Book Review: A Student’s Guide To International Relations

A Student’s Guide To International Relations, by Angelo M. Codevilla

This was the first of fifteen books in this series that I happened to acquire, and it made for an interesting and short read of about 100 pages.  Indeed, I do not think I have ever formally studied IR as a field, but diplomatic history has long been a personal interest of mine and it forms a substantial part of the field as a whole.  I have had philosophical debates with friends of mine who were students in the field about viewpoints and have from time to time read books about the field [1] and written about topics relating to the field.  Perhaps I am not the ideal reader for this book or even this series, but although I am not, I am someone whose approach is certainly amenable to what this book (and presumably the series) is trying to accomplish in encouraging self-education on the part of its readers.  The goal is a noble one and the book serves as a short and rather pointed discussion about the importance of international relations to the history of the United States as well as to our current political situation.

The contents of the book take less than 100 pages to cover an introduction to the field.  The author begins, after a somewhat lengthy introduction to why an American (the presumed audience) would care about International relations, looking at the stage and the characters on it in the post-Westphalian world.  The author writes at some length about regional geography before discussing the international system in history as well as the instruments of power at the hand of players on the international stage.  After this the author talks about contemporary geopolitics region by region, showing a great deal of empathy and insight into the problems faced by various states, before discussing what it means to America at some length.  Particularly interesting are the author’s insights about the relationship between isolationism, neoconservatism, and progressivism when it comes to International Relations, and the ambivalent relationship that the United States has with Europe.  The book ends with some recommended reading that is pretty varied and impressive, including some books that influenced the founding fathers, classics in the field going back to Hugo Grotius’ work, the writings of the founders themselves as well as looks at regional studies and various IR perspectives, and even some classics on non-Western statecraft.

Suffice it to say that someone who takes this book seriously and reads the books recommended will be very versed in the field, and will be able to converse intelligently and thoughtfully with those involved in a wide variety of concerns relating to International Relations, including the history of the field, the historical and contemporary geopolitical issues faced by the United States and other nations (and stateless nations) around the world, and the cultural and political assumptions that sit underneath debates about foreign policy attitudes and choices.  To be sure, the course of action recommended in this book is a rigorous one, more rigorous and broader-minded than that required of undergraduates or even graduates in the field, most of whom appear to have a very narrow base of study that is focused on the perspectives of their professors.  For those who do not have a background in IR but want to be knowledgeable in the field, this book is a good look at what is necessary to become a knowledgeable expert in the field in terms of self-education, allowing one to talk with ease and confidence with others from other worldviews and even other cultural backgrounds.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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3 Responses to Book Review: A Student’s Guide To International Relations

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

  2. Pingback: Book Review: A Student’s Guide To Psychology | Edge Induced Cohesion

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