The Week: The enduring allure of conspiracies

Author: Miller, Greg

The United States of America was founded on a conspiracy theory. In the lead-up to the War of Independence, revolutionaries argued that a tax on tea or stamps is not just a tax, but the opening gambit in a sinister plot of oppression. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were convinced — based on "a long train of abuses and usurpations" — that the king of Great Britain was conspiring to establish "an absolute Tyranny" over the colonies.

Bringing War Back in: Victory and State Formation in Latin America

Author: Schenoni, Luis

Scholars have often dismissed the effect of war on state formation in regions like Latin America, where mobilization for war is deemed insufficiently intense and international conflict fails to out‐select weaker states. Against this conventional wisdom, I contend that wars can affect state‐building trajectories in a postwar period through the different state institutions that result from...

Peacemakers or Iron Ladies?

Conventional wisdom suggests that when women attain high political office they are more likely to act as peacemakers than their male counterparts. In contrast, this article argues that... 

Article | Defensive Defense: A Better Way to Protect US Allies in Asia

Author: Eugene Gholz

US strategy in East Asia is defensive—seeking to maintain the territorial status quo and to preserve open trade and investment. The military component of that strategy largely involves helping allies defend their territories against China as the PRC grows richer and spends more on its military. But current US military operational plans in service of that strategy are largely offensive: in case of war, they would send US military assets close to China and launch conventional strikes against the Chinese homeland. This “offensive defense” is more expensive, more dangerous, and less effective than an alternative: “defensive defense.” 

ARTICLE | Market structure and economic sanctions: the 2010 rare earth elements episode as a pathway case of market adjustment

Author: Eugene Gholz

Studies identify cost as a key factor determining the effectiveness of economic sanctions. We argue that failing to account for market dynamics in the sector in which sanctions are imposed undermines the validity of estimates of the economic costs imposed on target countries, and we propose that market structure powerfully conditions sanctions effectiveness. To examine the effect of market structure, we trace the causal path through...

New Book | Tempting Fate: Why Nonnuclear States Confront Nuclear Opponents

Author: Avey, Paul

Why would countries without nuclear weapons even think about fighting nuclear-armed opponents? A simple answer is that no one believes nuclear weapons will be used. But that answer fails to consider why nonnuclear state leaders would believe that in the first place. In this superb unpacking of the dynamics of conflict under conditions of nuclear monopoly, Paul C. Avey argues that the costs and benefits of using nuclear weapons create openings that weak nonnuclear actors can exploit.

Cult of the Irrelevant: The Waning Influence of Social Science on National Security

Author: Michael Desch

How professionalization and scholarly “rigor” made social scientists increasingly irrelevant to US national security policy To mobilize America’s intellectual resources to meet the security challenges of the post–9/11 world, US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates observed that “we must again embrace eggheads and ideas.” But the gap between national security policymakers and international relations scholars has become a chasm.…

“Restraint and Oil Security,” in U.S. Grand Strategy in the 21st Century: The Case for Restraint

Author: Eugene Gholz

Grand strategy, meaning a state’s theory about how it can achieve national security for itself, is elusive. That is particularly true in the United States, where the division of federal power and the lack of direct security threats limit consensus about how to manage danger. This book seeks to spur more vigorous debate on US grand strategy. To do so, the first half of the volume assembles the most recent academic critiques of primacy, the dominant strategic perspective in the United States today. The contributors challenge the notion that US national security requires a massive military, huge defense spending, and frequent military intervention around the world. The second half of the volume makes the positive case for a more restrained foreign policy by excavating the historical roots of restraint in the United States and illustrating how restraint might work in practice in the Middle East and elsewhere. The volume concludes with assessments of the political viability of foreign policy restraint in the United States today...…

"The Very Healthy US Defense Innovation System," in Leaders, Laggards, and Followers: The Global Competition for Defense Innovation, UC Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation Research Briefs

Author: Eugene Gholz

The US defense innovation system enjoys tremendous advantages that other countries cannot readily replicate. It has accumulated capabilities over decades of funding and experimentation that dwarf other countries’ efforts, and the incentives to innovate in the United States are not easily replicable elsewhere. The unique US political system favors substitution of technology for labor, openness to new ideas, and competition among decentralized organizations to solve national security challenges. The constant worrying that the United States is losing its defense innovation advantages is simply part of the politics that keep the United States far, far ahead of its potential rivals...…

The National Interest: From Hanoi to Kabul

Author: Michael Desch

America's foreign-policy difficulties are multiplying, from Asia to the Middle East. Faced with the prospect of losing in Afghanistan, the president on the recommendation of his military advisers (and reversing a previous stand) has announced a new, notably vague and apparently open-ended “strategy” that includes sending additional U.S. troops. And he promises to “win,” without really explaining how we will know if we have won...…

ISSF: Forum on the Gender Gap in Political Science

Author: Michael Desch

Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen raise challenging and important questions about the gender gap in publications in top political science journals. 2 At Security Studies we are grateful for the opportunity to reflect on our own history in representing women in the pages of our journal. Teele and Thelen are right—women have been underrepresented—but there is some cause for optimism. From its entirely male dominated founding nearly 30 years ago, the journal has made great strides, though there remains more to do, and we encourage ISSF readers with ideas on this issue to communicate with us or members of the editorial board and team...…

“Getting Out of the Gulf: Oil and U.S. Military Strategy,” in Foreign Affairs

Author: Rose Kelanic

In January 1980,U.S. President Jimmy Carter used his State of the Union address to announce that in order to protect "the free movement of Middle East oil," the United States would repel "an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf." Carter and his successors made good on that pledge, ramping up U.S. military capabilities in the region and even fighting the Gulf War to prevent Saddam Hussein's Iraq from dominating the region's oil supplies. Although Washington has had a number of interests in the Persian Gulf over the years, including preventing nuclear proliferation, fighting terrorism, and spreading democracy, the main rationale for its involvement has always been to keep the oil flowing...…

Financial and energy security analysis of China’s loan-for-oil deals

Author: Eugene Gholz

As China’s dependence on imported oil has soared in recent years, Chinese concerns about energy security have naturally increased. The Chinese government has encouraged China’s National Oil Companies to expand their investments around the world. Some of the high profile cases of state support for these international deals have taken the form of “loan-for-oil” agreements in which Chinese state development banks lend billions of dollars to oil-producing countries at below-market interest rates in exchange for the producers’ agreements to sell oil to Chinese oil companies (at future market prices rather than at a fixed price). Some analysts consider the Chinese investments to be an energy security policy. Using standard financial analysis, we show that these agreements cannot reasonably be considered profitseeking investments by the Chinese. Separately, we also show that only a few of the projects connected to loan-for-oil deals could ameliorate China’s fear of future political-military supply interruptions, and even in those cases, China could achieve the same energy security benefit through simpler mechanisms. The loan-for-oil deals implicitly suggest that China does not expect future conflict that might block Chinese access to oil imports...…

The National Interest: Is America Being Crushed by the Weight of the World?

Author: Michael Desch

Since the end of the Cold War and the breakup of the Soviet Union we have been living in the era of American primacy. Primacy, of course, is just a euphemism for empire. The early 1990s ostensibly inaugurated a “new American Century,” with the United States bestriding the planet like a colossus. On both the left and right, policy elites fretted that absent American leadership the world would devolve into a Yeatsian “Second Coming” of anarchy, chaos, bloodshed and destruction...…

“The Petroleum Paradox: Oil, Coercive Vulnerability, and Great Power Behavior,” in Security Studies

Author: Rose Kelanic

Mention the “oil weapon” and the 1973 Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) embargo often leaps to mind, complete with its iconic images of long lines at American gasoline stations. Yet, international oil coercion, a strategy that aims to change an opponent’s political behavior by threatening its access to petroleum, rarely resembles the OAPEC oil crisis, and its use long predates 1973...…

“Maintaining U.S. Energy Security,” in Our Foreign Policy Choices: Rethinking America’s Global Role

Author: Eugene Gholz

The end of the Cold War ushered in a unipolar world, cementing U.S. dominance over a generally liberal international order. Yet where once it seemed that U.S. foreign policy would be simpler and easier to manage as a result, the events of the past 15 years—the 9/11 attacks, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Arab Spring, and Russia’s invasions of Georgia and Ukraine—strongly suggest otherwise. The world today is certainly safer for Americans than it was under the existential threat posed by the Soviet Union. But the world is undoubtedly more complex, as nonstate actors, shifting alliances, and diverse domestic political factors complicate U.S. foreign policy formation and implementation. A robust debate on America’s foreign policy choices is urgently needed...…

“Energy, Coercive Diplomacy, and Sanctions,” in Palgrave Handbook of the International Political Economy of Energy

Author: Eugene Gholz

This Handbook is the first volume to analyse the International Political Economy, the who-gets-what-when-and-how, of global energy. Divided into five sections, it features 28 contributions that deal with energy institutions, trade, transitions, conflict and justice. The chapters span a wide range of energy technologies and markets - including oil and gas, biofuels, carbon capture and storage, nuclear, and electricity - and it cuts across the domestic-international divide...…

"U.S. Spending on its Military Commitments to the Persian Gulf," in Crude Strategy: Reexamining the Energy Logic of the U.S. Military Commitment to the Persian Gulf

A reasonable estimate of the defense budget cost of protecting the Persian Gulf (and especially of protecting production and transit of oil) would make an important contribution to a rational assessment of the desirability of continuing to include this mission as part of U.S. military strategy. Unfortunately, such an estimate is not easy to produce. Ideally, it would incorporate three sources of defense budget cost: the avoidable future investment to acquire the force structure to perform the mission, the cost of the force posture linked to the mission (the incremental cost of forward basing, specific training exercises that could be cancelled, etc.), and the intermittent cost of military operations in the region (whether surges of forces to deter potential adversaries or actual wars)...…

Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena: Professors or Pundits?

Author: Michael Desch

What is a public intellectual? Where are they to be found? What accounts for the lament today that public intellectuals are either few in number or, worse, irrelevant? While there is a small literature on the role of public intellectuals, it is organized around various thinkers rather than focusing on different countries or the unique opportunities and challenges inherent in varied disciplines or professions. In Public Intellectuals in the Global Arena,…

"Retrenchment and Regional Tradeoffs," in International Studies Quarterly

Author: Joseph Parent

In “Decline and Devolution: The Sources of Strategy Military Retrenchment,” Kyle Haynes builds a theory of how states react to decline across different regions. Haynes makes two key arguments. First, declining states should begin to retrench earlier when they have access to compatible successor states, which are willing and able to uphold the regional order as the waning state withdraws. Second, declining states should retrench more rapidly in regions that are less important to their security. The gist of our remarks is that, though we have qualms about the nitty-gritty, the work clarifies the big picture and substantially improves the literature on a number of fronts. This is real progress...…

Technique Trumps Relevance: The Professionalization of Political Science and the Marginalization of Security Studies

Author: Michael Desch

I explain here the disconnect between our discipline’s self-image as balancing rigor with relevance with the reality of how we actually conduct our scholarship most of the time. To do so, I account for variation in social scientists’ willingness to engage in policy-relevant scholarship over time. My theory is that social science, at least as it has been practiced in the United States since the early twentieth century, has tried to balance two impulses: To be a rigorous science and a relevant social enterprise. The problem is that there are sometimes tensions between these two objectives. First, historically the most useful policy-relevant social science work in the area of national security affairs has been interdisciplinary in nature, and this cuts against the increasingly rigid disciplinary siloes in the modern academy. Second, as sociologist Thomas Gieryn puts it, there is “in science, an unyielding tension between basic and applied research, and between the empirical and theoretical aspects of inquiry.” During wartime, the tensions between these two impulses have been generally muted, especially among those disciplines of direct relevance to the war effort; in peacetime, they reemerge and there are a variety of powerful institutional incentives within academe to resolve them in favor of a narrow definition of rigor that excludes relevance. My objective is to document how these trends in political science are marginalizing the sub-field of security studies, which has historically sought both scholarly rigor and real-world relevance...…

Havard Kennedy School: Why the United States and China Are on a Collision Course

The rise of China has the potential to transform the balance of power in Asia. If the Chinese military and economy continue to grow at their current pace over the next few decades, the United States will confront a genuine peer competitor for the first time since the Cold War. Assuming that this scenario unfolds, interested observers will want to know its effect on international politics. Are the United States and China destined to compete or can they find a way to coexist?...…