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Avoiding Trivia

The Role of Strategic Planning in American Foreign Policy

edited by Daniel W. Drezner

After World War II, George Kennan became the State Department's first director of policy planning. Secretary of State George Marshall's initial advice to Kennan: above all, "avoid trivia." Concentrate on the forest, not the trees, and don't lost sight of the big picture. Easier said than done. Avoiding Trivia critically assesses the past, future, and future role and impact of long-term strategic planning in foreign policy.

Strategic planning needs to be a more integral part of America's foreign policymaking. Thousands of troops are engaged in combat while homeland security concerns remain. In such an environment, long-term coordination of goals and resources would seem to be of paramount importance. But history tells us that such cohesiveness and coherence are tremendously difficult to establish, much less maintain. Can policy planners —in the Pentagon, the State Department, Treasury, NSC, and National Intelligence Council —rise to the challenge? Indeed, is strategic planning a viable concept in 21st century foreign policy? These crucial questions guide this eye-opening book.

The contributors include key figures from the past few decades of foreign policy and planning —individuals responsible for imposing some sort of order and strategic priority on foreign policy in a world that changes by the minute. They provide authoritative insight on the difficulties and importance of thinking and acting in a coherent way, for the long term.

Contributors: Andrew P. N. Erdmann, Peter Feaver, Aaron L. Friedberg, David F. Gordon, Richard N. Haass, William Inboden, Bruce W. Jentleson, Steven D. Krasner, Jeffrey W. Legro, Daniel Twining, Thomas Wright, Amy B. Zegart.

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Axis of Convenience

Moscow, Beijing, and the New Geopolitics

Bobo Lo

Few relationships have been as misunderstood as the "strategic partnership" between Russia and China. Official rhetoric portrays it as the very model of international cooperation: Moscow and Beijing claim that ties are closer and warmer than at any time in history. In reality, however, the picture is highly ambiguous. While both sides are committed to multifaceted engagement, cooperation is complicated by historical suspicions, cultural prejudices, geopolitical rivalries, and competing priorities. For Russia, China is at once the focus of a genuine convergence of interests and the greatest long-term threat to its national security. For China, Russia is a key supplier of energy and weapons, but is frequently dismissed as a self-important power whose rhetoric far outstrips its real influence. A xis of Convenience cuts through the mythmaking and examines the Sino-Russian partnership on its own merits. It steers between the overblown interpretation of an anti-Western (particularly, anti-American) alliance and the complacent assumption that past animosities and competing agendas must always divide the two nations. Their relationship reflects a new geopolitics, one that eschews formal alliances in favor of more flexible and opportunistic arrangements. Ultimately, it is an axis of convenience driven by cold-eyed perceptions of the national interest. In evaluating the current state and future prospects of the relationship, Bobo Lo assesses its impact on the evolving strategic environments in Central and East Asia. He also analyzes the global implications of rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing, focusing in particular on the geopolitics of energy and Russia-China-U.S. triangularism.

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Back Channel Negotiation

Secrecy in the Middle East Peace Process

Anthony Wanis-St. John

Wanis-St. John takes on the question of whether the complex and often perilous secret negotiations between principal parties prove to be instrumental paths to reconciliation or rather roadblocks that disrupt the process. Using the Palestinian-Israeli peace process as a framework, the author focuses on the uses and misuses of "back channel" negotiations. He discusses how top-level PLO and Israeli government officials have often resorted to secret negotiation channels even when there were designated, acknowledged negotiation teams already at work. Intense scrutiny by the media, pressure from constituents, and the reactions of the public all become severe constraints to the process, causing leaders to seek out such back channels. The impact of these secret talks within the peace process over time has largely been unexplored.

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Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana

William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh

Challenging the conventional wisdom of perpetual hostility between the United States and Cuba--beyond invasions, covert operations, assassination plots using poison pens and exploding seashells, and a grinding economic embargo--this fascinating book chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. Since 1959, conflict and aggression have dominated the story of U.S.-Cuban relations. Now, LeoGrande and Kornbluh present a new and increasingly more relevant account. From Kennedy's offering of an olive branch to Castro after the missile crisis, to Kissinger's top secret quest for normalization, to Obama's promise of a "new approach," LeoGrande and Kornbluh reveal a fifty-year record of dialogue and negotiations, both open and furtive, indicating a path toward better relations in the future.

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Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana

William M. LeoGrande

History is being made in U.S.-Cuban relations. Now updated to tell the story behind the stunning December 17, 2014, announcement by President Obama and President Castro of their move to restore full diplomatic relations, this powerful book is essential to understanding ongoing efforts toward normalization. Challenging the conventional wisdom of perpetual conflict and aggression between the United States and Cuba since 1959, Back Channel to Cuba chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh here present a remarkably new and relevant account, describing how, despite the intense political clamor surrounding efforts to improve relations with Havana, negotiations have been conducted by every presidential administration since Eisenhower's through secret, back-channel diplomacy. From John F. Kennedy's offering of an olive branch to Fidel Castro after the missile crisis, to Henry Kissinger's top secret quest for normalization, to Barack Obama's promise of a new approach, LeoGrande and Kornbluh uncovered hundreds of formerly secret U.S. documents and conducted interviews with dozens of negotiators, intermediaries, and policy makers, including Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter. They reveal a fifty-year record of dialogue and negotiations, both open and furtive, that provides the historical foundation for the dramatic breakthrough in U.S.-Cuba ties.

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Ballots and Bullets

The Elusive Democratic Peace

Joanne Gowa

There is a widespread belief, among both political scientists and government policymakers, that "democracies don't fight each other." Here Joanne Gowa challenges that belief. In a thorough, systematic critique, she shows that, while democracies were less likely than other states to engage each other in armed conflicts between 1945 and 1980, they were just as likely to do so as were other states before 1914. Thus, no reason exists to believe that a democratic peace will survive the end of the Cold War. Since U.S. foreign policy is currently directed toward promoting democracy abroad, Gowa's findings are especially timely and worrisome.

Those who assert that a democratic peace exists typically examine the 1815-1980 period as a whole. In doing so, they conflate two very different historical periods: the pre-World War I and post-World War II years. Examining these periods separately, Gowa shows that a democratic peace prevailed only during the later period. Given the collapse of the Cold War world, her research calls into question both the conclusions of previous researchers and the wisdom of present U.S. foreign policy initiatives.

By re-examining the arguments and data that have been used to support beliefs about a democratic peace, Joanne Gowa has produced a thought-provoking book that is sure to be controversial.

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Bank Indonesia and the Crisis

An Insider's View

J. Soedradjad Djiwandono

This important book is set to be a key document for those interested in Indonesia's recent economic and political history. There have been many unanswered questions about exactly how the regional currency crisis snowballed into a full-scale banking crisis in Indonesia, coupled with a total loss of credibility within a short time. This record by the official in the midst of the banking crisis, the ex governor of Bank Indonesia, gives a fuller and intriguing picture of the events, including the actions of President Soeharto, as well as a balanced account of the much criticised interventions by the International Monetary Fund. The author also analyses the lessons for monetary policy to avoid future such crisis. This is essential reading for economists and Indonesia watchers.

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Barriers to Democracy

The Other Side of Social Capital in Palestine and the Arab World

Amaney A. Jamal

Democracy-building efforts from the early 1990s on have funneled billions of dollars into nongovernmental organizations across the developing world, with the U.S. administration of George W. Bush leading the charge since 2001. But are many such "civil society" initiatives fatally flawed? Focusing on the Palestinian West Bank and the Arab world, Barriers to Democracy mounts a powerful challenge to the core tenet of civil society initiatives: namely, that public participation in private associations necessarily yields the sort of civic engagement that, in turn, sustains effective democratic institutions. Such assertions tend to rely on evidence from states that are democratic to begin with. Here, Amaney Jamal investigates the role of civic associations in promoting democratic attitudes and behavioral patterns in contexts that are less than democratic.

Jamal argues that, in state-centralized environments, associations can just as easily promote civic qualities vital to authoritarian citizenship--such as support for the regime in power. Thus, any assessment of the influence of associational life on civic life must take into account political contexts, including the relationships among associations, their leaders, and political institutions.

Barriers to Democracy both builds on and critiques the multifaceted literature that has emerged since the mid-1990s on associational life and civil society. By critically examining associational life in the West Bank during the height of the Oslo Peace Process (1993-99), and extending her findings to Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan, Jamal provides vital new insights into a timely issue.

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Basic Interests

The Importance of Groups in Politics and in Political Science

Frank R. Baumgartner

A generation ago, scholars saw interest groups as the single most important element in the American political system. Today, political scientists are more likely to see groups as a marginal influence compared to institutions such as Congress, the presidency, and the judiciary. Frank Baumgartner and Beth Leech show that scholars have veered from one extreme to another not because of changes in the political system, but because of changes in political science. They review hundreds of books and articles about interest groups from the 1940s to today; examine the methodological and conceptual problems that have beset the field; and suggest research strategies to return interest-group studies to a position of greater relevance.

The authors begin by explaining how the group approach to politics became dominant forty years ago in reaction to the constitutional-legal approach that preceded it. They show how it fell into decline in the 1970s as scholars ignored the impact of groups on government to focus on more quantifiable but narrower subjects, such as collective-action dilemmas and the dynamics of recruitment. As a result, despite intense research activity, we still know very little about how groups influence day-to-day governing. Baumgartner and Leech argue that scholars need to develop a more coherent set of research questions, focus on large-scale studies, and pay more attention to the context of group behavior. Their book will give new impetus and direction to a field that has been in the academic wilderness too long.

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Battling Terrorism in the Horn of Africa

edited by Robert I. Rotberg

With so much attention paid to America's war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, the world has all but forgotten the spread of terrorism in other regions. From South Asia to South America, terrorist groups are on the rise. One of the most dangerous regions is the greater Horn of Africa along with Yemen, its volatile neighbor. This book offers authoritative insight into the struggle against terrorism in the Horn—what has been done and what work remains. Robert Rotberg and his colleagues analyze the situation in Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. The esteemed contributors are prominent scholars and practitioners, including several former U.S. ambassadors. Their contributions reveal how each country's government —with or without U.S. help—is (or is not) working to combat terrorism within its own borders and to prevent its spread. Rotberg provides an overview of the entire region, drawing lessons particularly for U.S. policy. Ba ttling Terror in the Horn of Africa is a handbook on what needs to be done at the tension-filled crossroads of Arabia and Africa. It is important reading for all those with an interest in African or Middle Eastern affairs or the need to learn more about international terrorism. Contributors include Robert D. Burrowes (University of Washington), Timothy Carney (former U.S. ambassador to Sudan), Johnnie Carson (former ambassador to Kenya), Dan Connell (Grassroots International), Kenneth J. Menkhaus (Davidson College), Robert I. Rotberg (Harvard University), and Lange Schemerhorn (former ambassador to Djibouti).

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