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The American Conservative: How Popular Is Peace?

Author: Michael Desch

The rhetorical muscle-flexing at the Republican debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California in September made Sunday afternoon at Venice Beach seem like a convention of “girly men.” The contenders engaged each other in verbal feats of strength over foreign policy, vying to establish who would be the most Reaganesque, or George W. Bushesque, in reasserting America’s role as global strongman...…

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?...…

ND Magazine: Show Some Restraint

Author: Michael Desch

In a presidential debate with a sitting vice president, a candidate from the other party distanced himself from the activist foreign policy of the previous administration in favor of a more restrained approach to the world. “I don’t think our troops ought to be used for what’s called nation-building,” he declared. The candidate also warned that America’s overwhelming power was both a blessing and a curse. As he explained, “Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we have to be humble.”...…

The National Interest: Don't Worship at the Altar of Andrew Marshall

Author: Michael Desch

I first met Andrew Marshall, the longtime director of the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA), in the mid-1990s. The occasion was one of the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington’s “Strategy and National Security” conferences at the Wianno Club on Cape Cod. A number of Huntington’s students, including Eliot Cohen, Aaron Friedberg and my Olin Institute for Strategic Studies colleague Stephen Rosen, were also Marshall protégés—alumni of St. Andrew’s Prep, as they referred to themselves—having spent some of their careers under his tutelage in the ONA...…