Hitchcock, William I., Melvyn P. Leffler, and Jeffrey W. Legro, eds. Shaper Nations: Strategies for a Changing World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016. vi + 218 pages. Hardcover, $35.
The title of the volume is quite self-explanatory; it presents analysis of the national strategies in the countries that shape global politics in today's increasingly multipolar world. Shaper Nations: Strategies for a Changing World is the result of a project conducted by a multinational team of scholars who live and work in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and the United States. Each scholar provides an insider perspective on the national strategies of his or her home country and its capabilities to determine the future of world politics. Much of the credit for the organization of this unique volume goes to its editors from the University of Virginia: William I. Hitchcock, Professor of History, Melvyn P. Leffler, Edward Stettinius Professor of History, and Jeffrey W. Legro, Vice Provost for Global Affairs.
For comparative purposes, the scholars address the same set of questions related to national strategic thinking, ranging across military, political, and economic policies. This approach allows for the identification of similarities in dominant strategies pursued by governments of the shaper nations, despite their differences in political regimes and economic development. As William Hitchcock indicates in his introductory essay, "the common factors that are shaping today's strategic thinking include the non-national nature of most security threats, the importance of domestic politics in shaping national strategy, the powerful and distorting effects of history and national identity..., and the economic capabilities and ambitions" (p.5). These factors represent severe constraints on crafting effective national strategies in the countries under consideration.
Structurally, the volume consists of eight chapters representing each of the shaper nations in alphabetical order. The first chapter explores rapid socioeconomic development that has allowed Brazil to make a decisive impact on regional politics despite its lack of "grand" strategy. The second chapter shows the rising power of China and the evolution of its "vision of realism" in response to its economic ambitions, strategic vulnerabilities, and cultural challenges. The third chapter covers an extensive list of internal and external problems that India has to address in its...