Sunday, August 15, 2021

Raymond C. Kuo's "Following the Leader"

Raymond Kuo is an independent political scientist based in Minneapolis.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Following the Leader: International Order, Alliance Strategies, and Emulation, and reported the following:
Page 99 begins a case study on the Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO), one of four alliances examined in-depth in the book. The page lays out SEATO’s structure, which the case refers back to to demonstrate the book’s argument.

Does the test work?

Not really. I mean, I’d like to think that the writing is snappy and propulsive, or at least as much as it can be for an academic book. Readability is important to me, and I hope in that way, the page is illustrative of the book.

But page 99 is already five chapters in, having passed the puzzle, theory, the first set of statistical analysis, and an entire case study. It also happens to fall on a “set up” section for that chapter unfortunately.

The SEATO case was a fun one to research and write. I had largely built the theory from statistical analysis and examples that now only appear as vignettes in the book. This case was the first “test” – does it actually bear out the implications of my theory? Watching that alignment emerge as I dove deeper into the archives was simply an awesome feeling. I distinctly remember shouting out in happiness when I came across specific quotes that bore out the argument, much to my wife’s confusion (and possibly regret about marrying me).

The book’s cases showcase the mechanisms across time (1870-1892; 1949-1960; 1994-2006), position within the international system (core; secondary; peripheral), and geography (Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia, Africa). As a result, one of the key things I really enjoyed about the SEATO case is how it integrates with and complements the other cases. The book explicitly assesses and explains transhistorical variation in alliance strategy. As a result, it can discuss how, say, transactional foreign policies (Biskmarckian realpolitik) compare to integrative ones (contemporary US grand strategy), grounded in specific cases selected to favor alternative theories and where historical conditions and outcomes actually vary.
Visit Raymond Kuo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue