As an undergraduate at the University of Chicago in the 1980s, my first exposure to great thinking about world politics and foreign policy came through reading articles from International Security. It was a golden age for security and strategic studies, and it played out in the pages of the journal with the funky font, snappy titles, long, discursive footnotes, unconventional article length, and alternating cover colors. The questions asked and answered were big, scholars actively engaged the concerns of policymakers, and no one questioned journal issues that focused on crucial historical events and that included articles by a former national security advisor, a historian, leading natural scientists, and top international relations scholars.
International Security published so many articles that changed the way we looked at the world. A few of my favorites from my younger days: At a time when the overwhelming consensus was that NATO was seriously outgunned, John J. Mearsheimer demonstrated in the 1982 essay, “Why the Soviets Can’t Win Quickly in Central Europe,” that NATO could hold the line if a full-on Warsaw Pact attack came.1 In the spring of 1983, using never-before-seen documents, David Rosenberg, in “The Origins of Overkill: Nuclear Weapons and American Strategy, 1945-1960,” painstakingly reconstructed the policies and processes that led to the massive nuclear forces of the United States.2 In “The Long Peace: Elements of Stability in the Postwar International System,” John Lewis Gaddis wrestled with the puzzle of why the fearsome ideological and geopolitical competition between the superpowers stayed peaceful.3 Marc Trachtenberg’s winter 1989 piece, “A Wasting Asset: American Strategy and the Shifting Nuclear Balance, 1949-1954,” revealed that the rapidly shifting military balance had profound political consequences during the most dangerous period of the Cold War.4 All four authors, it should be pointed out, penned these path-breaking pieces — articles that reached beyond their disciplinary bounds and spoke to questions of great policy relevance — while relatively young and before they had attained their current “moose-head” status.
Why do I bring this up in the introduction to this edition of the Texas National Security Review? First, our goal is to publish articles possessing similar range, style, importance, and impact. Sean, like his predecessors Steve Miller and Steve Van Evera, is a legend, having created a home for the best work of emerging scholars in international relations. Policy-relevant diplomatic history, security studies, and strategic studies have found themselves under siege in recent years, but under Sean’s leadership, International Security has stayed true to the mission of publishing clear and rigorous scholarship that help us better understand the consequential — and often contentious — issues surrounding war and peace. Sean deserves deepest thanks and best wishes from all of us.
The International Security that I grew up with has been a model for us as we think about what the Texas National Security Review can and should be. This is, admittedly, a high bar. But we are aiming very high. And we have not only learned from their successes. I suspect our pages will not see a repeat of the heavy dose of arcane theory — the so-called “battle of the -isms” — that took up much space in International Security and other international relations journals in the 1990s. And like all journals, we also hope to become a platform for more diverse voices. Like most, we are nowhere near where we want or should be. The Texas National Security Review is dependent upon the submissions we receive and the blind peer review process we embrace, but we are cooking up a variety of initiatives to identify, support, and publish new voices.
The excellent contributions in this issue have brought me back to those old issues of International Security. They include, amongst other excellent contributions, Philip Bobbitt combining constitutional law and history to bring unique reflections to the question of world order. Ulrike Franke diagnoses the recent troubles afflicting the transatlantic alliance. Daniel Sobelman engages the debate within international relations over alliances and entrapment by showing how the United States and Israel engaged in a sophisticated effort to shape each other’s behavior. And J. Peter Scoblic offers a fascinating window into how a young historian transformed research and forecasting within the American intelligence community, foreshadowing many of the methodological and substantive debates we are having today.
As we give thanks and bid Sean well, we hope that he and all those who understand and appreciate the crucial importance of rigorous and accessible scholarship — scholarship that transcends disciplines, speaks to the world of practice, and wrestles with big questions on — national and international security will enjoy this issue of the Texas National Security Review and those yet to come!
Francis J. Gavin is the Chairman of the Editorial Board of the Texas National Security Review. He is the Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and the inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at SAIS-Johns Hopkins University. His writings include Gold, Dollars, and Power: The Politics of International Monetary Relations, 1958-1971 (University of North Carolina Press, 2004) and Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age (Cornell University Press, 2012).
Image: Penn State