CIAO DATE: 08/04
Spring 2004 (Volume 28 Issue 4)
As recent efforts in Bosnia, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and now Iraq attest, state building has become a growth industry. Even the Bush administration, once highly resistant to U.S. involvement in such missions, is now willing to engage in state-building projects based on the recognition that failed states and rogue regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction pose the main security threats to the international community. James Fearon and David Laitin of Stanford University examine several cases in which major powers and international institutions have sought to prop up or rebuild a weak or collapsed state. Concluding that “the international system remains badly organized and badly served for dealing with the implications of state collapse,” the authors propose a system of neotrusteeship to facilitate coordination of future state-building activities.
What causes arms races? Do arms races necessarily lead to war? Charles Glaser of the University of Chicago distinguishes between two kinds of arms races: those that are dangerous and those that are not. He offers a new perspective for assessing the consequences of arms buildups by posing a different question: Is an arms buildup the best way for a state to achieve security and to protect other vital interests? If a state’s international security environment requires an arms buildup, then arming, as well as the war the buildup might provoke, is the state’s best policy option. If, however, the state’s decision to engage in a buildup is poorly matched to its security environment, the buildup and any ensuing arms race will reduce the state’s security. It is these dangerous suboptimal races, asserts Glaser, that make war unnecessarily likely.
Does military service play a critical role in nation building? Ronald Krebs of the University of Minnesota explores the relationship between the armed forces, the state, and society, on the one hand, and the military as a potential nation builder, on the other. Krebs identifies three “seemingly plausible mechanisms” that he “teases out” of the existing literature on the military and national cohesiveness–socialization, communication and contact, and elite transformation–and subjects them to theoretical and empirical scrutiny. Finding all three unpersuasive, he proposes a research agenda “premised on a more social and concrete conceptualization of identity.”
Recent remarks by Taiwan’s President Chen Shui-bian advocating increased sovereignty for Taiwan underscore concern that further efforts to declare formal independence from China could ultimately lead to a Chinese decision to use force. Michael Glosny of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology presents several scenarios to assess the likelihood of a successful Chinese submarine blockade against Taiwan. Glosny argues that although submarine blockade would likely impose significant costs on Taiwan, “the threat of a successful blockade is overstated.”
Lyle Goldstein and William Murray of the U.S. Naval War College maintain that despite tangible improvements in the U.S.-China relationship, China continues to engage in the rapid military modernization of its forces, including its submarine capabilities. According to Goldstein and Murray, “a dramatic shift in Chinese underwater aspirations and capabilities is under way,” with submarines emerging as “the centerpiece of an evolving Chinese quest to control the East Asian littoral.”
Colin Dueck of the University of Colorado critiques five recent books on U.S. grand strategy: A Grand Strategy for America, by Robert Art; America Unrivaled: The Future of the Balance of Power, edited by G. John Ikenberry; The End of the American Era: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Geopolitics of the Twenty-first Century, by Charles Kupchan; At Home Abroad: Identity and Power in American Foreign Policy, by Henry Nau; and The Paradox of American Power: Why the World’s Only Superpower Can’t Go It Alone, by Joseph Nye. Among the common threads that Dueck finds running through these five volumes is acknowledgment of a significant shift in the understanding of the strategic options of the United States. Dueck also notes that the authors, realists and liberals alike, agree that “great power counterbalancing against the United States is by no means inevitable. It can in fact be prevented through the use of careful strategy. If, however, the United States acts aggressively and unilaterally, it is likely to “undermine the sources of its own success.”