CSS Research and Policy Seminar with Aroop Mukharji

The CSS team held a virtual meeting on November 10 to discuss a new paper by Aroop Mukharji, who joined the center this year as a post-doctoral fellow after completing his PhD at the Harvard Kennedy School. The paper, “A Menace to our Peace,” offers a unique perspective on the causes of the 1898 Spanish–American War. While acknowledging humanitarian and other motivations, Mukharji highlights an overlooked reason for President William McKinley’s declaration of war on Spain: the fear that a violent stalemate in the Cuban War of Independence could create regional instability, thereby threatening American security.

Mukharji presents considerable historical evidence to support his argument, showing how regional strategic concerns, congressional politics, and McKinley’s own personal experience of war influenced his decision. Further, Mukharji documents how the growth of anarchism as a political ideology in the late nineteenth century created anxiety in American society about regional disorder. The paper challenges conventional wisdom about the emergence of threat perception in the United States, and suggests that McKinley’s war declaration had a strong influence on the foreign policies of subsequent presidents.

In discussing the paper, seminar participants applauded the clarity of the writing and the quality of the supporting historical research. They also offered suggestions for framing the paper and communicating its main argument. CSS looks forward to the paper’s eventual publication, and to reading more of Mukharji’s work in the future.

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