Article online: Small States, Great Power?

3-cover-sourceI am glad that my new article, “Small States, Great Power? Gaining Influence Through Intrinsic, Derivative, and Collective Power” is now available for online, full-text  advance access at International Studies Review.

Abstract: In recent years, scholars have devoted increased attention to the agency of small states in International Relations. However, the conventional wisdom remains that while not completely powerless, small states are unlikely to achieve much of significance when faced by great power opposition. This argument, however, implicitly rests on resource-based and compulsory understandings of power. This article explores the implicit connections between the concept of “small states” and diverse concepts of power, asking how we should understand these states’ attempts to gain influence and achieve their international political objectives. By connecting the study of small states with more diverse understandings of power, the article elaborates the broader avenues for influence that are open to many states but are particularly relevant for small states. The article argues that small states’ power can be best understood as originating in three categories: “derivative,” collective, and particular-intrinsic. Derivative power, coined by Michael Handel, relies upon the relationship with a great power. Collective power involves building coalitions of supportive states, often through institutions. Particular-intrinsic power relies on the assets of the small state trying to do the influencing. Small states specialize in the bases and means of these types of power, which may have unconventional compulsory, institutional, structural, and productive aspects.

UFOs and Argentina

Apparently, the most widely thing I will ever write was less than 140 characters on UFOs in Argentina in 1947.

I am currently hard at work in the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri. While digging through diplomatic cables, I found a funny letter that a guy in Argentina sent to Harry Truman, giving his take on the new “fenemenum” of “flying plates” appearing in night skies around the world. So, I tweeted out a picture of the letter (below).

And now, through another funny coincidence, I have learned that by the end of the day, Argentina’s La Nación, one of the country’s biggest papers, wrote an article about the 70-year-old letter and tweet. Unfortunately, the signature isn’t legible, so the clever writer isn’t getting his dues.

From the records, Truman never answered, which of course leads one to wonder…what was he hiding? Perhaps some very aerodynamic china…

Give to WOLA

I care about US-Latin American relations. A lot. Important relationships with our neighbors should not be held hostage to late night Twitter rants threatening to overturn good policy changes toward Cuba or to deport people from their communities after they escaped situations of poverty and violence; our neighbor’s societies should not suffer due to campaign rhetoric of building walls and or blowing apart economic and social relationships.
I also care about human rights in Latin America, the rights of migrants, and challenges to security in Latin America. The United States is often deeply implicated in these problems, and we should be a part of trying to improve them. I believe that solid research and dedicated, informed advocacy can make a difference on these issues. The Washington Office on Latin America has been doing this with great integrity for decades.
Because of that, I support WOLA. From here on out, any royalties from my first book, Latin America Confronts the United States, will go to WOLA. Those of you in academia know that’s probably not going to be a lot, but I feel it’s fitting that my research supports this cause in a small way.

Brazil in the Recreation of the Inter-American Order, 1944-1948

58-590I will be joining the Oxford Latin America Centre’s weekly History seminar this Thursday (1 December) to present on my new and ongoing research on the recreation of the Inter-American order in the waning days of World War II. Details are here. The work has been supported by a grant from the British Academy, (soon) by the Truman Library Institute, and (later, for writing) by a University of Reading Research 2020 Fellowship.

Please join me in Oxford this Thursday!


Fidel Castro dies

Decades ago, Fidel Castro told my mentor, Robert Pastor: “I know what your country’s policy towards me is. It’s to wait for me to die. And I don’t intend to comply!”
castroEventually, we all comply with that particular policy. Castro indelibly shaped the lives of generations of his fellow citizens in Cuba, sometimes for better by instilling national pride, increasing national independence, and improving health, arts, and education; and often for worse, by hanging onto power for decades, repressing dissent, and pressing on with disastrous policies that maintained state control but impoverished the country. His is a life that historians will debate for a very long time.
Here are some of the first takes of history:
El Universal (Mexico), with the video of Raúl Castro’s announcement on Cuban TV
CubaDebate (nothing from Granma yet)
El Tiempo (Colombia)
El Pais (Spain, with video)

Interview: FGV’s Pocket Talks

Many thanks to CPDOC at Fundação Getùlio Vargas for taking the time to talk with me about my work for their Pocket Talks series. I talk a little about my book, Latin America Confronts the United States, and about the archival research I was doing in Brazil over the summer. It was an honor to spend time at CPDOC as a visiting researcher this summer.


Santos, peace, and the Nobel prize

On Oct. 7, Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016. This comes on the heels of a referendum in which Colombian voters rejected Santos’ peace accords with the rebel Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) by a razor-thin margin. The announcement surprised some Nobel observers who argued that the negative vote in the referendum had sunk the Colombian president’s Nobel. Some went so far as to declare Colombia “off the list of Nobel Peace Prize contenders” (in a headline, no less). So, why did Santos win and what does it mean for peace? Here are five questions on President Santos and the Nobel Peace Prize.


  1. Why did Santos win? Didn’t peace fail in Colombia?
    The peace accords failed the vote, but peace is still alive — though at serious risk. Before the vote, Santos repeatedly said that there “was no Plan B” if the accords were rejected by voters. That seems to have been the case. Neither the government nor the opposition had a clear next step. However, Santos quickly convened opposition leaders, including former president Álvaro Uribe, and made public declarations that Colombia should not return to arms. This was echoed by the leadership of the FARC, though the group is not yet leaving its weapons. In this context, the Nobel is not only a recognition of Santos’ efforts over four years. It is a statement from the committee that the peace process must continue — and that it should move forward under the leadership of President Santos. The talks have continued this week, as the “No” camp is clarifying its own position.
  2. Why did the award go to Santos alone?
    In the past, the Nobel committee has recognized former adversaries with shared awards. Most notably, this includes Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk in South Africa and Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres in the Middle East peace talks in 1994. Could this award have been shared with the FARC leadership? The ‘No’ vote erased that possibility, but it was small to begin with. The referendum made clear the group’s deep unpopularity given a record of rights violations, and Colombians would have bristled at a FARC leader’s inclusion. Certainly, many despised Arafat for his past actions, too, but the Palestinian leader could claim a large constituency in a way the FARC cannot. More importantly, it would not have been helpful to the ongoing talks with the opposition, and that was a foremost concern for the committee. While the award has Santos’ name on it, the committee’s statement goes to great lengths to recognize the Colombian people and victims of the conflict — and to urge them to continue working for peace.
  3. Is the Nobel Committee trying to influence the peace process?
    Yes, in a sense. The award is a statement of support from the international community for peace. International support is fairly undivided, even as the question splits Colombians. The peace process brought together the Obama administration with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, one of the few issues on which the two governments agree. The award may buttress Santos’ prestige and position to some extent, but the fact is that he remains unpopular domestically.
  4. Will the Nobel Peace Prize help the cause of peace in Colombia?
    Perhaps not. In the wake of the referendum, it has become increasingly clear that leaders of the opposition were less concerned about particular clauses of the peace deal than about their political futures and legacies. Above all, it seems that Uribe seeks to place his own stamp on the agreements — and to claim a share of the credit for the peace. The prize further marks Santos as the man of peace, and it might not help relations between the current president and his predecessor. There is an element of ego in the political contest between the two men. At the moment, the key questions are whether the two sides can agree on a deal, and whether that deal will be palatable to the FARC leadership and rank-and-file, as well as to victim’s groups who strongly supported the initial accords. It is not clear any of those actors will be impressed by the Nobel.
  5. Would Santos have won if the referendum had passed?
    Quite possibly, but with a very different narrative. If the referendum had won by a wide margin, as many pollsters expected, then Santos would have won for bringing the Colombian population from war toward peace and forgiveness. With peace hanging in the balance, the Nobel is a vote for hope. The referendum made clear the political gamble Santos took for peace. The Nobel is a fine reward, but ultimately a lasting peace with broader domestic and international support is the prize Santos wants and Colombia needs.

BBC 5 Live Radio Interview

p01l80mbI finally found the interview I did with BBC 5 Live radio with Dotun Adebayo of “Up All Night.” I didn’t hear it air live, because the show really is “all night.” It aired around 4 a.m. in the UK! Anyhow, it is available now at the 3:17:30 mark through the BBC Radio player and we talked for seven or eight minutes. Thanks to Dotun and BBC Radio for having me on.

Pastrana and the peace

I have a new article up at Latin America Goes Global, the excellent site managed by Chris Sabatini and company. The piece draws on my research in Latin America Confronts the United States on the initiation of Plan Colombia, in the context of Colombia’s previous round of peace talks with the FARC under President Andrés Pastrana.

Pastrana has emerged as one of the most vocal opponents of the current peace accord, negotiated by the administration of Juan Manuel Santos. Given his own legacy, this has surprised many — including some prominent members of the Pastrana administration’s peace effort.

In the article, I describe Pastrana’s own commitment to peace during his presidency, describe his opposition to the current accords (drawing on his prodigious public commentary), and compare those criticisms to his legacy.

Pastrana’s own peace talks didn’t get far beyond establishing a 12-point agenda. The president was famously jilted for a meeting by FARC commanders.

From the piece:

“While many foreigners have been swept up in the excitement over the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), Colombia’s own political class is more divided. For one, President Juan Manuel Santos faces stiff opposition from two of his presidential predecessors, Álvaro Uribe and Andrés Pastrana.

The positions these former presidents have adopted—and how those positions are perceived—matter. Both men, especially Uribe, retain influential bully pulpits. Though, to a lesser degree, Pastrana’s word also carries weight as a president who himself tried and failed to reach a peace agreement with the FARC.”

Read the rest at LAGG.