Why Nations Fight

Why Nations Fight: Past and Future Motives for War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

Four generic motives have historically led states to initiate war: fear, interest, standing, and revenge. Using an original data set, Richard Ned Lebow examines the distribution of wars across three and a half centuries and argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, only a minority of these were motivated by security or material interest. Instead, the majority are the result of a quest for standing, and for revenge - an attempt to get even with states who had previously made successful territorial grabs. Lebow maintains that today none of these motives are effectively served by war - it is increasingly counterproductive - and that there is growing recognition of this political reality. His analysis allows for more fine-grained and persuasive forecasts about the future of war as well as highlighting areas of uncertainty.

-Cambridge University Press

Forbidden Fruit

Forbidden Fruit: Counterfactuals and International Relations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010).

Could World War I have been averted if Franz Ferdinand and his wife hadn't been murdered by Serbian nationalists in 1914? What if Ronald Reagan had been killed by Hinckley's bullet? Would the Cold War have ended as it did? In Forbidden Fruit, Richard Ned Lebow develops protocols for conducting robust counterfactual thought experiments and uses them to probe the causes and contingency of transformative international developments like World War I and the end of the Cold War. He uses experiments, surveys, and a short story to explore why policymakers, historians, and international relations scholars are so resistant to the contingency and indeterminism inherent in open-ended, nonlinear systems. Most controversially, Lebow argues that the difference between counterfactual and so-called factual arguments is misleading, as both can be evidence-rich and logically persuasive. A must-read for social scientists, Forbidden Fruit also examines the binary between fact and fiction and the use of counterfactuals in fictional works like Philip Roth's The Plot Against America to understand complex causation and its implications for who we are and what we think makes the social world work.

-Cambridge University Press

A Cultural Theory of International Relations

A Cultural Theory of International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,2008).

Chinese and Japanese translations forthcoming.

In this volume, Richard Ned Lebow introduces his own constructivist theory of political order and international relations based on theories of motives and identity formation drawn from the ancient Greeks. His theory stresses the human need for self-esteem, and shows how it influences political behavior at every level of social aggregation. Lebow develops ideal-type worlds associated with four motives: appetite, spirit, reason and fear, and demonstrates how each generates a different logic concerning cooperation, conflict and risk-taking. Expanding and documenting the utility of his theory in a series of historical case studies, ranging from classical Greece to the war in Iraq, he presents a novel explanation for the rise of the state and the causes of war, and offers a reformulation of prospect theory. This is a novel theory of politics by one of the world's leading scholars of international relations.

-Cambridge University Press

Coercion, Cooperation, and Ethics in International Relations

Coercion, Cooperation, and Ethics in International Relations (New York: Routledge, 2006).

This volume brings together the recent essays of Richard Ned Lebow, one of the leading scholars of international relations and US foreign policy.

Lebow's work has centred on the instrumental value of ethics in foreign policy decision making and the disastrous consequences which follow when ethical standards are flouted. Unlike most realists who have considered ethical considerations irrelevant in states' calculations of their national interest, Lebow has argued that self interest, and hence, national interest can only be formulated intelligently within a language of justice and morality. The essays here build on this pervasive theme in Lebow's work by presenting his substantive and compelling critique of strategies of deterrence and compellence, illustrating empirically and normatively how these strategies often produce results counter to those that are intended. The last section of the book, on counterfactuals, brings together another set of related articles which continue to probe the relationship between ethics and policy. They do so by exploring the contingency of events to suggest the subjective, and often self-fulfilling, nature of the frameworks we use to evaluate policy choices.



The Tragic Vision of Politics: Ethics, Interests and Orders (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Is it possible to preserve national security through ethical policies? Richard Ned Lebow seeks to show that ethics are actually essential to the national interest. Recapturing the wisdom of classical realism through a close reading of the texts of Thucydides, Clausewitz and Hans Morgenthau, Lebow argues that, unlike many modern realists, classic realists saw close links between domestic and international politics, and between interests and ethics. Lebow uses this analysis to offer a powerful critique of post-Cold War American foreign policy. He also develops an ontological foundation for ethics and makes the case for an alternate ontology for social science based on Greek tragedy's understanding of life and politics. This is a topical and accessible book, written by a leading scholar in the field.

-Cambridge University Press

The Art of Bargaining

The Art of Bargaining (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996).

Bargaining for what we want or need is a part of our everyday lives. But how often do we stop to consider all the factors that go into the bargaining process? How often do we look at the strategies and tactics available to us? And how often do we hurt our own position by failing to do so?

In The Art of Bargaining, Richard Ned Lebow draws on his years of experience with the United States government, NATO, and numerous European and American businesses to explain the principles of negotiation-from buying a car to planning business mergers to signing an international treaty. Unlike studies that examine only what is said and done at the negotiation table, The Art of Bargaining looks at the context in which negotiation takes place-and shows why some of the most critical decisions about bargaining are made even before the parties sit down to talk.

Lebow begins with a discussion of the nature of bargaining and why people choose to bargain. Because bargaining is a strategy, it is imperative to consider the end goal before deciding on the means for achieving it. Lebow explores the relationship between bargaining and its goals and compares the bargaining process with some other strategies-such as coercion or threats-that can achieve similar goals.

An in-depth study of the decision to negotiate reveals that there are three distinct approaches to the process: coordination (mutual accommodation of both parties' interests); punishment (the use of threats to influence agreement); and reward (making agreements seem more attractive through incentives). Lebow explains how all three approaches can be used effectively once the context of the negotiation has been properly analyzed.

Using concrete examples of negotiation from everyday life as well as world politics, The Art of Bargaining provides the reader with ways to increase bargaining leverage, analyze the strategies and goals of bargaining opponents, and overcome the obstacles that present themselves at the negotiation table.

-Johns Hopkins University Press

We All Lost the Cold War

We All Lost the Cold War , co-authored with Janice Gross Stein (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994).

Drawing on recently declassified documents and extensive interviews with Soviet and American policy-makers, among them several important figures speaking for public record for the first time, Ned Lebow and Janice Stein cast new light on the effect of nuclear threats in two of the tensest moments of the Cold War: the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 and the confrontations arising out of the Arab-Israeli war of 1973. They conclude that the strategy of deterrence prolonged rather than ended the conflict between the superpowers.

-Princeton University Press

When Does Deterrence Succeed and How Do We Know?

When Does Deterrence Succeed and How Do We Know? , co-authored with Janice Gross Stein (Ottawa: Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security, 1990). French edition, 1990.

Although deterrence is an ancient strategy, it has assumed special prominence in the nuclear age where the purpose of military establishments has increasingly become preventing instead of winning wars. Deterrence theory and strategy have gained widespread acceptance, but the main propositions of deterrence have never been subjected to the usual testing prescribed by social science. This monograph reviews existing studies of deterrence and identifies their inadequacies. Lebow and Stain then build on this critique to reformulate deterrence theory and elaborate a new research programme to test its central propositions.

Canadian Institute for International Peace and Security

Nuclear Crisis Management

Nuclear Crisis Management: A Dangerous Illusion (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, January 1987).

Could the superpowers now emerge unscathed from a major confrontation as they did from the Cuban missile crisis of 1962? Why do today's nuclear forces and their complex, exceedingly vulnerable command and control make a superpower crisis so difficult to manage? What can be done to prevent nuclear crises and to increase our chances of survival if one were to occur? Nuclear Crisis Management takes up these questions in a searching comparison of crisis management past and present.

Richard Ned Lebow spells out the implications of historical experience for American perceptions of the place of crisis management in superpower strategic relations. Identifying and discussing three reasons for the outbreak of World War I- preemption, loss of control, and miscalculated escalation- he argues that all three are equally serious threats to peace and survival. He documents how psychological stress in past crises has induced erratic, dysfunctional behavior from national leaders, even paralysis. A nuclear crisis, he argues, would generate even more acute stress because of the unprecedented destructiveness of nuclear weapons and the extreme time pressure that leaders are likely to face.

Although pessimistic in its assumptions, this book is not fatalistic in its conclusions. Lebow makes several practical recommendations, both political and technical, that would reduce crisis instability, and with it the likelihood of war. "Official US thinking has remained rigid and doctrinaire," he writes, "at a time when international relations have become more complex and the consequences of miscalculation incalculably tragic." His primary objective is to encourage a conceptual shift in our thinking about the nature of nuclear crisis and appropriate means of preventing and coping with it.

Nuclear Crisis Management stands as a challenge to conventional approaches to nuclear strategy and crisis management. Political scientists, psychologists, policymakers, and everyone concerned with the threat of nuclear war will find its arguments provocative and compelling.

-Cornell University Press

Psychology and Deterrence

Psychology and Deterrence , co-authored with Robert Jervis and Janice Gross Stein (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985).

In this major reassessment of the fundamental concept in contemporary American foreign policy, distinguished analysts draw on psychological propositions to explain why deterrence so often fails to work in practice. Their approach grows out of the compelling recognition of deterrence as a psychological strategy that has a series of hidden and generally simplistic assumptions about the relationship between power and aggression, threat and response, and calculation and behavior of would-be adversaries.

Most current analyses of deterrence, the authors note, have ignored decision-makers' emotions, perceptions, and domestic political needs, relying instead on deductions from the premise that people act in highly rational ways. In contrast, Psychology and Deterrence employs an inductive technique, extrapolating from numerous highly instructive cases of international conflict. The study includes original case studies of the origins of World War I, the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, and the Falklands War from the perspectives of the most important participants.

The case studies indicate that leaders are both more cautious and more prone to risk-taking than the theory predicts. They also suggest that judgments of the credibility of another state's commitment may have little to do with its bargaining reputation. In addition, there is some evidence that the timing of foreign policy challenges may be independent of the relative military balance between the parties involved. Deterrence strategies can, in fact, intensify adversarial insecurities and thereby elicit the very behavior they seek to prevent.

The insights derived from the cases have important implications for superpower bargaining and nuclear deterrence. They suggest that nuclear deterrence, as currently practiced, does not address some of the fundamental causes of aggressive behavior on the part of either superpower and may actually aggravate international tensions, increasing the likelihood of war.

-Johns Hopkins University Press

Between Peace and War

Between Peace and War: The Nature of International Crisis (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981).

When is war the result of a nation's deliberate decision to advance its vital interests by force of arms? When is it brought about by miscalculation? What causes policy-makers to misjudge the consequences of their actions? Between Peace and War takes up these and other questions in a comparative study of the origins, politics, and outcomes of international crisis based on data from twenty-seven historical cases.

Lebow offers a typology of acute international crisis, using data from his sample to identify three distinct types of crisis. Using cognitive and motivational models of information processing, he explains the slow rate of learning and erratic steering that often characterize the management of these confrontations. In the final part of his book, Lebow examines the relationship between crisis and the underlying causes of international conflict.

-Johns Hopkins University Press

White Britain and Black Ireland

White Britain and Black Ireland: Social Stereotypes and Colonial Policy Policy (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1976).

In White Britain and Black Ireland Richard Ned Lebow explores the nineteenth-century background to Britain's difficulties with Ireland in the present century. According to Professor Lebow, the British saw the Irish as lazy, complacent, superstitious and violent and the government's policy reflected this stereotype. If the Irish were too lazy to help themselves, why be concerned about the destruction of their economy? If they were so accustomed to poverty that they were content with it, why extend them relief? Originally a conscious creation of the supporters of Henry II (the English conqueror of Ireland), the stereotype of the nineteenth century dominated the British mind and distorted the perceptions of the general public and the policy makers alike.

Professor Lebow demonstrates how the image of the Irish as an inherently inferior people helped the British to justify their domination and oppression of Ireland. It explained why a country of libertarian ideals could pursue a policy that was, to all appearances, in direct conflict with those ideals. The English convinced themselves that they were providing the only possible rational government for a people incapable of governing themselves. In this sense, the prevailing stereotype of the Irish was useful to the British. On the other hand, when nationalistic and reform movements arose, the Britons' preconceptions prevented them from realizing the true nature of the protest and the extent of popular support. The stereotype became what the author calls a perceptual prison. Trapped within this, British officials were unable to respond wisely to the demands of the Repealers, the Young Irelanders, the Fenians and the host of other groups that arose to demand redress for Irish grievances. As a consequence, the very stereotype that justified British colonialism contributed in the end to its failure and collapse.

In his final chapter, Professor Lebow suggests that the phenomenon he examines is by no means unique to Ireland. He links the British experience to that of other nations in other colonies, throughout Asia and Africa. In so doing, he presents incisive interpretation of the decline and fall of colonial empire.

-Institute for the Study of Human Issues

Edited Books

Tragedy and International Relations

Tragedy and International Relations , co-edited with Toni Erskine (London: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011).

Unmaking the West

Unmaking the West: "What-If" Scenarios that Rewrite World History , co-edited with Philip Tetlock and Geoffrey Parker. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006).

What if the Persians had won at Salamis? What if Christ had not been crucified? What if the Chinese had harnessed steam power before the West? Disparaged by some as a mere parlor game, counterfactual history is seen by others as an indispensable historical tool. Taking as their point of inquiry the debate over the inevitability of the rise of the West, the eminent scholars in Unmaking the West argue that there is no escaping counterfactual history. Whenever we make claims of cause and effect, we commit ourselves to the assumption that if key links in the causal chain were broken, history would have unfolded otherwise. Likewise, without counterfactual history we all too easily slip into the habit of hindsight bias, forgetting, as soon as we learn what happened, how unpredictable the world looked beforehand, and closing our minds to all the ways the course might have changed. This collection is thus both an exploration of alternative scenarios to world history and an exercise in testing the strengths and weaknesses of counterfactual experiments.

-University of Michigan Press

Theory and Evidence

Theory and Evidence in Comparative Politics and International Relation , co-edited with Mark I. Lichbach (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2007).

This book explores the epistemology and the methodology of political knowledge and social inquiry: what can we know, and how do we know? Contributing authors offer answers, addressing the purpose and methods of research and analyzing concepts, including the relationship of theory and evidence and the importance of medicine to social science.


The Politics of Memory in Post-War Europe

The Politics of Memory in Postwar Europe , co-edited with Claudio Fogu and Wulf Kansteiner. (Duke University Press, 2006).

For sixty years, different groups in Europe have put forth interpretations of World War II and their respective countries' roles in it consistent with their own political and psychological needs. The conflict over the past has played out in diverse arenas, including film, memoirs, court cases, and textbooks. It has had profound implications for democratization and relations between neighboring countries. This collection provides a comparative case study of how memories of World War II have been constructed and revised in seven European nations: France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, and the USSR (Russia). The contributors include scholars of history, literature, political science, psychology, and sociology. Country by country, they bring to the fore the specifics of each nation's postwar memories in essays commissioned especially for this volume. The use of similar analytical categories facilitates comparisons.

An extensive introduction contains reflections on the significance of Europeans' memories of World War II and a conclusion provides an analysis of the implications of the contributors' findings for memory studies. These two pieces tease out some of the findings common to all seven countries: for instance, in each nation, the decade and a half between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s was the period of most profound change in the politics of memory. At the same time, the contributors demonstrate that Europeans understand World War II primarily through national frames of reference, which are surprisingly varied. Memories of the war have important ramifications for the democratization of Central and Eastern Europe and the consolidation of the European Union. This volume clarifies how those memories are formed and institutionalized.

-Duke University Press

Ending the Cold War

Ending the Cold War , co-edited with Richard K. Herrmann (New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2003).

Although in hindsight the end of the Cold War seems almost inevitable, almost no one saw it coming and there is little consensus over why it ended. A popular interpretation is that the Soviet Union was unable to compete in terms of power, especially in the area of high technology. Another interpretation gives primacy to the new ideas Gorbachev brought to the Kremlin and to the importance of leaders and domestic considerations. In this volume, prominent experts on Soviet affairs and the Cold War interrogate these competing interpretations in the context of five 'turning points' in the end of the Cold War process. Relying on new information gathered in oral history interviews and archival research, the authors draw into doubt triumphal interpretations that rely on a single variable like the superior power of the United States and call attention to the importance of how multiple factors combined and were sequenced historically. The volume closes with chapters drawing lessons from the end of the Cold War for both policy making and theory building.


IR and the End of the Cold War

International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War , co-edited with Thomas Risse-Kappen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995).

This engaging and provocative set of essays evaluates and reformulates international relations theory in light of revolutionary events of the past several years, particularly the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Contributors demonstrate that existing theoretical constructs neither anticipated nor can readily account for these transformations.

Including essays by prominent scholars in the field, International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War attempts to account for the downfall of a bipolar international order and to describe the world system that is now emerging.

-Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO)

Hegemonic Rivalry

Hegemonic Rivalry: From Thucydides to the Nuclear Age , co-edited with Barry R. Strauss (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1991).

This volume explores the nature and implications of great power rivalry by bringing together ancient historians, classicists, and political scientists to examine the similarities and differences between present-day superpower relations and the period preceding the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War in 431 B.C. It uses these two conflicts to test the validity and explanatory power of Realism, power transition theory, and other approaches to understanding war and seeks to distinguish between generic and idiosyncratic causes and manifestations of conflict.

-Westview Press

The Fallacy of Star Wars

The Fallacy of Star Wars , co-authored with Hans Bethe, Richard Garwin, Kurt Gottfried, Henry Kendall, et al. (New York: Random House, 1984).

The idea of overcoming the threat of nuclear attack by putting protective weapons in outer space antedates the Reagan Administration. But it was Reagan's call for "a total ballistic missile defense" that focused attention on the issue and underlined the continuing debate between the Administration and the scientific community over the technical feasibility of a Star Wars program, Soviet intentions, and treaty violations. This book, prepared by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent, non-profit organization, is an attempt to bridge the alarming gap in public understanding of these issues.

It consists of three parts: an introduction that explains the origins of space weapons and the historic struggle over the course of American defense policy, and rewritten, updated versions, addressed to the layman, of two recent USC reports: "Space-based Missile Defense," published in March 1984, and the May 1983 testimony on anti-satellite weapons, both of which have become touchstones of the space-weapons debate.

-Random House

Richard Cobden, England, Ireland, and America

Richard Cobden, England, Ireland and America (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1980).

John Stuart Mill on Ireland

John Stuart Mill on Ireland (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1979).

Divided Nations in a Divided World

Divided Nations in a Divided World , co-authored and edited with Gregory Henderson and John G. Stoessinger (New York: David McKay, 1974).