now positioned, as senior national security officials in the Biden Administration, to work to bring parts of their vision to fruition as they contribute to the new National Security Strategy and beyond.[1]

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