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A nation must think before it acts.
We begin the fall 2019 issue of Orbis with Walter A. McDougall’s splendid essay based on his 2019 Ginsburg-Satell lecture. In his 2018 lecture, he traced the American Founders’ ideas back to the Classical and Hebrew republicanism bequeathed by the Renaissance city-states of sixteenth-century Italy and the Cromwellian Commonwealth of seventeenth-century England. Here, he follows the journey of Ben Franklin from defender of the British Empire to American Patriot, examining some of the “what might have beens” if both the British and the American Colonists had been more conciliatory during the crisis of the British Empire.
In the first of two articles on China, Jacques deLisle, director of the Asia Program at FPRI, examines the ongoing crisis in Hong Kong, placing it in historical context: a long-running struggle over autonomy, democracy, and the rule of law in Hong Kong that dates to the pre-reversion period.
In the second, Thomas Shattuck examines China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the opportunities it offers to the United States to exploit the resulting corruption, financial instability, and debt trap diplomacy. He suggests that the United States could counter the BRI with the “Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development (BUILD) Act,” a better way to invest in developing nations and set the stage for competing more effectively with China.Next, John R. Haines takes a close look at Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty of 1949, which has been the lens that America and the world have used to view our security commitment to Europe. He argues that, contrary to our current understanding, Article 5 should be seen as a conditional commitment, requiring only that a member take “individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force.”
Carrie Lee uses the 2010 START treaty as a case study to examine the influence of political polarization and electoral politics on arms control. She contends that trends toward polarization and party sorting may have dramatic and unforeseen consequences for the future of U.S. foreign policy outcomes.
In our penultimate article, Kenneth L. Meyer examines the potential for a devastating pandemic arising from the interaction of climate change and urbanization. The future cannot be predicted, but it is useful to consider responses to a series of possible scenarios. Although it is not inevitable that we will face the worst-case scenario, it is important to ascertain our ability to deal with it should it arise.
In our last article, Jakub Grygiel brings his classical understanding of statecraft to bear on the limits of power. As Montesquieu taught in his reflections on the rise and fall of Rome, the main task of any state, even the most powerful, is to ensure a balance between the objectives of strategy and the resources available.
In our book review section, we welcome the aforementioned Jakub Grygiel as our new review editor. He replaces Chris Miller, who did an extraordinary job during his tenure. The first review, in fact, is by Chris, who revisits books about Japan from the 1980s to compare with the current predictions about China.
In the second review, Philipp Stelzel reviews Heidi J. S. Tworek, News from Germany: The Struggle to Control World Communications, 1900-1945.