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[John J. Mearsheimer, The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities, Yale University Press, September 2018, 328 p.]
REVIEW / Albert Vidal
"For better or for worse, liberal hegemony is history". With such a statement, John J. Mearsheimer concluded his talk about his recently published book "The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities" at SOAS University of London.
In this book, Mearsheimer argues that the foreign policy of liberal hegemony, which was adopted by the US at the end of the Cold War, failed miserably. He explains that it happened because nationalism and realism always overrun liberalism.
In the first part of the book he defines liberalism, nationalism and liberal hegemony. He then explains why the US pursued liberal hegemony, and what is its track record. Finally, he reveals why liberal hegemony failed, and what can we expect in the future. Let's take a more detailed look into it.
Mearsheimer casts light on liberalism's two fundamental assumptions underpinning human nature: first, it assumes that the individual takes precedence over the group; second, liberalism assumes that individuals cannot reach universal agreement over first principles, and such differences often lead to violence.
In order to deal with this potential for violence, liberalism offers a solution that includes three parts: everybody has individual rights that are inalienable; tolerance receives a special emphasis, and a state becomes necessary to limit the threat of those who do not respect other people's rights. Such features make liberalism a universalistic theory, which is what turned the US into a crusader state.
According to the author, nationalism has its own core assumptions: first, humans are naturally social animals; second, group loyalty is more important than individualism, and third, aside from the family, the most important group is the nation. He then goes on to say that nations (bodies of individuals that have certain features that make them distinct from other groups) want their own states.
After that, Mearsheimer says that nationalism beats liberalism because human beings are primarily social animals. To show this, he recalls that the entire planet is covered with nation states, and liberal democracies do not even comprise a 50% of those nation-states.
This is just an attempt to remake the world in America's image and has several components: to spread liberal democracy across the planet, to integrate more countries into the open international economy and into international institutions. In theory, this would be extremely beneficial, since it would eliminate significant human rights violations (here the author assumes that liberal democracies do not engage in great human rights violations), it would make for a peaceful world (following the democratic peace theory) and it would eliminate the threat of foreign support to those who want to overthrow liberal democracy at home.
Why did the US pursue liberal hegemony?
After the Cold War, a moment of unipolarity made it possible, says Mearsheimer, for the US to ignore balance of power politics and pursue a liberal foreign policy. To this we need to add that the US is a liberal country, which oftentimes thinks itself as exceptional. This clearly prompted the US to try to remake the world into its image.
In this part of the book, Mearsheimer shows different failures of the US foreign policy. The first one is the Bush Doctrine and the Greater Middle East, which was a plan to turn the Middle East into a sea of democracies. The result was a total disaster. The second example is the awful relations between the US and Russia and the Ukraine crisis, which were the result of NATO's expansion. Thirdly, Mearsheimer criticizes the way the US has engaged with China, helping it grow quicker while naively thinking that it would eventually become a liberal democracy.
Why did liberal hegemony fail?
The reason is that the power of nationalism and realism always overrun liberalism; in words of Mearsheimer: "the idea that the US can go around the world trying to establish democracies and doing social engineering is a prescription for trouble". Countries will resist to foreign interference. Also, in large parts of the world, people prefer security before liberal democracy, even if that security has to be provided by a soft authoritarianism.
Liberal hegemony is finished, because the world is no longer a unipolar place. Now the US needs to worry about other powers.
A critique of his theory
Although Mearsheimer's thesis seems solid, several critiques have been formulated; most of these are directed toward issues that contradict some of Mearsheimer's arguments and assumptions and that have been left unaddressed.
1) In his introduction, Mearsheimer argues that individuals cannot reach an agreement over first principles. I believe that is an over-statement, since some values tend to be appreciated in most societies. Some examples would be the value of life, the importance of the family for the continuation of society and the education of the upcoming generations, the importance of truth and honesty, and many others.
2) When he describes the US foreign policy since the 1990s as liberal hegemony, Mearsheimer chooses to ignore some evident exceptions, such as the alliance with Saudi Arabia and other authoritarian regimes which do not respect the most basic human rights.
3) Many of the failures of the US foreign policy since the 1990s do not actually seem to derive from the liberal policies themselves, but from the failure of properly implementing them. That is, those failures happened because the US deviated from its liberal foreign policy. A clear example is what happened in Iraq: although the intervention was publicly backed by a liberal rhetoric, many doubt that Washington was truly committed to bring stability and development to Iraq. A commonly pointed example is that the only Ministry effectively protected was the Oil Ministry. The rest were abandoned to the looters. A true liberal policy would have sought to restore the education and health systems, state institutions and infrastructure, which never really happened. So blaming the failure to the liberal policy might not be adequate.
4) Although Mearsheimer proves the urge to intervene that comes with liberal hegemony, he doesn't show how a hegemon following realist principles would restrain itself and intervene in fewer occasions and with moderation. The necessity to protect human rights would simply become a willingness to protect vital interests, which serves as an excuse for any type of intervention (unlike human rights, even if they have sometimes been the origin of a disastrous intervention).
As a final thought, this book suggests a clear alternative to the mainstream views of most of today's foreign policy, especially in Western Europe and in the United States. Even if we disagree with some (or most) of its tenets, it is nevertheless helpful in understanding many of the current dynamics, particularly in relation to the everlasting tension between nationalism and universalism. We might even need to rethink our foreign policies and instead of blindly praising liberalism, we should accept that sometimes, liberalism isn't able to solve every problem that we face.
[I. H. Daalder & James M. Lindsay, The Empty Throne. America's Abdication of Global Leadership. Public Affairs. New York, 2018. 256 p.]
review / Salvador Sánchez Tapia
The arrival of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States in January 2017 has unleashed a significant flow of publishing house that continues to this day, and in which numerous pens question, in substance and form, the new occupant of the White House from different angles.
In this case, two authors from the field of American think tanks , close to Barack Obama – one of them served during his presidency as US ambassador to NATO – offer us a very critical view of President Trump and his management at the head of the U.S. executive branch. With the solid support of numerous quotes, statements and testimonies collected from the media, and in an agile and attractive language, they compose the portrait of an erratic, ignorant president – in one passage his "ignorance on many issues, his unwillingness to accept the advice of others, his impulsiveness, and his lack of critical thinking capacity" are unmitigated. arrogant and irresponsible.
The authors of The Empty Throne argue that President Trump's actions and words show how he has broken with the traditional line of U.S. foreign policy since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, based on the exercise of leadership oriented to collective security, the opening of global markets and the promotion of democracy. of human rights and the rule of law, and that it has result very beneficial for the United States. Trump, they argue, would have abdicated that leadership, embracing instead another purely transactional policy, made out of a simple calculation of self-interest.
This new way of conceiving international politics, based on the logic of competition and domination, would be justified by the Trump administration with the argument that the old one has been highly pernicious for the United States, since it has led to friends and allies obtaining significant profits at the expense of American prosperity.
Paraphrasing Trump's campaign slogan America First, the authors argue that this new policy will result in an America Alone, and that it will benefit China instead, assuming that it will be China that nations look to for a new leader.
To support your thesis , the authors take a look at the management of Donald Trump in the year and a half between his inauguration in early 2017 and the book's publication date in 2018. In their arguments, they review the management of the presidents the nation has had since the end of World War II, and compare it to the internship by the Trump administration.
An important part of the criticism is directed at the controversial presidential style deployed by Donald Trump, exhibited even before the elections, and which is evident in events such as the withdrawal of the label accustomed in the world of international relations, especially hurtful in its relations with friends and allies; the lack of interest shown in coordinating with the Obama administration an orderly transition, or the making of certain decisions against its national security team or even without consulting its members.
Not acknowledging these facts would be to deny the evidence and call into question the inescapable reality of the uneasiness that this new way of treating nations with which North America shares so many interests and values, such as those of the European Union, or others such as Japan, Canada or Australia, firm allies of the United States for decades, produces for many. There is, however, some criticism of the arguments.
First of all, and leaving aside the lack of time perspective to make a evaluation final of Trump's presidency, the authors make a comparison between the first year and a half of the current president's term and those of all his predecessors since the end of World War II to demonstrate Trump's return to the America First policy that prevailed until Roosevelt. This contrast requires certain nuances because, based on the common denominator of the international leadership strategy that all of Trump's predecessors practiced, the country experienced during this time moments of greater unilateralism such as that of George W. Bush's first term, along with others of less global presence of the country such as, perhaps, those of the Eisenhower presidencies. Ford, Carter, and even Obama.
In the case of Obama, moreover, the fundamental differences with Trump are not as many as they seem. Both presidents are trying to manage, in order to mitigate it, the loss of relative American power caused by the long years of military presence in the Middle East and the rise of China. It's not that Trump believes the U.S. should abandon ideas of global leadership and multinational interaction; in fact, while he is accused of leaving traditional allies to their fate, he is reproached for his rapprochement, almost complicity, with others such as Saudi Arabia and Israel. Rather, what he intends is to exercise leadership, but, yes, dictating his conditions so that they are favorable to the United States. From inspirational leadership to leadership by imposition.
The question would be: is it possible to maintain leadership under these conditions? According to the authors, no. In fact, as a consequence of this U.S. "abdication of leadership," they offer two scenarios: a return to a world in which no nation leads, or the irruption of another nation – China, of course – that will fill the vacuum created by that abdication.
The authors do not consider a third option: that of traditional allies adapting to the new style of leadership, even if it is reluctantly, out of necessity, and in the confidence that one day, Trump's presidency will be history. This idea would be consistent with the premise set forth in the book, and with which we agree, that American leadership continues to be essential, and with the very acknowledgment made at the end of it, that there is some basis in the grievances that Trump presents and that the president's attitude is leading many of America's friends and allies to reconsider their defense spending. to rethink the rules of international trade to make them more palatable to North America, and to take a more active role in solving the most important global challenges.
Time will tell which of the three options will prevail. Even considering the challenges involved in the attention With the current head of the White House, the United States continues to be united with its traditional partners and allies by a dense network of common interests and, above all, shared values that transcend people and that will endure beyond them.
[Amil Saikal, Iran Rising: The survival and Future of the Islamic Republic. Princeton University Press. Princeton, 2019. 344 p.]
review / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa
Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a conflictive actor, isolated and misunderstood by the international community and, to a greater extent, by its regional neighbours. Its origin, revolutionary and antagonistic to the model The Shah's pro-Western pro-Western regime completely changed the geopolitics of the Middle East and the role of the United States in the region. Both the Hostage Crisis and Saddam Hussein's bloody war on Iraq left deep wounds in Iran's relations with the outside world. More than 40 years after the Revolution, the country continues in a dynamic that makes it impossible to normalize its international relations, always under the threat of armed conflict or economic sanctions. In this book, Amin Saikal describes in depth the ideological and political nature of the Ayatollahs' regime with the intention of generating a better understanding of the motivations and factors that explain their behavior.
In the first chapters, the concept of governance devised by Ayatollah Imam Khomeini, known as Velayat-E Faqih or Governance of the Guardian of Islam, is developed. One model defended by a non-majority faction of the revolution that managed to impose itself due to the charisma of its leader and the enormous repression on the rest of the political groups. The political system resulting from the 1978 Revolution seeks to bring together the Shiite teachings of Islam and a model It is representative with institutions such as the Majlis (parliament) or the President, which to some extent simulates Western liberal democracy. This model it is unique and has never been imitated despite the Islamic Republic's efforts to export it to the rest of the Muslim world.
In the internship, the system has proven to subject Iranian politics to schizophrenia, with a constant struggle between the power of the clerics – Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader – the Supreme Leader and the Supreme Leader. committee of Guardians – vis-à-vis the executive and legislative branches elected through elections. This tension, referred to as Jihadi-Itjihadi (conservatism-flexibility ) by Khomeini himself, has led to a result be a resounding failure. The lack of clarity in the roles that religious groups play in the system results in unlimited power to repress and eliminate political opponents, such as the house arrest of Khatami or Moussaoui. This struggle generates duplicities at all levels with the omnipresence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in the armed forces, intelligence, social services and public enterprises. The lack of political transparency generates corruption and inefficiencies that hinder the development of a Economics that it does not lack human capital and natural resources to thrive.
Chapters 2 and 3 deal with the evolution of the system after the death of leader Khomeini in 1988 and the end of the war against Iraq. This new context allowed the entrance of new ideas to the discussion Iranian politician. The controversial appointment of the ultra-conservative Ali Khamenei in 1989 as the new Supreme Leader reinforced the authoritarianism and rigidity of religious power, but now without the undisputed leadership that Khomeini exercised. The presidency of Rafsanjani, a pragmatic conservative, marked the beginning of a trend within Iran that advocated normalizing the country's international relations.
However, it was Khatami who, since 1997, has been committed to a reconversion of the system towards a real democracy that respects human rights. Your bet staff The attempt to improve relations with the U.S. failed to meet with inordinate distrust from the Bush administration. Not even Iran's exemplary response to the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York with an official condemnation of the attack and even a minute's silence respected by 60,000 people in Tehran on September 13, 2001 was enough for G.W. Bush to reconsider Iran as part of the famous Axis of Evil that it constituted together with Syria. North Korea and Sudan. Despite achieving an average economic growth of 5% of GDP under his presidency, the lack of reciprocity on the part of the international community generated a total rupture between the reformist president and the conservative faction led by the Supreme Leader.
The period between 2005 and 2013 was marked by the presidency of the ultra-conservative Ahmadinejad, who ended without Khamenei's confidence after failing to win the presidency. subject and bring Iran to the brink of armed conflict. During this period, the IRGC grew to dominate many ministries and 70% of Iran's GDP. His controversial re-election in 2009 with accusations of fraud by the civil service examination It spawned the Green Movement, the largest protests since 1979, which were harshly repressed.
Rouhani's arrival in 2013 could have been a historic occasion by aligning for the first time since 1988 the vision of a moderate president with that of the Supreme Leader. Rouhani, a moderate pragmatist, took office position with the goals of improving the living conditions of Iranians, reconciling relations with the West, increasing the rights of minorities and relaxing control over society. In subject of foreign policy, the Supreme Leader assumed the need to achieve a agreement on the nuclear program knowing that, in its absence, an economic improvement in Iran would be very complicated. The JCPOA, although imperfect, made it possible to bring positions between the West and Iran closer together. The arrival of Donald Trump blew up the agreement and with it the harmony between Supreme Leader Khamenei and Rouhani, who is now facing a growing civil service examination conservative in considering his foreign policy a failure.
For the author, it is essential to understand the battle between elected institutions and religious institutions. Iranian politics functions as a pendulum between the dominance of conservative factions protected by the religious and reformist factions boosted by elections. If you offer benefits to reformist moderates when they are in power, the chances of bringing about political change in Iran are greater than if you treat them with the same harshness as conservatives, Amin Saikal argues in the fourth and fifth chapters. In addition, there is a correlation between those who know the West and those who do not. Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, the main representatives of the hardliners, have never visited Europe or the United States, while Rouhani, Khatami and Sharif are fluent in English and Western culture.
With a population under the age of 30 accounting for 50% of the total and a growing modernization of society in Tehran, demands for reform seem unstoppable. According to Amin Saikal, an intransigent policy towards Iran when there is a desire for openness only generates mistrust and reinforces the most conservative positions. Trump's policy with Iran, he concludes, demonstrates the lack of knowledge and understanding of their society and political system.
[Bruno Maçães, Belt and Road. A Chinese World Order. Penguin. Gurgaon, India, 2019. 227p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
Covered the moment of literature devoted to presenting the novelty of the project A Chinese leader of the New Silk Road, Bruno Maçães leaves aside many of the specific specifics of the Chinese initiative to deal with its more geopolitical aspects. That is why throughout the book Maçães uses the name Belt and Road all the time, instead of its acronyms – OBOR (One Belt, One Road) or the lately more used BRI ( Belt and Road Initiative) – because he is not referring so much to the layout of transport connections themselves as to the new world order that Beijing wants to model.
Through this economic integration, according to Maçães, China could project power over two-thirds of the world, including Central and Eastern Europe, in a process of geographical cohesion of Eurasia to which this politician and the European Union has already been able to achieve this goal. researcher He dedicated his earlier work.
Compared to other essays on the New Silk Road, this one directs a lot of attention to India (this is true in its general content, but also in this one). review A special edition has been used for that country, with a particular introduction).
Maçães grants India the role of core topic vault in the project integrator of Eurasia. If India decides not to participate at all and instead gamble on the alternative promoted by the United States, along with Japan and Australia, then the design China will not reach the dimension desired by Beijing. "If India decides that life in the Western order will be better than under alternative arrangements, the Belt and Road will struggle to achieve its original ambition," says the author.
However, Maçães believes that the West is not entirely that attractive to the subcontinent. In that Western order, India can only aspire to a secondary role, while the rise of China "offers it the exciting possibility of a genuinely multipolar, rather than merely multilateral, world in which India can legitimately hope to become an autonomous center of geopolitical power," at least on the same level as a declining Russia.
Despite these apparent advantages, India will not go completely to either side, Maçães predicts. "It will never join the Belt and Road because it could only consent to join China in a project that it was new. And it will never join a U.S. effort to rival the Belt and Road unless the U.S. makes it less confrontational." So, "India will leave everyone waiting, but it will never make a decision on the Belt and Road."
Without the involvement of Delhi, or even more so, with resistance from the Indian leadership, neither the US nor China's vision can be fully brought to fruition. internshipMaçães continues. Without India, Washington may be able to preserve its current model of alliances in Asia, but their ability to compete on the scale of the Belt and Road would collapse; For its part, Beijing is realizing that it alone cannot provide the financial resources needed for the ambitious project.
Maçães warns that China has "ignored and disdained" India's positions and interests, which may end up being "a big miscalculation." He believes that China's impatience to start building infrastructure, due to the need to demonstrate that its initiative is a success, "can become the worst enemy."
An adventure that the Chinese can correct the shot. "It is likely – perhaps even inevitable – that the Belt and Road will grow more and more decentralized, less Chinese-centric," he says, commenting that in the end this new Chinese order would not be so different from the structure of the existing world order led by Washington, where "the United States insists on being recognized as the state at the apex of the international power hierarchy" and leaves some autonomy to each regional power.
If Maçães puts India in a status Non-alignment plenary session of the Executive Council, does provide for an unequivocal partnership of that country with Japan. In his view, it is a "symbiotic" relationship, in which India sees Japan as its first source of technology, while Japan sees the Indian navy as "a partner indispensable in its efforts to contain Chinese expansion and safeguard freedom of navigation" in the region's seas.
As for Europe, Maçães sees it in the difficult position "of not being able to oppose a project economic integration, while it is equally incapable of joining as a mere participant" in the Chinese initiative, in addition to the seed of division that the project in the European Union.
Bangladesh to Pakistan and Djibouti
Despite the above-mentioned differences, Maçães believes that the relationship between China and India can develop positively, even if there is some element of latent conflict, encouraged by a certain mutual distrust. The commercial linkage of two such immense markets and production centers will generate economic ties "called dominating" the economy. Economics towards the middle of this century.
This movement of goods between the two countries will make Bangladesh and Myanmar the centre of a major trade corridor.
For its part, Pakistan, in addition to being a corridor for the exit to the Indian Ocean from western China, will be increasingly integrated into the Chinese production chain. Specifically, it can feed raw materials and basic manufactures to the textile industry that China is developing in Xinjiang, its export gateway to Europe for goods that can optimize rail transport. The capital of that province, Urumqi, will become the fashion capital of Central Asia in the next decade. agreement with the forecast of Maçães.
Another interesting observation is that the shrinking of Eurasia and the development of internal transport routes between the two ends of the supercontinent, may cause the container ports of the North Sea (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hamburg) to lose weight in trade between Europe and China at the expense of greater transit of those in the Mediterranean (Piraeus, especially).
The author also ventures that Chinese infrastructure works in Cameroon and Nigeria can help facilitate connections between these countries and Doralé, the port that China manages in Djibouti, which in this way, through these trans-African routes, could become "a serious rival" to the Suez Canal.
If China has its first, and so far only, military base outside its territory, it must be borne in mind that Beijing may give a possible military use to other ports whose territory is not the same. management has assumed. As Maçães recalls, in 2016 China approved a framework This is a legal law that obliges civilian companies to support military logistics operations requested by the Chinese Navy.
These are all aspects of a thought-provoking book that does not allow itself to be carried away by the determinism of China's rise, nor by an antagonistic vision that denies the possibility of a new world order. It is the work of a European who, although he served in the Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a director for Europe, is realistic about the EU's weight in the design of the world.
[Condoleezza Rice, Amy B. Zegart, Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations can Anticipate Global Insecurity. Hachette Book Group. New York, May 2019]
REVIEW / Rossina Funes Santimoni
Every year Stanford Graduate School of Business offers their students a seminar in Political Risk. The classes are taught by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the renowned academic Amy B. Zegart. Motivated by their students, they decided to turn their classes into a book in order to allow more people and organizations to navigate the waters of political risk.
The work titled Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations can Anticipate Global Insecurity is divided into ten chapters. The authors start by explaining the contemporary concept of political risk. Consequently, theoretical framework is added as they advance in the explanation, in this way making it useful for the reader in order to understand, analyze, mitigate and answer efficiently to political risks. Their ultimate objective is to provide functional framework that can be utilized in any organization or by any person to improve political risk management.
Rice and Zegart define the twenty-first-century political risk as the probability that a political action could significantly affect a company's business. Nowadays, the public and the private sphere are constantly changing and evolving. Everything is more complex and intertwined. Governments are no longer the only ones playing an important role in business decisions. The authors emphasize how companies need to efficiently deal with the political risks spawn by an increasing diversity of actors, among which is anyone with access to social average. In order to illustrate the latter, the authors make use of real-life examples, for instance the Blackfish Effect. It is named after a low-budget investigative documentary with the same title that depicted how SeaWorld Entertainment's treatment of orcas harmed both the animals and their human trainers. The film that started with one woman reading a story about orcas triggered political action at the grassroots, state and federal levels, ending up with devastating consequences from which the company has still have not recovered up to now. These cascading repercussions of the film have been denominated the Blackfish Effect.
The work is well equipped with more examples about distinguished companies' experience. Among the organizations cited are Lego Company Group, FedEx, Royal Caribbean and Nike. Some have excelled in dealing with political risk and some have failed. However, both sides of the coin are useful to learn and to understand how the convoluted world of political risks management work.
Nowadays, risk generators perform at five intersecting levels including individuals, local organizations and governments, national governments, transnational organizations, and supranational and international institutions. Therefore, today's risks are different from the old ones, even if those still persist. With this in mind, Rice and Zegart shed a light on these days' top ten political risks: geopolitics, internal conflict, policy change, braches of contract, corruption, extraterritorial reach, natural resource manipulation, social activism, terrorism and cyber threats.
Nevertheless, even if the theory is laid out, the question still haunts us: Why is good political risk management so hard? The authors dedicate a whole chapter investigating it and conclude that there are "Five Hards". Political risk is hard to reward, hard to understand, hard to measure, hard to update, and hard to communicate. Therefore, in order to succeed at its management, one must get right the four basics: understanding, analyzing, mitigating and responding to risks. Rice and Zegart dedicate the remaining four chapters of the book expanding on each basic and, again, employing examples to better illustrate their knowledge.
The thing about political risks is that they are always there. They are imminent and we can do nothing more than try to prevent them and learn from them, to use the present in order to make the best of it for the future. It is not about predicting the future, which is impossible. "No one ever builds a disaster recovery plan that allows for the destruction of everybody in the office at 8:45 am. That is never the plan," assures Howard W. Lutnick, CEO at Cantor Fitzgerald on the how the company dealt with the 9/11 terrorist attack aftermath. Paradoxically, Rice and Zegart maintain that the best way to deal with crises is not having them. Henceforth, they dedicate a whole chapter to providing key takeaways in order to better respond to crises. Politics has always been an unpredictable business. There is no one that can discern accurately how human history is going to unfold. However, the authors are convinced that managing political risks does not have to be pure guesswork and that being prepare is essential and can improve companies performances in a great deal.
Political Risk: How Businesses and Organizations can Anticipate Global Insecurity completely revamps the way we reflect on the topic. It is easy to notice both authors proficiency in the field. On one hand, the past experiences of former U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice serve as anecdotes to elucidate the build-up of the theoretical framework. It is valuable to have such a persona to act as a primary source that has lived among other high-end characters and important people in history. On the other hand we have Professor Amy B. Zegart, who with her natural eloquence excels in conveying the importance of political risk management nowadays. Consequently, everyone can get a precious lesson from this book, ranging from students that are interested in navigating the sphere, to everyday workers, company owners and public servants.
[Winston Lord, Kissinger on Kissinger. Reflections on Diplomacy, Grand Strategy, and Leadership. All Points Books. New York, 2019. 147 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
At 96 years old, Henry Kissinger sees the publication of another book largely his own: the transcription of a series of long interviews related to the main foreign actions of the Nixon Administration, in which he served as national security adviser and secretary of state. Although he himself has already written extensively about those moments and has provided documentation for others to write about – as in the case of the biography of Niall Ferguson, whose first volume appeared in 2015 – Kissinger wanted to return to that period of 1969-1974 to offer a synthesis of the strategic principles that motivated the decisions taken at the time. There are no new developments, but there are details that may be of interest to historians of that time.
The work does not respond to Kissinger's last-minute desire to influence a particular reading of his work. bequest. In fact, the initiative to maintain the dialogues transcribed here did not come from him. It is, however, part of a wave of vindication of the presidency of Richard Nixon, whose strategic vision in international politics was tarnished by Watergate. The Nixon Foundation promoted the making of a series of videos, including various interviews with Kissinger, carried out throughout 2016. These were led by Winston Lord, partner during his time in the White House and in the department of State, together with K. T. McFarland, would then be a civil servant under him (and, for a few months, issue two of the committee of Homeland Security under Donald Trump). More than two years later, that conversation with Kissinger is now published in a small-format and short work. His last books had been "China" (2011) and "World Order" (2014).
Kissinger's oral history here deals with a few issues that focused his activity as a great architect of American foreign policy: the opening to China, the détente with Russia, the end of the Vietnam War, and the greater involvement in the Middle East. Although the conversation goes into detail and provides various anecdotes, what is substantial is what can be extracted beyond these specifics: they are the "reflections on diplomacy, grand strategy and leadership" indicated by the subtitle of the book. It might be tiresome to re-read the intra-history of a diplomatic action about which the protagonist himself has already been prolific, but on this occasion reflections are offered that transcend the specific historical period, which for many may already be very far away, as well as interesting recommendations on the decision-making processes in leadership positions.
Kissinger provides some clues, for example, on why the United States has consolidated the committee of National Security as an instrument of the president's foreign action, with an autonomous – and sometimes conflictive – life with respect to the department of State. The Nixon Administration was its great promoter, following the suggestion of Eisenhower, for whom Nixon had been vice president: interdepartmental coordination in foreign policy could hardly be done from a single point of view. department –the administrative office of state, but had to be carried out from the White House itself. While the National Security Adviser can concentrate on those actions that are most in the president's interest, the Secretary of State is obliged to disperse further, having to attend to a multitude of fronts. Moreover, unlike the greater promptness of the department in support of the Commander-in-Chief, the department The State of State, accustomed to elaborating multiple alternatives for each international issue, may take time to fully assume the direction imposed by the White House.
In terms of negotiating strategy, Kissinger rejects the idea of privately setting a maximum goal and then trim it little by little, like slices of a salami, as you reach the end of the negotiation. Instead, he proposes to set from the beginning the basic goals that one would like to achieve – perhaps adding 5% because something will have to be given – and to spend a lot of time explaining them to the other party, with the idea of reaching a conceptual understanding. Kissinger advises a good understanding of what motivates the other party and what their own objectives are, because "if you impose your interests, without linking them to the interests of others, you will not be able to sustain your efforts," since at the end of the negotiation the parties have to be willing to support what has been achieved.
As on other occasions, Kissinger does not take sole credit for the Nixon Administration's diplomatic successes. While the press and a certain part of academia have given greater recognition to the former Harvard professor, Kissinger himself has insisted that it was Nixon who decisively set the policies, the maturation of which had previously been carried out separately, before collaborating in the White House. However, it is perhaps in this book that Kissinger's words most praise the former president, perhaps because he was made in the framework of an initiative born from the Nixon Foundation.
"Nixon's fundamental contribution was to establish a patron saint of foreign policy thinking, which is seminal," Kissinger says. According to him, the traditional way of approaching U.S. foreign action had been to segment issues in order to try to solve them as individuated problems, making their resolution the question itself. "Nixon was – apart from the Founding Fathers and, I would say, Teddy Roosevelt – the American president who thought of foreign policy as grand strategy. For him, foreign policy was the structural improvement of the relationship between countries so that the balance of their self-interests promoted global peace and the security of the United States. And he thought about this in terms of relative long-range."
Those who have little sympathy for Kissinger – a character of passionate defenders but also staunch critics – will see in this work another exercise in self-congratulation and self-aggrandizement typical of the former adviser. To stay at that stage would be to waste a work that contains interesting reflections and I think that it completes well the thought of someone of such relevance in the history of international relations. What Affirmation staff Rather, the publication refers to Winston Lord, who here claims to be Kissinger's right-hand man at the time: in the first pages the complete photo of the interview between Nixon and Mao appears, the margins of which were cut off at the time by the White House so that Lord's presence would not disturb the secretary of state. who was not invited to the historic trip to Beijing.
[Francis Fukuyama, Identity. The demand for dignity and the politics of resentment. Deusto, Barcelona, 2019. 208 p.]
review / Emili J. Blasco
The democratic deterioration we are seeing in the world today is generating a literature of its own, like that which, on the opposite phenomenon, arose with the democratic springtime experienced after the fall of the Berlin Wall (what Huntington called the third wave of democratization). In that moment of optimism, Francis Fukuyama popularized the idea of the "end of history" -democracy as the final written request in the evolution of human institutions-; today, in this democratic autumn, Fukuyama warns in a new essay of the risk that identity, stripped of liberal safeguards, will phagocytize other values if it remains in the hands of resurgent populist nationalism.
The warning is not new. Huntington, who in 1996 published his Clash of Civilizations, highlighted the driving power of nationalism, was not moved by it; then, in recent years, various authors have referred to the recession of the democratic tide. Fukuyama quotation the expression of Larry Diamond "democratic recession", noting that compared to the leap made between 1970 and the beginning of the new millennium (from 35 to 120 electoral democracies), today the issue has decreased.
The last famous theorist of the International Office to write about this was John Mearsheimer, who in The Great Delusion notes how the world today realizes the naivety of thinking that the liberal architecture was going to dominate the domestic and foreign policy of nations. For Mearsheimer, nationalism is once again emerging strongly as an alternative. This had already been observed just after the decomposition of the Eastern Bloc and the USSR, with the Balkan war as a paradigmatic example, but the democratization of Central and Eastern Europe and its rapid entry into NATO led todelusion.
It has been the personality and policies of the current inhabitant of the White House that has put some American thinkers, including Fukuyama, on alert. "This book would not have been written if Donald J. Trump had not been elected president in November 2016," warns the Stanford University professor, director of his Center on Democracy, development and the Rule of Law. In his view, Trump "is both a product and a contributor to democratic decline" and is an exponent of the broader phenomenon of populist nationalism.
Fukuyama defines populism in terms of its leaders: "Populist leaders seek to use the legitimacy conferred by democratic elections to consolidate their power. They claim a direct and charismatic connection with the people, who are often defined in narrow ethnic terms that exclude important parts of the population. They dislike institutions and seek to undermine the checks and balances that limit a leader's power staff in a modern liberal democracy: courts, parliament, independent media and a non-partisan bureaucracy."
It is probably unfair to hold against Fukuyama some conclusions of The End of History and the Last Man (1992), a book often misinterpreted and taken out of his theoretical core topic . The author has then further concretized his thinking on the institutional development of social organization, especially in his titles Origins of Political Order (2011) and Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Present Day (2014). Already in the latter he pointed to the risk of regression, particularly in view of the polarization and lack of consensus in American politics.
In Identity, Fukuyama considers that non-ethnic nationalism has been a positive force in societies whenever it has been based on the construction of identities around liberal and democratic political values (he gives the example of India, France, Canada and the United States). This is because identity, which facilitates a sense of community and belonging, can contribute to six functions: physical security, quality of government, promotion of economic development , increase in the radius of trust, maintenance of social protection that mitigates economic inequalities, and facilitation of liberal democracy itself.
However -and this may be the book's intended warning-, at a time of recession of liberal and democratic values, these are going to accompany the identity phenomenon less and less, so that in many cases it may change from integrating to excluding.
[Pablo Simón, The modern prince: Democracy, politics and power. discussion, Barcelona 2018, 272 pages]
review / Alejandro Palacios
The International Office are guided in each State by a series of leaders and, indirectly, by political parties that are elected more or less democratically by the citizens. Therefore, the high volatility of the vote that we see spreading today in our societies has indirect repercussions on the drift of the international system. This book attempts to review the political systems of some countries to try to explain, in essence, how citizens interact within each political system. The relevance of the book is therefore more than justified.
In fact, by understanding the voting tendencies of citizens, shaped by social divisions and the political system they face, we can get an idea of why such politically radical leaders as Trump or Bolsonaro have emerged. For example, voting in a majoritarian system is not the same as voting in a proportional system. Nor do young people and adults, city dwellers and country dwellers, or men and women vote the same (divisions known as the triple electoral gap).
The author of the book, the Spanish political scientist Pablo Simón, takes as a starting point the Great Recession of 2008, a moment in which new political options began to emerge, encouraged in part by the loss of confidence in both traditional political parties and in the system itself. At the same time, the work attempts to vindicate the importance of the existence of a political science that, as such, is capable of taking a popular assertion about a relevant topic , contrast it empirically and draw mostly general conclusions that help to confirm or disprove that belief.
Pablo Simón also combines the practical analysis of real cases in different countries with theoretical clarifications. This financial aid makes it easy for less familiar readers to follow the explanations of the phenomena he explains reference letter, thus making this book accessible to the general public and not only to an audience specialized in political theory and analysis.
The comparison that the author makes of the different political systems of several countries (he talks about Spain, but also about France, Belgium and the United States, among others) makes this book an excellent guide of enquiry for all those who, without being specifically dedicated to it, want to have a global idea of the party systems in the rest of the world and of the reason for the current political dynamics.
As a counterpoint to the effort of knowledge dissemination there is logically a lesser depth in certain aspects addressed. But it is precisely this informative approach that makes the text pleasant to read, both for the clarity and conciseness of its content (not excessively technical and with theoretical clarifications) and for its length (barely 275 pages). In final, a book which constitutes the perfect guide for all those interested in the functioning of politics in a broad sense, its causes and effects.
[David Alandete. Fake News: The New Weapon of Mass Destruction. publishing house Planet. Barcelona, 2019. 296 pp.]
review / Naiara Goñi Pérez
The field of defence and security today is not limited only to the military field, but having acquired greater dimensions, it requires a approach global. Cybersecurity requires more attention than ever before, as it affects so many Structures as well as the civilian population (this is known as a "hybrid conflict"). The fields of information, communication and political and social sciences are equally affected; Here their threat moves under the names of fake news, disinformation, emotional truths, post-truth...
The book "Fake News: The New Weapon of Mass Destruction" is a research about the dimension and presence that disinformation has acquired in the media. The author points out in his book the lack of protection to which journalists are subjected at a time when control of the distribution of information has been lost, due, among other factors, to the proliferation of social networks. The motivation for the book itself arises from a smear campaign suffered by the author himself, who from the pages of El País, a newspaper of which he was direct attachment, denounced the presence of both Russian actors and Julian Assange, creator of Wikileaks, in the Catalan conflict.
David Alandete provides a large number of sources to support his arguments. He supports his story with numerous examples of fake news, details the methods used to spread disinformation, and reference letter programs of study that measure the impact of these practices on democracy.
Although, as stated above, the purpose The aim of the book is to document the role of fake news and disinformation around the Catalan referendum of 1-O. Alandete also addresses other examples of interference, such as Brexit, the yellow vest protests in France, the German elections...
A total of 20 chapters make up the structure of the book, with headlines taken from disinformation campaigns, such as "Tanks in the streets of Barcelona" or "No one could expect this to happen in a country as prosperous as Germany", which give an idea of what will be uncovered and denied in the following pages.
Disinformation seeks, broadly speaking and in the author's own words, to recreate an alternative reality in which the sources of information are frequently points of view or opinions and are generally manipulated. Another characteristic feature is the absence of signature, which makes it difficult to trace the veracity of a particular content and impossible to hold its author accountable. The goal The main focus behind these campaigns is to destabilize democracy, and it is carried out by "studying the fears of each country, appealing to the most deep-rooted problems in each society and publishing dubious or outright false information to create divisions." The main architects are the media that amplify the news (the growth in the employment bots); They also have as an ally a decisive factor pointed out from the beginning of the book: "Human psychology is the main reason for the success of disinformation".
The interest of the work lies in the analysis of the status Once the disinformation machinery has acted. Spain is a clear example of passivity in the face of this challenge, since, as the author points out, in the case of the illegal referendum held in Catalonia in 2018 "there was no foresight or strategy. The battle of communication was already lost." However, countries such as Germany promoted the anti-fake news law before the elections. The truth is that these measures involve a tension between freedom of expression and sanctions for disinformation. To overcome this dilemma, it is necessary to establish preventive measures in such a way as to eradicate the problem without falling into the subjugation of freedom of expression.
The great contribution of the book is, without a doubt, to illustrate this "theory of disinformation" with practical and real examples of it. In finalhis purpose to base their arguments on a research convinces the reader that fake news is indeed the new weapon of mass destruction. goal it is to destabilize democracies.
[Francisco Pascual de la Parte, The returning empire. The Ukrainian War 2014-2017: Origin, development, international environment and consequences. Editions of the University of Oviedo. Oviedo, 2017. 470 pages]
review / Vitaliy Stepanyuk[English version].
In this research on the Ukrainian war and the Russian intervention in the confrontation, the author analyzes the conflict focusing on its precedents and the international context in which it develops. For that purpose, he also analyzes with special emphasis Russia's relations with other states, particularly since the fall of the USSR. Above all, this study covers Russia's interaction with the United States, the European Union, the neighboring countries that emerged from the disintegration of the USSR (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania...), the Caucasus, the Central Asian republics (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan...), China and Russia's involvement in the Middle East conflict. All these relations have, in some way, repercussions on the Ukrainian conflict or are a consequence of it.
The book is structured, as the author himself explains in its first pages, in such a way that it allows for different ways of reading it. For those who wish to have a general knowledge of the Ukrainian question, they can read only the beginning of the book, which gives a brief description of the conflict from its two national perspectives. Those who also want to understand the historical background that led to the confrontation can also read the introduction. The second chapter explains the origin of Russian suspicion towards liberal ideas and the Western inability to understand Russian concerns and social changes. Those who wish to assimilate the conflict in all its details and understand its political, strategic, legal, economic, military and cultural consequences should read the rest of the book. Finally, those who just want to understand the possible solutions to the dispute can skip directly to the last two chapters. In the final pages, readers can also find an extensive bibliography used to write this volume and some appendices with documents, texts and maps relevant to the study of the conflict.
The Ukraine problem began in late 2013 with the protests at the place Maidan in Kiev. Almost six years later, the conflict seems to have lost international interest, but the truth is that the war continues and its end is not yet in sight. When it started, it was a shock no one expected. Hundreds of people took to the streets demanding better living conditions and an end to corruption. The international media made extensive coverage of what was happening, and everyone was aware of the news about Ukraine. Initially held peacefully, the protests turned violent due to repression by government forces. The president fled the country and a new, pro-European oriented government was established and accepted by the majority of citizens. However, this achievement was met by Russian intervention in Ukrainian territory, which resulted in the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula, in an action that Russia justified on the grounds that they were only protecting the Russian population living there. In addition, an armed conflict began in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and a Russian-backed separatist movement.
This is just a brief summary of how the conflict originated, but certainly things are more complex. According to the book, the Ukrainian war is not an isolated conflict that happened unexpectedly. In fact, the author argues that Russia's reaction was quite presumable in those years, due to the internal and external conditions in the country, generated by Putin's attitude and by the Russian mentality. The author lists warnings of what could happen in Ukraine and nobody noticed: civil protests in Kazakhstan in 1986, the Nagorno Karabakh War (a region between Armenia and Azerbaijan) started in 1988, the Transnistrian war (in Moldova) started in 1990, separatist movements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (two regions of Georgia).... Russia usually supported and helped the separatist movements, claiming in some cases that it had to protect the Russian minorities living in those places. This gave a fairly clear idea of Russia's position towards its neighbors and reflected that, despite having initially accepted the independence of these former Soviet republics after the fall of the USSR, Russia was not interested in losing its influence in these regions.
An interesting idea that is sample in the book is the fact that, although the USSR collapsed and Soviet institutions disappeared, the yearning for a strong empire remained, as well as the distrust and rivalry with the Western powers. These issues shape Russia's domestic and foreign policy, especially defining the Kremlin's relations with the other powers. The essence of the USSR persisted under another banner, because the Soviet elites remained undisturbed. One might think that the survival of these Soviet inertias is due to the ineffective reform process sustained by the Western liberal powers in the USSR after its collapse. But it should be noted that the sudden incursion of Western customs and ideas into a Russian society unprepared to assimilate them, without a strategy aimed at facilitating such change, had a negative impact on the Russian people. By the end of the 1990s, most Russians thought that the introduction of so-called "democratic reforms" and the free market, with its unexpected results of massive corruption and social deterioration, had been a big mistake.
In that sense, Putin's arrival meant the establishment of order in a chaotic society, although it meant the end of democratic reforms. Moreover, the people of Russia saw in Putin a leader capable of standing up to the Western powers (unlike Yeltsin, the previous Russian president, who had had a weak position towards them) and bringing Russia to the place it should occupy: Russia as a great empire.
One of the main consequences of the Ukrainian conflict is that the context of relations between Russia and the Western powers has frozen dramatically. Although their relations were bad after the collapse of the USSR, those relations deteriorated much further due to the annexation of Crimea and the war in Ukraine.
The Kremlin adopted suspicion, especially of the West, as a basic principle. At the same time, Russia fostered cooperation with China, Egypt, Syria, Venezuela, Iran, India, Brazil and South Africa as a means of confronting NATO, the EU and the United States. On the one hand, President Putin wanted to reduce the weight of Western powers in the international economic sphere; on the other hand, Russia also began to develop stronger relations with alternative countries in order to confront the economic sanctions imposed by the European Union. Due to these two reasons, Russia created the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), formed in May 2014, with the goal to build economic integration on the basis of a customs union. Today, the EAEU consists of five members: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
In addition, Russia has been extremely vocal in denouncing NATO's expansion into Eastern European countries. The Kremlin has used this topic as an excuse to strengthen its army and establish new alliances. Together with some allies, Russia has organized massive military trainings near the borders of Poland and the Balkan countries. It is also working to create disputes among NATO members and weaken the organization.
In particular, the Ukrainian conflict has also shown the differences between Russian determination and Western indecisiveness, meaning that Russia has been able to carry out violent and illegal measures without being met with solid and concrete solutions from the West. Arguably, Russia uses, above all, hard power, taking advantage of economic (the sale of oil and gas, for example) and military means to dictate the actions of another nation through coercion. Its use of soft power occupies, in some ways, a subordinate place.
According to some analysts, Russia's hybrid war against the West includes not only troops, weapons and computers (hackers), but also the creation of "frozen conflicts" (e.g., the Syrian war) that has established Russia as an indispensable party in conflict resolution, and the use of propaganda, the media and its intelligence services. In addition, the Kremlin was also involved in the financing of pro-Russian political parties in other countries.
Russian activity is incomprehensible if we do not take into consideration the strong and powerful propaganda (even more powerful than the propaganda system of the USSR) used by the Russian authorities to justify the behavior of the Government towards its own citizens and towards the international community. One of the most commonly used arguments is to blame the United States for all the conflicts that are occurring in the world and to justify Russia's actions as a reaction to an aggressive American position. According to the Russian media, the goal allegedly main U.S. goal is to oppress Russia and foment global disorder. In that sense, the general Russian tendency is to replace liberal democracy with the national idea, with great patriotic exaltations to create a sense of unity, against a definite adversary, the states with liberal democracies and the International Organizations.
Another interesting topic is the author's explanation of how different Russia's view of the world, security, relations between nations or the rule of law is compared to Western conceptions. While the West focuses on defense and enforcement of international law, Russia claims that each country is manager of its own security and takes all necessary measures in this regard (even if it contradicts international law or any international treaty or agreement ). Definitely, what we see today is a New Cold War consisting of a bloc of liberal-democratic states, tending towards the achievement of extensive globalized trade and finance, against another bloc of major totalitarian and capitalist-authoritarian regimes, with a clear tendency towards militarization.
Successes and outlook
The book offers a deep and broad view of what Russian foreign policy is today. It highlights the idea that the Ukrainian conflict is not an isolated dispute, but a conflict that is embedded in a much more complex network of circumstances. He makes it clear that the International Office does not function as a structured and patterned mechanism, but as a field where countries have different views on how the world is governed and what its rules should be. We could say that there is a struggle between a liberal vision supported by the West, which emphasizes international cooperation and the rejection of power as the only way to act in the international sphere, and a realist vision, defended by Russia, which explains foreign affairs in terms of power, state centralism and anarchy.
One of the strengths of the book is that sample presents the different positions of many different analysts, with criticisms of both Russian and Western activities. This allows the reader to examine the conflict from different perspectives and to acquire a comprehensive and critical view of topic. In addition, the text financial aid to learn and understand the real state of affairs in other countries of Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus, regions little known in Western society.
This is an excellent work from research, which allows to examine the complicated reality surrounding the war in Ukraine and to deepen the study of relations between nations.