In This Review

Power and Conflict in the Age of Transparency

Power and Conflict in the Age of Transparency
Edited by Bernard Finel and Kristin Lord
371 pp, St. Martin's, 2000

How has the spread of democracy, data networks, and information technology affected transparency in world politics? The editors note that if wars are indeed caused by misperception of an opponent's strength, transparency should help avert conflict. Essays by Robert Jervis on the 1815 Concert of Europe and Kenneth Shultz on the signaling capacities of modern democracies usefully explore this insight, while other chapters speculate about how new information technologies -- such as satellite imagery and the Internet -- might change patterns of global conflict and cooperation. Faster and cheaper communications networks and the rise of global media empires may also be speeding up the pace of diplomacy and creating opportunities for new actors on the global stage. In addition, greater transparency might make it easier for states to monitor compliance with international agreements and engage in preventive diplomacy. But the authors acknowledge that more information is not always a blessing; it can in fact confuse government messages and make quiet diplomacy more difficult. The book raises intriguing questions but settles few, missing an opportunity to ask how new information technologies might democratize knowledge and alter the political balance between governments and private groups around the globe.