Outstanding Academic Titles 2020: International Relations

Five International Relations titles selected from the Choice Reviews 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight the topic of International Relations.

1. Laying down the law: the American legal revolutions in occupied Germany and Japan
Kostal, R. W. Harvard, 2019

Kostal (law, Western Univ., Canada) delivers a thoroughly researched exploration of US legal operations in postwar Germany and Japan. Occupied following WW II, those one-time Axis powers endured attempts to remove the vestiges of fascist-style approaches to jurisprudence. However, as Kostal carefully explains, their experiences were dissimilar. The American sector of occupied Germany, under General Lucius D. Clay, soon allowed German lawyers and judges to reassert control over legal practices, a process abetted by an American belief in shared approaches to the law, in addition to clear ethnocentrism. By contrast, racist assumptions drove US occupation of Japan, and General Douglas MacArthur was initially committed to bringing about a revolution in that nation’s legal and political processes. Nevertheless, as the Cold War took hold, liberal sensibilities gave way to anti-communist practices that allowed for “former” Nazis to reestablish preeminence in Germany and hard-line conservatives to do the same in Japan. Democratic trappings were put in place, but nothing akin to the Rooseveltian legal revolution once envisioned by key American strategists.
View on Amazon

2. Reluctant interveners: America’s failed responses to genocide from Bosnia to Darfur
Mayroz, Eyal. Rutgers, 2020

Why does the US consistently condemn genocides while simultaneously failing to intervene to stop them? Those interested in answers to this vital question will especially welcome this book. Delving deep into domestic politics, Mayroz (peace and conflict studies, Univ. of Sydney, Australia) illustrates how an intricate relationship between the general public, media, elites, and politicians shapes US foreign policy toward mass atrocities. The author also sheds light on when and why the genocide label itself is used. Detailed discussion of the debates surrounding Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Darfur help place the theoretical argument in context. Though Mayroz points toward the potential for change, the reader will come away realizing just how much would need to happen for the US and the world to take meaningful action to put an end to genocide. View on Amazon

3. Constructing allied cooperation: diplomacy, payments, and power in multilateral military coalitions
Henke, Marina E. Cornell, 2019

Henke (Northwestern Univ.) seeks to explain the formation of multilateral military coalitions. These do not arise spontaneously, as countries vary enormously in the extent to which they are willing to commit military force. Instead, these coalitions are constructed by what Henke calls pivotal states, those that most want to form these coalitions. The pivotal state uses both bargaining and side payments to get others to join the coalition, and mobilizes its bilateral and multilateral diplomatic connections—what the author terms “diplomatic embeddedness.” Henke opens with her theoretical argument, then launches into a quantitative analysis of 80 multilateral military coalitions. Subsequent chapters cover four qualitative case studies of multilateral military coalitions in different contexts: the Korean War, Darfur, the independence of East Timor, and conflict in Chad and the Central African Republic. The pivotal states in these cases were the US (in the first two cases), Australia, and France, providing a good range for analysis. View on Amazon

4. Nuclear weapons and American grand strategy
Gavin, Francis J. Brookings, 2020

In this superb book Gavin (history, Johns Hopkins—SAIS) looks at the US’s grand strategy on nuclear weapons from a historian’s perspective. He does a superb job of uncovering the gap between the rhetoric and reality of US military strategy in Europe, and he addresses the tensions/contradictions of advocating nuclear abstinence on the one hand and practicing military buildup and an aggressive strategy of nuclear primacy on the other. Gavin raises important issues, e.g., the future of nuclear nonproliferation if the US does not exercise leadership to prevent the emergence of more nuclear weapon states. He observes that the literature has neglected important issues, e.g., the US’s policy of protecting allies from the Soviet Union under a “nuclear umbrella,” even after the end of the Cold War. Gavin concludes that the US’s reliance on nuclear weapons may have “outlived its utility,” and calls for a vigorous debate on whether the US should continue to invest in nuclear weapon capabilities or instead practice self-restraint while encouraging nuclear abstinence on the part of others
View on Amazon

5Culture and order in world politics
ed. by Andrew Phillips and Christian Reus-Smit Cambridge, 2020

Building on Reus-Smit’s On Cultural Diversity: International Theory in a World of Difference (2018), Phillips and Reus-Smit (both, international relations, Univ. of Queensland, Australia) offer a pathbreaking collection on international relations. Written by outstanding international relations scholars, the 15 essays argue that culture is a diverse phenomenon affecting world order and institutional structures. Employing an interdisciplinary approach to political organization, the volume opposes the European and static dictate of the widely accepted Westphalian nation-state. The contributors point out that examples of cultural diversity are found in such widely separated systems as the Ottoman Turkish empire and selected ancient Chinese regimes, and serve as civic orders. The growing importance of a new liberal international order is brought out with an emphasis on religion in Israel and Pakistan. Gender as a sociological and anthropological concept is discussed as it appears in Western literature. In sum, this collection’s overall theoretical approach moves away from acceptance of culture as a homogeneous system and toward a diverse set of norms and beliefs, showing that varied forms of cultural expression can serve as the basis of identification leading to mobilization for political interests.
View on Amazon

Sign up to receive our weekly 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles snippet list in your inbox.

Read more about Choice Outstanding Academic Titles.