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Chinese President Xi Jinping is displayed on a big screen in Beijing as Chinese battle tanks roll by during a Sept. 3, 2015 parade commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender during World War II.

(AP Photo)

Magazine Article - The Atlantic

The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?

| September 24, 2015

The defining question about global order for this generation is whether China and the United States can escape Thucydides’s Trap. The Greek historian’s metaphor reminds us of the attendant dangers when a rising power rivals a ruling power—as Athens challenged Sparta in ancient Greece, or as Germany did Britain a century ago. Most such contests have ended badly, often for both nations, a team of mine at the Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs has concluded after analyzing the historical record. In 12 of 16 cases over the past 500 years, the result was war. When the parties avoided war, it required huge, painful adjustments in attitudes and actions on the part not just of the challenger but also the challenged.

In this photo taken Feb. 9, 2014, clouds loom over Sinopec oil refinery in Qingdao in China's Shandong province.

AP

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Is There an Oil Weapon? Security Implications of Changes in the Structure of the International Oil Market

    Authors:
  • Llewelyn Hughes
  • Austin Long
| Winter 2014/15

States have long worried that their dependence on oil gives producers a means of coercion. The oil market, however, is far larger and more integrated than it used to be. The potential for coercion differs across a series of distinct market segments. In this varied market, the United States remains the dominant force.

Cyclers drive past a branch of Sinopec in Haikou city, south Chinas Hainan province, December 1, 2012.

AP File Photo/ Chen Kang

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

How Oil Influences U.S. National Security

| Fall 2013

U.S. scholars and policymakers commonly worry that a lack of "energy security" hurts U.S. national security, yet few have analyzed the links between states' energy requirements and the probability of military conflict. An investigation of these links identifies threats to U.S. national security flowing from other countries' consumption of oil, rather than just U.S. consumption. Furthermore, while many of the security threats associated with Persian Gulf oil have decreased, new oil-driven dangers are emerging in Northeast Asia.

U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons based at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, prepare for the first flight of exercise Red Flag-Alaska 12-1 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Oct. 7, 2011.

SSgt Christopher Boitz

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Military Primacy Doesn't Pay (Nearly As Much As You Think)

    Author:
  • Daniel W. Drezner
| Summer 2013

A common argument among scholars and policymakers is that America’s military preeminence and deep international engagement yield significant economic benefits to the United States and the rest of the world. Ostensibly, military primacy, beyond reducing security tensions, also encourages economic returns through a variety of loosely articulated causal mechanisms. A deeper analytical look reveals the causal pathways through which military primacy is most likely to yield economic returns: geoeconomic favoritism, whereby the military hegemon attracts private capital in return for providing the greatest security and safety to investors; direct geopolitical favoritism, according to which sovereign states, in return for living under the security umbrella of the military superpower, voluntarily transfer resources to help subsidize the costs of hegemony; and the public goods benefits that flow from hegemonic stability. A closer investigation of these causal mechanisms reveals little evidence that military primacy attracts private capital. The evidence for geopolitical favoritism seems more robust during periods of bipolarity than unipolarity. The evidence for public goods benefits is strongest, but military predominance plays only a supporting role in that logic. While further research is needed, the aggregate evidence suggests that the economic benefits of military hegemony have been exaggerated in policy circles. These findings have significant implications for theoretical debates about the fungibility of military power and should be considered when assessing U.S. fiscal options and grand strategy for the next decade.

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

The Security Curve and the Structure of International Politics: A Neorealist Synthesis

    Author:
  • Davide Fiammenghi
| Spring 2011

Realist scholars have long debated the question of how much power states need to feel secure. Offensive realists claim that states should constantly seek to increase their power. Defensive realists argue that accumulating too much power can be self-defeating. Proponents of hegemonic stability theory contend that the accumulation of capabilities in one state can exert a stabilizing effect on the system. The three schools describe different points along the power con­tinuum. When a state is weak, accumulating power increases its security. This is approximately the situation described by offensive realists. A state that con­tinues to accumulate capabilities will eventually triggers a balancing reaction that puts its security at risk. This scenario accords with defensive realist as­sumptions. Finally, when the state becomes too powerful to balance, its oppo­nents bandwagon with it, and the state’s security begins to increase again. This is the situation described by hegemonic stability theory. These three stages delineate a modified parabolic relationship between power and secu­rity. As a state moves along the power continuum, its security increases up to a point, then decreases, and finally increases again. This modified parabolic re­lationship allows scholars to synthesize previous realist theories into a single framework.

In this Sept. 21, 2007 file picture the Euro sign is photographed in front of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany.

AP Photo

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Europe's Troubles: Power Politics and the State of the European Project

| Spring 2011

The 1990s were years of great optimism in Europe. As the Europeans were putting the finishing touches on their economic community, observers pre­dicted that political and military integration would soon follow. Optimism has turned to pessimism since the turn of the century, however. Most analysts believe that the economic community is in crisis, and hardly anyone predicts the creation of a political or military counterpart to it. Why has the European project run into trouble and what does the future hold? The answers to these questions are largely to be found in the distribution of power. It was the over­whelming power of the Soviet Union that drove the Western Europeans to consider a variety of integration initiatives and to build and maintain the European Community (EC) during the Cold War. In 1991 the collapse of the Soviet Union deprived them of a compelling geostrategic reason to pursue further integration or even to preserve their economic community. As a result, the Europeans have made no real effort to establish a political or military com­munity over the past two decades, and the EC has slowly started to fray. As long as there are no significant changes in the balance of power going forward, worse times lie ahead.

Nov. 27, 2010 - The nuclear deal struck by Iran and world powers will provide some relief from sanctions for Iran's automakers.

AP Images

Journal Article - Washington Quarterly

Iran and the Great Sanctions Debate

| October 2010

The sanctions debate is, once again, in full bloom. Thanks to Iran’s budding nuclear program and the intransigence of Tehran thus far, policymakers and pundits are again pondering the utility of sanctions. Amid a flurry of sanctions activity at the U.S. Department of Treasury, in Congress, at the UN, and overseas, the question persists: ‘‘Do sanctions work?’’

Closing Time: Assessing the Iranian Threat to the Strait of Hormuz

AP photo

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Closing Time: Assessing the Iranian Threat to the Strait of Hormuz

    Author:
  • Caitlin Talmadge
| Summer 2008

How might Iran retaliate in the aftermath of a limited Israeli or U.S. strike? The most economically devastating of Iran's potential responses would be closure of the Strait of Hormuz. According to open-source order of battle data, as well as relevant analogies from military history and GIS maps, Iran does possess significant littoral warfare capabilities, including mines, antiship cruise missiles, and land-based air defense. If Iran were able to properly link these capabilities, it could halt or impede traffic in the Strait of Hormuz for a month or more. U.S. attempts to reopen the waterway likely would escalate rapidly into sustained, large-scale air and naval operations during which Iran could impose significant economic and military costs on the United States — even if Iranian operations were not successful in truly closing the strait. The aftermath of limited strikes on Iran would be complicated and costly, suggesting needed changes in U.S. force posture and energy policy.