Pushing Restraint

A sweeping institutional history of pst-war settlements leaves something to be desired, namely, more history.

Issue: Summer 2001

G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 203 pp., $55.

TO JUDGE from the accolades of his peers quoted on the cover of his new book, G. John Ikenberry is a distinguished political scientist who has written a distinguished book. In it, he has sought to draw on the resources both of his own discipline and of history--though one hopes it was not his decision to use Delacroix's splendid picture of the entry of the Crusaders to Constantinople in 1204 for its cover, for it has nothing to do with his subject matter, even if someone in the publisher's design department thought it did. That disaster was hardly a sequel to a victory and was institutionally wholly negative. It inflicted a mortal wound on the eastern empire, the shield of Christendom and order in the Middle East, and embodied neither strategic restraint nor strategic common sense. But a blunder by a distinguished press1 would hardly be worth comment did it not awake a vague misgiving about more than thoughtlessness on the production side. It may be, though, that there will be among his readers others who (like this reviewer) know little of the idiom of political science and do not understand easily and clearly just what Ikenberry is trying to combine, and how these elements should be related.

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