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Rising Titans, Falling Giants: How Great Powers Exploit Power Shifts, Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson

Reviewed by Kyle Haynes

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Joshua R. Itzkowitz Shifrinson’s book represents an important contribution to both international relations theory and Cold War historiography. Rising Titans, Falling Giants is a remarkable combination of achievements. The book’s theory is elegant and offers a highly plausible account of rising state strategy that breaks out of the well-worn “status quo vs. revisionist” framework. Its case studies are remarkably rich and unearth interesting new archival evidence, which reveals strong support for the theory.

Shifrinson explains how rising great powers treat their declining counterparts—whether they prey upon or support them, and how intensely they do so. He argues that the rising state’s strategy is a function of the declining state’s geopolitical position. In particular, Shifrinson’s “predation theory” argues that rising states prey upon declining states that, because of their capabilities, geography, or geopolitical alignment, are of low strategic value to the riser. Conversely, rising states support high-value decliners. Rising states pursue these strategies more intensely toward declining states with a weak “military posture,” as weak allies need more support and weak adversaries are easier targets.

My quibbles with the book focus primarily on its theory. Firs

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