Book Club: November 2018 – International Relations

We’re excited to be releasing our third Book Club post. This month, we have selected works curated by VBI PF staff members Matthew Salah, Ellie Singer, and Chris Conrad focusing on international relations. These are fantastic works that are important for every debater to be familiar with when engaging in a complex topic area such as international relations. Feel free to leave comments or questions about the works we’ve selected at the Reddit thread.

Book: Nuclear Politics: The Strategic Causes of Proliferation by Alexandre Debs

Nuclear weapons can be a confusing topic, but it is important to understand both as a global reality and also as something that appears in basically any debate topic that involves international relations. “Nuclear Politics: The Strategic Causes of Proliferation” by Yale professors Alexandre Debs and Nuno Monteiro provides a rich analysis of why states acquire nuclear weapons, how they interact with other states, and how all of these patterns appear in history. While the book is pretty long, it’s extremely well written and you can certainly read it in bits and pieces if you so choose. Debs and Monteiro go case-by-case in every section, which helps readers understand not just the theories behind proliferation but also how they actually look. I love this book because instead of treating proliferation as something purely cerebral and theoretical it grounds theories very clearly in reality, which makes the book informative and accessible to audience members with any level of background interested in nuclear politics.

Pick up a copy of the book here.

Article: “Don’t Come Home America: The Case Against Retrenchment,” by Stephen Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William Wohlforth

“Don’t Come Home America: The Case Against Retrenchment,” by Stephen Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William Wohlforth is a fantastic article for students seeking to learn about great power politics in international relations. Brooks, Ikenberry, and Wohlforth take a realist perspective to forcefully argue in favor of US leadership of the international system (commonly known as hegemony). The article is focused on refuting arguments made by advocates of retrenchment, in which the US would pull back from its global commitments and distribute more burdens on its allies in order to reduce defense spending. I really like this article because it gives a very comprehensive introduction to the scholarly debate about the ideal US grand strategy. The article contains in-depth argumentation supporting US hegemony, and also lays out responses to common arguments made against US leadership. As a result, students will be introduced to both sides of the scholarly debate, and those seeking to read literature supporting the side of the scholarly debate will find plenty of resources in the footnotes of this article.

Find the article here.

Podcast: ‘A Feminist Voyage Through International Relations’ by J. Ann Tickner

International relations has historically been a field dominated by men. This is objectionable not only because it’s highly exclusionary, but also because it has a tangible impact on the theories the field produces. Ann Tickner pioneered the feminist perspective on IR: a doctrine that emphasizes subjectivity, contingency, and cooperation. In this podcast, Tickner outlines her feminist approach and uses it to analyze the hypermasculinity of US policy following 9/11. I recommend this piece because it’s important for students to understand that there are alternative frameworks to realism, and this podcast exemplifies the diversity of IR scholarship.

Find the podcast here.