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Power and International relations

Power and International relations: Essays in Honour of Coral Bell

Desmond Ball
Sheryn Lee
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Power and International relations
    Book Description:

    Coral Mary Bell AO, who died in 2012, was one of the world’s foremost academic experts on international relations, crisis management and alliance diplomacy. This collection of essays by more than a dozen of her friends and colleagues is intended to honour her life and examine her ideas and, through them, her legacy.

    eISBN: 978-1-925022-12-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Photos
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)
    Desmond Ball and Sheryn Lee

    Coral Mary Bell AO, one of the world’s foremost academic experts on international relations, crisis management and alliance diplomacy, passed away in Canberra on 26 September 2012, aged eighty-nine. She worked at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) in London in the 1950s, was a Senior Lecturer in Government at the University of Sydney in 1961–1965, a Reader in International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE) in London in 1965–1972, a Professor in International Relations at Sussex University in 1972–1977, a Senior Research Fellow in the Department of International Relations at The Australian...

  6. Part 1: Coral Bell:: The Person and the Scholar

    • 1. Coral’s Early Life
      (pp. 11-12)
      Harry Bell

      I was about two and a half years of age, when our mother returned from Christmas shopping complaining of a headache, lay on a bed and passed away due to a cerebral haemorrhage. Coral was about seven years of age at the time.

      Coral was born at Gladesville in Sydney on 30 March 1923. After this date we moved to Queanbeyan where I was born, and then returned to Sydney, living at Bondi, opposite Bondi Beach.

      Our father had been an electrical contractor, but his business collapsed in 1930 and he was out of work for almost eight years. We...

    • 2. From External Affairs to Academia: Coral’s Encounter with the KGB’s Spy Ring in Australia
      (pp. 13-16)
      Desmond Ball

      Coral Bell was one of the world’s foremost academic experts on international relations and power politics. However, her life in academia was unintended. She had envisaged a vocation in international politics, but in some aspect of public service. Her move to academia was essentially an accidental by-product of a friendship with colleagues who were spying for the Soviet Union.²

      She began her career in the Australian Diplomatic Service, joining the Department of External Affairs as a Diplomatic Cadet in Canberra in 1945. Over the next three years, she got to know well several members of the Department who were members...

    • 3. Coral Bell: A Preoccupation with Armageddon
      (pp. 17-22)
      Geoffrey Barker

      In mid-2005 Coral Bell, aged eighty-two, sat with me in an Australian National University (ANU) conference room for more than two hours discussing her life and work as perhaps Australia’s most eminent and respected international security scholar. A lengthy article based on our conversation was published on 29 July 2005 inThe Australian Financial Review Magazine.¹ Coral later told me, ‘You have made me famous’. In fact I had barely done justice to her, but I did not appreciate the extent of my inadequacy until early 2013 when I read her own short memoir entitled, ‘A Preoccupation with Armageddon”—a...

    • 4. Coral Bell: Recollections of an Optimistic Realist
      (pp. 23-32)
      Meredith Thatcher

      Eighty-nine years separate Coral Bell’s birth on 30 March 1923 from her death on 26 September 2012, but how Coral spent those years was, quite simply, remarkable. In one lifetime, she lived more than two. Despite earlier hardships and coming of age at the end of the Second World War, Coral’s optimism about the outcome of world-shaping events never waned. With a pragmatic lens, she looked through her glasses clearly, never dimmed. She was, I believe, an optimistic realist.

      Coral lived her life in three parts: her youth (spent mostly in New South Wales), her academic career (spent overseas and...

    • 5. Coral Bell and Her Mark on Strategic Studies
      (pp. 33-42)
      Robert O’Neill

      Coral Bell’s death on 26 September 2012 has taken from our field one of Australia’s most able specialists in strategic studies. This loss is felt both nationally and internationally by all who knew her and studied her works, not least because she remained intellectually active right until her passing at the age of eightynine. Her writing was clearly focused, she was interested in some of the most important international problems of her lifetime, and she had great gifts of wit and sparkle which have illuminated her publications over a fifty year period.

      I first came to know Coral personally in...

  7. Part 2: Understanding International Relations

    • 6. The Interpretation of Power Politics: Coral Bell’s International Thought
      (pp. 45-56)
      Ian Hall

      It is fair to say that Coral Bell remained somewhat sceptical about international relations theory throughout her long career. She could, at times, even be scathing about the subfield, calling it ‘a very unimpressive growth’, a plant that ‘ought to be centrepiece and glory of the garden’, but which—alas—had ‘obstinately refused to put on more than a few inches in height, despite much watering, pruning, tilling, crooning over, and feeding with rare and expensive nutrients’.² She declared herself fully persuaded by Martin Wight’s argument about the ‘intractability of international experience’ and the near-impossibility of theorising about such a...

    • 7. The Importance of Being Coral Bell
      (pp. 57-60)
      JDB Miller

      Declaring one’s interest is often necessary, very much in this case. I have known and admired Coral Bell for fifty years, ever since she and I were tutoring students in International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE). She has since become the most respected and prolific of Australians in this field, and remains an acute analyst of what happens in the world, especially in terms of conflict and alliances.

      Having graduated from the University of Sydney, she entered the Australian Diplomatic Service. After some time abroad, she evidently decided to enter academic life, and proceeded to the LSE...

    • 8. Coral Bell and the Classical Realist Tradition
      (pp. 61-64)
      James L Richardson

      Like JDB Miller, I have known Coral Bell for half a century, having met her in London in 1955-56—I an intending graduate student, she already an established scholar at Chatham House. Later our paths crossed quite frequently, but we were direct colleagues only for a few years in the 1980s, in the Department of International Relations at The Australian National University.

      Her contributions to international relations are multifaceted, but I shall focus on three of her books on American foreign policy and Cold War diplomacy—each of them a significant and timely input into the scholarly discussion of the...

  8. Part 3: The Practice of Power Politics

    • 9. Realist Optimist: Coral Bell’s Contribution to Australian Foreign and Defence Policy
      (pp. 67-78)
      Brendan Taylor

      In a collection of essays dedicated to the memory of TB Millar, Coral Bell described Millar as a scholar ‘never given to provincialism: he was very much a citizen of the larger Western world, deeply fascinated by the problems of the East-West balance during the Cold War years’.² This description is one that perhaps applies even more aptly to Coral and her work. Her preoccupation was very much the diplomatic and strategic relations between the great powers of what Coral liked to term ‘the central balance’. Yet like Millar, a significant portion of her career was also spent advancing the...

    • 10. Interpreting the Cold War
      (pp. 79-92)
      Michael Wesley

      Coral Bell watched the Cold War take shape from one of ten offices in a building known as West Block, where Australia’s Department of External Affairs was accommodated during the 1940s and early 1950s. There is an old saying that even the greatest diplomats never lose the desk officer’s eye and fascination for the telling detail that hints at the big strategic picture; in all of Coral’s writings on the Cold War one can feel her attentive mind pouring over papers, opinion and quotes, the strategist-as-detective amassing the fine detail and the telling bon mots into a masterful narrative. That...

    • 11. Coral Bell and the Conventions of Crisis Management
      (pp. 93-104)
      Robert Ayson

      There aren’t many deep works of international relations theory in the short bibliography at the end of Coral Bell’s 1972 bookThe Conventions of Crisis.Perhaps the most theoretically demanding are Oran Young’s two books on the role of third parties and bargaining in crises. There is one book on strategic theory, Herman Kahn’s masterfully unusualOn Escalationas well as William Kaufman’s study ofThe McNamara Strategy.Of the remaining entries several consist of approachable works on the evolution of international politics, including EH Carr’s famous work onThe Twenty Years Crisis, Walter Lippmann’s short early study ofThe...

    • 12. Coral Bell’s Alliance Politics: Practitioner and Pundit
      (pp. 105-118)
      William T Tow

      Coral Bell was Australia’s premier expert on alliance politics during and after the Cold War. Former US Secretary of State Dean Acheson’s famous book title,Present at the Creation, applies equally to this remarkable Australian figure who was both a practitioner in and pundit on this subject.¹ She was ‘in the room’ as an officer with Australia’s Department of External Affairs when the ANZUS (Australia New Zealand United States) Treaty was signed in San Francisco on 1 September 1951.

      One of her most avid interests pursued during a subsequent and distinguished career as an academic and think-tank adviser was assessing...

    • 13. Coral Bell and the Concert of Power: Avoiding Armageddon
      (pp. 119-132)
      Hugh White

      Coral Bell gave the title ‘A Preoccupation with Armageddon’ to the fragment of memoir found among her papers, and began it by recalling the moment she heard that the atom bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima. ‘I can even remember the pattern of the hearth-rug on which I was standing when a colleague rushed in with the news’, she wrote. ‘Perhaps that moment is the reason why so much of my life has revolved around wars and crises; why I have had such a preoccupation with the possibility of Armageddon. Especially how to avoid it’.²

      It is perfectly characteristic of...

  9. Appendix: Coral’s Publications
    (pp. 133-140)