Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Beckwith and Morris: Twin Studies of Political Behavior: Untenable Assumptions

Jon Beckwith and Corey A. Morris: Twin Studies of Political Behavior: Untenable Assumptions.

This article focuses on critiquing another article that says political ideologies are highly inheritable. That article was written by John Alford, Carolyn Funk and John Hibbing.

The Alford article relied on using the "twin studies" in order to make their determination. A twin study is when twins are used to study whether concepts are inheritable or influenced by environment. They are able to use this because there is an assumption, using twins, that the environments are equal, and so any differences are based on inheritability of things. This article found that political ideologies are highly inheritable.

The Beckwith article criticizes this approach - deeming it falible. They suggest that the twin environment concepts is wrong, and so it cannot be used to analyze complex human behavior - like political ideologies.

Can you imagine if political ideologies were inheritable? I think that common sense dictates that this isn't true. If it was, the Whig party wouldn't have dies out, and we wouldn't have the current structure of Democrats and Republicans that we have today. Instead our structure would resemble the parties of old - which today's parties do not resemble. Additionally, children wouldn't have different parties from their parents - which they do today. If political ideologies were inheritable, then it would take away some freedom of choice we have - or we feel we have. Doesn't that go against the grain of what American politics is all about?

So I am glad that people are debunking the myth that political characteristics are inheritable. It doesn't make any sense, from a common sense standpoint, and it doesn't make sense to base a political system on inheritable characteristics - that would be more like a monarchy - which Americans don't want.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Owen, Layne and Waltz: Liberalism and Structural Realism

Owen: How Liberalism Produces Democratic Peace
Layne: Kant or Can't: The Myth of the Democratic Peace
Waltz: Structural Realism After the Cold War

Part I:Summary

The main point of the Layne article is that democratic peace theory (DPT) establishes a correlation between peace and democracies, not a causal link between peace and democracies (p. 209) and that realism is a better predictor of states’ actions (p.178). The DPT has two possible causal links: the absence of war between democracies is attributable to institutions and the absence of was between democracies is because of democratic norms and culture (p. 177). The author states that it is not the institutional attributes that enable democracies to behave peacefully towards other democracies, so it must be the norms that are the causal logic in DPT (p.183). After four case studies (the most recent being 1923 (p.186)) the conclusion is that DPT establishes a correlation between democracies and peace, but not a causal link (p.209). Instead, in all four instances, realist factors provided the reason why the democracies did not go to war (p.209). Showing that DPT is not valid matters in order to show policy makers that they should not focus on the implications of DPT (spreading democracy because democracies don’t make war on each other), but rather on security (realist) concerns (p.217).

The Waltz article’s main point was that structural realism is still the dominant theory because there has been no change in the system that would render the theory obsolete (p.30). Waltz labels the democratic peace theory a “fact” because if democracies don’t fight with other democracies, then that is not an explanation but a statement of fact that needs an explanation (p.31). According to Waltz, international relations theory deals with the system (p. 34) and that no matter how wide spread democracy might be, that is a unit level change (p. 34) and so does not alter the system or shape the system (p. 34, 35, 39). Instead Waltz states that the power of the state is still strong (p. 42) and that the presences of international institutions (p. 44) and interdependence (p. 39) (which arise in times of peace – brought on by democracy says DPT believers (p.38-39)) are simply methods that a state uses to protect itself in the anarchic world and gain power. Countries have always competed for wealth and security and this competition has often led to conflict (p. 59), and will lead to conflict so long as states are in a self-help world (p.65). Until the self-help, anarchic, world has transformed into something else, the structure of the system will remain the same, and so realism is the dominant theory (p. 67).

The Owen article’s main point is that although the institutional (structural) factors and normative factors of DPT don’t explain democratic peace individually, when those two variables are put together they do explain the democratic peace (p.142). He also believes that perception is important because if a state doesn’t perceive another state as liberal (democratic) they the first state will not treat the second state in the same way the first state would treat another liberal state (p. 146). Based on the definition of a liberal democracy as a state that is dominated by liberal norms, and structure (p.152), then a liberal state will avoid war with another state that it believes to be liberal (p.152). In order to demonstrate his idea, Owen uses four case studies, the latest of which is in 1896 (p.154). Owen then concludes, after studying these cases, that the causal mechanism linking liberal structures and norms to peace is the liberal ideas that create the structures and norms in a liberal democracy (p.173).

Part II: Analysis

The Layne article is short-sighted in that the author seems to believe that it has to be either democratic norms or democratic structure that is the causal link between democracies and peace (p. 209). Layne does not consider the position that the two variables might work in tandem. Additionally, he seems to add an element into the DPT: that there has to be an absence of military threats from one democracy to another (p. 184). This seems to be stretching the DPT to a point so that no case-study or situation could fit under the umbrella. The DPT states that democracies do not make war on other democracies (p.177), not that democracies don’t threaten other democracies with military power. This seems to be an addition to DPT that Layne makes, without any good analytical basis for the addition; simply that he thinks the absence of war “sets the threshold of proof too low” (p.185). Lastly, he claims to have four “modern” case-studies, but the most current study is from 1923 (p.186), which isn’t modern at all.

The Waltz article simply seems to reiterate points that we have heard from Waltz before, namely: anarchy, anarchy and balancing. Waltz dismisses nuclear weapons as a unit level concern (p.30), but then contradicts himself when he uses nuclear weapons in his description of what should happen with balancing (p.56). The structure of this article was very confusing to me, because it seemed that he was trying to discredit DPT by saying that DPT states a fact, not a theory (p. 31) and that realism still holds sway because the system (anarchy) hasn’t changed (p. 67). However, he launches into balancing explanations that seem to have nothing to do with DPT or liberalism, and are simply Waltz expounding on the virtues of his definition of realism. Overall, I was confused by this article. Waltz tries to make another case for realism being relevant, but in doing so dismisses all domestic factors that other theories rely on simply by saying: they are changes in the unit level, not the structural level (p. 30). Once again, Waltz seems to lack certain logic to his thoughts.

The Owen article ignores instances later than 1920’s because bipolarity and nuclear weapons change the picture (p.154). This is problematic for the author’s explanation of DPT because (1) democratic peace still exists now, after those factors, so if the theory is valid wouldn’t it need to account for the democratic peace now as well as before the 1920’s? And secondly, if all the DPT applies to is a world without nuclear weapons, what good is this theory today? The world has nuclear weapons, and they are likely not going away, so shouldn’t the theory take into account the fact that we have a democratic peace today? Also, by adding in the proposition that a democracy will not war with another state they perceive to be a democracy (p. 146-147), the author is able to explain away any possible exceptions to the theory, and include all possible situations. Therefore, his explanation over-reaches.

Additionally, it is clear there needs to be a common definition of democracy in the DPT literature. All three articles treated Germany differently in the same time period. One article said Germany was a democracy, one said it wasn’t, and one said it was an illiberal democracy. A common definition would be helpful to provide cohesiveness for the theory.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Mearsheimer: Review of Chapters 3 and 10 of Tragedy of Great Power Politics"

Mearsheimer: Chapters 3 and 10 of "The Tragedy of Great Power Politics"

Part I: Summary

In Chapter 3, Mearsheimer says that power is of two types: latent and effective (or military) power (p.55). Latent power is composed of the resources a state has available to build military power (p. 60). These resources include, but at not limited to, wealth and population (p. 61). Population is important because without people, you cannot build armies (p.61). There must actually be soldiers to fight in the army. Wealth is important because unless a state has wealth, there is no way to equip, train, pay and provide for the military forces of a country (p. 61). However, great wealth does not mean great military power, although great military power means great wealth because it takes a lot of wealth to support an army (p.75). Effective power – military power – is based on the size of a state’s army (p. 56). The indicator is the army because occupation and takeover require actual boots on the ground – which is the function of an army, not a navy or air force (p.56).

Mearsheimer says that his definition of power – that of a measurement of material resources – is the best one to use because power has to be the ability of state A to force state B to do something that state B doesn’t want to do (p. 57). Power must exist before it is exercised, and so the only way to measure that is to measure the resources that a state can use to force their will on another state (p. 60). If the measurement of power was based on the outcomes of conflicts, there would be no way to measure which state was the more powerful state until the outcome is complete (p. 60). Additionally, if power was to be based on outcomes, then there would be no way to account for resources that don’t have to do with capabilities in a calculation of power, such as: strategy, intelligence, morale, health of population, and weather (p. 60). Therefore, the definition of power must be based in resources because they can account for material and non-material sources of power (p. 60).

However, this does not mean that a state with a lot of latent power will be a powerful state and be able to turn that into effective power (p.75). States have different levels of ability to turn latent power into military power (p.79). So a state that can turn latent power into military power more effectively, even if that state might have less latent power, will be more powerful (p. 79). An organized economy can play a great role in the effective transformation of latent power to effective power (p. 81). Additionally, states buy different kinds of military forces. One state will buy more in the navy, while the other will spend more on its army. The states that spend more on its army will have more power, even if the other state has a larger overall military, because boots on the ground equals power (p.81).

The important difference to understand is how wealth and power are distributed among the great powers (p. 82).

In Chapter 10, Mearsheimer states that claiming that security competition and war among great powers is over –to be replaced with cooperation – because the Cold War is over, is wrong (p.361). Cooperation will not replace security competition because all great powers still care about gaining power because states still fear each other and anarchy reigns (p.361). Therefore, because there has been no structural change, there will be no behavioral change (p. 361). Mearsheimer also argues that there will be no structural change because no one wants to give up “being a state” and nationalism is one of the most powerful political forces in the world (p.366).

Part II: Analysis

Mearsheimer says that the balance of power among great powers is equal to the balance of military power (p. 56). However, he then says that the balance of power isn’t a good predictor of military success because there are other factors that can supply one side with an advantage: strategy, intelligence, morale, weather and disease (p. 58). These two ideas seem to be at conflict with each other. If the balance of power is military power, but the balance of power isn’t a good predictor of military success, then how can you know when a hegemon emerges? A hegemon has to have enough military power to rule their part of the world and prevent other states from coming in and interfering. This concept seems to indicate that at some point the balance of power does equal, and must be a good predictor of, military power. Otherwise, a system that is based on military capabilities would have no way of knowing what type of world it was in. Those two statements seem to be inconsistent with each other.

According to Mearsheimer, the world didn’t change after the end of the Cold War (p. 361), and then goes about showing how other theories are wrong. International economic interdependence will not make a structural change because the world is probably not more interdependent than it was in the early 20th century (p. 365). No where does Mearsheimer validate his assumption that there is as much interdependence today as there was then. It is simply a bold statement without any facts to back it up. He also discredits the democratic peace theory on the basis of near misses (p.368). However, near misses indicate that there was no war. The causes behind the near misses are never explained by Mearsheimer, he simply states that they had nothing to do with democracy (p.368). I would be more convinced if he had facts to prove that, instead of assumptive statements. Democracy affects everything in it to some extent, so I have a hard time believing his statement that near misses have nothing to do with democracy. Mearsheimer’s only basis for discrediting other theories is his emphasis on anarchy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Finnermore and Floker: Constructivism in International Relations and Critics of Constructivism

Finnermoor: Talking Stock: Constructivism
Floker: Constructivism and Neoliberalism Compared

Part I: Summary

The main point of the Finnemore/Sikkink article was constructivism states that ideas are logically connected to the way the IR system works (p.394), and doesn’t provide anything more specific, so constructivism’s minimalist claims must be (and have been) supplemented in order to research the claim that ideas and identities matter (p.394). The constitution of society, the ideas and identities that make it up, are also causal in nature because the explanation of society and its parts are necessarily dependant on how those parts are made up (p.395). Constructivists then assess the evidence presented for their cause and compare it with alternative explanations of the same phenomena while searching for more evidence to further their claims and to disconfirm alternatives (p.395). Using this research design, constructivists focus on studying generalizations that are clustered around a several problems in the IR system including: the effect of global norms vs. local effects on the IR system (p.396), whether it is ideas or power that shape the IR system (p.398), and how identity and state action interact with each other (p.398). When looking at these social construction issues, constructivists also study how the social construction works by looking at ideas such as: the purposive efforts of individuals and groups to change the norms (p.400), the role of international organizations and law in changing social norms (p.401), what effect a group of experts with specialized knowledge can have on norms (p.402), the role of speech, argument and persuasion in changing social norms (p. 403), and what the structural effects are (p.403). Although this research may follow the lines of other, similar research in comparative politics, constructivists (and constructivist research) are not comparative because constructivism has a theoretical identity, whereas comparative studies work to solve problems without a theoretical identity (p. 404).

The main argument in the Sterling-Folker article is that constructivism is not anything new; it is a liberal paradigm and is related to neoliberal institutionalism (p. 98). The failure of constructivism to offer anything new is because its theoretical causal logic uses the same logic as is applied in almost all variants of liberal IR theory (p. 98). This is functional institutional theorizing, which is characterized by assuming pre-given interests, outside of social interaction, of the agents in a world where the function of institutions and social practices is to achieve particular goals for the agents involved based on their collective interests (p.105). Functionalist explanations are concerned with preference formation (p. 101): the particular policies and practices that an actor might adopt in pursuit of their interests, and how the institutions meet those preferences (p. 102). Constructivism follows this logic because they assume the institutions and social norms exists because they fill a collective need of the agents, and therefore the structures that exist must fill those needs or they will change (p.108). Additionally, constructivism uses functionalist causal logic because it focuses on what the institution does – which is a preference rather than an interest (p. 105). By using the functionalist causal arguments, one of the main tenets of constructivism – the importance of interests – is not present because the focus is instead on preferences (p.108). Neoliberal institutionalism and constructivism both state that changing perceptions and beliefs (in constructivist terms: identity and interests) will make cooperation more likely, and that in order to create these changes, the actors must interact so that various institutions can play a part in changing social norms (p.109). Therefore, because of their theoretical similarities and consistent underlying logic, constructivism is not a new paradigm, but rather a liberal/critical theory paradigm come to life again (p. 99).

Part II: Analysis

In the Finnemore article, there is a range of theories that can be called constructivism (p. 392). In order to establish a baseline for comparison, the author uses the features common to all the descriptions of constructivism (p. 392 et al). The author recognizes that constructivism is a framework for thinking and that other sources must be used to make constructivism work for analyzing content and predictive features (p. 393). With this understanding, the author compiles the articles together and does not separate out who uses what additional information, beyond constructivism, to make their claims. It may be that constructivism is compatible with all other theories in the sense that constructivism provides a framework for seeing the world, and the other theories provide the interpretation. Which means that there is no need to falsify all other predictive theories – which is what some of the research cited does. If the theories are all tools, rather than competing tools, then some of the argument goes away.

In the Sterling-Folker article, it’s interesting that she acknowledges differences in the theoretical scheme between constructivism and others (p. 100), but simply relegates them to being “small distinctions (p.100).” Acknowledging that they are different, means that they are different. Functionalist arguments focus on preference formation, rather than interest and identity formation (constructivism) (p. 101). There is even a listing of differences (p. 102). I think this is a case where simply because the results are similar, and because constructivism isn’t clearly defined, someone assumes the two theories have the same underlying theoretical basis, when it is clear that there are differences. Additionally, there are no instances of constructivism that falsifies this claim, and there is no claim that the author has taken into account all constructivist writings. So are the falsifying instances an issue?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Review: American Between the Wars, From 11/9 to 9/11

Part I: Summary

Despite President George H.W. Bush’s distinguished service as a diplomat (7), Chapter 1 states that he was unable to create a direction for United States foreign policy after the end of the Cold-War (2). Instead, he made things up as he went along (8) and demonstrated a lack of leadership by engaging in international coalition building rather than promoting the US (10-11), a reliance on old realities and principles that demonstrated a lack of imagination (13) and refused to champion US values (such as democracy and human rights) around the world (26). There was no “new world order,” (7). These mistakes allowed Clinton to campaign on a platform of foreign policy that stressed human rights and democracy (28).

The Democrats believed that they could unify their party and win the next Presidential election (32) by defining a foreign policy based on spreading freedom and democracy (29) and at the same time create a direction for the US, as Bush was unable to do (30). Chapter 2 states that Clinton’s foreign policy was about globalization, democracy, freedom, and empowering individuals (42). Clinton won the election due to his foreign policy push (p.34) and his assertiveness in moral statements in foreign policy (36). Clinton received two memos from Bush’s outgoing staff (43). Although the two memos were different in policy, they both shared the same premise: that the US had an unprecedented opportunity to shape the new international world and that there were a lot of other problems to deal with (48). The memos left Clinton no doubt that his strong words on the role of the US would need to be followed through on (52).

Chapter 3 states that Clinton’s first-year in office was disastrous and due to his ineptitude in international affairs, he lost the ability to have the US define the post-Cold War era (84). The disastrous missions in Somalia (76) and Haiti (82) characterized Clinton’s first year. Rather than standing by the goals of his foreign policy in his action in Haiti and Somalia, as articulated in his campaign, he portrayed uncertainty about being assertive in foreign policy (66) and lacked confidence in his decisions (68). These disasters defined Clinton – and the Democrats – as inept and unable to lead in the new world (84).

The reason that the Contract Republicans (87) took over Congress in 1994, according to Chapter 4, was that Clinton lost his way and appeared muddled on foreign policy issues (90). American foreign policy was simply reactive: from crisis to crisis (91). That, combined with the fact that former-President Jimmy Carter had stepped in and managed to solve the Haiti and North Korea crises (not the President) (96), solidified the perception that Clinton had lost his ability to define a new era (99) and that there was no line from principle to action (100). Instead of delivering on his promises, Clinton was lost and fearful about foreign policy (112).

Although Clinton had a rough start (through 1995) (114), Chapter 5 states that his successful closure of the Bosnia (128-29) and China (136-38) issues enabled him to be re-elected in 1996. It also helped that Clinton worked with the Republicans on these issues (138-39), and they did not have a plan for foreign policy either (144).Clinton might have lacked a grand plan for foreign policy, but he had demonstrated that he didn’t need a plan to execute bold strategies to further American interests (144). Clinton’s success in Bosnia and China improved his – and America’s – image as a competent leader at home and abroad (128, 130, 135).

Chapter 6’s main point is that Clinton’s growing confidence in his foreign policy skills (158) led him to believe that he had to strengthen the US’ international economic leadership (151), and led him to believe that the US was the indispensible nation (147). The concept of the indispensible nation led Clinton to engage in a range of activist international policies, including policies on globalization (148-49). The two most prominent acts of globalization and international economic leadership were getting NAFTA ratified (160-61) and establishing the WTO as GATT’s successor (162). Additionally, it was because of the US’ leadership on economic issues that the Mexico bailout plan worked (166-67). These achievements solidified Clinton’s perception that there was no dividing line between domestic and foreign policy (169). However, despite Clinton’s success and confidence, other states did not agree that the US was “the indispensible nation,” which made global cooperation harder in the face of the new threats (176-77).

The main point of Chapter 7 is that Clinton had a vague policy on dealing with Iraq and Saddam which made for decisions whose purpose was to pass the problem to the next administration and to avoid having Iraq take over all other issues (204). Clinton tried to get the American public behind the perception that Iraq and Saddam were a global threat to America’s security (191). When this did not work, Clinton was unable to have a strong military strategy (193) to deal with the issue. Instead he had a mix of containment (191) – which wasn’t working – and military presence/air strikes (202). Clinton wanted his policy to go both ways: to have economic and military containment and to try and oust Saddam without having to have an actual military campaign (203). This approach, as recognized by all, couldn’t last long – but would last long enough for Clinton’s successor to get in place and for Clinton to try and do other things at home (204).

In Chapter 8, Clinton (243) and domestic forces at home (228) had to decide how America would use its overwhelming power (234). The result of the Kosovo campaign was world-wide concern that the US was too dangerous (226, 228, 230, 232-33). The pursuit of a missile defense shield did nothing to calm this fear among the international community (241-42). Instead of being reassured that the US would use its power only to pursue a responsibility to protect (216) and a greater global good (234), the international community became worried the US would use it in other situations (231).

Chapter 9’s main point is that there were new disorders in the world that Clinton – and the US – was unequipped to deal with (277): globalization caused economic crises to travel fast and not be contained in one region and terrorist threats were the most pressing security threats (262). America’s foreign policy establishment didn’t understand these two threats and as a result were unprepared when crises happened (247). Clinton’s economic policy was simply a reaction to a crisis (252), instead of a policy to build a foundation to prevent crises (248). The intelligence agencies and military were unprepared to deal with terrorist threats, instead of the more conventional threats, and needed restructuring in order to do so (261). All of this resulted in a world composed of disorder (279).

The main point of Chapter 10 is that the Bush Administration continued to look at the world, and national security, in traditional terms – based on nations states and traditional concepts of threat (310). There was acceptance of terrorism based on the support of nations, not because an individual or non-state actor could be a threat by themselves (310-11). Bush wanted a strong military (296) and to use it to prevent focus on state-based threats to clear national interests – not humanitarian goals or globalization (295).

According to Chapter 11, America’s future is defined by the past (329). The liberal concerns over when to go to war and use military force (320) and focus on promoting democracy (318) still shape debate today (318). The conservatives still grapple with legitimizing American action (324) and globalization (326). These are issues from the past decade that are shaping the foreign policy of the current (and future) decade (328-29).

Part II : Analysis

There is a major theme throughout the book: that domestic and international politics cannot be separated. Domestic elections for President are defined in terms of foreign policy (144-45, 269) or trade deals (161). The choices various candidates made for Vice-President were framed in terms of the foreign policy need of the candidates (294). The role and positions of PNAC, a domestic institution, was discussed in Chapter 6(172). Throughout the book, the competing views of Clinton, liberals and conservatives were compared (one example is on 139). The lack of a coherent and dominant role for the US in foreign policy was often blames on domestic factors (86). Speculations that Clinton’s behavior was based on wanting to draw attention away from a domestic scandal was rampant in the various chapters (200).

This focus on the interplay between domestic and international factors makes a case for a more involved model of foreign policy and international relations. Realism relies only on security, whereas liberalism relies mainly on non-security related threats and institutionalism focuses on institutions. None of these models seem capable of taking in all the factors – security, non-security, economic, globalization, terror and non-state actors. Additionally, there is a distrust of a doctrine which can arise from a particular set of circumstances and cause trouble when applied to a new set of circumstances (218). As discussed in class, realism and liberalism developed in the wake of wars and institutionalism developed once institutions developed. It is possible that these doctrines were developed for a specific circumstance and as such have no application to a different set of circumstances. The author believes that the past decisions define the present (329), I do not think that the past models can define a present, and effective model, for international relations. However, we were presented with a model in our last class on December 2, 2008 that takes into account all of these factors. The model doesn’t prescribe a method of bringing them into balance, but it does create a framework for consideration of all factors.

A model that might be used to analyze these factors would be the two-level game theory approach advocated by Putnam. In this model, the analysis is done on a reciprocal basis between how the actor – the leader of a nation – acts at a domestic and international level. Those two levels are seen as playing to each other. The truth of this can be seen in the results of the last election: Bush lost largely because public opinion had turned against his use of force in Iraq. The interplay of domestic and international policy will only become greater, and some method is needed to analyze the two together. Maybe game theory – with its ability to take in a larger number of factors, will prove to be the basis that IR theorists need to model a new theory.
Another theme in the book was the idea of a single doctrine of concept to base foreign policy on. The second Bush’s doctrine became “war on terror,” (312) and has proven to be his downfall (315) – as this past election proved. Clinton lacked a single over-arching concept, although he constantly tried to find one (90, 144, 315). Clinton showed that although he lacked a doctrine, he could execute a bold strategy in response to events (144). Additionally, it was claimed that the actions in Kosovo might be the most important foreign policy achievement since the Gulf War (221), and Clinton undertook those actions without a grand strategy. Berger stated that the Clinton team wanted to build a new role for the US based on experience and not doctrine, regardless of the fact that this made other countries nervous (219).

American policy makers and scholars have been unable to find a singe catch-phrase for the time between n11/9 and 9/11 (315). Kennan says that this is a good thing because a simple foreign policy leads to disaster (315). This perception, that the lack of a simple foreign policy goal is good, would seem to underline my statement that the world has too many variables to be contained in one doctrine. These variables are not magically developed in the post-Cold War era, which might be one reason that the post-Cold War era has been unable to define itself. Rather, the variables of globalization, security, weak and failing states, political stability/instability etc, have been present since the beginning of time. These are not new concepts; it is simply that things can move faster and more freely in a world with technology like we have today, and so these variables become more apparent. Constructivism is a viewpoint that is taking over in the world of today’s IR theories because it seems to be able to handle the complexities that the world is currently seeing (Wendt). However, like the variables present in the world today that have to be considered, constructivism is an old idea in new clothing (Sterling-Folker).
The world is a complex world with many variables that lead to consequences. It is ironic that the most recent President to consider all the variable (Clinton) was also the one looking for the simple solution – for the knight to come riding in (253). Whereas the President with the simple world view of traditional threats (Bush) (310), did not look for a simple answer but used what he thought was a simple answer – the military (297) – and got engaged in a far more complex struggle than could be imagined.

The irony of the situation only underscores the need for a model to analyze complex factors under. Bush was analyzing factors by a traditional realist threat perspective (310) and that got him into a lot of trouble when the variables proved to be far more complex than he imagined (314). When Clinton was trying to promote democracy and interdependence through globalization, using the more complex model of liberalism (of some sort), he also ran into issues where he did not have the ability to analyze all the factors, including security. A model is needed that will take into consideration all the various complexities that exist in the real world so that policy makers can be sure they are not leaving anything out, but are rather at least looking at all possible variables (even if they are discounting them).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Waltz and Fozouni: Is Anarchy Needed to Understand International Relations

Waltz: Anarchic Structure of World Politics
Fozouni: Confutation of Political Realism

SECTION I: Summary

Waltz’s main point is that international relations can only be understood through a systems theory and that system’s theory must separate the international relations domain from any domestic domain (p.49). He defines a system as having two parts: a structure and interacting units (p.49). He has three characteristics of a system: the ordering principle (p.52), the character of the units (p.55) and the distribution of capabilities (p.57). The ordering principle is how the arrangement of the parts within the system (p.52) For Waltz’s theory, this means that all parts of the system (states) stand in relation to each other equally because there is no requirement of one state to obey another (p.52). The character of the units is described by Waltz as states (p.55 and 56) and he also demonstrates how they are all like units (p.55). Waltz does acknowledge that each state has a different capability, but says that regardless, they are like units because they each are alike in being “autonomous political units.” (p.56). The last principle of Waltz’s system can be looked as the distribution of capabilities. Waltz says that capabilities of the units is a relative discussion, whereby a comparison is made between the power of one unit and the character of the other units in the system (p.58). By describing these characteristics of a system, Waltz states that the system is anarchic (p.59). According to Waltz, the anarchic system avoids change by preventing intentions of various actors from being effective, and therefore, a change in the anarchic system would require a system change (p.63). Additionally, the anarchic system has the benefit of having a low organizational cost as there is no organization to maintain (p.65). Lastly, states in an anarchic system, cannot rely on anyone for help, and so they protect themselves (p.64). Therefore, the system is unlikely to change because to change the system requires a full and great structural change (p.63 and 64).

In the Fozouni article, the main point is that realism is a failed theory because there are failures in the logical structure of the theory (p.484) and failures in the empirical analysis that the theory is based on (p. 4486). The failure of the theory’s logical structure can be place on the failure of the premises of the theory to be true (482). The premise that all states will expand when they have the capability to expand (p. 483) does not have enough empirical evidence to support it (p. 484). Therefore, if a premise of the theory is untrue, the theory cannot be logically sound (p. 485).

Additionally, the theory of realism fails an empirical examination (p. 486). There is simply not enough empirical evidence to support realism (p.486). This is because, in supporting realism, theorists tend to use only positive evidence, and ignore the evidence that is not supportive of realism (p.487). Instead, theorists try to create ad hoc additional variables or explanations to keep realism alive (p. 488). The problem with ad hoc explanations is that they don’t take the theory and explain the situation, they take the theory and add something to it, which in essence means the theory is incomplete (p.492). Additionally, realism fails because it focuses solely on power as the only determinate in the theory, and ignores everything else (p. 498 and p.507). This creates the problem of verifying that power is the basis of all decisions because of what we know today after the Cold War, that ideology also plays a role (p. 498).

SECTION II: Analysis

Waltz’s theory suffers from a type of logical fallacy. Waltz uses the structure of his theory as his system. He uses the ordering characteristics, units and capability of units as a description of his structure (p. 52, 55,57) and claims that this exists only in an anarchy, so therefore anarchy must be the system that is used in the analysis (p. 59). This is a type of logical fallacy where the input and output are the same. Additionally, Waltz fails to recognize how a system can change, outside of changing the system (p. 63). His theory does not account for any variables that might change the system. However, he does tackle the issue of non-state actors by stating that if they are powerful enough, they become enough like states to qualify as states in terms of his theory, or else they fail to act in any meaningful way (p. 52). This theory also suffers from oversimplification. This is a clear issue when Waltz declares all states to be functionally similar units – or the same units (p. 56). This glosses over the fact that all states are not functionally similar because they cannot all behave autonomously – Israel cannot behave on its own without consideration of the US and Palestinian governments. Waltz’s theory also neglects various variables such as ideology and economics. Instead, he compounds economics, politics and military into one idea – the capability of the unit – because states use their political and economic structures to grow their military and their military to grow their economic and political structure (p. 56). Once again, this demonstrates the dramatic oversimplification present in the theory.

The Fozouni article seems remarkably well thought out. It covers the logical fallacies that are present in realism both in deductive (p.484) and inductive reasoning (p. 502). Also, the Fozouni article considers the human nature concept in Morgenthau’s realism, and claims he should’ve discarded it as it is not a foundation to the theory (p.484). However, why not simply dispose of the idea with a one line comment – that it is irrelevant to the theory and that realism can be explained without the use of this premise - rather than analyze a piece of information that is not vital to the theory? One thing the Fozouni article does well is provide circumstance in which supporters of realism might have been able to rescue the situation (p. 493), and provides various analysis of what variables Morgenthau should have considered to have a complete and viable theory. However, this article criticizes realism on the basis of all the information we have available today, which includes information that shows how important ideology is in international relations. What might have been interesting is to limit the critique to the materials and examples available at the time Morgenthau created his theory and see if the same problems still exist.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Legro/Moravcsik: Is Anybody Still a Realist?
Coyle: Liberalism and World Politics Revisited
Moravcsik: Taking Preferences Seriously

Part I: Summary

The Lergo and Moravcsik article focused on the idea that minimal realism (p. 6) has degenerated realism (p. 53) to the point where realism today can include all the claims that traditional realists reject (p. 7), and exclude no claims (p.53). The solution to this problem, as seen by the authors, is to define a core set of assumptions for the realist paradigm that would be true to all realist theories (p. 8). The core assumptions of realism are: (1) actors are rational, unitary political units that pursue distinctive goals within an anarchic setting (p. 12); (2) that state preferences are fixed and are in conflict with all other states (p. 13); and (3) that capabilities, or the distribution of material resources, is what the outcomes of bargaining depend on (p. 17). If all three assumptions are possessed by realist theories, then the theories will become a distinct paradigm rather than be a conglomeration of all theories including: realism, liberalism, epistemism, and intuitionalism (p.46).

The main point of the Moravcsik article is that liberal theory should be treated as its own paradigm, rather than as a subset of other paradigms or as an ideological concept (p. 515). Moravcsik defines the core assumptions of liberal theory – the fundamental actors in international politics are individuals and private groups (p. 516), political institutions represent the domestic society and it is those preferences the state acts on in international relations (p. 518), and that the configuration of the state shapes state preferences (p. 521) – and states that these assumptions define liberalism as a parsimonious and coherent theory (p. 533).

The Doyle article's main point is that Kant's theory of liberal internationalism helps explain the periods of international stability and peace among those states who share liberal principles and institutions (p. 94). Kant's theory rejects the notion that a specific democratic or liberal institution is responsible for the peace and stability (p. 100) and instead says that in combination constitutional, international and cosmopolitan sources connect the characteristics of liberal politics and economies with the sustained stability and peace the world can/is experiencing (p. 100). However, Kant extends this peace and stability only to relations between liberal states (p. 102) and says that with non-liberal states, liberal states will be in a constant state of war because they feel threatened by states that aren't constrained by representational ideals, as liberal states are (p. 102).

Part II: Analysis

The Lergo and Moravcsik article is a little confusing. The authors stress the importance of creating a realist paradigm that is separate from all other paradigms, rather that the confusing mash of ideas that is "realism" today (p. 53). Then, according to the authors, you can test the causal links of the theory (p. 47). However, it is clear that realism only holds true when there are periods of intense conflicts between states (p. 49). So I am confused as to why the authors would then want realism to be a separate paradigm. If realism is only useful in periods of intense conflict, then what is its usefulness at other times? The authors propose using "two-level" games to include other aspects into realist theory (p. 51). However, this results in the same "mashing" of idea that the authors are opposed to in the first place. But in a two-level game, instead of mashing the ideas into one theory, you are able to use separate theories, and then mash the conclusions together. Instead of synthesizing domestic variables, economic variables or changing preferences into realist theory (as the authors demonstrate that various realists do), you simply conduct two analyses and then merge the results. To me, this is a semantic distinction about where you combine ideas, rather than a helpful and useful idea.

The Moravcsik article is also focused on creating a paradigm – which seems to be his standard method of analysis. However, it is focused on a liberal paradigm rather than a realist paradigm. Moravcsik makes three core assumptions of liberal theory – the fundamental actors in international politics are individuals and private groups (p. 516), political institutions represent the domestic society and it is those preferences the state acts on in international relations (p. 518), and that the configuration of the state shapes state preferences (p. 521) – and states that these assumptions define liberalism as a parsimonious and coherent theory (p. 533). However, Moravcsik then states that these assumptions are commonsensical and tautological (p. 521). He also insists that this framework of liberalism creates an easy and clear connection between previously unrelated areas, and that his theory can also include non-liberal ideas (p.533). It seems ridiculous to create a theory that can explain everything. It also seems as if the theory loses its usefulness if it can explain everything. I think that Moravcsik misses the mark in defining liberal theory, and instead is too concerned with proving that liberalism can encompass everything realism does and more (p. 533). To that end, he fashioned his three assumptions too broadly, so that liberalism can include everything, and exclude nothing. Therefore, his assumptions need secondary assumptions that explain the outcomes – which means that his theory cannot explain anything and is useless.

A different picture of liberalism is presented by Doyle. He simply takes three kinds of liberalism – liberal pacifism (p. 84), liberal imperialism (p. 87), and liberal internationalism (p. 88) – and analyzes which of the three of these gives the most complete picture of why liberalism has created a period of stability and peace (p. 88, 92). Doyle comes up with the answer that Kant's theory of liberal internationalism is the most predictive because it connects multiple variables to peace, and not just one variable. It also can explain the stability and peace that liberalism brings and the war that exists in a world with liberal states (p. 100). However, Kant's theory rests on the concept of a "man" who is individual, rational and capable of appreciating the moral equality of all, rather than treating individuals as a means (p. 101). One of the strengths of this theory is that it explains something, but not everything. Also, liberal internationalism, unlike Moravcsik's theory, doesn't need additional variables to be an analytical tool – it stands on its own. In that sense, the theories presented in Doyle's article are useful analytical tools. It is unclear whether these theories of liberalism can be synthesized into one theory because their understanding of the role of the individual and causal connection to state politics is different. After reading this article, it is possible to understand why liberalism is having a hard time being considered a paradigm, as each liberalist theory seems to have a different understanding of the causal factors.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Role of Domestic Policies and Foriegn Policies in International Relations

Waltz: International Relations Theory Not Foreign Policy
Telhami/Waltz: Neorealism and Foriegn Policy
Putname: Two-Level Games
Walt: Realtion Between International Relations Theory and Policy
Burgos: An N of 1

Part I: Summary

The main point of the Waltz article is that international relations (IR) theory cannot explain foreign policy (p. 54) because international relations theory must be at the system level and a theory that would explain foreign policy must take into account the state-level concerns of the performance of governments (p. 54-55). Waltz points out that the question when analyzing an IR theory should not be what variables should be excluded from the theory that might affect outcomes, but that what variables should be included in order to make it a true IR theory (P. 56). Waltz re-emphasizes that the point of a theory is to explain, not to predict, and therefore a theory of IR necessarily leaves variables out (p.57).

The Telhami article's main point is that although neorealism has much to say about foreign policy, through its analysis of IR theory, it is not a theory of foreign policy because neorealism doesn't explain the motives of states including the component parts (p.170). Telhami states that insights derived from neorealism provide a framework for further inquiry into foreign policy (p. 159). This is because the goals of security and power (p. 160-161) which are so essential for neorealism theory provide an important insight into state behavior some of the time. However, they don't explain the varied motives of states when they create foreign policy (p.163 -164). This is because if a state were to act in a way other than to pursue security and power, that state wouldn't be acting in accord with the neorealist theory (p.164). Therefore, while neorealist theory is an IR theory, it is not a theory of foreign policy (p.170).

The main point of the Burgos article is that IR theory, specifically relating to war, is too narrow and simple to be of any use to policy makers (p. 555). He states the realism doesn't seem to fit into the Iraq conflict, because the conflict has moral and ethical terms rather than power and security terms (p. 552). Also, IR theory treats was as a "costly lottery," so that states tend not to engage in war (p.552). However, that also does not explain the current state of the world (p. 553). Burgos also points out that the composition of an institution changes the behavior of that institution, and so theories dealing with war need to be able to take into account the composition of the Army (p.553). Lastly, current IR theory, and realism in particular, doesn't deal with the power of symbols and the various types of power (p. 554-555). All of these things are lacking from theories, but are important in practice. Therefore, Burgos states that it makes sense that policy makers, who have to deal with reality, don't pay attention to theory (p. 555).

The main point of the Walt article is that there is a gap between theory and policy because the work being done in the theory world isn't relevant to the policy world (p. 25). However, good theory (p. 26-28) can help policy makers because: (1) it can help them diagnose the problem they are facing (p.29-30); (2) it can help them anticipate events (p.31); (3) it can help them by providing a possible remedy (p.32-33); and (4) theory can provide benchmarks to enable an evaluation of success and failure (p.33-34). Current IR theory is too abstract (p.34) and too varied (p.35) to aid in any of these goals because the academic norms of the discipline prevent IR theorists from linking theory to policy (p.37-38). In order to make theory accessible and relevant to policy makers, the academic norms must change (p.40).

The Putnam article provides a possible framework for analysis of national and international affairs (p.427). The domestic and international affairs are tangled together because the state must be concerned about both (p.431) and therefore an analysis must take both levels into account (p.433). The solution, according to Putnam, is to use game theory to construct a two-level game where the national political leader appears at both boards (p.435) – domestic and international (p.434) and that one board can influence the other (p.434). He splits the game into two levels, bargaining which leads to a tentative agreement (level 1) and ratification (level 2) (p.436). The variable in the game is "win-sets" which are the variety of possibilities that will be agreed to at level 1 and ratified at level 2 (p.437). The variable of win-sets can take into account domestic variables such as public opinion, interest groups, and agencies (p.436) and international factors such as defection and reputation of countries (p.438). This framework accounts for the entanglement between domestic politics and international relations (p.460).

Part II: Analysis

Waltz states that his theory of neorealism is not a theory of foreign policy, nor is it meant to be (p.54). However Telhami seems to spend an extraordinary amount of effort proving that it is not a foreign policy theory (p.163). Telhami looks at the basics of neorealism – power (p. 160-161) and the balancing effects (p. 162) – and discounts them as not accounting for enough of foreign policy behavior to be a theory (p. 163). I think that some bigger concepts are missing in the analysis – namely that it's not a foreign policy theory because it wasn't designed to do anything except explain an international system (Waltz, p.54). Trying to salvage neorealism as a foreign policy theory by ignoring variables and outcomes (Waltz, p.55) or adding variables (Waltz, p.56), creates a new theory and doesn't salvage realism as a foreign policy theory, which it wasn't meant to be.

Rather, a new system for understanding multiple variables must come into play. The two-level game system presented in the Putnam article seems to be a start. It can take into account the variables that the Burgos article identified: morality (p.552), distribution of war-making power among branches of government (p.553), partisanship of the institutions (p.553), symbols (p.554) and different types of power (p.555). Under the two-level game, these variables would expand or contract the win-set by driving the domestic game (Putnam p.434) and shaping international opinion of the country (p.444). However, it seems as if every variable can be taken into account, somewhere, in the two-level game. This makes a theory – or game - bulky, hard to understand, and hard to use.

Walt makes the point that a good theory is logically consistent and empirically valid (p.26), complete, predictive (p.27) and simple (p.28). The simple part is especially important for policy usage because policy makers aren't selected for their jobs on the basis of theoretical knowledge (p.24) and so they need to be able to understand a theory to use it (p. 25). I am not sue that the two-level game is simple enough, or predictive enough, to be of use to a policy maker. It is not a simple concept. It involves many game-theory models that a policy maker might not understand (p.447). It is also not terribly predictive if the information is incomplete. In order to determine if your win-set overlaps with another win-set, you have to have complete knowledge about the other player (p. 460). This is not practical in a policy setting where reality and the short time those decisions must be made within. Therefore, I am not sure that the two-game theory model, while interesting, is the right model for use with policy makers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mearshiemer and Grieco: Realism and Neorealism Revisited

Mearshiemer: Tragedy of Great Power Politics, chapters 1, 2, and 9
Grieco: Realist International Relations Theory

Part I: Summary

Mearsheimer has a theory of "offensive realism (p.4, 21)" which is that states are always aggressively pursing the goal of ultimate power and becoming a hegemony (p.29) because a hegemony is the ultimate means of guaranteeing a state's survival in an anarchic world (p.40). This means that states will aggressively (p.34) pursue maximization of their relative power because that is how a great power maximizes their security (p.21). This type of aggressiveness (p. 34) by states is caused by being apprehensive about the ultimate interests of other states, awareness that the states operate in a self-help system (anarchy (p.30)), and the understanding that the best way to ensure survival is to be the most powerful state in the system (drive to hegemony) (p.33). In offensive realism, the structure of the system (anarchy) is the determining factor from which all the other factors and assumptions of the theory flow – including the drive to hegemony (p.10). Due to this system, a status quo state (a state which isn't maximizing power) is rarely found because each state in the system is competing to maximize their power, rather than focusing on security alone (p.21).

The result of this aggressiveness, according to Mearsheimer, is that it causes war (p. 335). However there are two factors in determining the risk of an outbreak of wars: power and polarity (p. 5, 356-358). In considering polarity, bipolarity is more stable than balanced multipolarity which is more stable than unbalanced multipolarity (p. 5, 358). An unbalanced multipolarity is the most unstable because it has a potential regional hegemony and their drive for supremacy may lead to an outbreak of war (p. 345). Additionally, other great powers do not want the balance of power to be shifted to hegemony, and so they will work to "balance" the potential hegemony and that can result in war (p.345).

The Grieco article states that realism is a well-developed theory of international relations which focuses on the system that states function in, but that there are several problems (including the question of if the states are security or power maximizers (p.186)) and real world happenings that cannot be accounted for (international cooperation (p.184)), with the realist theory (p.191). The core of the realist theory is based on several assumptions that provide a model in which to view the world: the nation-state is the central actor (p.164), anarchy is the system (p. 164) and that states act rationally, autonomously and as units in the system (p. 165-166). These assumptions lead to several propositions that are common in realist theory: that states are interested in security (p. 166), that anarchy leads to states being defensive positionalists (p. 167), and that states are interested in the survival of their autonomy and independence (p. 167-168).

Grieco uses these assumptions and propositions to test whether the theory of realism has any utility to determine expectations about state behavior and international outcomes (p. 168-177). Specifically, Greico finds that there is solid evidence to support the claim that states do act in a manner that is free from domestic concerns (p. 169) and that the expectation of states acting in a balancing manner is sometimes true and that different realist theorists view balancing differently (p. 170-171). However, Greico also determines that the expectations of bipolarity being more stable (p. 173) and the prediction that states, acting under the realist theory, will lack of international cooperation (p. 176) are not empirically based, and they need more development (possibly with the addition of several variables) before these expectations of realism can be held to be true.

Part II: Analysis

Greico's main problem is that he tries to compact all the various realist theories into one theory that is based on main assumptions about the states and the propositions that realists derive from these assumptions about state behavior (p. 163). He does this in order to deal with realism as a whole in answering the questions of critics and proposing solutions. However, realism has many theorists, and many of these theorists do not have similar assumptions. While it would be difficult to find a realist that doesn't assume that the central actor is a nation-state, you do not have to look far to find realists who do not deal with anarchy as a central assumption (p. 164). Morgenthau and the Cottam theories do not deal with anarchy as a central proposition.

However, Greico assumes that all realist theories deal with anarchy (p. 165). A more creative approach would be renaming this assumption as a "self-interest" assumption – whereby a state acts in its own self-interest because… Under this type of model, anarchy would be a reason that states act in their own self-interest. In addition to the collapse of the differences in the realist theories, Greico tries to respond to all the common critiques of realism: lack of international change (p.178), unit-level variables (p.181), international cooperation (p.184) and the security vs. power maximization (p.186). Rather than trying to respond to each of these critiques, and thereby needing to collapse realism into one theory, it would have been interesting to see how each theory responds to these critiques on its own.

Mearsheimer's theory of offensive realism rests on five basic assumptions: the international system is anarchic, that great powers possess military capabilities, that states can never be certain about other state's intentions, survival is the primary goal of states, and that great powers are rational actors (p.30-31). Mearsheimer's contention is that these five assumptions force states to act aggressively (p.32). I do not see the utility of the first assumption. It could be replaced by an assumption that all states act in their best interest. Additionally, the third assumption – that intentions can never be sure – is blatantly incorrect. If you are unsure of the intentions of another state, a d├ętente strategy is a method for determining them. Additionally, Mearsheimer says that the intention of all the states is to drive towards hegemony because that is their best chance for survival (p.40). Therefore, the intentions of all the states are included in the theory – they are not unknown. If the assumptions on which the theory is based are untrue, then the theory cannot logically flow from the assumptions and remain true as a theory.

Additionally, Mearsheimer lacks a description of power – except to say it is a means to an end of security. He equates power maximization to security maximization. Therefore, Mearsheimer is wrong in his theory of offensive realism.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Waltz, Schweller and Brooks: Realism and Neorealism

Waltz: Realist Thoughts and Neorealist Theory
Schweller: Neorealism's Status Quo Bias
Brooks: Dueling Realism

PART I: Summary

In the Waltz article, the main point was that neorealism (Waltz's theory) differs from classical realism because classical realism is a thought whereas neorealism is a complete theory (p. 71). This distinction is made based on Waltz's definition of a theory: a construct that forms a domain (p. 69), or structure, that indicates some factors are more important than others (p.71) and specifies what the relation between that parts of the structure are (p.71). Additionally, Waltz insists that theory isolate one domain (p.71). Lastly Waltz insists that a theory must drastically simplify the world with its assumptions, which will, of necessity, convey an impractical, or false, picture of the world (p.72).

Waltz claims that classical realism developed concepts – such as power – but was a mere thought and not a theory because there is no separate structure to analyze the concept within (p.71). Waltz compares this to neorealism which has a structure – anarchy (p.74) and allows him to isolate the domain in which the theory operates, and so can analyze the causal relationship of the actors within the structure (p.77-78). Additionally, Waltz, by defining theory as separate from the reality of the world (p. 72) defines classical realism as a thought because it dealt with the realities of the world (development of foreign policy), rather than dealing with the world of international relations as an abstract concept (p.71). Waltz differentiates neorealism by saying it is not concerned with the realities, but with the abstract concept of power as a means and not an end (p.80). In this manner, Waltz claims that classical realism is a thought, and neorealism is a theory.

The main point of the Brooks article is that realism really has two different branches: neorealism (which is based on Waltz) (p.445) and postclassical realism (based on everything else) (p.445) that can be separated based on their main assumption (p.446) of possibility of conflict (p.447) vs. probability of conflict (p. 456). Furthermore, the article states that two other differences in assumptions follow from this distinction (p.446): neorealism assumes that states heavily discount the future because short-term needs of security trump everything else (p.450) and military preparedness trumps all other concerns (p.452), while postclassical realism does not regard the future as subordinate to the short-term security needs (p.458) and there can be trade-offs between military and economic needs (p.461). As a result of these variations in assumptions, there has been very little useful dialogue between the branches of realism (p.472) and there has been confusion between the two branches about what is being tested in the various theories (p.473).

The main point in the Schweller article is that neorealism overlooks the possibility of an aggressor in the system, and instead focuses on a status-quo explanation of international relations (p.92, 101) – which doesn't create the security dilemma that neorealism is concerned with, because there can be no aggressor (p.91, 102). Status-quo states maximize security because their concern for their survival (p.101) – or what they posses – is more important than what the might want (p.99). Waltz describes a security dilemma as a situation in which states are not sure of each other's intentions, and therefore arm for the sake of security, which causes other states to feel insecure and arm more heavily (p.117). However, in Waltz's system, this behavior is irrational because you know the intent of the other states – their security and survival (p.118).

PART II: Analysis

The Waltz article seems very clear about what the separation is, for Waltz, of theory from thought. His main distinction seems to be that theory is abstract, whereas thought is concerned with actual explanatory issues (p.71-72). Waltz discards the notion that a theory ought to be concerned with prediction and manipulation in order to lead to prediction (p. 73). This certainly explains the lack of predictive value in Waltz's theory. However, it does not explain why a theory shouldn't be predictive. He simply states that being predictive is a quality associated with testing the theory rather than creating the theory (p.73-74). It is almost as if he creates his theory on false assumptions (p.72) and doesn't care if it can be tested – because that's not the point of a theory. However, how is this scientific, as Waltz claims to be (p.73)?

In the Brooks article, there are various decision-making models examined for neorealism (Waltz) (p. 454), and the only models that work for neorealism are models that represent a static decision where the decision will always be the same no matter what the situation (p.454). This seems to be because Waltz is not concerned with reality and how a theory can be tested (p.72-73 of Waltz) – he is only concerned with explaining a small section of the world based on simplified assumptions (p. 71 of Waltz). This lack of concern with reality is demonstrated when, in the Brooks article, postclassical realism (with its many variables of economy, military and technology (p.456)) can deal with the real world better than neorealism can (pp. 465 (Japan/Germany), 465 (Ukraine), 467 (cooperation)). However, this article makes a case for realism – at least the postclassical kind with a variety of variables –being relevant to the real world today. This is counter to some of the other articles which indicate that realism, with its power emphasis, isn't relevant in today's world of ideologies and multiple variables. Rather, this article seems to suggest that the more variables realism has, the more utility it will have in the world today.

The last critique of neorealism is based on the circular argument of neorealism. Basically, states arm because they fear for their security and they fear for their security because other states are arming (p. 117). This type of spiral conflict would not be necessary if neorealism had a variable to prevent it – mainly a change in the system. However, when a theory is structurally static, as neorealism is, it prevents the concept of change from entering into the system. Hence, the logic that the system is based on is circular and faulty. Notice that anarchy is absent from this logic circle, so is it so important to the neorealism viewpoint as the other points and assumptions of the theory?

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Definition of Constructivism for International Relations

Constructivism is not a theory. A theory is a set of statements or principles that is devised to explain a group of facts and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena[i]. That means, in order for constructivism to be a theory, it must be a set of principles that is devised to explain a group of facts and can be used to make predictions about behavior in the international relations arena. Constructivism does not make predictions. In fact, Wendt identifies constructivism as a tool for analysis, rather than a tool for predictions[ii]. Additionally, constructivism isn’t meant to explain anything - and it doesn’t. Rather than explain a group of facts, constructivism is a point of view about how one might go about changing the IR system. It outlines what issues constructivists would deal with in order to change things. However, it offers two variables (ideas and social norms) with no indication on what to do with those two variables. There is no causal explanation in constructivism. Because of these deficiencies, constructivism is not a theory.


Instead, Constructivism is a commonly shared set of initial conditions that must be present in a theory in order for it to fall into a “constructivist” perspective. Wendt’s basic works on constructivism (he’s considered the founder)[iii] is a reaction to realism, and is intended to counter the idea that self-help and power politics are essential features of anarchy[iv]. Instead, Wendt treats anarchy as a social construct (or practice) rather than an inseparable condition of international relations and the way that states see anarchy[v].


The main focus of this approach is to use theories borrowed from sociology about identity and interest formation[vi] to focus on how a change in identities and interests of states can make a change in their behavior[vii].There are two basic tenants to constructivism: (1) actors act towards objects – including other actors – on the basis of what value those objects have as interpreted by the society in which the actor operates[viii]; and (2) the meanings of the terms on which action (like cooperation) can be organized is based on shared interests[ix]. What these tenants mean is that it is collective meanings placed ob objects – such as anarchy – that constitute the structures that organize actions[x].


Wendt’s famous quote, “anarchy is what states make of it,” illustrates these examples perfectly. If anarchy was an essential feature of international relations, instead of a social construct, there could be no meaning given to it by states. Instead, it would function and other interactions would logically flow from it. Realists argue that self-help and power politics logically flow from anarchy. However, by treating anarchy as a social construct, Wendt is able to show that self-help and power politics don’t naturally flow, but can follow from anarchy[xi]. Wendt is also able to articulate ideas (sovereignty, dynastic relations, trade, goals, etc) that can cause power politics and self-help not to flow from anarchy[xii]. With this analysis, Wendt has changed the focus from anarchy as a must and defining feature of the system, to anarchy as a social construct that can change.


Constructivism offers no real guidance on what to study – except to put the focus on interests and identities of actors because those are socially formed and when changed, can make the system change. But there is no indication of which one changes, or how changes affect the system. Without being able to make some causal argument other than: change can cause change (tautological) then constructivism is not a theory, but a set of initial conditions.


[i] www.wordnet.princeton.edu
[ii] Wendt, Anarchy is what states make of it p. 424
[iii] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructivism_in_international_relations
[iv] Wendt at 395
[v] Id
[vi] Wendt at 394
[vii] Id at 418
[viii] Id at 397
[ix] Id at 403
[x] Id at 397.
[xi] Id at 399-403
[xii] Id at 396

Six (well seven) Elements of IR Theory

There are generally seven elements of international relations theory: world perception, view change, conceptualization of power, definition of state's interest,state motivation, intensity of conflict, and does regime type matter (although this only matters for very few theories, most don't deal with this issue).

The main international realtions theories are:
Realism (Morgenthau)
Neorealism (Waltz)
Neorealism (Mearsheimer)
Liberalism
Neoliberal Institutionalism
Constructivism (although this isn't truely a theory)

They all view the answers to the elements of IR theory differently.

Realism: views the world as simple and easy to understand. Change is not real - because change cannot happen. Power is both a means and an end. State interests and preferences are based solely in terms of power. The intensity of the conflict is high, and regime types do not matter.

Neorealism (Waltz): views the world simply in terms of anarchy and polarity. Change can only happen in the polarity of the system because anarchy will never change (although if you read his theory, it doesn't sound as if change of any kind can happen). Power is a means, and is used to survive, which is the interest and motivation of states. Intensity is always high, and regime type doesn't matter.

Neorealism (Mearsheimer): views the world simply in terms of anarcy and balance of power. The world can change, but in order to change more than simply the balance of power, you need to change the anarchic nature of the world (and that won't happen). Power is a means, and there is latent (economic) power and effective (military) power. The state's interest is security, and all states will rationally act to maximize their security. Intensity is always high, and regime type doesn't matter.

Liberalism: The world is complex, and there are many factors that go into deciding how states will act. Change is real and can come about by the natural goodness of humanity and the autonomy of the individual. Power is a means to make other states democratic. The states' interests are defined through the political process becuase the government governs and acts with the consent of the governed. Motivations don't matter, because the natural goodness of man will prevail, even if unintentionall. The intensity of the conflict is low, and the regime types favor civil/political liberties and government by law with the consent of the governed (which means democracies and republics).

Neoliberal institutionalism: Views the world like realism, except that institutions can overcome fears about competition inherent in relaism. Change can only happen through insitutions, and the power must be in the institutions, otherwise they won't work. States concentrate on absolute gains and prospects for cooperations. By holding the state's interests constant, motivations can be said to be the same as the interests. The intensity is low, and regime types don't matter so long as states cooperate with institutions.

Constructivism: This is not a theory - it has no causal relations, it is simply an "analytical tool." The world view is complex, and based on the recipricol nature of interests and social norms. Change is real and comes fromchanging the identity and interests of the actors - which comes from changing ideas. Constructivism doesn't deal with power. Interests are defined by the process (Wendt) and develop from and with social norms. States are motivated by the intersts and identities of their citizens, which are accumulated to make a state identity and interest. The intensity of the conflict is low - otherwise realism works (Wendt). Regime types matter because constructivism assumes democracies - otherwise individual preferences cannot be accumulated to make state preferences.