Counterfactuals seek to alter some feature or event of the pass and by means of a chain of causal logic show how the present might, or would, be different. Counterfactual inquiry—or control of counterfactual situations—is essential to any causal claim. More importantly, counterfactual thought experiments are essential, to the construction of analytical frameworks. Policymakers routinely use then by to identify problems, work their way through problems, and select responses. Good foreign-policy analysis must accordingly engage and employ counterfactuals. There are two generic types of counterfactuals: minimal-rewrite counterfactuals and miracle counterfactuals. They have relevance when formulating propositions and probing contingency and causation. There is also a set of protocols for using both kinds of counterfactuals toward these ends, and it illustrates the uses and protocols with historical examples. Policymakers invoke counterfactuals frequently, especially with regard to foreign policy, to both choose policies and defend them to key constituencies. They use counterfactuals in a haphazard and unscientific manner, and it is important to learn more about how they think about and employ counterfactuals to understand foreign policy.
Richard Ned Lebow
Kyle Beardsley, Patrick James, Jonathan Wilkenfeld, and Michael Brecher
Over the course of more than four decades the International Crisis Behavior (ICB) Project, a major and ongoing data-gathering enterprise in the social sciences, has compiled data that continues to be accessed heavily in scholarship on conflict processes. ICB holdings consist of full-length qualitative case studies, along with an expanding range of quantitative data sets. Founded in 1975, the ICB Project is among the most visible and influential within the discipline of International Relations (IR). A wide range of studies based either primarily or in part on the ICB’s concepts and data have accumulated and cover subjects that include the causes, processes, and consequences of crises. The breadth of ICB’s contribution has expanded over time to go beyond a purely state-centric approach to include crisis-related activities of transnational actors across a range of categories. ICB also offers depth through, for example, potential resolution of contemporary debates about mediation in crises on the basis of nuanced findings about long- versus short-term impact with regard to conflict resolution.
Rupal N. Mehta and Rachel Elizabeth Whitlark
What will nuclear proliferation look like in the future? While the quest for nuclear weapons has largely quieted after the turn of the 21st century, states are still interested in acquiring nuclear technology. Nuclear latency, an earlier step on the proliferation pathway, and here defined as operational uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing capability, is increasingly likely to be the next phase of proliferation concern. The drivers of nuclear latency, namely security factors, including rivalries with neighboring adversaries and the existence of alliances, are especially consequential in an increasingly challenging geopolitical environment. Though poised to play a significant role in international politics moving forward, latency remains a core area of exploration and subject of debate within the nuclear weapons literature writ large. While in many ways similar to nuclear weapons’ proliferation, the pursuit of nuclear latency has distinct features that merit further attention from scholars and policymakers alike.