1097 Events

Satiric drawing from the Catalan newspaper "La Campana de Gràcia" in 1896 satirizing the USA's intentions about Cuba. Upper text (not displayed) reads (in old Catalan): "Uncle Sam's craving (by M. Moliné)." Text below (not displayed) reads: "Saving the island so it won't get lost."

"La Campana de Gràcia" in the May 23, 1896 edition

Seminar - Open to the Public

1898: "Precautionary War" and the Three Myths of American Empire

Thu., Feb. 28, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Aroop Mukharji, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

President William McKinley's foreign policy ranks among the most consequential of all U.S. presidents. At the start of his first term, the United States was primarily hemispheric in its foreign policy orientation. By the start of his second term, the United States had brought down a European colonial power, had begun governing seven new overseas territories, and had fought two additional wars in Asia.

This presentation focuses specifically on the Spanish-American War and why McKinley decided to intervene. Three myths about his motivations continue to persist: (1) that the United States waged an economically imperialist war to open up trade opportunities, (2) that the rhetoric of manliness pressured McKinley into taking a more aggressive stance, and (3) that the yellow press whipped up a public frenzy that led to the declaration of war. These influences are greatly overstated. Instead, this presentation will argue that the Spanish-American War was partly a humanitarian war, but also a "precautionary war" (author's term) that was based on a general fear of disorder, uncertainty, and instability and waged to ensure conditions that better facilitated regional stability and peace.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

Al-Shabab communal prayers and public celebrations marking the Eid al-Adha holiday in the Islamic lunar year of 1438 in the Galguduud region of central Somalia in June 2017.

Open Source

Seminar - Open to the Public

Islamizing Rebel Governance: Jihadi Insurgencies and Symbolic Power

Thu., Feb. 21, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Christopher Anzalone, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, International Security Program

The advent of Islamist rebel governing projects in different regions of the world from Africa to the Middle East and West and South Asia provides an opportunity to link the empirical study of these groups with the broader academic literature on rebel governance, political Islam, and religion and violence. Despite in recent years making up a larger number of empirical cases of insurgent organizations seeking to implement governance projects, Islamist organizations have to date received limited focus in studies on the structures, ideologies, and dynamics of rebel governance. This interdisciplinary project examines the strategies and experiences of Islamist insurgent organizations that have actively attempted to set up civil governing systems through which to interact with local civilian populations. It situates the study of Islamist insurgent groups with governance ambitions within the growing literature on rebel governance.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

Satellite image of the half-built light water reactor site in North Korea.

Google Earth Image@2018 DigitalGlobe

Seminar - Open to the Public

Normalization by Other Means — The Failed Techno-diplomacy of Light Water Reactor Export in the North Korean Nuclear Crisis

Thu., Feb. 14, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Christopher Lawrence, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, International Security Program/Project on Managing the Atom

The history of U.S. engagement with North Korea offers important lessons that could help reframe the diplomatic impasse today. In the 1994 Agreed Framework (AF), the regime agreed to dismantle its plutonium-production complex in exchange for western light water reactors (LWR) and the promise of political normalization with the United States. As construction of the LWRs fell behind, however, North Korea embarked on a secret uranium enrichment program. Today, scholars and policymakers look back at the LWRs of the AF as a "carrot" — "we offered the carrot, and they cheated anyway." But when scholars and policymakers consider the unique technical attributes of LWRs and how their construction was planned to be situated within a diplomatic track to normalization, they appear to function more as a way to signal commitment than as a carrot to bribe the regime. In this light, chronic construction delays and the offset of LWR costs to U.S. allies can be interpreted as signals about America's lack of commitment to normalization with North Korea. This conceptual shift — from carrots and sticks to signaling and credibility — offers important insights into past diplomatic failures and could help reconcile the competing visions of engagement with North Korea today.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

U.S President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Gorbachev at the Hofdi House in Reykjavik, Iceland, during the Reykjavik Summit, 11 October 1986.

The Official CTBTO Photostream

Seminar - Open to the Public

Nuclear Abolitionism and the End of the Cold War

Thu., Feb. 7, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Stephanie Freeman, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

During most of the Cold War, U.S. and Soviet officials built a broad consensus among their publics that nuclear weapons provided essential security by deterring the actions of hostile states. In the 1980s, however, the radical goal of nuclear abolition enjoyed staunch support from both grassroots movements across the globe and the leaders of the two superpowers, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev. This presentation will examine nuclear abolitionists' influence on the trajectory of the Cold War's last decade, from 1979 to 1989. It will assess anti-nuclear activists' impact on elite decision-makers and consider how their shared interest in nuclear disarmament transformed U.S. and Soviet foreign policy in the 1980s. This talk will demonstrate that nuclear abolitionists played a decisive yet unappreciated role in ending the Cold War.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

Oxfam distributing water in the Horn of Africa during a severe drought, 24 February 2011.

Wikimedia CC/Oxfam

Seminar - Open to the Public

The Nexus between Internationalism and Localism in Civil Conflict: Insurgents' Policy toward Humanitarian Access

Thu., Jan. 31, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Ayako Kobayashi, Research Fellow, International Security Program

Why do some rebel groups restrict international humanitarian access to areas under their control, while others allow it? Some scholars posit that rebels strategically comply with international humanitarian law to legitimize their status in the international arena. Others underline the importance of exploring interactions between non-state armed groups and local populations from which protection norms may emerge. This interdisciplinary project will fill the gap between the internationalism and localism by proposing a new typology of rebel groups, addressing conditions under which rebels are more likely to allow humanitarian access, and through case studies illustrating the theory.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

Map of Cold War–era Europe showing countries that received Marshall Plan aid. The blue columns show the relative amount of total aid per state.

Wikimedia CC

Seminar - Open to the Public

Borrowed Power: Financial Origins of Grand Strategy

Thu., Jan. 24, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Daniel Z. Jacobs, Grand Strategy, Security, and Statecraft Fellow, International Security Program

What are the sources of grand strategy, the relationship of national power to national interest? Answers to this question tend to emphasize domestic interests, cultural and ideational impulses, state capacity, or the distribution of military power. The speaker, however, argues that it is a state's ability to harness the wealth of others that shapes both what the state wants (i.e., national interest) and how the state goes about getting it (i.e., national power).

The core component of this argument is financial power; that is, the costs a state pays to facilitate public spending through borrowing. When these costs are relatively high, the state is likely to define its national interest narrowly and rely for its security on the self-correcting nature of the balance of power. By contrast, when the costs of borrowing are relatively low, the state will take a broader view of its national interest. As a result, the state is likely to reshape the balance of power in its favor and attempt to preserve this newfound distribution. Overall, scholars and policymakers can say that as a state's financial power rises, its grand strategy becomes increasingly ambitious.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

Memorial to the Fighters for Soviet Power in the Far East, 1917–1922, Vladivostok, Russia

Paul Behringer

Seminar - Open to the Public

Reconquering the Russian Far East: Civil War, Intervention, and Centralization

Thu., Jan. 17, 2019 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

One Brattle Square - Room 350

Speaker: Paul Behringer, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

In 1917–1918, the Russian state collapsed and its empire disintegrated. The Bolsheviks, having seized power in November 1917, managed to hold onto authority amid repeated challenges from domestic and foreign opponents in all directions. In October 1922, Lenin's party emerged victorious from the rubble of one of the most destructive civil wars in history. Historians have put forward several convincing arguments for why the Bolsheviks were able to win the overall struggle. But the fact that the new regime was also able to reconstitute much of the Russian Empire, extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean, is as astounding today as it was unlikely in 1918. This presentation attempts to explain this accomplishment by framing the civil war in the Russian Far East as a contest between geopolitical, social, ideological, and international forces of centralization and decentralization. Building on the most recent historiographic trends in the study of the Russian Civil War, it also speaks to political science research on the broader issues of intrastate conflict, foreign intervention, and violence.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.

The public military degradation of Captain Alfred Dreyfus

Public Domain/Henri Meyer

Seminar - Open to the Public

Taking the Bizarre Seriously in Diplomatic History

Thu., Dec. 20, 2018 | 12:15pm - 2:00pm

Speaker: Ben Rhode, Ernest May Fellow in History & Policy, International Security Program

In 1898, France's military attaché in London recommended that his superiors make a secret agreement with his anonymous Irish nationalist informant in order to undermine the British Empire and counterbalance supposedly hostile British behavior. Most historical assessments have either overlooked or discounted this attaché's recommendation, considering him untrustworthy or unsober. Such an interpretation is initially appealing, especially given the bizarre and conspiratorial material in the informant's unpublished reports. This seminar will challenge prevailing scholarship that ignores or deprecates this recommendation or the attaché's credibility. It will locate the episode within the context of French concerns over Britain's exploitation of the Spanish-American War, the Dreyfus Affair, and Fashoda; a preoccupation with supposed national subversion; and alarm over the phenomenon of "fake news." Using this episode as a case study, it will argue for taking alarming or peculiar observations in the diplomatic record seriously: neither downplaying their strangeness nor overlooking how, within their context, they could be sincerely believed and hold deep appeal.

Please join us! Coffee and tea provided. Everyone is welcome, but admittance will be on a first come–first served basis.