International Security Journal Highlights
Vol. 35 no. 3
International Security is America’s leading journal of security affairs. It provides sophisticated analyses of contemporary security issues and discusses their conceptual and historical foundations. The journal is edited at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center and published quarterly by the MIT Press. Questions may be directed to IS@Harvard.edu.
“Two Cheers for Bargaining Theory: Assessing Rationalist Explanations of the Iraq War”
David A. Lake
Bargaining theory, or the rationalist approach to war, offers only a partial explanation for the U.S. decision to invade Iraq in 2003. It cannot account for Saddam Hussein’s inability to signal correctly to international actors; the George W. Bush administration’s intractable prior beliefs about Saddam; information failures on both sides based on incorrect beliefs and expectations; postwar governance costs; and the influence of domestic interest groups. These shortcomings point to the need for a new behavioral theory that incorporates leaders’ decisionmaking biases into traditional notions of strategic interactions that lead to war.
“The Rise of Muslim Foreign Fighters: Islam and the Globalization of Jihad”
Foreign fighters have become an integral part of Muslim armed conflict, affecting the outcomes of the conflicts they join and empowering transnational terrorist groups. The rise in the number of Muslim foreign fighters resulted from a panIslamic identity movement that began in the 1970s, when elite activists in the Arab world warned that the Muslim nation faced serious external threats. Transnational war volunteering characterized the 1980s war in Afghanistan and produced a thriving foreign fighter movement with farreaching consequences, including for the United States in post2003 Iraq.
“Strange Bedfellows: U.S. Bargaining Behavior with Allies of Convenience”
Evan N. Resnick
Since 1945, the United States has relied on alliances of convenience—security cooperation agreements between two rivals that arise from a common threat—to help fight its wars. Neorealist and twolevel games theories predict that the United States will successfully bargain with allies of convenience. In contrast, neoclassical realist theory predicts that the constraints of executive power in the United States will limit its intrabargaining leverage. Despite its alliance with Iraq in the 1980–88 IranIraq War, the United States was unable to extract concessions from Saddam Hussein in the aftermath of the war. This case may have implications for other U.S. bargaining efforts with allies of convenience.
“Who Lost Vietnam? Soldiers, Civilians, and U.S. Military Strategy”
“Explaining U.S. Military Strategy in Vietnam: Thinking Clearly about Causation”
Jonathan D. Caverley
James McAllister argues that the historical evidence does not support Jonathan Caverley’s conclusion in his recent IS article that cost distribution theory, or the decision to substitute a more politically palatable capitalintensive strategy for military labor, explains U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Vietnam. McAllister claims that Gen. William Westmoreland pursued his own strategy and was not directed to do so by the Johnson administration; there was no great dispute between civilians and the military over pacification; and public opinion was not the key to understanding U.S. strategy. The war, McAllister argues, was unwinnable at an acceptable cost by 1965, regardless of the strategy pursued by the United States.
Caverley maintains that McAllister’s criticisms do not seriously challenge his argument that cost distribution theory explains the Johnson administration’s decision to pursue a largely ineffective, firepower intensive strategy against the insurgency in South Vietnam because it was politically popular in the United States.
Compiled by International Security staff.
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