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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Unfamiliar with sanctions issues, and accustomed to their capitals’ discreet use of this foreign policy tool, the European public follows sanctions-related headlines with some puzzlement.  If the United Nations (UN) lifted sanctions on Tehran following the conclusion of the nuclear deal, why was it necessary to create a special vehicle for trade with Iran, the Instrument for Trade Exchanges (INSTEX)?  If sanctions regimes are invariably endowed with provisions for humanitarian exemptions, why do humanitarian agencies struggle to get aid to places like Iran and Syria?  Why are European banks like BNP Paribas fined with exorbitant penalties?[1]  As it turns out, these are manifestations of the same phenomenon, and Bryan Early and Keith Preble have the answer to these questions in the article under discussion here.

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In November 2016, I wrote an essay for H-Diplo on the possible impact of the Trump administration on U.S.-UK relations.[1]  My first paragraph included the following sentences: “If Trump himself knows what he truly plans to do – as opposed to what he would truly like to do – he has hidden it from the rest of United States.  Although the British government has a long tradition of adjustment to whichever government is in power in any given country of interest, adjustment needs an object or action or policy to which to adjust.  Thus far, President-elect Trump has not felt the need to provide any of them,” other than the slogans promising to put America First and Make America Great Again.

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When Ben Rhodes, a top foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama, dubbed the Washington foreign policy establishment the “Blob,”[1] one question that probably occurred to many H-Diplo/ISSR readers was, “What will Jervis think of this?”

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In 1895 Henry Cabot Lodge declared that the United States had compiled “a record of conquest, colonization, and territorial expansion unequalled by any people in the 19th century.”[1]  Throughout the nineteenth century, the United States, motivated by a potent mixture of security, economic, and ideological motives, pushed westward, subjugating once sovereign Native tribes and dismantling European empires on the North American continent.  But, as Richard Maass argues, while U.S. expansion was vast in scope, Americans often left valuable territory on the table.  He argues that, even when annexation would have been profitable, democracy and xenophobia—more often than not, outright racism—blocked the United States from claiming territory. American leaders could not envision conquering land without incorporating it as a state; European imperial arrangements were illegitimate.  At the same time, if politicians believed that annexation would either weaken their political influence, or “worsen” their political (white) identity, annexation was impossible.

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