A fine conceptual guide, offering a fresh consideration of underlying assumptions rather than ""exhortation or new mounds of facts"" about foreign affairs, provides a penetrating blend of political analysis and historical review, With a deep skepticism regarding all abstractions, the authors demolish faulty or out-dated assumptions. The subject under scrutiny is the rise, reign, decline and apparent fall of the idea of collective security as a preventative of wars, beginning with the origins of the League of Nations and proceeding from crisis to crisis to the state of NATO and UN policy today. Collective security ""has never been precisely defined"" but as used today it seems to depend on a belief that ""wars are the result of massive aggressions by evil conspirators rather than something natural to a world of dynamic forces in constant conflict."" The author, Associate Professor of History at the University of Maryland, builds a convincing case against this concept in all its manifestations. ""The lesson would appear to be that a collective-security effort to square the circle between nationalism and internationalism must fail in any event."" The only possibility of peace, he concludes with weary realism is in ""traditional diplomacy... Talleyrand's formula of negotiation, negotiation, and still more negotiation.