War and Diplomacy in an Age of Extremes


Jeremi Suri
University of Texas at Austin

Contemporary foreign policy is faster and more destructive than ever before.

It is dominated by high technology weapons, non-traditional soldiers, vast movements of money, and targeted transmissions of images and ideas. For more than a decade, experts have debated the relative influence of “hard” and “soft” power, but in reality the actions of the most powerful international actors have become more forceful than ever before since the Second World War. With the United States fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Russians invading Crimea, China building islands in international waters, and the Islamic State terrorizing occupied territories, it is hard to deny that muscle-flexing is the main medium of political communication in the world today.

Unlike in the Cold War, when the bipolar relations between the United States and the Soviet Union enforced self-limiting rules for international conduct, today the law of the jungle is the guiding principle of globalization. The strong feel free to take what they can. They fear that if they do not act forcefully, someone else will seize what is most valuable in a hyper-competitive international system. Our world has fewer big wars, but we are still always at war. Continue reading “War and Diplomacy in an Age of Extremes”