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  • 1. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSWhat are the lessons of history for the study of international politics? Dointernational relations scholars twist history? Are historians antiquarians? This book is a major contribution to the debate about philosophy and methodin history and international relations. Thomas W.Smith draws on insights fromhistoriographic theory and analyzes international relations scholarship fromclassical realism to structural, quantitative, and postmodernist work. The studyhighlights often licentious historical methods in international relations, as well asconvergence between the disciplines in style, method, and paradigmatic focus.Topics covered include:• interpretation and the politics of history;• anecdotalism, selection bias, and theoretical filtering;• use and abuse of history in foreign policy;• structural and quantitative history;• postmodernist history and politics;• historical skepticism and international relations theory.Smith argues that much of international relations—in theory and practice —restson narrow and often deterministic readings of history. He shows how historicalconstruction and interpretation chip away at scientific renderings of internationalpolitics. This skeptical view of history illuminates international relations as a realmof contingency and moral choice. Thomas W.Smith is Assistant Professor of International Relations at KoçUniversity, Istanbul.
  • 3. HISTORY ANDINTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Thomas W.Smith London and New York
  • 4. First published 1999 by Routledge 11 New Fetter Lane, London EC4P 4EE Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by Routledge 29 West 35th Street, New York, NY 10001 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group"To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledges collection of thousands of eBooks please go to" This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. © 1999 Thomas W.Smith All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilized in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Smith, Thomas W., 1962– History and international relations/Thomas W.Smith p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. 1. International relations. 2. History. I Title JZ1242.S64 1999 327.1’ 01–dc21 98–51213CIP ISBN 0-203-20124-8 Master e-book ISBN ISBN 0-203-26580-7 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0-415-17865-7 (Print Edition)
  • 6. CONTENTS Acknowledgments vii1 Introduction 12 The historical problem in international relations 73 History, contingency, and the roots of realism: 33 Reinhold Niebuhr and E.H.Carr4 History, analogy, and policy realism: 59 Hans J.Morgenthau and George F.Kennan5 The poverty of ahistoricism: 89 Kenneth N.Waltz and neorealist theory6 “The importance of being scientific”: 115 J.David Singer and the correlates of war7 Exit from history? Postmodern international relations 1438 Conclusion: history, skepticism, and the recovery of theory 173 Notes 185 References 191 Index 211
  • 7. ACKNOWLEDGMENTSI wish first to thank Kenneth W.Thompson, Michael Joseph Smith, David C.Jordan,Norman A.Graebner, and Dante Germino for directing this study when it was mydoctoral thesis at the University of Virginia. I also wish to thank my friends andcolleagues for their help and support: Alice Ba, Stephen Calabrese, Andrew Clem,Desmond Dewsnap, Cary Federman, Daniel Landis, Amy Nagle, ChristopherSabatini, Thomas Sakats, Ilter Turan, Scott Waalkes, Helga Welsh, and MarshalZeringue. I would also like to thank James A. Smith, Jr. for his encouragingcomments on a draft of Chapter 3; Paul W. Schroeder for his remarks on Chapter 5;J.David Singer, who took time from his busy schedule to discuss Chapter 6 withme; and Patrick Yott, of the Alderman Library Social Science Data Center at theUniversity of Virginia, for his assistance, also with Chapter 6. The errors andinfelicities that remain are my own. A special thanks is due Deniz Bingöl, myresearch assistant at Koç University, whose hard work and good cheer wereinvaluable in the final stages of this project. I gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Earhart Foundation, theInstitute for the Study of World Politics, the Miller Center of Public Affairs andthe Woodrow Wilson Department of Government and Foreign Affairs at theUniversity of Virginia, and the College of Administrative Sciences and Economicsat Koç University. The discussion of Michael Oakeshott in Chapter 2 was originally published in“Michael Oakeshott on History, Practice, and Political Theory,” History of PoliticalThought, 17 (1996), pp. 591–614. Copyright ©, Imprint Academic, Exeter, UnitedKingdom. The Reinhold Niebuhr material in Chapter 3 first appeared in “The Usesof Tragedy: Reinhold Niebuhr’s Theory of History and International Ethics,” Ethicsand International Affairs, 9 (1995), pp. 171–91. Copyright ©, Carnegie Council onEthics and International Affairs, New York. The section in Chapter 4 devoted toGeorge Kennan was first published in “Historical Learning and the Setting ofForeign Policy: The Case of George F. Kennan,” Miller Center Journal, 4 (1997), pp.95–105. Copyright ©, Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia,Charlottesville, Virginia. They are reprinted here with permission.
  • 8. 1 INTRODUCTION Out of our conceptions of the past, we make a future. Hobbes (1994:32)“The past,” the great skeptic of British philosophy Michael Oakeshott once noted,is “a field in which we exercise our moral and political opinions, like whippets ina meadow on a Sunday afternoon” (Oakeshott 1962:166). Prompted by Oakeshott’scritique of history-as-ideology, this study scrutinizes international relations theoryand research across the methodological spectrum from classical realism toquantitative and postmodernist work. Perhaps because it is a child of history,international relations, as it has developed, has tried to distance itself from historicaldiscourse, through methodological and theoretical innovations seeking generalknowledge about international and global politics. In this flight from the old waysof history, researchers have tended to downplay the historical content of their ownwork, and, at times, to embrace an easy historical empiricism. This uncritical viewof the past has contributed to an often licentious historical method, with historyserving less as an independent body of evidence than as a trove to be plundered,and which in the discipline’s most scientific work saddles history with morecertainty than it can bear.The historical problem is to some extent inherent in the material. As HansMorgenthau noted in an opening passage of Politics Among Nations (1948), The most formidable difficulty facing a scientific inquiry into the nature and ways of international politics is the ambiguity of the material with which the observer has to deal.… The first lesson the student of international politics must learn and never forget is that the complexities of international affairs make simple solutions and trustworthy prophecies impossible. It is here that the scholar and the charlatan part company… In every political situation contradictory tendencies are at play…which tendency actually will prevail is anybody’s guess. The best the scholar can do, then, is to trace the different tendencies which, as potentialities, are inherent in a certain international situation. (Morgenthau 1948:4–6)
  • 9. 2 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSQuincy Wright, an early advocate of the quantitative study of international politicsand one of the field’s greatest interdisciplinarians, had especially kind words forhistory. He noted that “in their emphasis on contingency [historians] provide ahealthy antidote to the overenthusiastic social scientist,” and that an appreciationof history lent the student of war a balanced sense of continuity and change, of uniqueness and repetition, of causation and contingency, and of choice and standards. He can better realize the complexity and uncertainty of human affairs, the many factors to be considered in making judgments, the dangers of abstraction, of dogmatism, of prediction, of action, and of inaction. He can better understand the abundance and variability of human values and the opportunities as well as the insecurities of any situation. (Wright 1955:87, 89)Now more frequently cast in the mold of political science, students of internationalpolitics have largely abandoned these earlier ideas about the nature of history andthe limits that history suggests for social science research. Today, “rigorous,” oftengrand, historical models are the norm, as is routine disregard for the problems ofhistorical discourse. The historical problem: an overviewIn its most basic outline, the historical problem in the field of internationalrelations comprises epistemology, ideology, and sociology. Epistemologically,history turns out to be an indispensable, but fickle, research partner. It is decidedlynot the independent body of evidence touted by Leopold von Ranke (1874: vii) ashistory “as it really was” (wie es eigentlich gewesen ist). If getting history right is “likenailing jelly to the wall,” as Peter Novick suggests in his highly controversial,meticulously documented That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and theAmerican Historical Profession (1988:1), then the use of history in social science is noless challenging. Plunging into the historical literature, the researcher is quicklyenmeshed in lively debate over description and explanation. History turns out tobe not so much an archival puzzle, whose parts eventually fall neatly into place,than a patchwork of often incongruous facts and more or less plausible inferences,interpretations, and impressions. This is particularly the case as the historian movesinto the realm of meaning and causality. As Stanley Hoffmann has argued (1987:455), “many different readings of the same reality are possible. Even if all historiansagreed on the facts, they would still disagree on the respective weight of those facts;in the act of ‘imaginative reconstruction’ that any causal analysis performs,assessments of motivation and causal efficiency vary considerably.” Ideologically, history is ripe for partisan selection and interpretation. As thetheorist constructs and reconstructs histories, allying inquiry with one interpretive
  • 10. INTRODUCTION 3school and carefully ignoring others, the findings risk being dictated or distortedby individual ideological or intellectual commitments. In place of searchinghistorical inquiry, we get a lawyer’s brief that confuses evidence and advocacy. Interms of sociology, the customs and conventions of international relations haveincreasingly fostered a kind of heedlessness toward historical questions. It hasbecome standard practice to brandish easy anecdotes and analogies, pursueahistorical, stand-alone theory, or else to approach the “history” part of theenterprise as merely a formal testing stage on the road to theory. This is symptomaticof a broader affliction in the field. Yosef Lapid (1989:249–50) suggests that, formany years, international relations has held “the dubious honor of being amongthe least self-reflexive of the Western social sciences.” Most debate in the disciplinetakes place within a“positivist” framework; it is assumed that rationally justifiedassertions about the “essential” nature of politics can be scientifically verified byobserving its historical manifestations. Critics of theory and history generallyrespond with theory and history of their own, in what often becomes an all-or-nothing contest of evidence and ideas. Rarer are examinations of the field’sunderlying assumptions and methods, particularly regarding the historical evidenceitself, or the field’s roots in social science. Most of the historical challenges described in this study fall within the followingcategories: Selection bias: as the title of Barbara Geddes’s article (1990) states, “the cases youchoose affect the answers you get.” This is the overarching problem in historicalusage across the social sciences. Selection bias can be systematic, resulting fromshoddy research; or it can be instrumental, aimed at promoting a particulartheoretical position. Partisan selection bias is usually accompanied by the sin ofomission of studiously avoiding unhelpful history. In all social science research,potential alternative explanations often reside in sources not enlisted or data notcollected. Anecdotalism generalizes from carefully chosen particulars. This is often more ofa didactic tool than a research method, as the theorist airily presents handpickedevents and narratives in order to corroborate his/her ideas. Analogies may beanecdotal as well, as the scholar or policymaker sees current dilemmas closelymirrored in the past. Although it is a sub-set of selection bias, the anecdotal fallacyis so prevalent as to warrant special mention. Ahistoricism promotes political theory emptied of content and context, often inan effort to sidestep the idiosyncrasies of political choice and the processes ofchange. Theorists may also be ahistorical in failing to recognize the impact ofmoment et milieu on their own research, thus presenting historically contingentconstructs as timeless laws of politics. The field is ahistorical as well in its focus oncontemporary history and policy issues (Buzan and Little 1994:233–4), and in itstendency to read the present back into the past. Theoretical filtering interprets history through one’s theoretical lens. This practiceis to some degree unavoidable: history needs theory to lend it coherence. At theextreme, theoretical filtering produces tautological research, undermining history’s
  • 11. 4 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSrole as an independent source of corroboration or falsification, as the case may be.Theoretical filtering is related to the quantitative fallacy as well, which arises whenstatistical methods propel research in a particular substantive direction. Inpostmodern work, a fixation on diversity and difference may prove so fine a filterthat any similarities across historical periods or event are lost, thus walling off thepast from the present. Cathedrals of clay: here one constructs theories of painstaking precision as thoughthe medium of research were Carrara marble rather than the softer stuff of history.This fallacy is common among quantitative researchers, who assume a tight affinitybetween historical data and history as it really was. Statistical methods allow for agreat deal of sophistication and precision in research and theory, yet this precisionmay overstep the archival and historiographic evidence on which quantitative dataare based. Bridging history and international relationsThree preliminary comments may be made about work that attempts to bridge thedisciplines of history and international relations. First, although some politicalscientists are loath to admit it, historians, at their best, are the furthest thing fromantiquarians. Not only do historians interpret culture and politics with originalityand flair, they also bear the daunting task of dismantling myths and preserving thepast from ideology and oblivion. The adage goes that history can be written wellonly in a free country. By the same token, historians are in no small way guardiansof the open society. “Why do ruling classes fear history?,” asks Harvey Kaye (1996).Anyone who has read Orwell, Kundera, or Koestler, or who knows the story ofPicasso’s Guernica, understands that people in power invariably espouse a certainview of history. Some dictators have literally turned history into fiction, creatingan “official story” out of whole cloth, or airbrushing politically inconvenient peoplefrom its pages. More subtly, states propagate heroic historical myths aboutthemselves, viewing past wars, for example, as cleansing, redemptive struggles.Political leaders may cultivate what A.D.Smith (1995:63) terms “ethnohistory,” anamalgam of selective historical truth and idealization, in order to create and controlpolitical identity (see also Hobsbawm 1993). In one way or another, ideologicalhistory depicts the past merely as a sort of ante room opening onto the politicalpresent. The free hand of the historian and the unencumbered hurly-burly ofhistorical argument are the surest safeguards against these abuses. It was not fornothing that Khrushchev is reputed to have said, “Historians are dangerous, andcapable of turning everything topsyturvy. They have to be watched” (quoted inOwen 1995:3). Warts and all, historical research and debate help to preserve integrityin politics. Second, it should come as no surprise that history is a dynamic enterprise,constantly being rethought and rewritten. In the past few years alone, a flap eruptedover how the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC should represent, fiftyyears on, the Enola Gay bombing of Hiroshima; Robert McNamara published an
  • 12. INTRODUCTION 5apologia for his lies that had spurred on the war in Vietnam; rather more ambiguousevidence has emerged concerning the Gulf War, undercutting what was at the timea tightly scripted portrayal of events; emerging from their forced hibernation,national historiographies are resurfacing in Eastern Europe and the former Sovietrepublics; in Moscow, the Soviet archives were ceremoniously opened at the end ofthe cold war, yet since that time access to the documents has been severely restricted;the stock of past presidents and prime ministers rises and falls on the tides ofhistorical argument and evidence; under the pall of special prosecutors, state papersin some countries are probably more sanitized than ever; even the venerableAmerican State Department series, Foreign Relations of the United States, has possiblybecome the source of disinformation, its editors declaring that their owngovernment tampered with, and denied them, important evidence. There is little reason to believe that the current state of historical evidence andjudgment is definitive or final. This itself would signal the end of history. Lately,“historical revisionism” has become a pejorative term, used first in reaction toMarxist interpretations of the origins of the cold war, and, more recently, in thebacklash against postmodern relativism in social and cultural studies (seeWindschuttle 1997). At times, revisionist history is plainly pernicious. Issue afterissue of the upright-sounding Journal of Historical Review, for example, carries“debate” about the “Holocaust myth.” Presumably, the publication’s high-mindedbanner (“bringing history into accord with the facts”) and its use of a sturdy, old-fashioned type for its masthead, are supposed to lend plausibility to its vileassertions. During the cold war, official Polish history had little to say about themassacre of Polish officers in the forest near Katyn by the Soviets in 1940 “until ajoint Polish-Soviet commission charged with filling in historical ‘blank spots’…declared it to be history” (Blok 1992:122). For reasons related to state security andnational unity, many historians in Turkey have for decades denied that a separateor overlapping Kurdish identity may exist within the country’s borders. Until onlyvery recently, Kurds were known euphemistically as “Mountain Turks.” Historical revisionism is not always wrong, however. In many ways, revision isthe lifeblood of the historian’s craft, as old verities are revisited, beliefs change, newdocuments and other artifacts are disclosed, and innovative inter pretive modelsare employed (Gaddis 1997b: preface and Leffler 1995). This seems especially truewhen it comes to recent and contemporary political history. There is a certaintimeliness and relevance attached to contemporary accounts, as historians attemptto bring coherence to the chaos of current events. Nevertheless, there are perils aswell in passing historical judgment even as “the eggs are frying,” as Hemingwayonce noted in one of his front-line dispatches during the Spanish Civil War.Judgments will almost certainly change when viewed with the clarity and insightthat often come with historical distance and detachment. Finally, when working at the intersection of politics and history it is helpful torecall that the “disciplines” are contrived. Each represents a voice and method ofdiscourse that provide a coherent framework for making intelligible one facet ofexperience. In their eagerness to erect academic walls, however, the disciplines risk
  • 13. 6 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSisolating themselves, in effect shattering human experience. Fortunately, the socialsciences resist this tendency. As the great social science historian Fernand Braudelnotes (1980:25–6), “the social sciences force themselves on each other, each tryingto capture society as a whole, in its ‘totality.’ Each science encroaches on itsneighbors, all the while believing it is staying in its own domain.” Events in onerealm reverberate in others. Economics spills over into politics, and vice versa;anthropology, psychology, and linguistics borrow and trade ideas; history adoptsinsights and problems from its neighbors, and reflects them back again. This processis, of course, congenial to liberal learning. This book traces the combative intimacyof two disciplines having a great deal in common, yet struggling to maintain theirseparate identities. I hope it will be clear just how much students of internationalrelations are indebted to historians, and vice versa, and how connected the twodisciplines are in method, style, and content, and in terms of the paradigms guidingtheir ideas. In many ways, the similarities between the fields are more striking thanthe differences. My hope in this study is to elucidate in a single argument a central problem ofmethod and content across a very diverse discipline. The theories and researchexplored here represent a wide range of approaches to history in internationalpolitics, including philosophical, theological, inductive, policy-oriented, deductive,quantitative, and postmodernist work. The theorists and projects under review arealso widely regarded as the finest exemplars of their respective method, thusproviding the most rigorous “defense” of each against the author’s skepticism. Thechapters flow chronologically. They also move, generally, from contingent views ofhistory toward nomothetic political science analysis, before lapsing into thekaleidoscope histories of postmodernism. If any strand of international thought isnot represented here (and many important ones are not), it is for reasons of spaceand because of the breadth of the field. Given the broad sweep of the study, someof the approaches that are treated will no doubt be given short shrift. I ask thereader’s indulgence for these shortcomings, as no slight is intended.
  • 14. 2 THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSIan Lustick has encouraged students of politics to confront “the largely (now)uncontested claim that the work of historians is not understood by historians tobe, and cannot legitimately be treated by others as, an unproblematic backgroundnarrative from which theoretically neutral data can be elicited for the framing ofproblems and testing of theories” (Lustick 1996:605). The problem, as BenedettoCroce once noted, is that simple chronicle is but the “corpse of history,” il cadavere,for “history without interpretation is history without the historical problem”(quoted in Florovsky 1969:353–4). Because it rests on inference of things past,historical thought is bound up in a web of prejudice and politics and honestdisputes over ambiguous evidence. The effect, most fundamentally, is that there arehistories, not history. While history is the only “empirical” evidence theorists ofinternational politics can exploit, a diversity of interpretations would seem tosupport an array of theories, even contradictory ones.1 This is a difficult notion for theorists and researchers in the discipline ofinternational relations, who have long turned to historical writings as a source ofinsight and a field of evidence in which to test their ideas. James Bryce argued inInternational Relations (1922: vi–vii), “It is history which, recording the events andexplaining the influences that have molded the minds of men, shows us how theworld of international politics has come to be what it is. History is the best—indeedthe only—guide to a comprehension of the facts as they stand.” Updating this idea,Bruce Bueno de Mesquita (1996: 53) notes that “For the social scientist the eventsof history are a laboratory in which to test their claims about how variables areassociated with each other; to test their theoretical propositions about causation.” As either political backdrop or behavioral laboratory, history is never far removedfrom international theory and research. When theory is constructed from thebottom up, history provides the building blocks. When theory is built from thetop down, history serves to test or falsify theoretical concepts. Case studies arefocused, comparative historical analyses. The learning and institutionalist literatureis explicitly historical and evolutionary. When quantitatively oriented researchersspeak of “events data” or “data-making,” they are referring to historicalrepresentations abstracted from a welter of evidence. Normative theorists stress thehistorical context of moral action. Marxist theorists seek to uncover the hiddenhistories upon which international theory is founded, while postmodernists point
  • 15. 8 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSout privileged views of the past that have shaped the discipline. Marxists andpostmodernists criticize conventional interpretations of history, yet both are atpains to use history against traditional theory to reveal its contingent character.Formal theory, including game theory, is perhaps the most ahistorical of theoreticalapproaches, yet increasingly it too is being put to the historical test. Nor is the historical canon in international relations particularly slim. TheVictorian historian and politician John Seeley argued that history was “a school forstatesmen” on the claim that “History is past politics and politics present history”(quoted in Stern 1973:199). This sentiment underpinned the alliance at the turn ofthe century between diplomatic history and the emerging discipline of internationalrelations. Today, most students of international politics still turn to event-centeredmilitary, diplomatic, or imperial history, such as those by Thucydides, Guicciardini,Fénelon, Albrecht-Carrié, Gulick, Kagan, Howard, and Gaddis; or to the theory-rich“world” histories of Toynbee, Dehio, McNeill, Kennedy, and others. A thirdtraditional focus is on the philosophical “histories” of Smith, Kant, Gibbon, Marx,Spengler, Halle, Fukuyama and others. However, the emergence of new theoriesand approaches has opened new realms of historiography beyond the standardrepertoire of “high” political history. Increasingly, researchers are drawn to the“slow-time” history advocated by the Annales school, accounts of civilizations,cultures, and other non-Westphalian (i.e. based on the European nation-statemodel) polities, as well as many of the rapidly expanding universe of “new” socialand economic histories: of technology, trade, labor, demography, ethnicity,institutions, ideas, popular culture, customs, norms, and so forth. Christopher Hill(1985:141–2) notes of this eclecticism in historical usage, “in some respectsinternational relations in the United States tends to be closer to history than it isin Britain, where the subject is generally thought to be ‘traditionalist,’ i.e., heavilyhistorical.” History, theory, and epistemologyAs Peter Burke (1992a: 1) has noted, the relation between history and social theoryis “deceptively simple.” To begin with, “history” is an ambiguous word. It refers tothe aggregate of past events in general, or to the train of events connected with aparticular place, person, culture, mentality, etc. But history also refers to attemptsto represent or re-create those pasts. History may take the form of chronicle, annals,narrative, tale, story, or statistical analysis. The ancient Greeks thought of historyas a learning or knowing by inquiry, and believed that it could be either true orimaginary. Today, history is generally taken to be true, even scientific, in its methodsand claims, yet it can also be seen as artistic or novelistic. It may center on eventsor on broader social, cultural, or economic traces or trends. It may be presentedas happenstance or determined, as a seamless web or a series of discrete periods. Itmay be didactic or belletristic. It may be politically engaged or value-free. Socialtheory is only slightly less ambiguous. As Raymond Aron (1967:2) explains, theorymay be considered either as “contemplative knowledge, drawn from ideas or from
  • 16. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 9the basic order of the world…the equivalent of philosophy,” or as “a hypothetical,deductive system consisting of a group of hypotheses whose terms are strictlydefined and whose relationships between terms (or variables) are most often givenmathematical form.” Thus, one should bear in mind that different kinds of historians turn to theoryfor different reasons, just as different theorists use history for a variety of ends.Even within the disciplines, assumptions, methods, and “needs” vary markedly.However, it is interesting to note that across disciplines these differences often fade.A diplomatic historian may have more in common with a realist theorist than withan environmental historian. A postmodern theorist will identify more with a socialhistorian than a classical liberal theorist. Such methodological and ideologicaldifferences probably divide social research more than any real or imagineddisciplinary walls. It is difficult to assign respective “roles” to social scientists andhistorians because they so rarely stay within them. Certainly the dichotomiescustomarily employed to distinguish history from political science—particular/general, explanation/understanding, nomothetic/idiographic, narrative-based/theory-based, presentist/antiquarian, policy-relevant/ivory towerish, active/con-templative, theoretical/empirical, and so on—are belied by the diversity and overlapof the fields. Still, theory and history both have their limits, and here the fields stand tocomplement each other: Historians and social theorists have the opportunity to free each other from different kinds of parochialism. Historians run the risk of parochialism in an almost literal sense of the term. Specializing as they usually do in a particular region, they may come to regard their “parish” as completely unique, rather than a unique combination of elements each one of which has parallels elsewhere. Social theorists display parochialism in a more metaphorical sense, a parochialism of time rather than place, when they generalize about “society” on the basis of contemporary experience alone, or discuss social change without taking long-term processes into account. (Burke 1992a:2)Despite these converging interests, acrimony between the history and internationalrelations disciplines, in particular, seems to be the norm. Some theorists revel inthe belief that their craft was built upon the lifeless body of history. They seehistorians as antiquarians lacking in any rigorous methodology, or worse, asdeceivers who conceal the assumptions and models guiding their narratives.Alternatively, historians are thought simply to line up the facts. Political scientiststhen step forward with their dynamic methods and put the facts to relevant use.Some historians respond with disdain for the “baseless” designs of internationaltheory. Christopher Thorne, for one, mocks international relations’ loftierabstractions as “super-rational exercises,” “divorced from the complexities provided
  • 17. 10 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSby historical evidence; riding high into a quasitheological stratosphere; deliveredin an unlovely tongue” (Thorne 1988:6–7). Students of international politics have offered similar critiques of their own field.Martin Wight (1966:32) notes: It may seem puzzling that, while the acknowledged classics of political study are the political philosophers, the only acknowledged counterpart in the study of international relations is Thucydides, a work of history. And that the quality of international politics, the preoccupations of diplomacy, are embodied and communicated less in works of political or international theory than in historical writings… It is not simply that historical literature is doing a different job from systems analysis. Historical literature at the same time does the same job—the job of offering a coherent structure of hypotheses that will provide a common explanation of phenomena; but it does the job with more judiciousness and modesty, and with closer attention to the record of international experience.Writing in 1972, Hedley Bull maintained that the theoretical literature oninternational politics “illuminates the subject more than the literature of diplomatichistory.” Yet, he added, If we compare the historical with the theoretical study of international relations it is clear that the literature of diplomatic history is still of more evenly high quality, that the standards of the historian’s profession are more clearly discernible, his canons of judgements less open to dispute, his territory less encroached upon by the crank or the charlatan, the imparting of his knowledge and techniques more clearly by itself an education. (Bull 1972:32)In recent years, several high profile cases have reinforced stereotypes about historyand theory. Francis Fukuyama’s (1992) “end of history” thesis and SamuelHuntington’s (1996) “clash of civilizations” idea, for example, were met with astream of derision from historians (and many theorists) critical of their grandclaims about the past and future of world politics. These criticisms, like most clichésabout history and theory, tend to exaggerate tensions between the two fields.Though sometimes marching in different methodological directions, history andinternational relations remain cognate disci plines. Indeed, across a vast middle,students of history and politics are doing much the same thing: trying to explainand/or understand events and their underlying causes, often with an eye towardthe future. Also, one cannot help but notice the parallel development ofinternational relations and international history since mid-century: from unit-levelanalyses of foreign policies to the study of international systems; from a focus ongreat powers to the effects of revolutions and popular movements; from narrativeto economic and statistical emphases, and back to narrative; from discrete studies
  • 18. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 11of domestic and foreign politics to synthesis of the two; from statist approaches toglobal ones; to a growing interest in the social underpinnings of politics. Along the way theorists have been steady—if sometimes selective—consumers ofhistoriography, at times doing their own archival work and historical construction.Conversely, diplomatic historians, but also historians of culture, civilization, andglobalization, have profited from international relations theory. Gordon Craig(1983:9) acknowledges a debt to theorists for encouraging historians to seekcorrelations and comparisons across cases with an eye toward prediction. John LewisGaddis (1990:422) advocates and practices what he calls interdisciplinary“bumping,” of ideas and criticisms. Melvyn Leffler (1995:179) does not shackle hiswork to any single model, but nevertheless professes to be “more and moreimpressed with the utility of theory,” noting how different theories “illuminateprospective causal relationships and interactions” that might otherwise have beenleft unexplored. The epistemology gapWhat has not bridged the disciplines, however, is concern about the nature anduses of historical knowledge itself. Philosophers of history do attempt to addressthe limits of historical claims. In international relations, however, the historicalproblem is often glossed over or ignored. This book should make clear the extentto which mainstream theorists strip history of its thorny dilemmas, and essentiallytreat ambiguous historical evidence unambiguously. The laboratory idea of history,in particular, seems rooted in the positivist philosophy of society associated withHume, Condorcet, Saint-Simon, Spencer, and, above all, Auguste Comte. Comteargued that we “have to contemplate social phenomena as susceptible of prevision,like all other classes, within the limits of exactness compatible with their highercomplexity.” Social scientists must “abandon the region of metaphysical idealities,to assume the ground of observed realities by a systematic subordination ofimagination to observation,” on grounds that “there is no chance of order andagreement but in subjecting social phenomena, like all others, to invariable naturallaws.” Ultimately for Comte, the task of social science was to “introduc[e] into thestudy of social phenomena the same positive spirit which has regenerated everyother branch of human speculation” (quoted in Gee 1950:161–2). Perhaps because international relations has developed along generally positivistlines, problems of historiography and the validity of its use by theorists have beenneglected in favor of more tractable questions regarding research method anddesign. As Nevil Johnson notes in The Limits of Political Science (1989:29), in themidst of this preoccupation with method, history has too often served merely as a“dignified background” to an outwardly scientific methodology, yet thatepistemologically the whole project “hangs in the air.” Debate about history oftencenters on how best to tease out the laws, patterns, tendencies, trends, andprobabilities of political behavior, how large a sample of historical evidence isadequate to test a hypothesis, the choice of case studies and the fit of analogies,
  • 19. 12 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSeven the finer points of coding The New York Times (Puchala 1990). Several chaptertitles in Richard Neustadt and Ernest May’s Thinking in Time (1986) typify thisattitude: “Dodging bothersome analogues,” “Inspecting issue history,” “Findinghistory that fits,” “Noticing patterns.” Despite its pivotal role in building andtesting theory, historiography is quite often treated as given, with causality fixed,and disputes over evidence and interpretation resolved. “History” becomes bedrockof knowledge to be quarried and applied. The theorist seems mainly concerned withlocating the richest vein, choosing his picks and shovels, and exhibiting the gemshe selects to greatest advantage. This methodological veneer obscures a raft of crucial questions. Is history, asEdmund Burke (1989:155) said, “a great volume…unrolled for our instruction?”Or is it “not so much a series of events as a magic mirror where everyone sees whathe wants?” (Thorne 1983:123). What does it mean to ground theory in history? Howautonomously do theorists treat historical knowledge? Is the theorist’s evidencerigged? Are facts subordinated to ideology? How strictly do readings of historygovern theory’s causal, predictive, and normative tasks? One study ofhistoriography concludes that our understanding of the past is dominated by acomplacent, Anglo-centered view of history as “the progress of natural rights anddemocratic governance” (Appleby et al. 1994:107–16). Is international relations anaccomplice here? A broader problem lies in the tension between historical understanding andsocial science explanation. The historian’s concern is thought to be with theparticulars of specific events, with adherence to milieu et moment, while theoreticalpronouncements are seen to point to general explanations and predictions of worldpolitics. How does the theorist wrap his mind around a class of phenomena withoutdoing violence to the differences inherent in the material? Another problem issimply interpretive. As one scholar notes, No matter how detailed and thorough an historical inquiry may be, it certainly cannot leave us with a unique correlation between the various empirical variables which will force all observers to make identical inferences and conclusions. Instead the available evidence allows for a number of more or less plausible interpretations. (Njølstad 1990:223)History—like politics—elicits more than its fair share of criticism. Aristotle believedthat poetry was more philosophical and of higher value than history. Goethe calledmeaning and direction history “the most absurd of all things,” a “web of nonsensefor the higher thinker” (quoted in Löwith 1949: 53). The OED cites MatthewArnold’s reference to that “huge Mississippi of falsehood called history.” OscarWilde once remarked that the only duty we have to history is to rewrite it. The skepticism underpinning this study is meant to be constructive. To be sure,history is an imperfect craft. As Paul Veyne points out (1984:3–14), history can be
  • 20. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 13a “true” account, but ultimately that account is based on “mutilated knowledge,”on more or less pronounced “traces” of the past. Ernst Cassirer described in ThePhilosophy of the Enlightenment (1962) the eighteenth-century transformation ofscientific inquiry from the Cartesian esprit de système, which sought to resolvefundamental problems of existence and epistemology through abstract reason, toa more modest esprit systématique, which in place of unequivocal answers held out amethodology of hypothesis, testing, and inference. Some of historiography’s mostardent critics, particularly postmodern ones, set historical study beside a Cartesianideal in place of the more humble modern standards. An extreme Foucauldian viewholds that the historian is absolutely shackled by politics and prejudice, that historyis an exercise in power and domination. This is a forceful, but probably minorityview, even among postmodernists. Yet, as Carlo Ginzburg has noted, rather thantreating artifacts as a potential “window,” however imperfect, on the past, somecritics turn historical evidence into “a wall which by definition precludes any accessto reality.” Holding history to an absolutist scientific standard amounts to a sortof “inverted positivism” employed to repudiate all historical understanding(Ginzburg 1991:83). Avenues to history: correspondence and constructionA brief tour d’horizon of the historical problem in international relations behindus, this section sets out two ways of understanding history: Ranke’s formulation ofhistory “as it really was,” and Michael Oakeshott’s constructionist theory of history.These two approaches to history and their respective interpreters are consideredseminal by historical epistemologists. The section is foundational to my overallargument in that it frames a debate about the nature of historical knowledge fromwhich international theorists, judging from their often naive use of history, havetoo often been sheltered. Ranke and correspondenceAlmost every major debate in contemporary historiographic theory takes as itsstarting point Leopold von Ranke’s “critical method” of sophisticated archivaltechnique and non-judgmental style. Ranke advocated above all else the autonomyof historical inquiry from moral and political values. In the preface to his firstbook, History of the Latin and Teutonic Nations From 1494 to 1514 (1887) he wrote:“History has had assigned to it the office of judging the past and of instructing thepresent for the benefit of future ages. To such high offices the present work doesnot presume; it seeks only to show history as it really was” (wie es eigentlich gewesen ist).2 History “as it really was.” This is probably the most quoted phrase abouthistoriography. The statement is generally seen as a manifesto for a positivist orscientific approach to history. Called by one biographer (Krieger 1977:3) the“Copernicus” of historical knowledge, Ranke envisioned the historian’s task as thatof dispassionately presenting the “objective nature of the great facts…free from the
  • 21. 14 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSmutual accusations of the contemporaries and the often restricted view of theirposterity” (Iggers and Moltke 1973:150). This “strict representation” of the facts,“be it ever so narrow and unpoetical, is, beyond doubt, the first law” (Ranke 1887:vi). Apart from this, the historian would banish himself from his books. As Rankewrote in his History of England (1875), in it he had tried “to extinguish my own let the things speak and the mighty forces appear which have arisen in the courseof the centuries” (Krieger 1977:5).3 Ranke aspired to a method that sharply separated subject and object, fact andvalue, history and fiction. For Ranke, the historian was no mere compiler or collatorof data, but in weaving a narrative the historian was thought literally to re-createthe past. Ranke saw historiography as corresponding to a series of actual past eventsthat exist independent of historical thought and writing. As he noted in one essay,“We should be satisfied with simple information—satisfied that it merelycorresponds to the object” (Iggers and Moltke 1973:39–40). The appendix to Historyof the Latin and Teutonic Nations, “In Criticism of Modern Historians,” made Ranke’sreputation as an historiographic theorist. In it, Ranke reproached historians forwriting histories cobbled together from other histories. He catalogued a number oferrors, plagiarisms, and deceptions in the works of Machiavelli, Guicciardini, andother Renaissance historians and memoirists (the latter more likely to engage inself-acquittal and score-settling than balanced reporting), and suggested that thereliance of latter-day historians on such contemporary accounts had perpetuatedmyths and misstatements from the Renaissance. Ranke taught that the criticalhistorian must instead focus on the primary sources, testing and vetting historicalaccounts against the facts as embodied in the documents. The result of theseresearches would be “essential” history, concrete, and value-free (Unparteilichkeit).Ranke believed that this plain narrative, with its close attention to “authorities”and careful scholarly apparatus, constituted history’s claim to autonomy; abstractcausal explanation was best left to philosophers. Yet, even Ranke was no Rankean. He meant history to be critical and colorless,but as Wilhelm Dilthey remarked, “In Ranke all the forces of the nine teenthcentury come alive” (quoted in Wines 1981:2). Most of all, Ranke was a Romantic;his idea of “essential” history extended beyond facts, into the realm of the spirit.The ultimate task of the historian was not merely to describe, but to intuit thesweeping ideas of history as embodied in individual events and actors. “Aftercriticism, intuition is necessary. The result is a sympathetic comprehension of theuniverse” as a realm of cultural creativity and spiritual development embodied inthe lives of nations (Wines 1981). Ranke wrote in “The Great Powers” (1833) that“Out of the clash of opposing forces, in the crucial moments of danger—collapse,resurgence, liberation—the most decisive developments are born” (p. 97). Heconcluded: World history does not present such a chaotic tumult, warring, and planless succession of states and peoples as appear at first sight. Nor is the often- dubious advancement of civilization its only significance. There are forces
  • 22. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 15 and indeed spiritual, life-giving, creative forces, nay life itself, and there are moral energies, whose development we see. They cannot be defined or put in abstract terms… They unfold, capture the world, appear in manifold expressions, dispute with and check and overpower one another. In their interaction and succession, in their life, in their decline or rejuvenation, which then encompasses an ever greater fullness, higher importance, and wider extent, lies the secret of world history. (in Iggers and Moltke 1973:100)Herbert Butterfield (1969:100) has noted that “Great historians…have to be rescuedfrom the cages into which their…successors try to confine them.” This is the casewith Ranke. Translated into the idiom of Anglo-American empiricism, Ranke’shistoricism was stripped of this Romanticism, leaving only the empirical method.With the notable exceptions of Macaulay and Carlyle, nineteenth-century Britishhistoriography adhered to a mildly Rankean positivism. E.H.Carr points (1961:15),perhaps too stridently, to the era’s “fetishism for facts” and its treatment ofdocuments as the historian’s “Ark of the Covenant”: “The reverent historianapproached them with bowed head and spoke of them in awed tones. If you findit in the documents, it is so.” Butterfield, however, notes (1969:108) an appreciationof the duality of Ranke, who “on the one hand opened in the modern field the eraof scientific research is the man who on the other hand stood as the supreme apostleof ‘general history.’” Arthur Marwick reports some resistance at the universities inBritain (“Research! Research! A mere excuse for idleness; it has never achieved, andnever will achieve, any results of the slightest value!”4), yet the critical method tookroot. Lord Acton, who had commended the “fidelity” of Ranke’s “miniature-painting” yet faulted him for lacking the “breadth of touch requisite to do justiceto great popular and national movements,” nevertheless set the task for contributorsto The Cambridge Modern History (1902–10), as “meet[ing] the scientific demand forcompleteness and certainty…as we approach the final stage in historical learning”;“Our Waterloo,” he wrote “must be one that satisfies French and English, Germansand Dutch alike” (Acton 1973:247, 249). In his 1896 report to the syndics ofCambridge University Press, Acton prophesied, with more confidence than Rankeever had, that advances in technique would yield “ultimate history.” “Allinformation is within reach and every problem has become capable of solution”(Acton 1907:12). Similarly, when J.B.Bury proclaimed, in 1902, that history was“simply a science, no less and no more,” he meant that history was concrete andultimately knowable (quoted in Marwick 1970:62). With the rise of the historical profession in the United States, Ranke’s historicismwas most earnestly misinterpreted and made the creed of the guild. The “scientificschool” of the late nineteenth century claimed Ranke as its archetype, amisidentification Georg Iggers (1962:20) suggests may be rooted in the differencebetween the German conception of “science” (Wissenschaft), which denotes any sortof systematic research, and the more exacting canons of American natural science.5 Herbert Baxter Adams noted of Ranke: he “determined to hold strictly to the facts
  • 23. 16 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSof history, to preach no sermon, to point no moral, to adorn no tale, but to tellthe simple historic truth” (quoted in Iggers 1968:63–4). Frederick Jackson Turnerdeclared that, thanks to the German historian, “That inductive study of phenomenawhich has worked a revolution in our knowledge of the external world was appliedto history” (quoted in Novick 1988:28–9). Harvard’s Ephraim Emerton calledRanke the founder of “the doctrine of true historical method,” adding, “If onemust choose between a school of history whose main characteristic is the spirit,and one which rests upon the greatest number of recorded facts, we cannot longhesitate…Training has taken the place of brilliance and the whole world is todayreaping the benefit” (quoted in Iggers 1968:64). Ranke was designated the firsthonorary member of the American Historical Association, and, after his death in1886, the history department at Syracuse University acquired his papers along withhis desk, chairs, and writing utensils, which were displayed like a shrine. The devout state-centeredness of Ranke’s analysis and his insistence on theprimacy of foreign policy (Primat der Aussenpolitik) has resonated especially withstudents of diplomatic history. This branch of historiography, which traditionallyhas focused on event-centered history as implied in state documents and other“high” political artifacts, comes closest to Ranke’s own work. Ranke’s internationalhistory was also his most controversial. Like Thucydides, whose political thoughthe analyzed in his dissertation at the University of Leipzig, Ranke saw the balanceof power as a fundamental mechanism of inter-state politics. The two shared a senseof how crucial were the spiritual aspects of power and conflict. Yet while there is atragic cast to Thucydides’ grasp of power and ethics, Ranke romanticized conflict: “Victory falls wherever the greatest energy, the most vital concentration of force,lies. What we describe as material force has in itself a higher significance, for thegreatest possible unfolding of the rule of the spirit reveals itself among the mostresolute.” Elsewhere he speaks of the “supreme law” of national independence“requir[ing] that the state mobilize all its inner resources for the goal of self-preservation” (Wines 1981:256, 257). The pitfalls of this triple alliance—a glorified state, a spiritual view of power, andtotal moral commitment to the struggle—are not hard to find. Werner Stark remarksthat “Behind the radiant Ranke looms the sinister Bismarck” (ibid.: 12). Pieter Geyl(1958:28) wonders if Hitler may loom there as well. Geyl points to the dangers of“objective” narrative that acknowledges no extra-historical standards in interpretinghistory. He acquits Ranke of this, but argues that it is nonetheless an attitudepromoted by the critical method and that in lesser minds may have abetted the riseof National Socialism. Even Nietzsche condemns the German historical school forinculcating “that admiration for the ‘power of history’ which in practice transformsevery moment into a naked admiration for success and leads to an idolatry of thefactual” (quoted in Callinicos 1995:10). It is instructive that Ranke did claimautonomy for his historical narrative, refusing to parrot the “political” historianswhose partisan and teleological scholarship aimed to propel Germany towardunification. The most jingoistic of German historians—Droysen, Sybel, Treitschkeand others—faulted Ranke, despite his great-nation views, for what they saw as an
  • 24. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 17excessive and unpatriotic objectivity (Gay 1974:75–6). This is perhaps more anethical problem than an epistemological one, but like most modern realists, Ranke,especially in the connection between balance-of-power history and his sanction ofthe state’s war footing, drew a clear connection between history “as it really was”and realpolitik beliefs and practices. Oakeshott and constructionismVying with this scientized version of Rankeanism as correspondence andrepresentation is the idea of history as an interpretive construction. Toward theclose of the nineteenth century, Dilthey, Croce, F.H.Bradley, and others challengedRanke’s empirical method from the perspective of philosophical idealism.Oakeshott, Collingwood, Becker, Robinson, and Beard refined the constructionistview in the twentieth century, where it remains a staple of pragmatic historicalthought. Constructionism does not presume that history can or should correspondto actual past events, nor does it claim to divorce the historian from the object ofhis inquiry. History is not a transparent set of positive facts to be mastered by thehistorian or applied by the student of politics. The past as an actual series ofhistorical events or as a causal lineup of historical actors is considered unknowablein any strict sense. Rather, history is the “ideate,” spoken, or written understandingof that past. As Michael Oakeshott (1990:99) puts it, “History is the historian’sexperience. It is ‘made’ by nobody save the historian; to write history is the onlyway of making it.” Historical constructionism is rooted in the experience-centered skepticism ofidealist epistemology. Knowledge, it is said, does not exist independent ofexperience. At least it is impossible to discern the “essence” of things apart fromhow they are apprehended. As Diderot (1963:35) wrote in his Lettre sur les Aveugles(1749), “On appelle Idéalistes ces Philosophes qui, n’ayant conscience que de leurexistence et des sensations qui se succèdent au dedans d’eux-mêmes, n’admettentpas autre chose.” Oakeshott traces this attitude to Hobbes’s skepticism and to hiscontention in the Leviathan (1651) that understanding must begin with experience,“for there is no conception in a man’s mind, which hath not at first, totally, or byparts, been begotten upon the organs of sense” (Hobbes 1947:xxiii). In the idealist construction of knowledge, the mind is said to transform a jumbleof perceptions into meaningful and coherent worlds of knowledge —history,politics, science, art, etc. These Oakeshott calls “modes” of experience: they are“arrests” or abstractions of the whole of experience. A mode is not arbitrarily drawn,but is authentic so far as it offers “an autonomous manner of understanding,specifiable in terms of exact conditions, which is logically incapable of denying orconfirming the conclusions of any other mode” (Oakeshott 1983:2). By preciselydescribing a mode’s governing logic, idealists seek above all to avoid the problemof ignoratio elenchi, the irrelevance engendered when argument or inference passesfrom one mode of discourse to another. (Gilbert Ryle calls this a “categorymistake.”) Modalists would argue, for example, that countering poetry with science
  • 25. 18 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSor philosophy with literature does not advance understanding. For this reason,Oakeshott insisted that history can support no practical conclusions. The historicalpast, he wrote, “is a complicated world, without unity of feeling or clear outline:in it events have no over-all pattern or purpose, lead nowhere, point to no favouredcondition of the world” (Oakeshott 1962:166). This, surely, is an overstatement ofthe incommensurability of historical and practical knowledge, but in it is a greattruth, namely that non-historical interests constantly encroach upon history. At work here is a constructionist rather than a correspondence logic. AsOakeshott (1990:108) argues, “To pursue ‘what really happened’ as distinct fromsimply ‘what the evidence obliges us to believe,’ is to pursue a phantom. And theshortest way of disposing of history altogether is to suppose that what is known inhistory is a fixed, finished and independent past. A form of experience wedded tothis purpose is infatuated with the impossible and joined with the contradictory.”For Oakeshott, historical inference demanded single-minded engagement with theevidence. It was sparked exclusively by artifacts from bygone times that had survivedmore or less intact to the historian’s day. The Gospel according to St. Mark, thescore of Figaro, Hobbes’s Leviathan, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Fountains Abbey,a parish register of marriages: these are the historian’s materials. He or she“understands” the past via these artifacts alone, not by way of hearsay or intuitionor any perceived non-historical need. These footprints of the past provoke andsustain historical inquiry, but they are not in themselves “historical.” The recorddoes not speak for itself; historical events and actors are never simply observable“data.” The historian takes the evidence and transforms it into history, aiming tounderstand “men and events more profoundly than they were understood whenthey lived and happened” (Oakeshott 1950/1951: 350). Ultimately, Oakeshott (1990:93) argues, “The historian’s business is not to discover, to recapture, or even tointerpret; it is to create and construct.” History is not a branch of scientific“discovery,” nor is it an imperfect representation of anything. The historical pasthas not survived; rather, it is a novel creation based on the artifacts. Because this process is bound up in the historian’s mind, prejudice in selectionand interpretation is inescapable. Oakeshott (ibid.: 99–100) argues, “There is nofact in history which is not a judgement, no event which is not an inference.” Half-skeptics have distinguished between evidence and interpretation, claiming to be“scientific” in their research, yet admittedly narrative and subjective in their writing.6 Yet constructionists can be skeptical even of the “facts,” which at the extreme aresaid not to exist until the historian creates them. As against orthodox Americanhistoriography, Carl Becker noted in 1910 that however unassailable the sources,“the historical fact is a wonderfully elusive thing after all, very difficult to fix, almostimpossible to distinguish from ‘theory,’ to which it is commonly supposed to beso completely antithetical.” Instead of the historian “‘sticking to the facts,’ the factsstick to him” (Snyder 1958:10, 24). E.H.Carr’s selectivity thesis likewise aims tounsettle the distinction between fact and value, calling a “preposterous fallacy” thebelief in a “hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently ofthe interpretation of the historian.” Carr suggested that the historian approaches
  • 26. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 19“the facts” like “fish on a fishmonger’s slab.” The historian “collects them, takesthem home, and cooks and serves them in whatever style appeals to him” (Carr1961:10, 6). Constructionists are especially wary of ideological abuses of history. Even whenthe historian is devoted to his or her craft, there is still room for skepticism. AsCharles Beard put it in his famous essay against objectivity, “That Noble Dream”(1935), “Beyond doubt, scholars of competence can agree on many particular truthsand on large bodies of established facts.” But it “denies philosophy” to believe thatit is “possible for men to divest themselves of all race, sex, class, political, social,and religious predilections and tell the truth of history as it actually was” (Beard1935:76–7). Oakeshott’s concerns about treating history as a treasure house havebeen mentioned. He insisted that “history is thinking about the past for the sakeof the past; it is a way of thinking about the past free from all extraneous interests”(Oakeshott 1936: 78). He contended that to interpret the evidence with somepractical or moral end in mind was, by definition, to descend into ideology. Hetagged historical ideologists as “vulgar rag-pickers,” in whose hands artifacts are“transformed from being resonant, ambiguous circumstantial survivals of bygonehuman life into emblematic actions and utterances…entirely divorced from theircircumstances.” “A record reputed to be a mine of prophetic utterances may beconsulted at random, after the manner of the sortes Vergilianae,” he argued, and here the yield is not advice but an alleged unavoidable destiny and the courage to accept it. The Old Testament, its character as the recorded past of the ancient Hebrew people ignored and belief in its alleged divine authorship suspended, has long been known as an unequalled collection of exemplars of human character and situation and a rich vocabulary of verbal and situational images, of parables and analogies, in terms of which to understand, express and respond to current situations. (Oakeshott 1983:58)For Oakeshott, history was not the handmaiden for any other branch of knowledge,or for any political creed. Nor was history to be interpreted in terms of any imposedcontrivance of teleology, evolution, or development. “We shall not find unity inhistory unless we have first constructed history on a principle of unity,” he declares(Oakeshott 1990:142).7 In order to preserve the integrity of his story, the teleologist-historian must either ignore as “non-events” whatever does not fit within hisstraitjacket plot, or he must sculpt events to make them fit. Oakeshott sanctionedhistorical periodization, although he discouraged overburdening theseconceptualizations—“the Carolingian Empire,” “the Protestant Reformation,”“European Liberalism,” etc.—with categorical finality. Only the “flimsiest partition”distinguishes one historical event from another, as “there is nothing solid orabsolute in their character” (ibid.: 122). We should not, therefore, confuse thehistorian’s “tentative, multiform historical identities” with the “stark, monolithic
  • 27. 20 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSproducts” of facile classifications and ideological constructions (Oakeshott 1983:117–18). Oakeshott (ibid.: 58) defined history constructed within these strictures as an“argued invitation to imagine the intricacies and the coherence of a condition ofhuman circumstance which has not survived.” History remained a modestconstruct, with historical truth tied to an obligation to the evidence and centeredon the coherence of the story. When the historian is successful, i.e., when eventsare understood independent of subsequent events or contemporary desires, the pastexhibits at most “a peculiarly tentative and intermediate kind of intelligibility”(Oakeshott 1962:159). The image of historical construction Oakeshott evokes inOn History (1983) is that of a country “dry wall,” whose stones are held togethernot by mortar, but by their roughly interlocking shapes. If this wall should totteror rifts appear, these eccentricities are seen not as defects, but as characteristics ofhistory. Historians may prefer not to dwell on the soundness of their constructions.Hayden White claims (1966:112) that since the mid-nineteenth century, mosthistorians have affected a kind of “willful methodological naiveté,” that there is“resistance throughout the entire profession to almost any kind of critical self-analysis.” Peter Novick (1988:15, 593) suggests that “reflecting on epistemology” is“what historians do worst, or at least badly,” either out of “utter indifference” toepistemological questions or in “tacit recognition that the issues involved [are] toohot to handle.” While White and Novick are probably not representative spokesmenfor the historical profession, no serious historiographic theory today denies theimpact of presentism and bias on historical thought. The historian may seek whatJakob Burckhardt described as the “Archimedean point outside events” whereobjective judgments are possible, knowing, however, it will not be found. As Hans-Georg Gadamer (1992:18) once put it, “We stand at the end of our own reflections.”No historian is divorced from non-historical interests. The real question is theextent to which these extracurricular engagements color his/her history. We nowtake up this problem as it relates to social science theory. History, theory, and social scienceHistorians are themselves divided over the relation of their craft to other realms ofsocial inquiry. (See, for example, Marwick 1970, Hofstadter 1973, Dunn 1978, Fogeland Elton 1983, and Appleby et al. 1994.) History’s affinity for social science isgenerally seen to turn on questions of objectivity and on the possibility of derivinghistorical trends, patterns, or laws from the available evidence. This possibility restsin turn on the notion that knowledge exists objectively and independently ofapprehension and interpretation. However, even if objectively understood, is eachpast event sui generis, and thus resistant to inclusion in scientific constructs? Arethere timeless historical and political precepts, or are social studies purelycontextual? Can there be what Carl Hempel (1942) calls, in the locus classicus ofthe deductive historical method, a “function of general laws in history”? Does
  • 28. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 21Oakeshott (1936:78) overstep in his insistence on the “absolute impossibility ofderiving from history any generalizations of the kind which belong to a socialscience,” and that anyone who attempts to wed history and social science is“ignorant of the nature of either and careless of the interests of both”? Inference versus observationIn its relation with social science, history is torn between inference and observationon one hand, and idiography and nomothesis on the other. As we have seen, theinference—observation question is at the center of the Ranke—Oakeshott debate,with Ranke claiming to “observe” events via the documents, and Oakeshott creatinghistorical inferences based on the artifacts. This “inside—outside” dilemma parallelsDilthey’s famous distinction between the sciences and the humanities. Accordingto Dilthey, the humanities were an inward experience (Erlebnis) where, in the caseof history, the historian grapples imaginatively with evidence of the past with theaim of understanding the motivations and beliefs behind events and actions. Theaim of scientific knowledge, on the other hand, was to explain (begreifen) phenomenapresented as outward spectacles. (See Collingwood 1956: 171–6.) Dilthey found itappropriate, then, that students of the natural sciences use the language of causality,and that students of the humanities speak the language of experience. This distinction is also a factor of the sociology of knowledge and of scientificdiscovery. All knowledge is conditioned in some way, although critical theoriesmost commonly regard truth as defined by power and interests, as with Marx,Mannheim, Lukács, Foucault, and others. E.H.Carr was arguably the field’s firstcritical theorist in his contention that ethical and theoretical commitments, “farfrom being the expression of absolute and a priori principles, are historicallyconditioned, being both products of circumstances and interests and weaponsframed for the furtherance of interests” (Carr 1946: 68). As we will see in ourdiscussion of postmodernism in Chapter 7, the discipline has, in this critical sense,come full circle. Thomas Kuhn’s idea of the ambiguity of paradigms in science has had a similareffect on more formal research programs. Kuhn argued in The Structure of ScientificRevolutions (1962) that paradigms structure otherwise haphazard research, but theyalso impose boundaries on inquiry. This is why paradigmatic “normal science”persists even as anomalies mount. Scientific (including historical) knowledge doesnot steadily accumulate in a way that can be rationally reconstructed. Rather, onlywith a broader upheaval in the ethos of scientific discovery does one paradigmsupplant another. Kuhn maintained that paradigms were doubly problematic intheir relation to history. Not only did paradigmatic orthodoxies blinker thescientist’s interpretation of the historical evidence, but also scientific logic was itselfinnately Whiggish, that is to say, unequivocally linear, cumulative, and present-centered about its own disciplinary history (Kuhn 1962:137). The problem withany such contentions about the relativity of knowledge is that the critic must claimto have achieved some privileged position from which to make a critique. What is
  • 29. 22 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSunassailable in any case is that the social scientist is part of the history from whichhis/her knowledge is constructed, and at any moment that knowledge may have tobe amended or abandoned altogether. Moreover, as Alan Ryan (1970:19) and others have argued, historical descriptionand explanation can be self-fulfilling. For instance, the vision of a zerosum coldwar held by President Truman’s National Security Council appears (with Soviethelp) to have produced exactly that: its initial assumptions were “confirmed” bythe actions that flowed from those assumptions. This is not to suggest that wemerely re-imagine the history of international relations in terms of some peaceablekingdom, nor need it lead to total skepticism about our socially conditionedconstructs. We can say, however, that the social dimensions of theory and policyblur the divide between belief and knowledge. Caution seems especially apt as we venture onto the boggy ground of ascribingmeanings to historical events. As Max Weber, himself primarily an historianinterested in generalization, nevertheless made clear, the shortcoming of historicaldiscourse is that it can only ever provide a self-centered meaning to events, that thebroadest “theoretical” patterns in history are as much the products ofconceptualization as of actual observation: The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must know that we cannot learn the meaning of the world from the results of its analysis, be it ever so perfect; it must rather be in a position to create this meaning itself. It must recognize that general views of life and the universe can never be the products of increasing empirical knowledge. (Weber 1949:57) Idiography versus nomothesisA second axis of tension in history and theory is that between “idiography”(particular-description), and “nomothesis” (law-generation, with attendant “if xthen y” causal claims). It is here, really, that history and the social sciences,depending on one’s view, either meet or diverge. On this point, the anthropologistMargaret Mead once wisecracked that historians study “the unique event in all itsuniqueness” (quoted in Thorne 1988:36). The environmental historian E.L. Joneshas noted that if the “uniqueness problem” is “carried to the extreme of ignoringall regularities, the very possibility of social science is denied and historians arereduced to the aimlessness of balladeers” (quoted in King et al. 1994:43). Particularists such as Oakeshott defend the differentia specifica of historical eventsand actors, insisting that “where comparison begins, as a method of generalization,history ends.” “Liberalism felled the Berlin Wall,” or “democracies are pacific,” arenot, then, historical statements. Oakeshott claims that “the relation between eventsis always other events.” The implication is that historical understanding requiresno “theory,” but rather lies in “a greater and more complete detail…a world ofevents in which no lacuna is tolerated” (Oakeshott 1990:166, 141). Thus, we can
  • 30. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 23never know history with any scientific rigor, since to do so requires strict causallinks (necessary and sufficient) between events. Oakeshott (1983:75–6) insists thatstrict causality is a standard of science not of history, and attempting to bridge this“unresolvable categorical distinction” is to engage in a “pretentious muddle.” On the nomothetic front is Carl Hempel’s path-breaking use of the deductivemethod in historical interpretation. “The methodological unity of empiricalscience,” Hempel argues, demands that “general laws have quite analogousfunctions in history and in the natural sciences” (Hempel 1942: 48, 35). Hempelemploys what has variously been called “the regularity model,” the “coveringmodel,” or the “deductive” method of “prediction and control.” Under whateverrubric, historical interpretations are deduced from general assumptions that appearto “cover” it and similar cases. Hempel suggests that history has always been“scientific,” that causality is implicit in all historical writing. Linking actions withevents with terms like “causes,” “outcomes,” “origins,” “influence,” “development,”“growth,” and “decline,” suggests that the relationship between events is not oneof happenstance, but that the outcome stated was a necessary consequence of theaction depicted. The idea is that general causal assumptions can be “scientifically”confirmed or disconfirmed, as Hempel put it, “by suitable empirical findings”(ibid.: 35). Writ large, this is essentially the tension between history and theory. The “idealtype” of historian emphasizes meaning, difference, content, context, andcomplexity. His theorist counterpart focuses on regularities, generalization, andeconomical explanation. Set Kenneth Waltz’s (1979) universal guide for explainingwar—the military structure of the international environment —beside GeoffreyBlainey’s (1973) thirty-three different conditions and caveats on war, and thecontrast between the disciplines is clear. In several ways, however, this is a false distinction. In either discipline, “facts”do not simply exist waiting to be incorporated into research. Historians as well astheorists rely on generalizations, models, and concepts. These are indispensable tohistorical writing; without some sort of framework, evidence and ideas lack meaningor coherence. “Facts may be facts,” Hugh Stretton wrote, “but theories order themand explanations select them.” Stretton continues: “by historians…and by manyother social scientists whether or not they admit it, explanations have to be chosenby some principle of value, fashion or chance; no ‘scientific’ principle can replacethem” (Stretton 1969: v, 60). The historian always works according to somehypothesis. The real task is to derive a premise that “will neither lead him into thesystematic error of interpretation according to a general principle unsupported byevidence or insufficiently comprehensive, nor leave him with disiecta membra whichcannot be brought into any intelligible relations with the actualities of human life”(Introduction to Herodotus 1947: xii). Moreover, in ways that are rarelyacknowledged, the logic of most historical explanation (though not of Oakeshott’s)mirrors that of scientific explanation. The burden of much of history is to showthat events were to be expected, given certain antecedent conditions. As Hempelpoints out, there is a causal claim here. There is also a suggestion, at least, that in
  • 31. 24 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSthe future one might expect similar consequences under similar conditions. In acrude manner, this is what it means to possess a “sense of history.” When confronted with historical skepticism, an historian may plead that thestory is being told as well as possible, given personal limitations and those of theevidence. When a theorist encounters “historical” concerns, he or she is apt to seekrefuge in the canons of social science. A common rejoinder is that theory cannotbe bounded by specific historical events. Theory is a model, a roadmap, or a lenswith which to make sense of the history. Theory should be elegant andparsimonious. Its function is not to struggle with the facts, but to illuminate thegeneral trends or tectonics of international politics. Granted, theoretical statements are abstracted from a far richer historical context,and precisely because the theorist is given to generalization, there is perhaps morechance of interpretive recklessness than with an historian. Less convincing, however,is the theorist’s contention that his compact causal model transcends interpretivequestions. Let us retire the idea that the historical problem has little bearing oninternational relations theory. Theory is not a license to twist history or to fudgequestions of causality, periodization, or intent. It is a tool for understanding, nota creed to be defended at any cost. And even if we consider international relationsa theoretical science on the methodological grounds proposed by Morton Kaplan(1961:24)— “the science of the discipline does not lie in absolute certainty but inreasonable belief, in definite canons of procedure and investigation, and in theattempt to permit confirmation or falsification even though of an impreciseorder”— historical testing, with all its attendant problems, remains the sine qua nonfor international relations as a progressive stream of knowledge. Traditionalists versus scientistsThis question has been muddled in the debate in international relations between“traditionalists” and “scientists,” the former concerned with more or less“historical” judgments, the latter with value-free generalizations and predictions.Traditionalists contend that because political scientists have cut “themselves offfrom history and philosophy,” they hold a “callow and brash” view of internationalstudies (Bull 1969a: 37). Some claim that historical interpretation is the crux of thestudy of international affairs. As Martin Wight (1966:33) formulaically suggested,“Politics: International Politics=Political Theory: Historical Interpretation.”Behavioral political scientists typically respond that historical interpretation hasno place in scientific abstraction, that it is impossible to “squeeze juice from thehistorian’s turnip” (Meehan 1968:108–9). Historical interpretation is theoreticallyunstructured, intuitive, anecdotal, idiosyncratic, and irreproducible—in short,unscientific. This division is over-simple, and does violence to the achievements of bothcamps. In fact, there is constant tension in theory—and history—betweengeneralization and historical content. As A.H.Birch (1969) and Richard Little (1991,1995) have argued, history and social science cannot be distinguished in terms of
  • 32. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 25epistemology and method, but only by the kind of research questions asked. Littlenotes: This tug between the desire to understand both the particular and the general is not…peculiar to the “classical approach.” It is an endemic feature of the social sciences. The failure to appreciate this point has led to a false dichotomy between “classical” and “scientific” approaches and the odd notion, propagated by some historians who have lacked any self-conscious awareness of their own methods, that history is concerned with unique events whereas social science is concerned with a search for general laws. Social scientists and historians have no option but to rely on methods which ensure that some link is maintained between understanding the particular and explaining the general. (Little 1995:15)How does one draw a line between history and abstraction and still maintain thislink? The “scientific” reply is most often tied to the quest for a “general,” usually“systems,” theory of international politics, and aims to balance theoreticalsimplicity and depth of explanation. Yet, as Weber again argued, “for the knowledgeof historical phenomena in their concreteness, the most general laws, because theyare most devoid of content are also the least valuable. The more comprehensive thevalidity—or scope—of a term, the more it leads us away from the richness of reality”(Weber 1949:80). Indeed, in international relations, the quest for parsimony hassparked something of a race to the bottom in terms of historical content. This seemscounterproductive in such a complex field as international politics. Instead oftrying to understand events, causal models may simply assume that the way thingsturned out was foreordained. It is easy to forget that in politics the interplay betweennecessity and choice can be intense and often indeterminate. Process is no lessimportant than structure. For these reasons, theorists should perhaps build outwardfrom historical understandings. In doing so, they should attach, as Martin Wightonce counseled (1966:32), a liberal dose of “judiciousness and modesty” to theirhistorical claims. “Using” history: proof or plunder?According to Benedetto Croce’s (1941:19) famous slogan, all history iscontemporary history. “The practical requirements which underlie every historicaljudgment give to all history the character of ‘contemporary history,’ because,however remote in time events thus recounted may seem to be, the history in realityrefers to present needs and present situations wherein those events vibrate.” Ifhistory is malleable in the historian’s hands, the whole notion of using history inother pursuits begs added skepticism. As the theorist constructs and reconstructshistories, there is danger that the creation will be dictated or distorted by personalideological or intellectual commitments. This practice can reduce the “archive” of
  • 33. 26 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSinternational relations to little more than “self-fulfilling hindsight” (Booth 1995:332–3). The argument developed here is that abuses of history are tied to the rigidityof theory and to the extravagance of the theorist’s claims on history. The ambiguities of historical evidence seem lost on many international relationsscholars. It has been suggested that the discipline’s mainstream has hewed to anuncomplicated Rankeanism vis-à-vis history, which is neither uncomplicated norRankean. This has not always been so. Writing in 1959, Kenneth Waltz remarkedthat theory itself was chiefly responsible for the mutability of historical evidence.“The idea we entertain becomes a filter through which we pass our data,” he noted.“If the filter is good or the data selected carefully, they will pass like milk throughcheesecloth. The recalcitrance of the data may cause us to change one filter foranother, to modify or scrap the theory we hold—or it may produce ever moreingenious selections and interpretations of the data.” Waltz concluded that it wasimpossible to resolve theoretical dilemmas “historically.” Since the “evidence” iseasily tailored to meet expectations, historical argument tends merely to reproducethe logic of the arguer (Waltz 1959b: 60). We shall see in Chapter 5 that Waltz later tempered his skepticism, and in Theoryof International Politics (1979) advocated rigorously deductive theory, which hebelieved could be confirmed if derivative hypotheses withstood testing against“hard” historical cases. This about-face notwithstanding, doubts linger about thefirm findings of international relations research that hinges on history. If one is atall ambivalent about historical evidence, two or three contrary cases ought not tooverturn a theory; but then neither should a selected handful of consistent onesconfirm it. Currently the consensus among “theory—hypothesis—testing”researchers is against the low falsification threshold associated with Karl Popper(1959, 1965), and in favor of Imre Lakatos’s “sophisticated methodologicalfalsification,” which tests theory not only against the “facts,” but against othertheories as well (Lakatos 1970). Again, this may be a case of political scienceoutpacing the material. We shall see as well that Lakatos himself had grave doubtsabout “scientifically”— oriented social science methodology, wondering if it wasnot merely “pseudo-intellectual garbage.” Climbing the pyramids of antiquityResearchers will bicker over methodology, but often skepticism about history issimply trampled in a rush of aggressive conclusions promoting a particularintellectual stance. One is reminded of Nietzsche’s (1965:225) critique of those“curious tourists and laborious beetle-hunters climbing up the great pyramids ofantiquity.” Critics charge that theorists rummage through history books seeking“authorities” for their theoretical views. Indeed, the more distant an historicalexample or analogy, the more easily it seems to pass into evidence. Such criticism has remained at the margin of international relations scholarship,raised most often by historians familiar with theory. A general objection is thattheorists make cavalier use of historical narrative, designing what Collingwood
  • 34. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 27(1956:257–61) called “scissors-and-paste” history, a jerrybuilt pastiche of “events.”A more specific indictment is that theorists jettison historical particularism,essentially forcing history to lie in the Procrustean bed of political inquiry.Christopher Hill (1985:142), for example, notes a tendency, especially amongAmerican theorists, to “play fast and loose with the historian’s concerns withparticularity and context.” Paul Schroeder (1994a: 148) worries that researchers will“go at history like a looter at an archeological site, indifferent to context and deepermeaning, concerned only with taking what can be immediately used or sold.” Notaltogether whimsically, Christopher Thorne (1983:123) offers the metaphor of“Clio as callgirl,” and cites a parallel in Jean Genet’s The Balcony, in which MadamIrma, keeper of the brothel she calls her “House of Illusions,” finds that each patron,“when he rings the bell and enters, brings his own scenario, perfectly thought out.” A case in point is the treatment of Kant’s idea of a “pacific federation” composedof constitutional republics. The Königsberg philosopher’s thesis has been translatedinto contemporary debate in the hypothesis that democratic states do not go to warwith each other, and is a standard premise of liberal international theory. Theproposition seems straightforward enough and appears amenable to empirical-historical testing. However, a recent flurry of “historical” scrutiny has only cloudedthe issue. Consider two articles, one by John Owen, the other by Christopher Layne,in a 1994 issue of International Security. The writers each probe four historical cases.In fact, they address two of the same cases—Anglo-Union acrimony during theAmerican Civil War, and Anglo-American tensions in 1895–6 in connection withthe Venezuela—British Guyana boundary dispute—and in doing so rely heavily onthe same history books. In the articles, each author rallies historiographic evidencein support of his argument, yet the conclusions drawn from that evidence are atloggerheads. Owen (1994:124) finds that “The liberal commitment to individualfreedom gives rise to foreign policy ideology and governmental institutions thatwork together to produce democratic peace.” Layne (1994:49) resolves that “theworld remains what it always has been: international politics continues to occur inan anarchic, competitive, self-help realm.” The disjunction lies in the history—or, more precisely, in the selection andinterpretation of historiography. Both articles are well within the norms andconventions of historical usage in international relations, yet both authors drawselectively on the historical record. They are either unaware of the conditional andcompeting nature of the relevant facts, or else they are acutely aware of this problemand have deliberately spotlighted helpful citations and obscured contrary claims,but without then qualifying their “historical” and theoretical conclusions. Indiscussion of the Trent Affair in 1861, for example, Layne (1994:19) quotes abellicose Prime Minister Palmerston as threatening “to inflict a severe blow upon,and read a lesson to the United States which will not soon be forgotten.” Owen(1994:113), on the other hand, quotes Palmerston’s reluctance to use force, due tothe “Shackles of Principle and of Right & Wrong on these Matters.” A morejudicious reading of the evidence might be that the Prime Minister was ambivalentabout starting a war with the Union. Instead, the researchers proceed based on
  • 35. 28 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSevidence consonant with their initial assumptions, and extrapolate in a mannerprobably unintended by the historians whom they cite. And lest we think theinterpretive problem is overcome through quantitative “coding” of historiographyin place of narrative evidence, that approach, as will be clear in Chapter 6, alsowarrants robust skepticism. Quantitative scrutiny of the democratic peace premisehas bogged down in definitional squabbles about what constitutes a democracy,and about the relationship between wars and “near misses.” Critics argue that thedirection of causality may be reversed, the correlation may hold only for the coldwar years, or that some unexplored factor may better account for the liberal peace.The quality of diplomacy is neglected, minor wars and major conflicts are weightedequally, and ultimate calculations are deemed statistically insignificant (see Spiro1994, and Farber and Gowa 1995).8 Flagrant history spinning is easily exposed by fuller historiographic reference.More interesting for our purposes are good-faith disputes over interpretation, whereeven-handed analysis does not necessarily defuse interpretive clashes. At heart, thedilemma is one of indeterminacy in evidence and interpretation. The problem isespecially pronounced in history and affects the gamut of international studies.Even when “what happened” is not in dispute, how or why a particular eventhappened—causal links that many consider it theory’s task to provide—often is. WasHitler’s rise to power the result of one man’s cunning or of the collapse of thepolitical and economic institutions of “respectable” Germany, or some otheramalgam of causes? Were the Vietcong promoting Asian nationalism or abettingCommunist expansion? Did dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasakiend the war? When addressing such questions, engaging the historical record isimperative, but the answers given remain highly interpretive and frequentlypolemical. Following the recent (perhaps selective) de-classification of Soviet andChinese archival materials on the Korean War, for example, what happened seemsresolved, but the motivations and intentions of the actors, as well as the broadermeaning of the war, are more hotly contested than ever.9 The problem of interpretation and indeterminacy is likely to worsen with time.Ankersmit (1994:167–72) argues that due to the fecundity of historians (there havebeen more historians working since 1960 than in all previous time back toHerodotus), the field is burdened with riches. New theories lead to a cascade of newhistoriography, old problems are revisited, and revisionist accounts accumulate.Selection and interpretation become even more necessary, not because there is toolittle information, but because there is too much. Presentism and statecraftA further interpretive challenge lies in the historicity of theory itself. Like a workof history, theory may reveal as much about the author and his/her world thanabout the subject under scrutiny. Those who look to theory for anything resemblingconsistent “laws” or patterns of international behavior will be discouraged by howmarkedly theories parallel contemporary political problems and structures. This is
  • 36. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 29a recurrent meta-theoretical critique in the field. In Twenty Years’ Crisis (1946),E.H.Carr held that inter-war “idealist” philosophies of international politics wereshaped by a “harmony-of-interests” ideology rooted in the Victorian laissez-faireeconomic regime. Less stridently, Stanley Hoffmann has described howinternational relations emerged as a distinctly “American” social science in thecontext of peculiar circumstances, and bears all the marks of its milieu.Morgenthau’s balance-of-power theory, while broadly applicable, was also boundup in the emerging cold war: Morgenthau meant to be apropos. Waltz’s structuralinterpretation of world history mirrors the “mature” bipolar world in which he wastheorizing—a world that expired unexpectedly. Postmodern theory reflects many ofthe dislocations of globalization alongside the resurgence of nativist and nationalistpolitics. As Charles Reynolds (1973:113–14) has argued, “‘Significance’ and ‘meaning’ inhistorical interpretation are…intimately related to the present. While historicalanachronisms should be avoided in reconstructing the past, the reconstruction itselfwill always be influenced by, and relative to, the historian’s present. The historianis concerned not only with explaining present traces of the past, but also with hisown experience in relation to this.” Ludwig Dehio’s Precarious Balance (1963), forexample, traces the hegemonic designs made on Europe by men from Carlos V toHitler, yet the book’s silent central character is Stalin. Peter Fleiss’s Thucydides andthe Politics of Bipolarity (1966) recasts the Peloponnesian War in a distinctly twentieth-century matrix. Paul Kennedy’s excellent Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (1987)reflects many of the insecurities of Western economic and military might in thelate twentieth century. More critically, Butterfield (1931:31) warned that “The study of the past withone eye…on the present is the source of all sins and sophistries in history.” Hefeared that history would be commandeered to affirm prevailing circumstances andcommitments. Yet, even in the absence of ideology, a certain degree of presentismseems inescapable. This is particularly true of international relations, where thetension between academic detachment and meeting current crises is so acute.Whatever the setting, we should probe the past for edifying parallels. Historicalanalogies and immediately applicable “lessons” are preferable to careening fromone crisis to the next. However, we should accept that the lessons drawn may notbe strictly “historical.” In terms of “using” history in setting foreign policy as opposed to detachedpolitical research, Jack Levy makes an important distinction between actual“learning” from history, and the “instrumental” use of the past to buttresspreexisting policy preferences. As A.J.P.Taylor once put it, “Men use the past toprop up their prejudices” (Levy 1994a: 306). The results are disheartening in bothcases. Organizational psychologists have argued that learning is “myopic,incremental, and ignorant,” shaped “less by history than by the frames applied tothat history” (ibid.: 283). Robert Jervis contends that “People pay more attentionto what happened than to why it has happened. Thus learning is superficial,overgeneralized, and based on post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. As a result, the
  • 37. 30 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSlessons learned will be applied to a wide variety of situations without a careful effortto determine whether the cases are similar on crucial distinctions” (ibid.: 29–4). Similarly, Ernest May’s “Lessons” of the Past (1973) argues that analogic reasoningin statecraft has been misguided because it rests on surface similarities and drawson a shallow pool of examples. May’s chief epistemological point is that through“cognitive dissonance” statesmen shape information to fit expectations,pigeonholing events into a handful of hackneyed “historical” models. A meatierstudy of the psychology involved here is Yuen Foong Khong’s Analogies at War(1992). Khong confirms that historical analogies are crucial in the political tasksof advocacy and justification, but he contends that they also undergird the“knowledge structures” guiding policy. He finds that decisionmakers continue tocling to analogies even after it becomes clear that the analogy does not hold. Allthese studies agree that the “lessons” learned are often contradictory or simplywrong, and in any case are skewed toward the present crisis (see also Vertzberger1986). Beyond the cold warTheorists, it seems, are in a double bind. If drawn uncritically, distant historicalanalogies are strained. Yet research focused on recent or contemporary historysuffers from the “parochialism of time,” still too much “with us” for meaningfulanalysis. Theorists, for example, had a history-spinning field day with the end ofthe cold war, gleaning remarkably diverse historical and theoretical “lessons” fromthat important snapshot event. We find vindication of classical realism (Kennan1994), indeed of “Thucydidean” thinking (Bagby 1994); nostalgia for bipolarstability (Mearsheimer 1990); support for contingency-based theory (Gaddis 1992/1993); justification for neo conservativism (Muravchik 1991) and neo-Wilsonianism (Gusterson 1993); and credit to the European peace movement(Kaldor 1995). Kenneth Waltz (1993) has even managed a post mortem that fitsneorealist theory. Of course, at work here is what Nevil Johnson (1989:45) calls the“fallacy of misplaced history,” where the theorist “speculate[s] like a politicaljournalist” on the contemporary “passing show,” without the benefit of depth ofunderstanding or of hindsight. The smuggest cold war obituaries now founder ina mire of bloody ethnicism, new tides of human migration, nuclear proliferation,and a checkered record of multilateral diplomacy and peacekeeping. Perhaps a better way of contending with the end of the cold war is to see it as atime of uncertainty and imagination. The cold war was a most dramatic exampleof what the Annalistes call a “matrix-event” (événement-matrice), which structureshistorical interpretation and meaning. What lies ahead is uncertain. The novelistMalcolm Bradbury notes (1990:21) that “for 50 years imagination and intelligencehave been imprisoned in a world laid down by the Iron Curtain set across Europe.Yet more largely, it has lived in an historical interpretation divided between twomassive 20th century ideologies.” As we venture into realism in the next chaptersit will be clear just how much that conflict has structured political theory and
  • 38. THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 31historical interpretation. The end of the cold war is now a decade behind us, yetwe still live in a time, as Bradbury noted, of “rising uncertainties…developing hopesand estranging fears, above all in a world that will not stay still.” Amid such hopeand fear, it is not clear that a revolution is needed in our understanding of historyand politics, but a reappraisal certainly is.
  • 39. 32
  • 40. 3 HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM Reinhold Niebuhr and E.H.CarrThe historical problem goes to the heart of the realist approach to the theory andpractice of international relations. As Herbert Butterfield and Martin Wight (1966:12–13) note of the realists, “Their point of view has on the whole been historical.They have tended to suppose that the continuities in international relations aremore important than the innovations; that statecraft is an historical deposit ofpractical wisdom growing very slowly…and that it is a useful enterprise to explorethe corpus of diplomatic and military experience in order to reformulate its lessonsin relation to contemporary needs.” Realists regard history as an indispensablesource of insight because it provides a vehicle for piercing the fog of the presentand gaining a wider perspective from which to judge events. Just as one steps backfrom an impressionist painting or a church facade in order to bring its patternsand motifs into focus, only at an historical remove do the otherwise disconnectedfeatures of political life exhibit a certain symmetry and structure. This chapter explores the roots of realism in the ideas of Reinhold Niebuhr, anAmerican theologian, and E.H.Carr, an English Marxist. The chapter first examinesthe intellectual origins, in Thucydides and Machiavelli, of the realist effort to bridgehistory and theory. The chapter then turns to Niebuhr’s theory of history as itunderpins his views on tragedy, the ethics of statecraft, and the possibilities ofpolitical science. Included is a critique of Niebuhr’s most “empirical” historicalinvestigation, The Structure of Nations and Empires (1959). In its discussion of Carr,the chapter explores the “sociology of knowledge” and the progressivistinterpretation of history and the impact of both on Carr’s realism. The section alsoincludes a discussion of the problem of power and historical judgment. Both ofthese theorists offered a complex and contingent view of history, fluid in processand open-ended in its possibilities. Neither considered history to be amenable toscientific explanations free of interest and prejudice. Political choice was not simplythe product of “necessity” or historical laws. The discussion presented here isfoundational to Chapter 4, which is devoted to the “policy realism” of HansJ.Morgenthau and George F.Kennan; and to Chapter 5, which examines thestructural or “neorealist” theory of Kenneth N.Waltz. In those chapters, we will seethe contingent view lose ground to necessity as the science of international relationsdevelops.
  • 41. 34 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Philosophical and historical rootsAs an approach to international relations, realism represents a philosophical worldview, a framework for interpreting history, and a body of normative thought.Realism is informed by classical writings, by Judeo-Christian anthropology andethics, by modern secular thought, by historical reference, and by the particularsof given problems. Thucydides, Aristotle, St. Augustine, Machiavelli, Hobbes,Hume, Rousseau, Burke, and Weber are the prominent stations on this journey,and this distinguished heritage is reflected in the paradigm’s range and depth (seeSmith 1986). Realists embrace several fundamental premises concerning international politics.First, realists share a pessimistic view of human nature. Human nature is the primemover. It propels history, yet remains untouched by historical reforms and progress.Second, sovereign states are the main actors in the international arena, where theyseek to maximize power and/or security, and to pursue their interests incompetition with other states. Third, the international realm is anarchic, i.e., nosupra-national authorities or norms effectively govern state behavior. Fourth, moralchoice is important in international politics, yet it must be considered in light ofthe foregoing assumptions. Many realists see international politics and domesticpolitics as separate ethical spheres. These characteristics apply, for the most part, to both “classical” realists —i.e.,the first “wave” of realist thinkers including Niebuhr, Carr, Butterfield, Wight,Georg Schwarzenberger, Nicholas Spykman, Louis Halle, John Herz, Morgenthau,Aron, Arnold Wolfers, Kennan, and Henry Kissinger—as well as their more“scientific” successors, known as “neorealists,” and led by Kenneth Waltz. Theclassical approach is in some ways a broader enterprise than orthodox politicalscience. Classical realists rely openly on the exercise of values and judgment, andbelieve that, if subjected to strict standards of proof, they can say little ofsignificance about international politics (see Bull 1969a).1 Neorealists havenevertheless attempted to develop an elegant, deductive theory of internationalpolitics, disposing of human nature, political personalities, and the character ofindividual states in favor of ahistorical explanations of political behavior derivedfrom ideas about the structure of the international environment. Largely on its historical credentials, realism became the leading approach tointernational politics in the postwar years. If, as Martin Wight (1966:32–3) oncesuggested, international theory implies at most “the kind of rumination abouthuman destiny to which we give the unsatisfactory name of philos ophy of history,”then realists see history, in its most basic outline, as a great and tragic cycle. Itrepresents an unending struggle for power and interests, where conflict is at timesunavoidable. Realism arose in reaction to idyllic assumptions—largely about history—of nineteenth- and early twentiethcentury thought on international politics. Allof the classical realists watched the peace of Versailles collapse into the chaos andideological virulence of the 1930s. All had the memory of Hitler’s appeasement atMunich seared onto their psyches. Many realist thinkers fled the war in Europe,
  • 42. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 35bringing with them to the United States and Britain deep-seated convictions aboutcontinental realpolitik and its failings. Realists, moreover, seem comfortable withhistory, moving easily between historical description and theoreticalpronouncements. Many—Butterfield, Wight, Halle, Kennan, Carr—were trained inhistory or were practicing historians. Modern realists follow in particular two of their doctrinal forebears— Thucydidesand Machiavelli—in their attitude toward history. Herodotus gave us the Greekterm, histori ē , originally meaning research, investigation, or wisdom, from whichthe word “history” is derived. However, this did not stop “the father of history”from being, by Rankean standards, a notoriously unreliable chronicler, as likely toattribute causality to the intervention of the gods as to more mundane forces.Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War (c. 400 BC) set a new norm for historicalinvestigation. Thucydides was a great defender of rigorous methodology, andoffered devastating critiques of the standards of evidence employed by hispredecessor. Yet, even Thucydides claimed that it was impossible for historians towrite accurately about the past. He presented his own methods and proofs asappropriate only for contemporary accounts, a sort of classical journalism, andeven then did not name his “eye-witnesses,” whom, he cautioned, “gave differentaccounts of the same events, speaking out of partiality for one side or the other orelse from imperfect memories” (Thucydides 1972:48). Nor did his attention tomethod prevent him from lacing his History with “theoretical” assertions, andheightening its effect through that famous classical device, reconstructed oratory. Thucydides’ introduction to the History is a touchstone for modern realists: It may well be that my history will be less easy to read because of the absence of a romantic [mythic] element. It will be enough for me, however, if these words of mine are judged useful by those who want to understand clearly the events which happened in the past and which (human nature being what it is) will, at some time or other and in much the same ways, be repeated in the future. My work is not a piece of writing designed to meet the taste of an immediate public, but was done to last forever. (ibid.: 48)The Athenian’s great work has proved remarkably enduring, in no small waymolding the matrix of modern thought on war. Thomas Hobbes’s first publication,in 1629, was a translation of the History. Hobbes prefaced the edition by notingthat it was “the principle and proper work of history…to instruct and enable men,by the knowledge of actions past, to bear themselves prudently in the present andprovidently towards the future.” He judged Thucydides to be “the most politichistoriographer that ever writ [who] may from the narrations draw out lessons tohimself, and of himself be able to trace the drifts and counsels of the actors to theirseat” (quoted in Rahe 1995/1996:111). To this day, realists read Thucydides for hisinsights into human nature, national character, the clash of cultures, the problems
  • 43. 36 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSof power, the quality of leadership, and the importance of political rhetoric.Thucydides’ most profound insights concern the moral tragedy of war. His MelianDialogue, perhaps the sharpest juxtaposition of ethical appeal and the strong armof authority ever depicted, is set at the heart of the narrative, and many classicistsconsider it the centerpiece of the book. On a more “empirical” level, realists cleave to Thucydides’ archetypal logic that“what made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear whichthis caused in Sparta” (Thucydides 1972:49). The key to the phrase is the termanankē which is usually translated as “necessity” or “compulsion,” and suggeststhat the Spartans had little or no choice but to go to war. This statement is frequentlycited as a pristine expression of what realists call the security—power dilemma. Thisis the idea that the measures deemed necessary to protect a state inherently clashwith the security imperatives of its neighbors. By many accounts, this is the centralproblem of international politics. It is also easy to see why Thucydides’ tale ofpolitics, diplomacy, and war in a bipolar world, would ring so clearly with studentsand statesmen during the cold war. Secretary of State George C.Marshall, in a 1947speech at Princeton University, doubted “whether a man can think with full wisdomand with deep convictions regarding certain of the basic international issues todaywho has not at least reviewed in his mind the period of the Peloponnesian Warand the Fall of Athens” (quoted in Connor 1984: 3). Michael Howard, writing in1984, suggested that a thousand years thence, historians may conclude of the latetwentieth century: “What made war inevitable was the growth of Soviet power andthe fear which this caused in the United States” (Howard 1984:102). Robert Gilpin(1988:15) is typical of more recent readers. He notes that “Thucydides’ theory ofhegemonic war constitutes one of the central organizing ideas for the [modern-day]study of International Relations.” Gilpin adds (1981:7) that the great work, “is asmeaningful a guide to the behavior of states today as when it was written in thefifth century BC.” The way that political scientists and historians respectively have treatedThucydides’ “inevitability” assertion about the circle of power, fear, and violenceis emblematic of a “great debate” between the two disciplines which will figurethroughout this study. Abandoning the obvious and embracing a single cause ortype of cause, Thucydides took a crucial step in the direction of science. For herewas the suggestion that a consistent underlying phenomenon produced the war.Thucydides suggested that the “truest cause” did not lie in the individual offensesand grievances that preceded the conflicts, indeed the real reason would be “mostlikely to be disguised by such an argument” (Thucydides 1972:49). Yet while studentsof international politics have been quick to recognize the political scientist inThucydides, his talk of inevitabilities warming the cockles of their hearts, historianshave been intrigued that the Athenian in his new-found rigor should insist on asingle truest cause for the war. Why the parsimony? By viewing all twenty-sevenyears of conflict as a single war, was Thucydides barred from assigning differentcauses to different parts of it? Is his pronouncement unhistorical in itsreductionism? “Is this a statement of social psychology, or an assertion of
  • 44. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 37inevitability?,” asks one historian. “Where does it leave responsibility for the war?”(Murray 1986:194). Other factors were at work: Thucydides enumerated severallesser causes. However, the “theory” he settled on, and which realists echo, is thatthe war was caused by the imbalance of classical power. After Thucydides, no thinker influenced the realists more than Machiavelli did.The Florentine’s notorious “how-to” for rulers, The Prince (1532), is sometimes citedas having sparked the realists’ love affair with power as well as their devilish ethics.More importantly, Machiavelli invented a way of thinking about theinterconnectedness of history, reality, and “policy,” which remains at the core ofmodern realism. Machiavelli was concerned with la verità effetuale (things as theyreally are). He was going for reality, and not for its shadows. In what may have beena barb at Plato, he noted, “many writers have imagined for themselves republicsand principalities that have never been seen nor known to exist in reality; for thereis such a gap between how one lives and how one ought to live that anyone whoabandons what is done for what ought to be done learns his ruin rather than hispreservation” (Machiavelli 1979:126–7). Well-ordered states (stati bene ordinati) wereto be fashioned not on transcendent principles or a paradigm laid down in heaven,but on experience. Machiavelli thus became the first political theorist deliberatelyto ground his ideas in discourse on the nature of history and historical events. Where did Machiavelli’s ideas come from? In short, they were derived from theclassics as read in the dim light of a murderous and coup-ridden fifteenth-centuryFlorence. This was the cusp of the Renaissance. Emerging from the long Medievalnight, Machiavelli pored over the “histories” of Polybius, Xenophon, Tacitus, andLivy, reaping their lessons and rendering them in contemporary form. Thus, whileMachiavelli’s Prince was more a mythical work, his Discourses on Livy (1531) was acompendium of inductive historical gleanings designed to be useful. Indeed, heclaimed that Italy’s ailments stemmed in large part from not possessing a proper knowledge of histories, for in reading them we do not draw out of them that sense or taste that flavor which they have in themselves… Wishing, therefore, to free men of this erroneous way of thinking, I deemed it necessary to write about all those books by Livy which the malignity of time has not taken from us…to draw from them that practical knowledge one should seek from an acquaintance with history books. (Machiavelli 1979:170–1)2In this, Machiavelli was nothing if not modern. Indeed, he likened his owndiscoveries in politics to the discovery of the New World. Enlivened by the buddingRenaissance focus on man’s role in controlling and shaping the world around him,his quarrying of the past was a case of active rather than contemplative history.Machiavelli’s methods were secular, scientific, and empirical, concerned with causesand effects and aimed at setting out the means to assigned ends. Machiavelliexpressed his modern ideas in a new vocabulary of action and science. The prince
  • 45. 38 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSwas the “new prince,” who had seized power rather than inherited it. He pitted hisvirtù—courage, masculinity, skill, excellence, ability, audacity, ingenuity—against thefickle forces of what Machiavelli called fortuna, which we might think of today asthe contingent and accidental in history. These modern ideas were nevertheless tobe accompanied by reverence for the ancient customs. Machiavelli found itexpedient to mythologize classical honor and glory, and set them against thedecadence and corruption of the present, a type of moralism or nostalgia notunknown in modern realism. The most important concept in Machiavelli is that of necessità, or politicalnecessity. For Machiavelli, history was in constant, recurrent motion. Politicsinvolved ceaseless struggle, with no lasting repose, and no prince would succeedwho did not respond with cunning and vigor. The idea of necessity has developedinto the general “realist” principle that the nature of international politics sharplylimits the range of statesmen’s moral and practical choices, and that when thesurvival of the state is deemed to be in jeopardy, choice all but disappears. For this,Machiavelli has been cited as the originator of the doctrine of raison d’état, whichholds that because the state is supreme in the hierarchy of ethics, whatever meansare necessary to protect the well-being of the state are ipso facto justified (see Smith1986: 10–12). Machiavelli’s reason-of-state argument was not simply a moral apology for power,however, but was propelled by a germ of Italian nationalism (italianità), this toobeing a new idea. In a passage from The Prince, titled “An Exhortation to LiberateItaly from the Barbarians,” he quoted from Livy, “Here justice is great: Only thosewars that are necessary are just, and arms are sacred when there is not hope exceptthrough arms” (Machiavelli 1979:163). Livy’s words, written fourteen centuriesearlier in the defense of Rome, were thus extended to the plight of Machiavelli’sown beloved Italy, caught unprotected in the midst of the ultramontane wars. Inthis way, classical ideas bubbled up through the centuries. Taken together,Machiavelli’s historical inferences represent an important strand of civic thoughton the autonomy of politics, political order and balance, liberty, law,constitutionalism, and nationalism. Individual leaders are important appendagesto this body of ideas, but the state and its preservation are at its heart. In this,Machiavelli’s use of the classics affirms what Petrarch had said: “What is any historybut the praise of Rome?” (quoted in Whitfield 1971:73). These early ideas about history, tragedy, and necessity have worked their waydeep into modern realist thought. As Martin Wight (1966:26) summed up the realist“historical” disposition: “international politics is the realm of recurrence andrepetition; it is the field in which political action is most regularly necessitous.” Atthis juncture, we will simply note that realists’ reading of history and their focuson recurrence and necessity have provoked sharp objections. One critic has notedthat “realist historical credentials have led something of a charmed life within thediscipline” (Rosenberg 1994:60). Another suggests that realists “did not believe inthe future… They look back over twenty-five centuries of unbroken struggle andshake hands with Thucydides” (Booth 1995:332). Francis Fukuyama, whose own
  • 46. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 39“end of history” thesis was informed by recent headlines, asserts that “realists talkas if history did not exist” (Fukuyama 1992:246). The uses of tragedy: Reinhold Niebuhr’s theology of historyContemporary research in international relations is largely concerned withgenerating good “data,” developing new models, and testing “scientific” hypotheses.Why, then, study the philosophy of history of an American heartland theologianwith whom most students in the field are barely, if at all, acquainted? The answeris this: in Niebuhr, we find a view of history and of human nature from which eventhe most “empirical” renderings of political realism are derived. Niebuhr’sphilosophy points toward realism’s choice of variables, the distinction betweendomestic and international affairs, the chasm between individual and collectiveethics, the resistance of international problems to quick fixes, the role of tragedy,the problem of the contingent in history, and the perils of historical complacency.This section, then, will provide a clear sense of where realism came from. It willalso begin to suggest where and why Niebuhr’s more scientific descendants mayhave gone astray. Niebuhr’s sweeping philosophy has, it is true, left an ambiguous legacy. PaulScherer, Niebuhr’s colleague at Union Theological Seminary, noted, “[Niebuhr’s]metier is to work not with miniatures but with murals…with the spread of somevast engagements on many fronts, with the impact of worlds, with the panoramaof a civilization, with maps of centuries and continents in high relief” (Scherer 1984:398). Similarly, the editors of Reinhold Niebuhr on Politics (Davis and Good 1960)described the theologian’s writings as fluid, complex, and full of “dialecticalcantilevers.” “By whatever label,” they profess, “it would be very unNiebuhrian tounderstand Niebuhr’s thought as a fixed system. He warns against too confidentand closed a science of politics… To freeze these understandings into a rigid,completely coherent system would do violence to their spirit” (Davis and Good1960:x–xi). Niebuhr’s greatest legacy, however, may be his political ethic, a manner of moralreasoning anchored in theology but alive to the complexities and contingencies ofhistory. This ethic—at once prophetic and pragmatic, progressive but decidedly un-idealist, humane while cognizant of moral ambiguities—rests on a paradoxicalconception of history as a realm of perennial conflict, but one nonetheless opento contingency and change. At the nucleus of Niebuhr’s ethic is an appreciation oftragedy. In politics, he argued, tragedy “is constituted of conscious choices of evilfor the sake of good. If men or nations do evil in a good cause; if they coverthemselves with guilt in order to fulfill some high responsibility; or if they sacrificesome high value for a higher or equal one they make a tragic choice” (Niebuhr1952:vii). Tragedy must profit from the tension between what Niebuhr called the“impossible possibility” of the absolute love ethic of the Gospel and the practicaldemands of governance. He observed, “We know that we cannot purge ourselvesof the sin and guilt in which we are involved by the moral ambiguities of politics
  • 47. 40 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSwithout also disavowing responsibility for the creative possibilities of justice”(Niebuhr 1943:284). Thus, like St. Augustine, Niebuhr offered no escape from theproblems of history, but neither did he view history as inevitably tragic. Preciselybecause Niebuhr maintained the ethical tensions inherent in statecraft, hissensibility remains a lively corrective to triumphalism in international affairs, andto shallow thoughts on the novelty of our time. Human nature and historical contingencyNiebuhr’s political theory rests on a contingent view of history. This view of historycalls to mind Machiavelli’s account of the jousting of princely virtù with the swollen-river forces of fortuna. History was not subject to inevitabilities, laws, or woodenstructure, and implied at best only crude cycles, patterns, and “lessons.” It conveyedno inherent logic or Aristotelian kernel that predestined its development. Whatmattered were the uniqueness of human experience and the endless and untoldeffects that one historical event had on others. As Benedetto Croce (1941:90) putit, “Every act stands altogether in relation to itself and altogether in relation tosomething else; it is both a point of repose and a stepping stone; and if it were notso it would be impossible to conceive the self-surpassing growth of history.” For Niebuhr, then, there were “no ‘essences’ in history because every historicalconfiguration represents an amalgam of natural necessity and human freedom”(Niebuhr 1959:288). This duel between determinism and volun tarism flowed fromNiebuhr’s wedding of the Pauline doctrine of grace and the Augustinian doctrineof sin, and the contradictions that resulted were central to Niebuhr’s anthropology.Humanity was a dual vessel: proud, selfish, brutish, lustful of power, destructiveand parochial; but also bright, rational, generous, creative and spirited. The resultwas moral contradictions and ambiguities from the individual to the societal level.Hence, ideas about history which favored human rational potential were refutedby the darker side of humanity, while those which saw life as driven merely bynecessity and greed were contradicted by humanity’s spirited and creative side. Aneffective theory of politics would embrace both facets of human nature, theindeterminate interplay of the two demanding a “dynamic interpretation of thesocial process,” and of social ethics in particular (Niebuhr 1943:245). This was, in broad outline, the aim of Niebuhr’s Gifford Lectures given at theUniversity of Edinburgh in the spring and fall of 1939, and published as HumanNature (1941) and Human Destiny (1943). Niebuhr set out to unite sin-centeredReformation thought with more humane Renaissance concepts, hinted at inMachiavelli, which reflected the desire for the fulfillment of life in history. Niebuhrwelcomed this leaven since strict Reformation thought regarded the problem ofjustice as wholly insoluble by reason of human sin, and hence failed to illuminate“the possibilities and limits of realizing increasing truth and goodness in everyconceivable historic and social situation” (Niebuhr 1943:204–5). Together, the twoseries of lectures represent the full symmetry of Niebuhr’s thought. They yield abright, yet realistic, picture of humanity and delineate the tragic tensions of the
  • 48. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 41human condition. “Life in history,” he wrote, “must be recognized as filled withindeterminate possibilities. There is no individual or interior spiritual situation,no cultural or scientific task, and no social or political problem in which men donot face new possibilities of the good and the obligation to realize them” (ibid.: 207). Niebuhr was distinctly agnostic about developments within history. Scrutiny ofhistoriography might yield insight into contemporary problems, but experienceremained a singular mix of perennial and novel events, and only the “imaginationcan piece together the multifarious and kaleidoscopic configurations which makeup the ‘raw stuff’ of history” (Niebuhr 1963:18). Likewise, complex causality andthe intrusion of the contingent undermined the predictive possibilities of socialtheory. “In both nature and history,” he insisted, “each new thing is only one ofan infinite number of possibilities which might have emerged at that particularjuncture… We can trace a series of causes in retrospect, but we can never predictthe future with accuracy” (Niebuhr 1945:4). He reminded readers that only onenineteenth-century historian, Jacob Burckhardt, had foretold the sophisticatedpolitical tyrannies of the twentieth century. As part of his broader critique of utopianism, Niebuhr rejected the notion of“redemptive history”—history as the record of unequivocal progress, marchingtoward an idyllic historical end. True, progress occurred in the accumulation ofknowledge, the perfection of technology, the mastery of the environment, andexpanding economic and political cooperation. However, Niebuhr insisted thatsuch progress in “technics” did not connote moral progress. Niebuhr spent muchof his life thundering against liberal culture and its reluctance to recognize theresidual strength of power and self-interest across history. “The actual achievementsof man in history,” he argued, “are always corrupted by the twin evils of thetyrannical subordination of life to life and the anarchic conflict of life with life.There is therefore no pure ethical norm in history; nor any hope of history graduallypurifying itself so that it will achieve this norm” (Niebuhr 1943:81). Niebuhr wasalso critical of the positivist idea of “mastering” history by translating the methodsof the natural sciences into the social realm. Niebuhr saw this fond dream ofmodernity as deeply flawed. To sever politics from its roots in the humanities andplant it among the “pure” sciences was to perpetrate an epistemological charadethat ultimately “obscures the grand tragic outlines of contemporary history, andoffers vapid solutions for profound problems” (Niebuhr 1952:60). Niebuhr’s well-known critique of Christian pacifism was also rooted in thistension between religious ideals and political demands. Following St. Augustine’snotion of the “mournful warrior,” he believed that the assumption that nothingwas worth dirty hands was both foolish and cynical. War could not be dismissedoutright, but had to be weighed in terms of power, interests, and norms. The morethoroughgoing Reformation hope of such theologians as H.Richard Niebuhr(Niebuhr’s brother), Karl Barth, and Adolf Bultmann for an exclusivelytranscendent kingdom bred, Reinhold argued, a radical vertical dialectic betweenhistory and heaven, the absolute nature of which tended to spawn aloofness anddefeatism. Niebuhr believed that such deference to providence constituted a total
  • 49. 42 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSdenial of political necessity, thus “destroy[ing] the tension between the finaldemands of God upon the conscience and all the relative possibilities for realizingthe good in history” (Niebuhr 1943:195). Still, Niebuhr avoided medievalism and fatalism in his views. History was notfixed; it was an amalgam of contingency, diversity, and unity, full of possibilities.Niebuhr’s historical hopes were evident in the importance he accorded leadership,the role of ideas, and broad-based political activism. According to ArthurSchlesinger, Jr., Niebuhr fashioned “liberal conclusions from Augustinianpremises,” achieving in a generation a “revolution in the bases of American liberalpolitical thought” (Schlesinger 1984:221, 214). The possibilities of historychallenged us morally, giving substance (and ambiguity) to moral life. Tragedy as historical motifNiebuhr’s Augustinian leaning is the bleakest and best-known feature of his realism.As he concluded, “Where there is history at all there is freedom, where there isfreedom there is sin” (Niebuhr 1943:80). Niebuhr’s philosophy emerged in an ageof disenchantment, as the First World War upended the rosy assumptions aboutpolitical life that had flourished in the nineteenth century. The day before theBritish entered the war, Henry James wrote a friend: “The plunge of civilizationinto this abyss of blood and darkness… is a thing that so gives away the whole longage during which we have supposed the world to be, with whatever abatement,gradually bettering, that to have to take it all now for what the treacherous yearswere all the while really making for and meaning is too tragic for words” (quotedin Fussell 1975:8). Niebuhr was similarly affected. The First World War, he wrote,“made me a child of the age of disillusionment. When the war started I was a youngman trying to be an optimist without falling into sentimentality. When it endedand the full tragedy of its fratricides had been revealed, I had become a realist tryingto save myself from cynicism” (Niebuhr 1928:1161). The tragic ironies of thatperiod would shadow the whole course of his thought. Niebuhr’s view of tragedy was rooted equally in an understanding of humannature and human freedom. In this, his philosophy was distinctly at odds with theleading streams of American social thought in the 1920s and 1930s: WalterRauschenbusch’s sanguine Social Gospel and John Dewey’s scientistic pragmatism.Because their anthropology was simplistic and their politics unidimensional,neither one, Niebuhr argued, reckoned with tragedy. During his Marxist period,Niebuhr had entertained the possibility of egalitarian ideals inspiring collectivevirtue, but by 1939, he had grown skeptical of collective ethics, seeing wise self-interest as the height of group morality. Through its Weberian apparatuses, thestate coerces allegiance to its ends, or it may turn to the more deft methods ofpropaganda, symbolism, and nationalist pieties. By whatever means, the stateachieved a bogus “independent centre of moral life,” before which even the moralindividual bent the knee because the political order was also the source of hissecurity (Niebuhr 1943:208). Without voices of dissent to bridle its excesses—what
  • 50. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 43Niebuhr called the “prophetic minority”—the state would collapse into cupidityand self-righteousness.3 This natural tragedy was dramatically compounded in politics, a realm markedby moral ambivalence and competing values. As A.C.Bradley notes (1950:70), It will be agreed that in all tragedy there is some sort of conflict —conflict of feelings, modes of thought, desires, wills, purpose; conflict of persons with one another, or with circumstances, or with themselves… The essential tragic fact is the self-division and intestinal warfare of the ethical substance, not so much the war of good with evil as the war of good with good.If politics were not tragic they would involve no conscience-wrenching decisions,no balancing of Jeffersonian “great goods,” no moral reasoning. Antimoniousgoods bid for political precedence: sovereignty and multilateralism, principle andinterest, order and justice, liberty and community. It seems less strange, then, that Niebuhr should have advocated tragedy inpolitical life. He argued that great leaders had always made tragic choices amongcompeting principles, and suggested that when statecraft was stripped of tragedy itturned sentimental and faddish. The conduct of foreign affairs was at heightenedrisk. While the ambiguities of domestic political decisions were perhaps moreimmediately apparent, with distance and ignorance came a dangerous moral claritywhich issued in simplism, abstraction, and ideology. This “sloganization” of foreignpolicy demonized foreign leaders or entire political systems, while at the same timefalsely inflating a nation’s own virtue. In his tragic realism, Niebuhr cleaved to the Augustinian adage: “The peace ofthe world is based on strife.” The persistence of power and conflict across politicalhistory was both a source of tragedy and a point of paradox. Power could beharnessed and beguiled, but never fully eliminated from communal life. As heobserved, “Society merely cumulates the egoism of individuals and transmutes theirindividual altruism into collective egoism so that the egoism of the group has adouble force. For this reason no group acts from purely unselfish or even mutualintent and politics is therefore bound to be a contest of power” (Niebuhr 1953:363).Against this backdrop, Niebuhr viewed the balance of power, that archetypal tragicconstruct, as an irreplaceable international strategy. In contrast to the natural order,which entailed an organic balance, in history this equilibrium could only be a tragichuman artifice. This view sets Niebuhr apart from the more scientific and structuralrealists who succeeded him. The balance was nonetheless fraught with ambiguities,and hinged on historical contingencies. It was “a principle of justice in so far as itprevents domination and enslavement; but it is a principle of anarchy and conflictin so far as its tensions, if unresolved, result in overt conflict” (Niebuhr 1943:266).Order was given priority, but the balance was not an end in itself. Rather, the balancewas the sine qua non underpinning the higher good of justice: “There has never beena scheme of justice in history which did not have a balance of power at itsfoundation” (Niebuhr 1940:104).
  • 51. 44 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Although he accepted this tragic side of the quest for justice, Niebuhr vowed totemper its pursuit. In “speaking truth to power,” he stressed power’s dark ironiesand illusions, warning that a nation, however virtuous, may become the mirrorimage of its foe if it crudely opposed power with power. In The Irony of AmericanHistory (1952) he quoted from a letter John Adams wrote to Jefferson: “Power alwaysthinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak;and that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all His laws. Our passions,ambitions, avarice, love and resentment, etc., possess so much metaphysical subtletyand so much overpowering eloquence that they insinuate themselves into theunderstanding and the conscience and convert both to their party” (Niebuhr 1952:21). Niebuhr echoed Lord Acton’s warnings about the seductive sway of power.While only power could mitigate abuses of power, this mitigation could never beexercised with easy conscience. It was perhaps for this reason that Niebuhr soseldom spoke of just war, which might too easily rationalize killing. Consider Niebuhr’s translation of this ethic into the nuclear age, a time, asStanley Hoffmann (1987:449) notes, when “tragedy may blot out meaning.”Characteristically, Niebuhr referred to the nuclear dilemma as “the ‘balance ofterror’ by the grace of which we have a precarious peace” (quoted in Bennett 1982:93). He expressed grave moral doubts about nuclear weapons, noting that “if weever made first use of such a bomb we would annihilate our civilization morallyin the process of defending it physically,” but had little political timidity abouttheir possession (Niebuhr 1950a: 7). Tragedy and irony buttressed an orthodoxdeterrence ethic: build atomic weapons but foreswear their first use. Underlyingthat ethic, however, was a rare understanding of atomic weaponry, namely, that theWest’s nuclear foreign policy was no less morally ambiguous by virtue of its relativejustice vis-à-vis the Soviets. Indeed, that an “innocent” nation had become steepedin nuclear guilt was for Niebuhr one of the great ironies of the American experience. Niebuhr’s realism arguably deepened in the face of absolute power. While it istrue that Niebuhr consistently criticized as naive movement toward unilateraldisarmament and a non-nuclear foreign policy, by 1950 he was convinced thathowever distasteful, a long-term modus vivendi with the Soviets had become a tragicnecessity. With time, and with Stalin’s death, Niebuhr would temper his anti-communism and turn an ironic eye on American cold war politics and culture. Hewas critical of US leaders who were blind to the necessary precariousness ofcoexistence, and was outraged by John Foster Dulles’s hypocritical moralism, whichhe saw as a monstrous twisting of the Christian tradition. He also criticized theimprudence of Dulles’s “brinkmanship,” and excoriated considerations ofpreventive nuclear war, insisting that nuclear war was inconceivable and that thesuperpowers shared a common responsibility for averting disaster. He was sharplycritical as well of Henry Kissinger’s apparently serious consideration, in a volumepublished by the Council on Foreign Relations, of a “tactical” nuclear war inEurope. Niebuhr almost certainly would have denounced, perhaps on grounds ofboth economic justice and strategic prudence, more recent American policies of“multiplying” nuclear deterrence.4
  • 52. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 45 The fallacy of historical determinismDespite its recurrence in history, tragedy was not inevitable. Niebuhr’s critique ofdeterminism in history prefaced Isaiah Berlin’s famous denunciation of historicalinevitability. The turn to determinism, Berlin (1959:77–8) wrote, “springs from adesire to resign our responsibility, to cease from judging provided we be not judgedand above all be not compelled to judge ourselves, from a desire to flee for refugeto some vast amoral, impersonal whole of nature or history.” While essentiallyagreeing with Berlin, Niebuhr nonetheless challenged the Oxford philosopher’sfailure to move beyond the negative task of confronting deterministic presumptions(see Niebuhr 1955: 24). Lest it be seen as irrevocably pessimistic, Niebuhrdistinguished his view of tragedy from tragic determinism, as a too consistentreliance on the “tragedy” of things could degenerate into cynicism and violence.Most importantly, every form of historical determinism, including the idea ofpolitical necessity, robbed people of moral responsibility. As Niebuhr wrote in a1950 article in World Politics: Even when the historic situation is as tragic as our contemporary one, and when a careful estimation of historic probabilities is bound to lead to more pessimistic than optimistic conclusions, we have no right to speak of “inevitabilities” in history. Men are always agents, and not merely the stuff, in the historical process. If modern culture has been inclined, at times, to overestimate the power of the human will over historical destiny, there is yet no reason we should abdicate the responsibility of that will in this tragic hour. (Niebuhr 1950b: 338–9)The furthest irony of Niebuhrian tragedy was that, from a theological perspective,history both was and was not tragic: “Life remains self-contradictory in its sin, nomatter how high human culture rises; that the highest expression of humanspirituality, therefore, contains also the subtlest form of human sin. The failure torecognise this fact, and nothing more, is to reduce history to simple tragedy. Butthe basic message of Christian faith is a message of hope in tragedy” (Niebuhr 1937:18–19). This was the leaven in Niebuhr’s realism, and it was here that he clashedwith more thoroughgoing realists, whom he accused of underappreciating theresilience of the human spirit, even under the strain of necessity. “I do not thinkwe will sacrifice any value in the ‘realist’ approach to the political order,” Niebuhrwrote (1962: 102) in a perhaps too strong rejoinder to Hans Morgenthau, “if wedefine [it] in terms which do not rob it of moral content.” The Structure of Nations and EmpiresIn his final and in some ways most ambitious book, The Structure of Nations andEmpires (1959), Niebuhr attempted through a sweeping view of history “to describethe historical constants and variables in the dominion of nations and empires” (p.
  • 53. 46 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS8). Several observations may be made about the volume, as Niebuhr’s inquirydemonstrates the link between his broader philosophy and his “empirical”historical views. Niebuhr’s stated purpose was to edify a “young nation suddenlyflung to a position of world responsibility by its great power,” and specifically todemonstrate that neither Soviet imperialism nor its connection to the secular creedof communism was without precedent (p. ix). He argued that Soviet empire-buildersshared a great deal in common with imperial rulers from Babylon, Persia, Paganand Christian Rome, medieval Islam, the Spanish and British empires, theEgyptians, and the Aztecs. In each case, imperial authority rested not simply on therational application of power, but was fused with the prestige and “majesty” derivedfrom the identification of political order with divine order. Niebuhr found recurrent tensions between order and justice, between the desireto conquer and coerce, and the craving for the equality and liberty of a true politicalcommunity. He saw a pattern of the “integral” community, whether city-state ornation, giving way to the larger structure of dominion, the empire. However, healso claimed that the growth of freedom imparted a “forward movement” to history—it, too, was fraught with ambiguities, chiefly the “permanent moralembarrassment” of pretension and excess in maintaining any political order (p. 2).The contingent view prevailed. To the annoyance of philosophers of history as wellas political scientists, Niebuhr’s historical patterns—mirroring his portrayal of sociallife in general—were in fact streams of contradiction and indeterminacy, of historyas a mix of contrivance and tradition, the universal and the particular. “History,”he wrote, “is a realm in which human freedom and natural necessity are curiouslyintermingled. Man’s freedom constantly creates the most curious and unexpectedand unpredictable emergences and emergencies in history. All efforts to discernpatterns of recurrence, after the manner of Spengler and Toynbee, or patterns ofdevelopment, in the fashion of Hegel, Spencer, or Comte, must do violence to theinfinite variety in the strange configurations of history” (p. 7). Niebuhr was skeptical of the Marxist interpretation of history, built as it wasatop the French physiocratic theory that nature and history were equally subject toabsolute laws. Such “idealism” could be its own worst enemy. Pursued withsufficient purpose and force, the dream of an earthly paradise would almostcertainly turn into a nightmare. Niebuhr also clashed with the liberalism of Locke,Smith, and Kant. He argued that Lockean liberalism was less a rationally calculateddesign than the product of traditional loyalties and patterns of conduct. This madeit a dubious imprint for the rest of the world. Some of Niebuhr’s most causticremarks were reserved for those “bland fanatics” who saw the “highly contingent”achievements of Western civilization as “the final form and norm of humanexistence” (p. 298). He argued that the Western version of the “open society” wasunique, and that outside of a historic liberal framework, “free elections”—thatmantra of democratic-liberalism—would be an empty phrase. As for Smith andKant, Niebuhr argued that the anatomy of sovereignty hindered the emergence ofeconomically, morally, and politically autonomous individuals. People remainedbound to, and by, political groups.
  • 54. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 47 Similarly, this was not a scientific treatise on imperialism. With the exceptionof Britain’s relatively benign “missionary motive,” Niebuhr centered on theconsequences and expressions of dominion, rather than on why empires rise andfall. Perhaps overly sensitive to the communist indictment of Western capitalismas inherently imperialistic, Niebuhr downplayed the economic impetus, and hisdiscussions of colonialism in Latin America, Africa, and Ireland are not his mostperceptive. He was clearly convinced of “the moral superiority of Britishimperialism,” not least because the British eventually departed, leaving behind asound administrative structure and maintaining commonwealth ties. In terms ofthe causes of imperialism, Niebuhr maintained that motives were always mixed.Religion, economics, and glory were important inducements to empire, althoughnot in any fixed proportions or under any specified conditions. The British, forexample, had wed Milton’s conception of “God’s Englishman” to an eye for profit,but “manners” entered into it as well. As that mouthpiece of imperialism, SirThomas Raffles, put it: “Britain leads the fashion and gives the law” (p. 206). However, the main burden of Structures of Nations and Empires was to shed lighton contemporary Russian imperialism. On this point, the book is a good exampleof the pitfalls of relying too consistently on historical analogies, or, put moresharply, of working backward from present-day opinion to historical analogue.Niebuhr held that all empires had been buttressed by ideology. He noted howCicero had extolled the protection (patrocinium) the Roman empire afforded; howSeneca had falsified facts in lauding Nero; how the Chinese empire rested on a“Confucian monarchy”; how the Christian empire under Constantine had “combin[ed] the genius of the Caesars with the spirit of Christ,” and used religion to maskits crimes and exalt its rule; how Eusebius of Caesarea, Constantine’s chief apologist,had turned the ruler’s enemies into the “enemies of truth,” for which Burckhardtpronounced him “the most consistently dishonest historian of antiquity” (pp. 93–5); how even Thomas Aquinas had been flexible in his moral estimation of thepapal empire in the thirteenth century, and had projected the idolatry of the Churchonto the secular empire. Niebuhr painted these apologists and dissemblers as theforerunners of the early Soviet ideologists—Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Trotsky,Stalin, and Sokol’nikov. Niebuhr found a strict monotheistic faith to be the best imperial cement. Ideally,the ruler held both the keys to power and the keys to heaven. Whereas religiouslypluralistic or polytheistic empires had to rely on their own imperial structures asthe ultimate arbiter of authority, under monotheism, power and authority wereindivisible. The emperor invokes the direct mandate of one true god. In his sprintthrough imperial history, Niebuhr lingered longest on the great medieval empireof Islam, stretching from Córdoba to Baghdad. He found the analogy tocontemporary communism striking. He linked up Islamic fanaticism with the priest-kings of “Holy Russia,” and Muscovy as the seat of Orthodox Christianity withMecca. “Communism,” Niebuhr noted, “is a religion within the framework of amodern secular culture in which the ‘logic of history’ takes the place of Allah asthe absolute source of meaning, and the writings of Marx and Lenin become the
  • 55. 48 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSsacred texts, analogous to the Koran” (p. 117). Both systems, Niebuhr argued,mingled religious zeal and military prowess. Both converted conquered peoples tothe faith and integrated them into a “theocratic” state. Both were totalitarian. AsSchumpeter had noted, Islam “determined daily conduct, shaped the whole worldoutlook…permeated the mentality of the believer, made him someone who wascharacteristically different from all other men, [and] opened up an unbridgeablegulf between him and the infidel, turning the latter into the arch enemy with whomthere could be no true peace.” Niebuhr determined that in communism, as inmedieval Islam, this totalitarian impulse produced “an almost demonic historicaldynamism” (p. 117). Of course, the Soviet government was nothing if not a gang of mullahs, steepedin dogma and canonical texts. However, communism remained an elitist creed thatdid not easily displace or insinuate itself into local religions and myths. Given thecoercive nature of Russian rule, the idea that the denizens of the Soviet Republicswere “converts” to communism seems far-fetched. The parallel with Islamic historyinvested the Soviet Union with a false vitality, pumping up the achievements ofmilitant communism, and transforming the Red Army into a sea of jihad warriors.With the luxury of hindsight, it is clear that Niebuhr credited Soviet policies withmore consistency than they deserved. He overstated the success of the Russificationof the Soviet Republics. He was particularly impressed that Moscow’s tentacles hadreached as far as the Islamic schools of Tashkent, which had fallen under communistadministration. He claimed that “the Russian bloc is certainly more cohesive thanour own,” without considering the fragility that might imply (p. 28). His focus onthe majesty of the state and the grandeur of dogma also led him to overestimatethe awe with which the Third World held the Soviet Union. He insisted that “theRussians have all the immediate advantages in the Middle East and in Asia andAfrica” (p. 281). Generally, Niebuhr’s surface history issued in surfacepronouncements about the contemporary scene, conferring greater credence onideology than was warranted, and exaggerating the Russian appetite for war. Weshall see in the next chapter that Hans Morgenthau more coolly assessed the Sovietcreed as a way of veiling oldfashioned power, while George Kennan’s profoundunderstandings of the Russian experience prompted him to emphasize the historicburdens of empire as opposed to its vitality. Structures of Nations and Empires ends on a note of sober optimism. In keepingwith his open-ended view of history, Niebuhr wonders whether independent centersof Russian power would not emerge; whether the Central Committee of theCommunist Party would not ultimately check the power of the Executive, muchas the Whig lords had done in England in the eighteenth century; whether theSoviet success in the realm of education might turn the citizenry against the regime.The nuclear age underscored how history had not resolved the problem of politicalorder, but rather had enlarged it. “Our best hope,” Niebuhr wrote, “rests upon ourability to observe the limits of human freedom even while we responsibly exploitits creative possibilities” (p. 299).
  • 56. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 49 Niebuhr assessedEven in these words, it is clear that Niebuhr offered no precise science of politicsor paradigmatic moral method. Both science and ethics would have to contendwith the inconclusive character of history. Niebuhr’s historical “rumination” wasdistinctly paradoxical. Although he sought in religion what Burckhardt calls the“Archimedean point outside events,” from which the meaning of history might bediscerned, he maintained that history was stubbornly enigmatic, that “no ultimatesense of the meaning of life is rationally compelling” (Niebuhr 1984:17). Historyrevealed flashes of coherence and moral meaning, but no clear pattern. Politics didnot constitute a series of rational calculations. Nor could political ideas beentombed in doctrine. Niebuhr’s moral and historical judgment represented a sortof “prophetic pragmatism,” a dialectical approach to politics whose two facesparalleled the respective theses of the Human Nature and Human Destiny GiffordLectures. His philosophy comprised human frailty, collective excess, state-centeredforeign affairs, the tendency of states to trumpet parochial aims as universal norms,and the ideological cloaking of the pursuit of national interests, and at its moststrident characterized social life as “a perpetual state of war” (Niebuhr 1932:19). Alongside these “realist” precepts, Niebuhr invoked a traditional normativetheory that transcended interests and conflict in the name of justice. Taken together,these contradictory impulses represented an ethical sensibility animated by specificproblems in the context of historical contingency and change. Ultimately,relativism was the authentic political experience. “The trials and tribulations ofhistory are sometimes better schoolmasters than any amount of moral precept,”Niebuhr noted (1942:1). Other times, presumably, they were not. Distilling a formalethical stance from this historical mix of power, interests, ideals, and ambiguitiesrequired a prudential judgment cognizant of the moral and strategic complexitiesof statecraft, but which nonetheless transcended satisfaction with the status quo.As Niebuhr concluded (1932:4), “Politics will, to the end of history, be an areawhere conscience and power meet, where the ethical and coercive factors of humanlife will interpenetrate and work out their tentative and uneasy compromises.” As you like it: E.H.Carr and historical relativismThe English historian and diplomat E.H.Carr carried forward this relative andcontingent view of history and politics. Carr wrote biographies of Dostoevsky,Marx, and Bakunin, works on nationalism, socialism, and revolution, and a 10-volume history of Soviet Russia. The focus here will be on two other works of Carr’s:Twenty Years’ Crisis, 1919–1939 (1939; 2nd ed. 1946), a strikingly original analysisof international power and morality, and What Is History? (1961), a seminalstatement on historical philosophy and method. Carr stands apart from the otherrealists for his “sociology of knowledge.” This is the idea, derived from Karl Marx’sGerman Ideology (1846), that man is a product of his surroundings, and thatultimately all knowledge, including historical knowledge, is contingent upon social
  • 57. 50 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSand economic forces. Carr’s sociology and general irreverence make him perhapsthe field’s sharpest observer of power and ideology masquerading as truth. Politicalbeliefs did not correspond to absolute and a priori principles, but were “the productof circumstances and interests and weapons framed for the furtherance of interests”(Carr 1946:68). Carr was bold enough to suggest that realism could not monopolizetruth either. Realism, he wrote, “often turns out in practice to be just as muchconditioned as any other mode of thought. In politics, the belief that certain factsare unalterable or certain trends irresistible commonly reflects a lack of desire orlack of interest to change or resist them” (ibid.: 89). Twenty Years’ Crisis borrowed liberally from Niebuhr’s Moral Man and ImmoralSociety. Carr wished to see “utopianism penetrate the citadel of realism,” a problemhe said that Niebuhr had analyzed “with almost cynical clearsightedness” (ibid.:91). He cited from Moral Man: “Without the ultrarational hopes and passions ofreligion, no society will have the courage to conquer despair and attempt theimpossible; for the vision of a just society is an impossible one, which can beapproximated only by those who do not regard it as impossible. The truest visionsof religion are illusions, which may be partly realised by being resolutely believed”(ibid.: 91). This passage mirrored Carr’s own outlook. Unlike Niebuhr, however,Carr’s values were to be found in history and not outside of history. His theologywas the idea of progress. He saw history as linear rather than cyclical, and it wasthis belief that unleashed his hopes for a fundamental restructuring of theinternational system. “Cliché for cliché” he noted of the maxims surrounding thehistorian’s craft, “I should prefer the one about freeing oneself from ‘the dead handof the past’” (Carr 1961:29). Twenty Years’ Crisis: sociology of knowledge and the utopian critiqueCarr’s critique of inter-war idealism rested on the theories of Karl Mannheim.Mannheim had attempted to transform the Marxist idea of the “falseconsciousness” of the defenders of the status quo into a general tool of socialanalysis. He argued that knowledge was never disinterested and detached. One’sideas were the product of one’s place in the social and historical fabric. The taskof critical theory was to unmask this “sociology of knowledge,” and thus arrive ata clearer understanding of the relation between interests and ideas. As Mannheimasserted in Ideology and Utopia (1936), critical “political discussion, is from the veryfirst…the tearing off of disguises” (quoted in Buzan et al. 1993:176). This is an apt metaphor for Carr’s Twenty Years’ Crisis, which set out to unmaskthe chief creed of nineteenth-century international politics, namely the harmonyof interests. The book argued brilliantly that ideology followed interest. In a worldof haves and have nots, the haves make the laws and fix the principles. Carr sawthe doctrine of the harmony of interests arising from Jeremy Bentham’s “felicificcalculus” of “the greatest happiness good for the greatest number,” wedded to AdamSmith’s laissez-faire faith that an “invisible hand” directed selfish interests to the
  • 58. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 51common good. In politics, this issued in several cardinal beliefs: by pursuing theirown interests, states thereby furthered the interests of the international community;all nations shared an interest in peace; conquest did not pay; right thinking wouldlead to right action; any clash of interests was the result of wrong calculation. AsNorman Angell had argued in The Great Illusion (1914), war was simply a “failureof understanding” (p. 25). Carr noted that it was also a common tactic of theprivileged to “throw moral discredit on the under-privileged by depicting them asdisturbers of the peace.” He quoted Arnold Toynbee on a particular crisis:“International law and order…were in the true interests of the whole of mankind…whereas the desire to perpetuate the region of violence in international affairs wasan anti-social desire which was not even in the ultimate interests of the citizens ofthe handful of states that officially professed this benighted and anachronisticcreed” (p. 83). Carr protested that the harmony of interests was not an absolute verity, but wasan ideology that had served to buttress the competitive capitalism and colonial ruleof Victorian England. It was “an ingenious moral device invoked, in perfectsincerity, by privileged groups in order to justify and maintain their dominantposition” (p. 80). Carr extended this critique of the “adjustment of thought topurpose” to the general tendency of states to couch parochial pursuits in universalistdogma. The sanctity of treaties, the primacy of peace, the obligations of theCovenant of the League of Nations: these were not eternal principles but reflectedthe entrenched interests of the Goliath powers. “Free trade” was the paradise of theeconomically strong, “solidarity” and “internationalism” the rhetoric of empire,and “peace through law” the cty of satisfied states. As Carr noted, these principleswere “but the unconscious reflexions of national policy based on a particularinterpretation of national interest at a particular time” (p. 87). While adherents of“utopian internationalism” accepted the nostrums of nineteenth-century politicsas universal, Carr retorted that they were bankrupt and dangerously nostalgic. Withthe emergence of regional power centers and autarkic states these principles nolonger applied. Yet, international studies remained encumbered by this ideologicalhangover from the Victorian Age. After 1914, Carr explained, “men’s mindsnaturally fumbled their way back, in search of a new utopia, to those apparentlyfirm foundations of nineteenth-century peace and security” (p. 26). The prism of progressCarr’s sociology of knowledge led him to discern history as it was not understoodat the time. Twenty Years’ Crisis illustrates the unwitting nature of interwar principlesand pronouncements: they were in fact the products of power, economics, andcollective psychology. Carr apparently seemed to follow an orthodox “realist”approach to using history in political science. He was explicit about the importanceof grounding theory in history: “The utopian, fixing his eyes on the future, thinksin terms of creative spontaneity: the realist, rooted in the past, in terms of causality”(p. 11). He cited Machiavelli’s verità effetuale as one of the “foundation-stones” of
  • 59. 52 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSthe realist method, suggesting that the Florentine was the first thinker to view“history [as] a sequence of cause and effect, whose course can be analysed andunderstood by intellectual effort, but not (as the utopians believe) directed by‘imagination’” (p. 63). Nevertheless, Carr argued that the whole enterprise ofpolitical science sprang from Seeley’s aphorism that “history is past politics, andpolitics present history.” Carr would later note of this approach: All this implies, of course, a somewhat old-fashioned belief in the lessons of history. Everyone knows the quip that “one learns nothing from history except that one learns nothing from history”; and we have all heard of the generals and admirals who were busy fighting the previous war. It is inherent in the human condition that lessons are sometimes wrongly learnt, or the wrong lessons learnt. The positivist notion of a cast-iron structure of facts clamped down on the passive and disembodied observer will not withstand scrutiny, and has been discarded both by the historian and by the scientist. The writing of history, like any other form of human inquiry is a process of selection and interpretation intimately bound up with the preoccupations, preconceptions, and prejudices—what is more politely called the ideology—of the investigator. Ideology is the point where history and politics meet. (Carr 1975:246)Carr’s skepticism was rooted in the idealist epistemological tradition of the latenineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Like Dilthey, Croce, Collingwood, Beard,Oakeshott, and Becker, Carr held that “the social sciences— and history among them—cannot accommodate themselves to a theory of knowledge which puts subject andobject asunder, and enforces a rigid separation between the observer and the thingobserved” (Carr 1961:158). Knowledge was not merely given, discoverable withincreased effort or superior training. It was the product of shifting socialcircumstances. Carr was likewise concerned with supplanting the “fact fetishism”of the Rankean school. He insisted that “the historian is necessarily selective. Thebelief in a hard core of historical facts existing objectively and independently ofthe interpretation of the historian is a preposterous fallacy, but one which it is veryhard to eradicate” (ibid.: 10). His likening of historical facts to fish on afishmonger’s slab was noted earlier. Nonetheless, Carr believed that the historian’s task was to “master andunderstand [the past] as the key to the understanding of the present” (ibid.: 29).The rigorous historian would build hypotheses, search for historical laws, anddevelop analogies. He or she would consider a “multiplicity of causes” yet “workthrough the simplification, as well as through the multiplication, of causes” (ibid.:116–18). He did not believe, however, that Rankean objectivity was possible. Instead,he subscribed to what Mannheim termed “relational objectivity.” As Carr describesit: “the facts of history cannot be purely objective, since they become facts of historyonly in virtue of the significance attached to them by the historian. Objectivity inhistory—if we are still to use the conventional term—cannot be an objectivity of fact,
  • 60. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 53but only of relation, of the relations between fact and interpretation, between past,present, and future” (ibid.: 159). Hence, “objective” history required first, frankrecognition of the relativity of knowledge teamed with the imagination to surpassthese limits. Carr (ibid.: 163) required the historian to “rise above the limited visionof [one’s] own situation in society and in history.” Histories proved important andenduring to the degree that their author succeeded in this. Second, the “objective”historian must have the capacity to project his vision into the future. Carr arguedthat the historian’s standards of significance and relevance will be validated orinvalidated teleologically, for history was a “progressive science” which movedtoward broader and deeper insights into the course of events. Like Hegel and Marx—indeed, like many of the utopians he skewered Carr settledon the idea of progress as the principle upon which history was to be based. InWhat Is History? he approvingly quoted Acton that progress is “the scientifichypothesis on which history is to be written.” “History properly so-called,” Carrwrote, “can be written only by those who find and accept a sense of direction inhistory itself. The belief that we have come from somewhere is closely linked withthe belief that we are going somewhere. A society which has lost belief in its capacityto progress in the future will quickly cease to concern itself with its progress in thepast.” He added that modern historiography could not survive without faith inprogress, “since it is this belief which provides it with its standard of significance,its touchstone for distinguishing between the real and the accidental” (ibid.: 176,165). In this, we are to believe that Carr had discovered a point within events fromwhich to judge history. He essentially recasts Niebuhr in a secular mold: The absolute in history is not something in the past from which we start; it is not something in the present, since all present thinking is necessarily relative. It is something still incomplete and in process of becoming— something in the future towards which we move, which in the light of which, as we move forward, we gradually shape our interpretation of the past. This is the secular truth behind the religious myth that the meaning of history will be revealed in the day of judgment. (ibid.: 160–1)In short, the historian’s task was to fit past events into a pattern of progress. Carrnever shrank from defending the idea of progress against bloodless skeptics andpolitical scientists. He ended What Is History? affirmatively: Sir Lewis Namier warns me to eschew programmes and ideals, and Professor Oakeshott tells me that we are going nowhere in particular and that all that matters is to see that nobody rocks the boat, and Professor Popper wants to keep that dear old T-model on the road by dint of a little piecemeal engineering, and Professor TrevorRoper knocks screaming radicals on the nose, and Professor Morison pleads for history written in a sane conservative
  • 61. 54 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS spirit. I shall look out on a world in tumult and a world in travail, and shall answer in the well-worn words of a great scientist: “And yet—it moves.” (ibid.: 208–9)In Twenty Years’ Crisis, history also moves, in dialectical fashion. This should notbe unexpected. As Carr argues, The political process does not consist, as the realist believes, purely in a succession of phenomena governed by mechanical laws of causation; nor does it consist, as the utopian believes, purely in the application to practice of certain theoretical truths evolved out of their inner consciousness by wise and far-seeing people. Political science must be based on a recognition of the interdependence of theory and practice, which can be attained only through a combination of utopia and reality. (p. 13)Pressing the point, Carr starkly juxtaposed different historical and ideologicalmodels: utopia and reality, purpose and fact, freedom and necessity, theory andpractice, intellectuals and bureaucrats, Left and Right, ethics and politics. Givenhis emphasis on the conditions of knowledge, Carr’s “evidence” is drawn chieflyfrom the history of political thought and expression, presumably the best barometerof the “realities” of the time. On the utopian side, he mocked the “idealist”statesmen, noting, for example, how Robert Cecil had assured the Assembly of theLeague of Nations in 1931 that “there has scarcely ever been a period in the world’shistory when war seemed less likely than it does at the present” (p. 36); how NormanAngell had moralized about “muddled thinking” as the barrier to world order (p.39); how Sir John Simon had appealed to the power of public opinion during theManchurian crisis. Simon told the House of Commons, “when public opinion,world opinion, is sufficiently unanimous to pronounce a firm moralcondemnation, sanctions are not needed” (p. 36). Carr noted derisively that“Woodrow Wilson’s ‘plain men throughout the world,’ the spokesmen of ‘thecommon purpose of enlightened mankind,’ had somehow transformed themselvesinto a disorderly mob emitting incoherent and unhelpful noises” (p. 38). Carr theninterpreted: “The simplicity of these explanations seemed almost ludicrouslydisproportionate to the intensity and complexity of the international crisis… Thebreakdown of the nineteen-thirties was too overwhelming to be explained merelyin terms of individual action or inaction. Its downfall involved the bankruptcy ofthe postulates on which it was based” (p. 40). Carr contrasted idealism with an extreme realism, which he identified withThrasymachus and the Athenian generals (“justice is the right of the stronger”), andwith the stance, derived from a pedestrian reading of Machiavelli, that “moralityis the product of power…ethics become, in the last analysis, the study of reality”(pp. 63–5). Carr’s realism also enlisted Jean Bodin, Hobbes, Francis Bacon, BaruchSpinoza, Hegel, Oswald Spengler, and the German Geopolitik historical school,
  • 62. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 55probably a reference to Ranke, Kjellen, Treitschke, and others. Lenin’s realism iscited: “politics…have their own objective logic independent of the prescriptions ofthis or that individual or party” (p. 66); as is Engels’ dictum that “without forceand iron ruthlessness nothing is achieved in history” (p. 102). Carr suggests thatSchopenhauer had aptly summed up the realist view of history as “consist[ing] ofthe insight that, throughout the jumble of all these ceaseless changes, we have everbefore our eyes the same unchanging being, pursuing the same course to-day,yesterday, and forever.” “Realism,” in short, was an overly determined andpessimistic mode of thought, devoid of any spur to purposive or meaningful action,and “plainly repugnant to the most deep-seated belief of man about himself” (p. 92). As Hedley Bull once pointed out (1969b:628), Carr’s lively method bears all thecharacteristic defects of a polemical essay. Carr’s fund of historical illustrationsvastly overstates ideological and pragmatic divisions. He drives theorists andstatesmen into two opposed camps, in the process trampling historical ambiguitiesand subtleties of thought. History “as it really was” could never have been so neatlyapportioned. Nevertheless, Carr hoped that the realist and the utopian would meet,and that international politics would evolve by way of breakthroughs set aroundconcession and compro mise. Invoking the logic of management—labor relationsin Twenty Years’ Crisis, he pointed to the notion of force majeure as a principle ofpeaceful change. “A successful foreign policy,” he argues, “must oscillate betweenthe apparently opposite poles of force and appeasement” (p. 223). Carr offers remarkably few historical examples of this fine-tuned dialecticalinternationalism. He points to the shifts in Franco-German power relations andresultant Locarno Treaty as “a simple and revealing illustration of the working ofpower politics.” He argues that by 1925, “the Ruhr invasion had brought little profitto France, and had left her perplexed as to the next step. Germany might one daybe powerful again. Germany, on the other hand, still feared the military supremacyof France, and hankered after a guarantee. It was the psychological moment whenFrench fear of Germany was about equally balanced by Germany’s fear of France;and a treaty which had not been possible two years before, and would not havebeen possible five years later, was now welcome to both” (pp. 105–6). There was, ofcourse, no utopianism involved here. Carr’s analysis rests solely on the “objective”power positions of France and Germany, and employs a somewhat uncomplicatedview of power.5 Carr did, however, describe the Anglo-Irish pact of 1921 as a“striking success” in peaceful change based on a mixture of “yielding to threats offorce,” and the “necessary moral foundation” of a “stock of common feeling” aboutwhat was “just and reasonable” in relations between the two countries, and in thereadiness of both “to make sacrifices in the interest of conciliation” (pp. 220–1). Power politics and historical judgmentAnother of Carr’s paradigms for a successful foreign policy was the Munichsettlement of 1938. Munich is now widely considered the nadir of Europeandiplomacy in the twentieth century. Under threat from Hitler, the great powers
  • 63. 56 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSpresided over the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia according to ethniccomposition, with the Sudetenland to be ceded to Germany and other regions togo to Poland and Hungary. At the time, however, many people in Britain, France,and Germany warmly received the agreement, believing it had averted war inEurope. Carr, too, welcomed the compromise. The first edition of Twenty Years’Crisis (1939), written in 1938 and 1939, and dedicated “to the makers of the comingpeace,” contained a detailed strategic and moral justification for the settlement with“Herr Hitler.” (A.J.P.Taylor called Carr’s essay “a brilliant argument forappeasement” (quoted in Smith 1986:85).) The book was in page proof on 1September 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland. In the preface to the book’s second, 1946, edition, Carr noted that what he haddone was “to recast phrases…to modify a few sentences which have invitedmisunderstanding, and to remove two or three passages relating to currentcontroversies which have been eclipsed or put into a different perspective by thelapse of time” (Carr 1946:vii). The most notorious passage which did not find itsway into the 1946 edition stated: If the power relations of Europe in 1938 made it inevitable that Czecho- Slovakia should lose part of her territory, and eventually her independence, it was preferable (quite apart from any question of justice or injustice) that this should come about as the result of discussion round a table in Munich rather than as the result either of a war between the Great Powers or of a local war between Germany and Czecho-Slovakia. (Smith 1986:83)Carr went on to defend the ethics of the Munich settlement as “the nearest approachin recent years to the settlement of a major international issue by a procedure ofpeaceful change,” which blended power politics with “the element of morality…inthe form of the common recognition by the Powers, who effectively decided theissue, of a criterion applicable to the dispute: the principle of self-determination”(quoted in Smith 1986:84). Hedley Bull (1969b:627) cautioned against dwelling, “with the disadvantage ofhindsight,” on Carr’s appalling misreading of Munich. The question turns onwhether or not the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia was inevitable, given the factof German power. Carr’s phrasing on this is cryptic, but his stance can perhaps betraced to a philosophy that attached a belief in the “relative and pragmatic characterof thought itself” to a preoccupation with power (Carr 1946:67–8). Twenty Years’Crisis was written “with the deliberate aim of counteracting the glaring anddangerous defect of nearly all thinking, both academic and popular, aboutinternational politics in Englishspeaking countries from 1919 to 1939—the almosttotal neglect of the factor of power” (ibid.: vii). Overcompensating for this defect,Carr was left without much of an anchor outside of power. This led Morgenthau(1962b: 43) to observe of Carr: “It is a dangerous thing to be a Machiavelli. It is adisastrous thing to be a Machiavelli without virtù.” Still, Carr was not alone among
  • 64. HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 57the realists in recognizing the relative standards of judgment and action. Moreover,Carr’s faith in progress, though impossible to reconcile with his insistence on powerpolitics, cannot be dismissed. It lends a melancholy air to his conclusion that“Power goes far to create the morality convenient to itself, and coercion is a fruitfulsource of consent” (Carr 1946:236). Like Niebuhr, Carr never satisfactorilysynthesized power and morality, but Carr did grasp how the tension between thetwo accounted for “the complexity, the fascination and the tragedy of all politicallife” (ibid.: 93). It is perhaps ironic that Carr’s sharpest critique of realism (based, as describedabove, on a polemical depiction of the tradition from Athens to Lenin), rested onits acceptance, without moral comment, of whatever history had in store: On the “scientific” hypothesis of the realists, reality is thus identified with the whole course of historical evolution, whose laws it is the business of the philosopher to investigate and reveal. There can be no reality outside the historical process… Condemning the past on ethical grounds has no meaning; for in Hegel’s words, “philosophy transfigures the real which appears unjust into the rational.” What was, is right. History cannot be judged except by historical standards. It is significant that our historical judgments, except those relating to a past which we can ourselves remember as the present, always appear to start from the presupposition that things could not have turned out otherwise than they did… If the American War of Independence had ended in disaster, the Founding Fathers of the United States would be briefly recorded in history as a gang of turbulent and unscrupulous fanatics. Nothing succeeds like success. “World history,” in the famous phrase which Hegel borrowed from Schiller, “is the world court.” (ibid.: 66–7)It would be wrong to accuse Carr of harboring such an amoral view of history.True, he did not foresee the elimination of power from political life. After all,political ideas—all ideas—were shaped by power. However, this did not determinethe actual direction that history would take. Carr hoped that in the future powerwould be staked to broader aims rather than sovereign territories. “Few things arepermanent in history,” he offered, “and it would be rash to think that the territorialunit of power is one of them” (ibid.: 229). In Nationalism and After (1945), Carrhad history marching through a sequence of historical periods toward internationalcooperation, and overcoming “the catastrophic growth of nationalism andbankruptcy of internationalism,” which he believed was the chief reason for thecollapse of world politics (Carr 1945:17). In the final chapter of Twenty Years’ Crisis,“Prospects for a New International Order,” Carr conceded that “it is easy to readpast history as a gradual development leading up, with occasional relapses, to [the]consummation [of the nation-state],” and yet that “there is a clearly marked trendtowards integration and the formation of ever larger political and economic units”
  • 65. 58 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS(Carr 1946:228–9). This is not the tragic cycle generally associated with realisthistory. Although embarking on the “hard ruthless analysis of reality which is thehallmark of science,” Carr’s assertion that social thought and action, includingindividual ethics, were determined by power was simply unhistorical in itsreductionism (ibid.: 10). Carr captured brilliantly the grinding weight of the statusquo. For this, his critique remains important and provocative, especially in thisneoliberal age, where “democratization,” economic integration, and the new laissez-faire rarely receive much reflection. Still, one wonders if Carr’s insights do justiceto history or theory. His relativism led him, in the Munich case, into a moralmorass, but it also fueled a certain political naïveté. In The Soviet Impact on theWestern World (1947:3), for example, Carr touted Soviet pluralism and commandeconomics as the wave of the future, that “the missionary role which had been filledin the first world war by American democracy and Woodrow Wilson had passedin the second world war to Soviet democracy and Marshall Stalin.” No one woulddeny that intellectual activity is free of the taint of interest and conviction. Ideologymay well be the point where history and politics meet, but some critical distanceis both necessary and possible. ConclusionIn its origins, international relations theory adhered to a complex and contingentview of history. Niebuhr and Carr expressed divergent views about human nature,the historical process, and the standards of historical judgment, yet each, throughhis own faith, underscores the possibilities of history. If by ‘science’ is meant a bodyof systematically verified beliefs that is able to transcend interest and prejudice,neither Niebuhr nor Carr was very accommodating. Niebuhr saw history as a massof contradiction and contingency. The gravamen of Carr’s grievance against“realism,” ever since its classical wellsprings, was its determinism. In the nextchapters, we will see the subtleties, paradoxes, dualisms, and contradictions inherentin early realism be eroded precisely because they are antithetical to political science.The idea that prejudice and circumstance could affect one’s views of history andhistorical process will be dismissed as a vestige of pre-scientific thinking. With theadvent of policy realism, historical laws will begin to be erected in place ofcontingency, while in structural and quantitative analysis the contingent view willfade from sight.
  • 66. 4 HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM Hans J.Morgenthau and George F.KennanIt was noted at the beginning of the previous chapter that the policy-orientedapproach to history is at least as old as Machiavelli, whose Discourses on Livy arguedfor a new activism in politics guided by “the powerful examples which history showsus” (Machiavelli 1979:170). Like Machiavelli, the realists discussed in this chapter—Hans Morgenthau and George Kennan—viewed history in a political context. Socialscientists may survey a large number of historical cases in the search for correlatesand causes that offer generic explanations for international behavior. Thesepractical theorists, however, set their sights on history that would be relevant toAmerica’s burgeoning global role and the demands of the cold war. Policy realismwas in this sense more a matter of prudence than of science. My task in this chapter is to trace this relationship between history, theory, andpractice. I suggest that while classical realism is rich in historical detail, its portrayalof history is inseparable from the realist philosophy we have explored thus far. AsOakeshott observed, “philosophy is the world reflected in the mirror of thephilosophic eye, each image the representation of a fresh object, but eachdetermined by the character of the mirror itself” (introduction to Hobbes 1947:xix). The chapter first explores Hans Morgenthau’s method of distinguishinghistorical contingency from historical law, the latter being the godmother ofpolitical science. Second, I shall look at Morgenthau’s conception of the balanceof power. In contrast to Niebuhr’s tragic conception, as a “scientific” theory itforeshortens historical discussion and downplays political process. It is furthersuggested that the appalling failures of balance-ofpower politics in the twentiethcentury perhaps prompted realists to idealize the attainments of the balance in pastcenturies. Third, the discussion takes up the problem of transforming ideas abouthistory into political practice, focusing on the historical foundations of GeorgeKennan’s theory of containment. Finally, the chapter revisits the tension in realistthought between science and philosophy. Between contingency and science: Hans J.Morgenthau and realist historyNiebuhr and Carr toppled the idealist edifice by exposing the flaws of moralcertainty and laissez-faire, but it was Hans Morgenthau who erected a systematic
  • 67. 60 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSrealist theory to take its place. A refugee from Hitler’s Germany, Morgenthauconceived of politics in terms of power and interests, and was skeptical that law,ethics, or reason could resolve political dilemmas. “The truth of political science,”he wrote, “is the truth about power, its manifestations, its configurations, itslimitations, its implications, its laws” (Morgenthau 1962a: 37). At the same time,Morgenthau recognized the “ineluctable tension” between ethical commands andpolitical necessity, and deemed the moral evaluation of power the indispensabletask of political theory. Transplanted to the gentler soil of America, tapping intoa deep realist vein instilled in the American polity by the Federalists, and evolvingsymbiotically with the new internationalism of American postwar foreign policy,this tempered realpolitik thrived. Morgenthau became the doyen of realists. It washe, explains John Vasquez, who best “expressed, promulgated and synthesized” theapproach, becoming the “single most important vehicle for establishing thedominance of the realist paradigm within the field” (quoted in Ferguson andMansbach 1988:97–8). Scientific Man vs. Power PoliticsMorgenthau’s influence on international relations originated with his treatise onpolitical philosophy and method, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (1946). The bookwas emphatically at odds with the surging tide of behavioral social science. Begunlate in the summer of 1940, a time when Morgenthau recalls being shaken by thefall of France, it stands alongside Oakeshott’s “Rationalism in Politics” (1962) asone of the great dissents against the scientific-rationalist framework for politicaltheory and practice. Echoing Carr’s critique of scientific utopianism, Morgenthauargued that the rationalist approach had embraced the Enlightenment belief in thepower of science, and tried to make it into an instrument of social redemption.Political history was thus transformed into a succession of problems amenable toscientific solutions. On the international front, it was assumed that the problemof war would yield to refinements in international organization, legal rules, andeconomic union. Morgenthau contended that this “dogmatic scientism” in politicalplanning and prediction was wrong-headed. “The principles of scientific reason arealways simple, consistent, and abstract; the social world is always complicated,incongruous, and concrete.” Politics was an art and not a science. Sound governancerequired “not the rationality of the engineer but the wisdom and moral strengthof the statesman” (p. 10). Morgenthau insisted that a realistic political philosophy must reject the canonsof science, and adopt instead the quite different proposition that all politics werepower politics. He argued that human nature was multifaceted, yet that one element,the animus dominandi, or lust for power, predominated in politics. “Power politics,rooted in the lust for power which is common to all men [is] inseparable fromsocial life itself,” he contended (p. 9). At core, political acts were always aimed atkeeping, increasing, or demonstrating power. The lust for power could beconstrained and controlled, but never eliminated from politics. Morgenthau
  • 68. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 61considered it folly to view the struggle for power, as “democratic peace” proponentsdid, as a phase coinciding with autocratic government, which was bound to witheraway with the democratization of foreign policy. War was neither an historicalaccident nor an “aristocratic pastime or totalitarian atavism,” but was a recurrenthuman tragedy (p. 47). He believed that nations were peace-loving under certainexternal conditions and warlike under others, and hence was skeptical of theKantian position, but also of a number of historical interpretations claiming thatmonarchy was the most peaceful form of government (pp. 65–7). Nor could warbe vanquished Leviathan-style by subordinating political action to a centralauthority or a general body of law. Woodrow Wilson, the realists’ barn side of atarget, had told Congress in 1917, “We are at the beginning of an age in which itwill be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrongdone shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observedamong the individual citizens of civilized states” (pp. 43–4). Morgenthau consideredthis the “soothing logic of a specious concord” (p. 203). Morgenthau produced as evidence of the bankruptcy of scientific rationalism alitany of simplistic and shortsighted blueprints for international peace that had“failed to stand the trial of history” (p. 39). Coming in for criticism are the Abbéde Saint-Pierre’s Project for Perpetual Peace in Europe (1713–17); other philosophes andphysiocrats; Kant and Comte; Marxist formula followers; free-trading liberals; social-engineering positivists; inter-war idealists; French planners; Wilsonian promotersof the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations; advocates of a benignLeviathan “coordinate state”; perfectionists, moralists, and every other stripe ofinternationalist, uninitiated in the “obstinate realities” of the international scene.All of these schemes, according to Morgenthau, suffered from historical myopia.Each “deduced from the limited experience of a certain age universal laws whichwere found wanting when applied to conditions different from those under whichthey were originally developed” (p. 85). He warned that such historical naïvetécourted catastrophe in an anarchic world, the inevitable analogy in 1946 being thefailure of the liberal democracies to recognize the problem of power and ally againstHitler before it was too late. Curiously, in the midst of Scientific Man’s assault on applied political science,Morgenthau was signaling the way toward a rational science of internationalpolitics. He was careful to maintain that beneath the chaos and contingency ofhistory there were certain perennial forces that shaped social life. These, he said,were “the general causes of which particular events are but the outwardmanifestations” (p. v). Morgenthau recognized, however, that social science was nota detached and omniscient enterprise, but was largely socially constructed andconditioned. Hence, “the historic relativity of all political philosophy” (p. 20).Abstract reason was a mirage. “In the social sciences, the social conditions determinenot only the ulterior purpose but also the object of inquiry, the investigator’srelation to it, his assumptions, methods, and immediate aims” (p. 162).Developments in science were “carried by the irrational forces of interest andemotion to where those forces want it to move” (p. 155). Moreover, social engineers
  • 69. 62 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSfailed to grasp that political values were beyond the reach of science. Whoeverbelieved that science alone could reveal the mysteries of politics was the “truedogmatist who universalizes cognitive principles of limited validity and appliesthem to realms not accessible to them” (p. 220). This sphere of Morgenthau’sthought had more in common with the sociology of knowledge we saw inMannheim and Carr than it has with present-day “scientific realists.” “Rationalreconstructions” of the paradigm wrongly regard Morgenthau’s work as a crudeprototype, whose scientific shortcomings have been bred out over the decades (see,for example, Tellis 1995). Politics Among NationsMorgenthau made his theory explicit in the landmark work, Politics Among Nations:The Struggle for Power and Peace, first published in 1948. Downplaying thecontingency and social construction of Scientific Man, the great text very nearlyfounded the scientific study of international relations in the United States. Whereasthe field had traditionally centered on institutions, norms, current events, anddiplomatic history, Morgenthau formulated a nomothetic, or law-based, approachto political understanding and action. His method, like Plato’s, was architectonic,building outward from a conception of human nature to the character of the state,the nature of the international system, and the necessary tasks of statecraft. Thedesign was positivist in that it sought, within limits, to detect “those elemental bio-psychological drives” of society “that determine political relations among nationsand to comprehend the ways in which those forces act upon each other and uponinternational political relations and institutions” (pp. 39, 18). The volume is richin historical allusion, yet, as Michael Joseph Smith (1986:141) points out, “the mainmessage of the book is that the crucial features of the international landscape haveremained remarkably constant over history.” Tolstoy, Thucydides, and the DeadSea Scrolls all attest to the ubiquity of the struggle for power. Politics Among Nations was intended as a guidebook for the student and thestatesman alike. What Niebuhr had said in 1932 was more appropriate than everin the immediate postwar years: “The political situation and problem of Americain world affairs can be put in one sentence: America is at once the most powerfuland politically the most ignorant of modern nations” (quoted in Rosenthal 1991:38). The period found US leaders sitting atop a new world order and casting aboutfor principles of understanding and action. Morgenthau’s book furnished both. Itoffered a framework for aligning America’s great power status with a great powerforeign policy. Although Keynes once noted that every policy initiative had itsorigins in the scribblings of some academic, it is impossible to trace with certaintythe intellectual promptings of particular policies. Morgenthau’s ideas, expressed inhis books, in a flood of essays in outlets from Encounter and Commentary to TheNew Leader and The New York Review of Books, and in many public forums (it issaid he never turned down an invitation to lecture), helped set the tone, thoughnot always the content, of American statecraft. At the same time, Morgenthau
  • 70. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 63sought to make realism a public philosophy. He considered this a crucial task in ademocracy, which, as de Tocqueville observed, may be the worst form ofgovernment when it came to conducting foreign relations. Particularly in theUnited States, the constitutional separation of powers, partisan politics, regionaldifferences, and the various international affinities and affections of a nation ofimmigrants, could fuel a cacophonous foreign policy. Morgenthau, like all therealists, believed in the adage that politics should end at the water’s edge. The thesis of Politics Among Nations was readily accessible. Morgenthau’s bedrockbelief, though not stated explicitly in the book’s first edition, was that politics weregoverned by “objective laws that have their roots in human nature” (p. 4). It waspossible, therefore, to develop a rational theory of politics that reflected those laws.Again, the lust for power, “universal in time and space,” was his focus (p. 38). Ashe later explained, the concept provided “a kind of rational outline of politics, amap of the political scene. Such a map does not provide a complete description ofthe political landscape as it is in a particular period of history. It rather providesthe timeless features of its geography distinct from their ever changing historicsetting” (Morgenthau 1962a:48). The power motive was more than a theoretical prop. Morgenthau also consideredit the constitutive principle of politics as a distinct sphere of human activity. Bydefinition, all politics were power politics. International behavior that hinged onanother variable was walled off from the political realm. Economic, cultural, orenvironmental concerns, for example, were not “political” relations inasmuch asthey did not involve power. The boundaries of politics and power thus coincidedneatly—probably too neatly. We shall see in Chapter 6 how difficult it is to severthe subtle bonds between political power and other state and societal functions.Morgenthau’s view of power was noteworthy for its catholicity, however. By power,he referred not to brute force or political violence, but to the psychological leverageof “man’s control over the minds and actions of other men” (p. 32). Those wearyof material-realist recitals of tanks, warheads, and men at arms will appreciateMorgenthau’s inclusion of geography, industry, natural resources, including “thepower of oil,” military preparedness, population, national morale and character,effective institutions, and diplomatic competence. These myriad forms of power,complicated by “all the contingencies of history and nature” ensured that evaluatingnational power would always be an imperfect art (pp. 172–4). Morgenthau married this belief in the ubiquity of power to the pursuit of stateinterests. The result was his famous formulation of “interest defined in terms ofpower.” Here was an organizing principle for a discipline adrift: We assume that statesmen think and act in terms of interest defined as power, and the evidence of history bears that assumption out. That assumption allows us to retrace and anticipate, as it were, the steps a statesman—past, present, or future—has taken or will take on the political scene. We look over his shoulder when he writes his dispatches; we listen in on his conversation with other statesmen; we read and anticipate his very thoughts. Thinking in
  • 71. 64 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS terms of interest defined as power, we think as he does, and as disinterested observers we understand his thoughts and actions perhaps better than he, the actor on the political scene, does himself. (p. 5)Following these guideposts of power and interests, researchers would not be misledby professed motivations or purported ideological preferences. Hypocrisy betweendiplomatic thought and practice was the rule. Morgenthau regarded ideas andideology as “pretexts and false fronts behind which the element of power, inherentin all politics, can be concealed” (p. 103). Ideology was a palliative that renderedinvolvement in power politics psychologically and morally acceptable to leadersand their constituents. Morgenthau encouraged students of politics to be skepticalof the “official” rationale for diplomatic decisions, but also to distrust the rationalethat the diplomat himself believed he was fulfilling. Unswerving research wouldsever the knot of ideology, and assign causes to political acts based on realistassumptions. This was the essence of Morgenthau’s “empirical” method: skepticaltoward science as a means of social salvation, yet supportive of a modest science ofrealism. One caveat before we move on to Morgenthau’s views on the relationshipbetween history and theory: although Morgenthau subscribed to a bleak view ofhistory and human nature, it would be wrong to depict him as internationalrelations’ dark prince. Describing politics in the hard-boiled terms of power andinterests was not equivalent to approving of this condition. As GeorgSchwarzenberger (1951:3) observed, “It may be ‘Machiavellian’ to indulge in powerpolitics but it would be too much honour to describe in such terms scientists whosequestionable privilege it is to analyse such relations. As a type they are notsufficiently demoniac to warrant the description of professors of internationalimmorality.” Realists believe that recognizing the role of power is the first steptoward addressing the problem of war. Likewise, setting the national interest as anormative standard is not an invitation to excess. Realists believe that there arelimits to interests, and that this renders the principle a source of moderation andrestraint. History and theoryMorgenthau’s approach was deeply “grounded in history.” He insisted that politicalargument and understanding conform to “the historical processes as they actuallytake place,” he hewed to a Burkean predominance of historical precedent overabstract principle, and he adduced abundant historical evidence in support of hispositions (Morgenthau 1985:4). As was mentioned earlier, Morgenthau alsoadopted a nomothetic outlook on history. He contended that “objective laws” orthe “static essence” of politics could be sifted from the chaos of historicalcontingencies.
  • 72. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 65 On this last point, Morgenthau’s method broke with previous approaches to thestudy of international politics. As we have seen, earlier theorists focused more onthe storminess and unpredictability of the international sphere, and less on the lawsthat might govern state behavior under these conditions. Morgenthau formalizedhis predecessors’ attention to human nature, making it into the linchpin of realistscience. He argued (ibid.: 20) that “the events [political analysts] must try tounderstand are, on the one hand, unique occurrences. They happened in this wayonly once and never before or since. On the other hand, they are similar, for theyare manifestations of social forces. Social forces are the product of human naturein action.” He also believed that history revealed a repetitiveness and constancy incertain “rational” political choices that made politics susceptible to theoreticalanalysis—although he conceded that the persistence of “irrational” behavior workedagainst the elaboration of theory. Morgenthau’s method entailed two steps. The first was inductive and intuitive,involving philosophical thought on history and human nature. Although derivedby way of historical reflection, this insight, once attained, was supra-historical: ittapped into a “store of objective, general truths” that transcended time and space(Morgenthau 1962a: 45). Whereas the natural scientist discovered laws throughobserved uniformities in nature, discerning social laws required a leap from historyto philosophy. The result was knowledge, not of “single facts but of the eternal lawsby which man moves in the social world.” As Morgenthau (1946:219–20) put it,“The Aristotelian truth that man is a political animal is true forever; the truths ofthe natural sciences are true only until other truths have supplanted them.”Reflecting on the perennial problems of government, “more-than-scientific man”became “the representative of true reason,” the “true realist” who “does justice tothe true nature of things.” Obversely, a defective philosophy imposed a false logic on history. Morgenthaubelieved this had been the case with the rational-scientists, whom history hadprovided with “false analogies but had taught…nothing.” Rationalistsmisconstrued history as a struggle between reason and unreason, and detected inthe historical record only “confirmation of, or a deviation from, the rational schemewith which they approach the political reality.” “What Carl L.Becker has said ofthe eighteenth-century philosophers is true of their nineteenth- and twentieth-century heirs: ‘The eighteenth-century Philosophers, like the medieval scholastics,held fast to a revealed body of knowledge, and they were unwilling and unable tolearn anything from history which could not…be reconciled with their faith” (ibid.:37–8). The second step of Morgenthau’s approach involved deduction and empiricaltesting, as philosophical propositions were plunged back into history. It was thisexperimentation with “rational hypotheses” which gave “theoretical meaning to thefacts of international politics,” and made the scientific writing of political historypossible (Morgenthau 1985:5). Again, value-free political inquiry was a phantom.Empirical claims stemmed from general principles—often unacknowledged—abouthumanity and society. Hence, Morgenthau sought to combine philosophy and
  • 73. 66 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSscience into a coherent understanding of politics. He argued that due to an academicrift, particularly deep in the United States, between philosophy and science, politicalphilosophy had grown sterile and irrelevant to the issues of the day; political science,severed from the history of political thought, had grown intellectually starved. Thepolitical philosophers he most admired—Aristotle, Kautilya, Hobbes, Machiavelli,Weber, perhaps Nietzsche—were also, in Morgenthau’s estimation, great politicalscientists, who “deriv[ed] concrete, empirically verifiable propositions from abstractphilosophical ones” (Morgenthau 1962a:41). Thus, an amalgam of science and philosophy carried Morgenthau from historyto theory and back into history. At the same time, Morgenthau believed that theuncertainties of history signaled the limits of political science. Although thepurpose of political science was to understand politics in a theoretical manner, thiswas an inherently tentative enterprise. Political science could “indicate certaintrends and…state the possible conditions under which one of those trends is mostlikely to materialize in the future.” It could go no further without “losing itself inunscientific speculation” (Morgenthau 1946: 134–7). Here the scholar and thecharlatan parted ways. It was in this context that he claimed (1967:211) that moderntheorists and researchers in international relations were “repelled by history; forhistory is the realm of the accidental, the contingent, the unpredictable.” History,which had embodied the ambiguities of situations and actors, had been replacedby historical “data.” Quantitative researchers, systems analysts, and othersophisticated research strategists went about scaling the peaks of science withoutlooking to see how solid the rock was in which they were planting their pitons.This conceit of method left modern theorists with no historical sense of theuncertainties of politics and the intractability of the human condition. This kind of bald empiricism was also profoundly anti-theoretical. Again,Morgenthau believed that theory stood apart from history; it transcended merefacts to capture timeless features of the social landscape. In history too, Morgenthaubelieved that a divide between theory and fact was untenable. History, he said,echoing Seeley, was “philosophy learned from examples” (Morgenthau 1962a:328).Great historical narratives sought out the nexus between individual events andperennial human concerns. Thucydides and Ranke, for instance, were deeplyphilosophical historians, for whom theory was “like the skeleton which, invisibleto the naked eye, gives form and function to the body” (ibid.: 65). Morgenthau alsocommended Arnold Toynbee’s work as an antidote to the “unproblematic povertyof scientific historiography,” and claimed that the English historian had “awakenedthe historic imagination from its dogmatic slumber,” and had reached a plane ofcomprehension “beyond the ken of empirical verification.” At this high level,Morgenthau considered the difference between history and international relationsas one of form rather than substance. According to Morgenthau (1962b:55–6), thehistorian “presents his theory in the form of a historical recital using thechronological sequence to events as demonstration of his theory. The theoretician,dispensing with the historical recital, makes the theory explicit and uses historicfacts in bits and pieces to demonstrate his theory.”
  • 74. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 67 Policy historyThis is essentially how Morgenthau used history. He did not refer theory to thehistorical record in a rigorous way, through either formal case studies or large nanalyses. He was skeptical that worthwhile quantitative work, at least, was possible.Rather, he carefully selected historical vignettes that illustrated realist principles:The League of Nations’ niggling retort to the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939showed the futility of legalism; Richard Cobden’s Victorian speeches brought homethe folly of commercial liberalism; the protracted “great game” between Britain andRussia for control of Central Asia demonstrated the competitive balance of power;quibbling about the design of the negotiating table at the Paris peace talks onVietnam illustrated the policy of prestige; Japan’s euphemistic Asian “co-prosperityzone” exemplified the ideology of imperialism. On larger policy questions, Morgenthau developed more elaborate historicalreference. Consider his approach to two issues in American foreign policy: the warin Vietnam and US foreign aid. Morgenthau argued that the Vietnam debate wastypical of a revolutionary age: How should a country respond to a hostile politicalmovement that transcended national boundaries? What bearing did a universalpolitical creed have on national interests? How to deal with revolutions that mightbe hijacked by true believers? Morgenthau (1965:20) noted that “twice before inmodern history, these questions had to be answered.” First, there was the exampleof Britain’s posture toward Revolutionary France, a great power which, like theSoviet Union, seemed to be the fountainhead of a worldwide political religion.Morgenthau broached possible diplomatic avenues by sketching out the debateamong Edmund Burke, Charles James Fox, and William Pitt, then British PrimeMinister. Fox, apparently, had argued that England was not threatened by France,or, for that matter, by the principles the Revolution espoused. Burke held,conversely, that the Revolution subverted the very “order of things, under whichour part of the world has so long flourished…We are at war with a principle…ofwhich there is no shutting out by fortresses or excluding by territorial limits. Nolines of demarcation can bound the Jacobin empire. It must be extirpated in theplace of its origin, or it will not be confined to that place” (ibid.: 20). It was left toPitt to apply the standard of the national interest. What was at stake, said the PrimeMinister, was “security—security against a danger, the greatest that ever threatenedthe world—security against a danger which never existed in any past period ofsociety…We saw that it was to be resisted no less by arms abroad, than by precautionat home; that we were to look for protection no less to the courage of our forcesthan to the wisdom of our councils; no less to military effort than to legislativeenactment” (ibid.: 20). Morgenthau’s second precedent for Vietnam was British Foreign MinisterCastlereagh’s discriminating diplomacy in the 1820s. At the time, the absolutemonarchs of Europe were terrified of the various liberal and nationalist movementsafoot on the continent. Russia, in particular, seemed to be using antagonism towardliberalism in order to mask its own imperial ambitions. Amid this aristocratic
  • 75. 68 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONShysteria, Castlereagh was the picture of restraint. He opposed Russian expansion,but refused to identify liberalism per se as the enemy of Britain. As he reportedlyadmonished the Russian ambassador in 1820, “It is proposed now to overcome therevolution; but so long as this revolution does not appear in more distinct shape,so long as this general principle is only translated into events like those of Spain,Naples and Portugal —which, strictly speaking, are only reforms, or at the mostdomestic upsets, and do not attack materially any other State—England is not readyto combat it” (ibid.: 21). At the same time Castlereagh wrote to his brother: “It isnot possible for the British Government to take the field in fruitlessly denouncingby a sweeping joint declaration the revolutionary dangers of the present day.”British leaders could “not regard mere declarations as of any real or solid valueindependent of some practical measure actually resolved upon; and what thatmeasure is which can be generally and universally adopted against bad principlesoverturning feeble and ill-administered governments, they have never yet been ableto divine” (ibid.: 21). Strategic choices were to be driven by interests and consideredin context. On foreign aid, Morgenthau argued that behind the label of “economicdevelopment” was a process in the nature of the time-honored practice of politicalbribery. The main difference was that the “elaborate machinery” of government aid—legions of economists and development experts—was less effective than old-fashioned diplomats in achieving political goals. Recognizing this, states shouldadopt a more rational scheme of apportioning aid. Morgenthau noted that in thepast it had been “proper and common” for governments to pay a pension—a bribe—to foreign ministers and ambassadors from other countries. Sir Henry Wooten,Britain’s eminent ambassador to Venice in the seventeenth century, received sucha tribute. The Elizabethan representative to Madrid, Lord Robert Cecil, secured apension from the Spanish court. In the decades before the Revolution, Frenchofficials had plied Austrian statesmen with lavish subsidies. Diplomats were alsopaid for their cooperation in concluding treaties. At the signing of the Treaty ofBasel of 1795, by virtue of which Prussia agreed to withdraw from the war againstFrance, the French government gave 30,000 francs to Prussian Minister Hardenberg,who complained of the meagerness of the sum. In 1801, the Margrave of Badenearmarked 500,000 francs for “diplomatic presents,” of which French ForeignMinister Talleyrand received 150,000. Morgenthau reported that “it was originallyintended to give him only 100,000, but the amount was increased after it hadbecome known that he had received from Prussia a snuffbox worth 66,000 francsas well as 100,000 francs in cash” (Morgenthau 1962b: 256–7). The point was thatwhat appeared to modern eyes as scandal and graft, in fact represented what hadtraditionally been a forthright way of securing political advantage. These are examples of policy history: a way of illustrating historically theprinciples and direction of statecraft. The method is more prudential thanempirical. “What happened” was less critical than the “moral” or “lesson” derivedfrom events, which was generally at the expense of the historical process, and oftendevoid of actual policy content. The moral on Vietnam was that interests were not
  • 76. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 69infinite. Statesmen should not drag crusades into the political realm, where interestsshould predominate. Having made this point, whether or not the cases chosen wereanalogous to Vietnam was not, in the end, terribly significant. The lesson on foreignaid had to do with the primacy of politics. International aid should be part of acoherent foreign policy firmly under political control. Morgenthau’s “pristine”examples of political money helped cut through the tangle of ideology to revealthe political nature of foreign aid. That past statesmen may have placed personalinterests ahead of national ones, or that the documents on French subsidies toAustria were released by the revolutionary council as evidence of the corruption ofthe ancien régime, was, again, of marginal importance. The method is very effective. Analogies are clearly stated, doubts are dispelled,and the logic advanced seems inescapable. Yet, for all its richness, the approach isselective and anecdotal, apparently driven by the realist world view. AlthoughMorgenthau is generally considered an inductivist, in these instances the principlesprecede the history. Rather than plunging theory into history, this is more a caseof using history to confirm propositions that have already been establishedphilosophically. The principles being argued might be sound, but it is debatablehow “scientific” they are. At the first, intuitive, step of Morgenthau’s method,understandably no historical protocols or “rules of evidence” are offered; but noneis posed at the “empirical” stage either. Without knowing if the cases arerepresentative, one cannot uphold in any rigorous way the general validity of thetheory. To Morgenthau, this line of criticism would presume more certainty than socialscience can provide. As Aristotle said, any inquiry could only be as precise as thesubject matter allowed. Throughout his work, starting with the disclaimers ofScientific Man, Morgenthau maintained that there were no absolutes in politics.Hence, his “modest expectations of a circumspect theory” (Morgenthau 1966:65).This skepticism did not, however, deter him from making strong historical claims:that “no nation has ever been completely immune” from “that iron law ofinternational politics, that legal obligations must yield to the national interest”(Morgenthau 1951:144); that attempts to avert war through collective action,disarmament, or institutions were “doomed to failure”; that misjudging nationalpower was the definitive reason that states declined. Morgenthau’s strongest“historical” arguments were more axiomatic than empirical. The principles invokedmay reside, with Toynbee’s ideas, beyond the ken of empirical verification. Thisbegs a crucial question for classical realists: how does one translate historical“wisdom”—which surely exists; there is a difference in historical awareness betweenthe statesman and the public administrator—into defensible political understandingand action? We take up this question now in regard to the balance of power, andbelow, in our discussion of George Kennan’s historical approach to containment.
  • 77. 70 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS History and the balance of powerRealists view the balance of power as one of the mainsprings of internationalpolitics. International laws and norms are important, but the balance of power isthe surest curb on the untrammeled exercise of state power. Indeed, the balancemakes possible the existence of a diverse community of states. Perhaps inevitably,realists projected this image back into history, emphasizing events thatdemonstrated the balance and privileging early advocates of the approach. Although the balance of power idea enjoys wide currency, its meaning andsignificance have been bandied about for three centuries. The anonymous authorof Europe’s Catechism (1741) called the balance “an equal Distribution of Poweramong the Princes of Europe, as makes it impractical for the one to disturb theRepose of the other” (quoted in Sheehan 1996:2). Burke was ambivalent toward thepractice. He believed strongly that it preserved the independence of weak nations,yet he also believed that balance of power policies and the web of alliances theyproduced in fact spread conflict. The strategy, he wrote, had “been the original ofinnumerable and fruitless wars… The foreign ambassadors constantly residing inall courts, the negotiations incessantly carrying on, spread both confederacies andquarrels so wide, that whenever hostilities commence, the theater of war is alwaysof a prodigious extent” (quoted in Ferguson and Mansbach 1988:193). G.LowesDickenson, a promoter of the League of Nations, contended in The InternationalAnarchy (1926) that no strategy had been more perilous, for “all history shows everybalance has ended in war” (quoted in Smith 1986:58). Butterfield (1966:133) notesthat “more than most of our basic political formulas, this one seems to come fromthe modern world’s reflections on its own experience.” George Liska pointed to a“misplaced desire for precision in a concept that is at once the dominant myth andthe fundamental law of interstate relations” (quoted in Sheehan 1996:2).M.S.Anderson suggests that this slippery concept has too often served as a“substitute for thought” (quoted in Schroeder 1994b: 6). The historian A.F.Pollardsummed up this conceptual riot: “Like ‘liberty,’ ‘independence,’ and ‘the freedomof the seas’ or of the straits, the balance of power may mean almost anything; andit is used not only in different senses by different people, or in different senses bythe same people at different times, but in different senses by the same person at thesame time” (quoted in Gulick 1967: v). Morgenthau went a long way toward clearing up this confusion. He conceivedof the balance in two main ways. First, he saw it as “a universal social phenomenon”signifying “stability within a system composed of a number of autonomous forces”(Morgenthau 1985:188). In international politics, the balance acted as “arbiter” ofthe two “basic patterns” of conduct—that of “status quo” states interested inpreserving the existing distribution of power, and that of “imperialist” statesinterested in its revision or overthrow. If one assumed that states were concernedwith their power positions relative to other states, it was reasonable to expect thatefforts to keep pace with, or even outstrip, their competitors would ensue.Morgenthau carried this logic a step further. Whereas Niebuhr had viewed the
  • 78. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 71balance as a deliberate human construct, Morgenthau saw it as “inevitable” and“mechanistic.” “The aspiration for power on the part of several nations, each tryingeither to maintain or overthrow the status-quo, leads of necessity to a configurationthat is called the balance of power and to policies that aim at preserving it.” Thebalance conveyed the force of nature. Morgenthau pointed to parallels in the“automatic stabilizing processes” of the human body and the “social homeostasis”of society, and extended these analogies to the international sphere (ibid.: 187, 190). Second, the balance provided a normative framework for political order. It wasa device for preserving the system and the diverse elements it comprised. One ofthe earliest normative expressions of the balance of power, the Preamble to theTreaty of Utrecht of 1713, which concluded the War of the Spanish Succession,adopted an almost idealistic tone, noting that “a just Balance of Power…is the bestand most solid foundation of mutual friendship and a lasting general concord”(quoted in Sheehan 1996:16). For Morgenthau the virtues of the practice lay morein the independent liberties it secured. Save for the balance, he argued, “one elementwill gain ascendancy over the others, encroach upon their interests and rights, andmay ultimately destroy them” (Morgenthau 1985:189). Morgenthau found a robustmodel in Federalist 51, one of the essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay,and James Madison and published pseudonymously in 1787 and 1788. Federalist51 argued that “inventions of prudence” must be fashioned to check and balancepower: This policy of supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives, might be traced to the whole system of human affairs, private as well as public. We see it particularly displayed in all the subordinate distributions of power, where the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as that each may be a check on the other— that the private interests of every individual may be a sentinel over the public rights. These inventions of prudence cannot be less requisite in the distribution of the supreme powers of the state. (ibid.: 189)In a domestic setting, such as that envisioned by the Federalists, the need for thebalance was ameliorated by shared interests, common values, and, most of all, thecentral authority of the state. The international sphere, where norms were erraticand overarching authority nonexistent, relied more starkly on the balance forpolitical order. The balance of power, then, was both a species of “natural history” and adiplomatic institution, a fact as well as a norm. Morgenthau envisioned two idealtypes of international balance: direct opposition (bipolarity), and competitiveequilibrium (multipolarity). Historically, these configurations had comprisedinterrelated sub-systems as well: in Central and Eastern Europe, Italy, the Balkans,Korea, the Southern Cone of Latin America, and elsewhere according to the period.The “balance” was, in fact, dynamic. As British Foreign Minister George Canning
  • 79. 72 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONShad implied, “Is [the balance of power] not a standard perpetually varying, ascivilization advances, and as new nations spring up, and take their place amongestablished political communities?” (ibid.: 210–11). As the expansion of the international system quickened in the nineteenthcentury, the “main weights” of the balance migrated to the periphery. The MonroeDoctrine reproduced old-world rivalries in the new. Colonialism extended thesystem to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. By 1914, virtually no region of theworld was untouched by the “European” balance. For the first time in history, thestage was set for world war. Amid the flux of the system and the regional rivalriesit contained, the balance dictated continuous interventions and adjustments. Herethe many faces of power gave way to more material ones, as balancing entailedterritorial compensations (whose “tidy mechanics” Edward Vose Gulick (1967:251)called “quid pro quo with a measuring cup”), the partition of states (as in the Polishcase), arms build-ups (almost never disarmament), and the formation of alliances.Particular responsibility fell to the “holder of the balance”—usually Britain actingfrom its position of “splendid isolation”—to form and change alliances andalignments as the balance required. Alternative explanationsBalance-of-power theory has largely coincided with balance-of-powerhistoriography, particularly in regard to the European and Anglo-Americanexperience. The medievalist historian William Stubbs suggested in 1886 that thebalance was “the principle which gives unity to the political plot of Europeanhistory” (quoted in Sheehan 1996:169). A century earlier, Burke had extended thislogic outward. He observed that “If Europe does not conceive the independenceand the equilibrium of the empire to be in the very essence of the system of balanceof power in Europe…all the politics of Europe for more than two centuries havebeen miserably erroneous” (quoted in Morgenthau 1985:220). A formidablehistorical school has grown up around the idea of the balance of power, includingThucydides, Giovanni Rucellai, Francesco Guicciardini, François Fénelon, Ranke,Edward Gibbon, AlbrechtCarrié, Ludwig Dehio, A.J.P.Taylor, Winston Churchill,Gulick, and many others. Paul Schroeder, however, has been a powerful revisionist in this regard. His workdeserves special mention. Schroeder claims that he cannot construct a history ofEurope from 1648 to 1945 around the principle Stubbs had proclaimed. Lookingat the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, the FirstWorld War, and the Second World War, Schroeder finds that most states (great andsmall) when faced with crucial threats to their security and independence, respondedin other (less costly and less provocative) ways. These included bandwagoning (i.e.,choosing to join “the stronger side for sake of protection and payoffs, even if thismeant insecurity vis-à-vis the protecting power and a certain sacrifice ofindependence”), a practice “historically more common than balancing”; hidingfrom and ignoring threats; declaring neutrality or adopting a defensive posture;
  • 80. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 73and attempting to transcend conflict through some institutional arrangement(Schroeder 1994a: 116–18; see also Sheehan 1996:162–7). Consider Schroeder’s views on the Napoleonic Wars and the Second World War.He asserts that during the Napoleonic struggles “every major power in Europeexcept Great Britain—Prussia, Austria, Russia, Spain— bandwagoned as France’sactive ally for a considerable period. Wars continued to break out mainly notbecause European states tried to balance against France as a hegemonic power, butbecause Napoleon’s ambition and lawless conduct frustrated their repeated effortsto hide or bandwagon” (Schroeder 1994a: 121). Not until Napoleon’s signal defeatat Leipzig in October 1813 did his coalition break up, with smaller states flocking—bandwagoning—to the winning allied side. The pattern reemerged during theSecond World War, as Germany’s mounting power and militarism promptedextensive hiding and bandwagoning across the continent. Belgium, Holland,Denmark, and Norway chose neutrality, while at Munich, Chamberlain andDaladier attempted a partnership for peace with Germany. Existing alliances thatmight have checked Hitler collapsed rather than solidified. The FrenchCzech-Russian compact had ceased to exist at Munich, and the Little Entente ofCzechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia was moot by 1935, when Yugoslaviabegan colluding with Germany. Mussolini allied with Hitler in May 1939, andMolotov and Ribbentrop affirmed their unholy pact that August. During the courseof the war, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Vichy France “sided” with Hitler.Neutral Sweden, Turkey, Switzerland, Spain, and Argentina leaned toward Germanyas long as the war appeared to be going Berlin’s way. In a study of nineteenth-century Europe, Schroeder (1989) notes that the idea ofthe balance of power seems “indispensable” in making sense of the Congress system,yet he contends that such a balance was a rare bird in the diplomatic language (andpresumably thought) of the period. Statesmen were more given to explain andjustify policies in terms of preserving peace, observing treaties and legal rights,upholding the social order, thwarting revolution, and satisfying national interests,honor, or popular opinion. More importantly, Schroeder finds that this distinctionholds for diplomatic practice as well. The Congress countered threats not byforming “blocking coalitions,” as a means of balancing power or threats, but byattempting to incorporate the renegade state into a restraining alliance orpartnership. He calls this arrangement “political equilibrium”: political equilibrium required that (1) the rights, influence and vital interests claimed by individual states in the international system be somehow balanced against the rights, influence and vital interests claimed by other states and the general community, and (2) that a balance or harmony exist between the goals pursued by individual states, the requirements of the system, and the means used to promote one’s interests. Oversimplified, political equilibrium meant a balance of satisfactions, a balance of rights and obligations and a balance of performance and payoffs, rather than a balance of power. (ibid.: 143)
  • 81. 74 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSSchroeder concludes that the statecraft undergirding Europe’s nineteenth-centuryrepose meshes better with an explanation based on norms, laws, and interests thanon a competitive balance of power. Indeed, he infers that “pure balance of powerpolitics destroys political equilibrium rather than sustains it” (ibid.: 135). He arguesthat in the decade before 1914, the equilibrium was supplanted by a resurgentcompetitive balance, which, especially by undermining the legitimacy of Austria,set the stage for the conflagration that followed. The fact that this is contested historiographic ground does not invalidate balance-of-power theory. Bandwagoning, hiding, transcending, and equilibrium are, ineffect, competing concepts with which to explain state strategies. We will see in thenext chapter that bandwagoning is generally associated with weak states. Adistinction between short- and long-term outcomes would perhaps be illuminatingas well. Schroeder’s illustrations do suggest that in significant instances there werea number of “rational” choices open to states —indeed, there were evidently timeswhen national interests were defined in ways that clashed with the balance of power.The balance is perhaps a more ambivalent concept than many realists allow.Schroeder hews to a more legalistic or associative view of state practices than mostrealists do. However, fixity on realist theory can also close off harder-bitteninterpretations of history. As one student of Clausewitz notes, “The century 1815–1914 is conveniently …pictured as a century of comparative peace, stability, andprogress in Europe. Another way of seeing it, grimmer but per-haps moreinstructive, is as an incubation period” (Anatol Rappoport in Clausewitz 1968:27). Despite Morgenthau’s focus on the balance as “the very law of life” of a systemof independent states, he constantly conceded its failings: its historical unreality,its uncertainty, and its inadequacy as a moral benchmark (Morgenthau 1962a: 330).In its manifestations, the balance would only ever approximate its theoretical ideal.The imprecision of gauging power led states to seek not just a margin of safety, butan absolute superiority in power. States must actually aim not at a balance—that is, equality—of power, but at superiority of power in their own behalf…since no nation can foresee how large its miscalculations will turn out to be, all nations must ultimately seek the maximum of power obtainable under the circumstances… The limitless aspiration for power, potentially always present…in the power drives of nations, finds in the balance of power a mighty incentive to transform itself into an actuality. (Morgenthau 1985:227–8)The security dilemma obtained even in a balanced system, with power racing ratherthan power balancing the rule. Policies aimed at maintaining the balance of powerwere the same policies that destabilized the balance and led to war. Morgenthau nevertheless insisted that the idea of the balance was sound: “Theinstability of the international balance of power is due not to the faultiness of the
  • 82. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 75principle but to the particular conditions under which the principle must operatein a society of sovereign nations” (ibid.: 187). The conditions that produced thatidea were unique: eighteenth-century Europe. That era represented “the golden ageof the balance of power in theory as well as in practice. It was during that periodthat most of the literature on the balance of power was published and that theprinces of Europe looked to the balance of power as the supreme principle to guidetheir conduct in foreign affairs” (ibid.: 209). At the time, European politics wereradically multipolar. Administratively, the continent was a patchwork of fiefdoms,duchies, and principalities, with hundreds of sovereign “states” in Germany alone.At the time as well, realpolitik truly was the “sport of kings,” with rulers abandoningpartners and embracing new ones with all the promiscuity of a masked ball. Backhome, rulers were free to commit blood and treasure to the cause, unencumberedby domestic sentiment or, apparently, ethical concerns. When wars did occur, theyissued, as Gibbon said, in “temperate and undecisive contests” (ibid.: 234). Theresult was a fluid international system marked by fickle loyalties, constant intrigue,and endless permutations of force. Morgenthau contended that this blend of powerand suspicion constrained international actors. Since risks were so difficult tocalculate, states tended to be intensely risk averse, thus checking their own ambitionsand preserving the system. Like the chaos of Adam Smith’s competitive capitalismfrom which order nevertheless emerged, here, too, swirling uncertainties gave riseto a sort of order. (We will see in the next chapter that neorealists take the oppositeview, that the fewer the centers of power, the more stable the system.) These conditions have receded ever since. The international system transformeditself into what Morgenthau called the “new” balance of power. The number ofinfluential actors shrank from hundreds in the eighteenth century to scores in thenineteenth, to less than a dozen at the outbreak of the First World War, to two atthe end of the Second World War. Militarism and propaganda overran the idea ofthe balance. Nationalism became a driving force in politics. Entire populations andeconomies were mobilized for war, bent on total victory. The magnitude of US andSoviet power stripped Britain of its traditional balancing role. The “empty spaces”of Asia and Africa, where the great powers had vented their lusts without destroyingthe European core, became sovereign states. Eventually the “flexibility anduncertainty” of the earlier balance gave way to the grinding impact of the cold war,of “two giants eyeing each other with watchful suspicion” (ibid.: 379). For Morgenthau, this mix of structure and ideology poisoned the rationalconduct of foreign policy. At times, Morgenthau was a fervent cold warrior. Hebelieved that the United States consistently underestimated Russian power and, onthe heels of the Soviet Union’s successful atomic tests in 1949, he urged the countryto embark, with “frantic speed,” on a crash program of rearmament as a “matternot of political necessity but of national survival” (quoted in Smith 1986:150, 153).More often, though, Morgenthau was a cold war critic. His detached analysis andskepticism of ideology led him to a more circumspect view of Soviet intentionsthan we saw, for example, with Niebuhr. He condemned the doctrinal mindset ofAmerican strategists, and their inability to discriminate among interests abroad.
  • 83. 76 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSEchoing Burke, he decried the fettering network of alliances that American“pactomania” had wrought. Nothing signaled the corruption of the balance ofpower as clearly as the war in Vietnam. Since the mid-1950s, Morgenthau hadwarned against military involvement in Indochina, and his growing frustrationwith American policies—holding fast to what he called “the doctrine of war withoutend” —is evident in his stream of essays as the war unfolded (1968).1 The Vietnamdebacle even prompted Morgenthau, in the 1978 edition of Politics Among Nations,to consider the possibilities of a “pathological,” or “countertheory” of internationalrelations centered on irrational choices. Romanticizing international societyPerhaps the greatest differences between the old and new balance of power lay inthe concept’s normative underpinnings. Politics Among Nations can be read as a longlament for the demise of “international society,” by which Morgenthau meant thatsystem of aristocratic mores that had governed the great dance of Europeandiplomacy. In Morgenthau’s stylized account of the era, the war of all against allwas mediated by a set of rules. Elite values were cosmopolitan; diplomats shared acommon language (French); they pursued a closely-held harmony of interests; andtheir masters were less hampered than their twentieth-century counterparts bydomestic politics and plodding bureaucracies. Moreover, the legitimacy of powerpolitics was unquestioned. Morgenthau’s attachment to this period of “moral andpolitical unity of Europe” is extraordinary (Morgenthau 1985:236). It is a romanticnotion of a historic Europe united in interests and anchored by the balance ofpower. Morgenthau cites the eighteenth-century legal theorist, Eméric Vattel: Europe forms a political system, a body where the whole is connected by the relations and different interests of nations inhabiting this part of the world. It is not as anciently a confused heap of detached pieces, each of which thought itself very little concerned in the fate of others, and seldom regarded things which did not immediately relate to it. The confined attention of sovereigns…makes Europe a kind of republic, the members of which, though independent, unite, through the ties of common interest, for the maintenance of order and liberty. (ibid.: 235)This is, of course, a markedly different view of politics than the billiard ball modelMorgenthau depicts elsewhere in the book. In the European context at least,Morgenthau’s normative findings call into question his structural ones. Hecontended that the Westphalian system was premised not on “the balance of power,but…a number of elements, intellectual and moral in nature, upon which both thebalance of power and the stability of the modern state system repose” (ibid.: 237).The balance was largely socially constructed. It reflected, Morgenthau noted, a“social system of international intercourse within which for almost three centuries
  • 84. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 77nations lived together in constant rivalry, yet under the common roof of sharedvalues and universal standards of action” (ibid.: 359). Morgenthau argued that thisidea of Europe prevailed from 1648 to 1772 and from 1815 to 1933, though itsfoundations eroded with the coming of the French Revolution, the upheavals of1848, and the decline and collapse of the aristocratic internationale. Eventually, whatCastlereagh had called “the general system of Europe” fragmented into its nationalparts, each raising its parochial norms to universal principles (ibid.: 236). One can argue on the strength of Morgenthau’s evidence that the balance ofpower, far from being a “natural” state of affairs, was an ideology or social constructflowing from the peculiar circumstances of European history. Morgenthau madeclear that the normative and empirical premises of the balance no longer held.“That common ‘system of arts, and laws, and manners,’ ‘the same level of politenessand cultivation,’ and the ‘sense of honour and justice,’ which Gibbon had detectedin ‘the general manners of the times’ and which for Fénelon, Rousseau, and Vatelwere a lived and living reality, have today in the main become a historicreminiscence, lingering on in learned treatises, utopian tracts, and diplomaticdocuments, but no longer capable of moving men to action.” The supranationalethic underpinning the system had become “rather like the feeble rays, barely visibleabove the horizon of consciousness, of a sun which has already set” (ibid.: 273–4). As a working principle of international order, then, the balance seems remotefrom an international system where the preferred distribution of power has slippedaway, along with its determining rules and the élan, for a time, of its practice. Theadvent of the nuclear age raised troubling moral and strategic questions about thebalance. While it is sometimes asserted that realists were merely justifying the coldwar, Morgenthau’s historical judgment, his affection for the aristocratic system,seems to have embodied a reaction against the horrendous dysfunctions of thebalance of power in the twentieth century. From this standpoint, the machinationsof an elite clan sharing values and struggling for power perhaps seemed appealing.Indeed, Morgenthau hoped that some of the practices of historic Europeandiplomacy could be rejuvenated. He often argued that diplomacy should be takenout of parliamen-tary hands and removed from the public spotlight. Yet, even in terms of that sliver of experience known as power politics, the “goldenage” of the balance was not always golden. The balance’s main reason for existence—preserving the independence and integrity of all its members, especially weak ones—was often violated. Under the rubric of the balance, Poland was partitioned (in1772, 1793, and 1795) out of existence. Morgenthau deplored this most egregiousabuse of the balance, but the system’s failings were more general. Small states wereusually the first to be sacrificed. Gulick notes (1967:75–6) that while moderationwas an important principle of the balance, it was hardly an absolute standard:“coalition wars cannot be called moderate, and the extinction of weak powers underthe plea of balance of power surely cannot be termed moderate. The fear, suspicion,and rapid changes of policy…do not by any stretch of the imagination appear tohave been moderate.” As for large states, Quincy Wright (1942:652–3) found thatin the years 1650–1900, France, Austria, Great Britain, Russia, Prussia, Spain,
  • 85. 78 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSNetherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey, and Poland, each was enmeshed in war,on rough average, four out of every ten years—nor were they necessarily mildconflicts. Schroeder takes a dark view of Europe’s “international society”: Seeking durable peace through a balance of power was futile first because there never was or could be any general consensus on what a suitable balance was; almost every individual state had a concept of a European balance which contradicted the concepts envisioned and pursued by others. Secondly, the assumptions, methods, and devices required by balance-of-power politics and actually used to achieve and maintain the supposed desirable balance blocked the peaceful resolution of conflicts except in temporary, unstable ways, directly promoted conflict, and made the periodic escalation of particular conflicts into general systemic war more likely. Thirdly, the size, structure, power, and geographical position of the various European states virtually guaranteed that the free play of competitive forces among them would not result in a general stability, independence, and balance, but in destruction for some, mutilation for others, dependence for still others, and hegemony, if not outright empire, for one or two. (Schroeder 1994b:10)Two concluding points may be made about the balance of power. First, as fact ornorm, the concept lends a certain changelessness to history. Regardless of thecomposition of the system, balances have always arisen and always will. In this,the balance of power is no different from any other nomothetic account ofinternational politics in which a grasp of the “essential” or “recurrent” elements ofhistory comes at the expense of understanding historical change (see Hoffmann1977:35). Morgenthau often wrote of the “dynamic quality” of internationalrelations, yet his theory more often soars from peak to peak, lighting on history’sfixed landmarks. Second, in contrast to Niebuhr’s tragic conception of the balance,as a scientific theory it represents a limited historical project, distant from processand idealized in its historical depiction. This method is perhaps prompted by thefear of “falling back into history”—i.e., that theorists must stand apart from whattheir historian colleagues are doing—but one wonders if theoretical concepts simplymight not withstand rigorous historical scrutiny (see Rosenberg 1994:19).Morgenthau’s own inquiry into the European balance paints an intricate web ofsocial and structural factors, peculiar to time, place, culture, and class. One couldeven argue that the inevitability thesis is a rejection of history and of tragedy.Weighing historical processes, as reflected in an account of D-Day or the Afghanmujahedin, the Iwo Jima statue, or a Le Carré novel, one is hard pressed to defendthe automatic nature of the balance of power. Churchill promised blood, sweat,and tears, not a mechanical balance. We will see in the next chapter that neorealistscarry this impulse to its logical ahistorical end.
  • 86. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 79 Morgenthau’s legacyIn form, Morgenthau’s approach is not unlike the scientific-rationalists he criticizedfor having promoted a progressivist philosophy disguised as science. Morgenthau,too, tried to square one of the West’s great intellectual traditions with a science ofhistory. Morgenthau’s philosophy may be superior and his science more plausible.Still, one wonders if statecraft can be explained with reference to a set of laws.Morgenthau walks a thin beam between the nomothetic and the contingent. Hemakes a forceful historical claim that states follow their interests, while at the sametime exhorting statesmen to do just that. The same is true of the “scales” of thebalance of power alongside the concept’s normative justification. These are verydifferent conceptions of the same phenomena, one law-driven, the other theoutcome of choices made freely or under duress. It is difficult to reconcileMorgenthau’s “objective laws” (which are purported to operate in spite of the actor’spreferences) with a normative accent on tragic statecraft. If leaders acted aspredicted, the normative counsel would be redundant.2 Indeed, Morgenthau would be the last person to suggest that we can take thestatecraft out of politics; necessity did not make statesmen into automatons. Allthe same, that is where historical laws lead. As Niebuhr made plain, tragedy involveddeliberate decisions that went against the current of events. Ultimately,Morgenthau, too, believed that character and discretion were crucial to soundleadership. At a forum shortly before his death, he stressed the constraints that thestrategic environment imposed on presidential statecraft, but he left no doubt thatit was “essentially the character of the president which determines the outcomes ofthe policy” (Morgenthau 1983:5). One of his last projects was a lengthy essay onthe impact that Lincoln’s religious faith had had on the great and tragic statesman’spolitics (Morgenthau and Hein 1983). Morgenthau perhaps pioneered a science of politics that grew too scientific.While he attempted to fit political science, glove over fist, atop a politicalphilosophy, his “scientific” successors would forego attempts to join the two,indeed, would grow hostile toward any philosophical “intrusion” on their new-found verities (see Thompson 1984). Moreover, while the forms of Morgenthau’stheory are scientific, especially as set out in Politics Among Nations, the substance ismore prudential. It aims to cultivate wise statecraft rather than to defend stricthistorical laws. The result is a philosophy of international relations, in the venerablerealist tradition, unmatched in its counsel of restraint, its frostiness towardplatitudes, and its eye for ideology. One is reminded of what Oakeshott said aboutHobbes having fused the art of history (“the ordered register of past experiences”)and prudence (“the power to anticipate experience by means of the recollection ofwhat has gone before”) (introduction to Hobbes 1947: xxiii–iv). Morgenthau wasa profound and articulate voice in this great tradition; but it is a tradition ofphilosophy, not of science.
  • 87. 80 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS George F.Kennan and the historical foundations of containmentRealists are often accused of providing intellectual cover for America’s involvementin the cold war.3 Morgenthau, from his “inevitability” perspective, recalled this wasexactly what happened: I had my first experience as a theoretician of international relations under the Truman—Acheson administration of America’s foreign policy. Theory then provided a theoretical justification for what the policy makers were doing, you may say, instinctively—what they were doing pragmatically, on a mere day-by-day basis…the policy of containment was never officially formulated. It grew as an almost instinctive reaction to the threat of Russian imperialism… There was no theory in support of these new policies. It was only as an afterthought that theoreticians developed a doctrine in the form of a theoretical framework which gave rational justification to the new policies. (Morgenthau 1962a:73–4)Morgenthau’s point was that necessity had driven early cold war policies. Theoryhad followed practice. John Lewis Gaddis has noted (1982:4) that containment ofthe USSR was “much on the minds of Washington officials from 1941 on,” as theSoviets went from ally to enemy. There was, however, a critical interlude inAmerican foreign policy at the close of the Second World War when troops werewithdrawn from Central Europe, forces were drawn down at home, militaryspending plummeted from $81 billion in 1945 to $13 billion in 1947, and Europefell into despair. All this happened before containment. It was George Kennan,above all, who “theorized” containment before it happened. He did so from auniquely historical perspective, and his case, which we now take up, suggests thedifficulties of rendering historical understandings, particularly subtle ones, intoforeign policy. History and statecraftOne of Kennan’s more intriguing books is The Marquis de Custine and His “Russiain 1839” (1971), in which Kennan recounts the French aristocrat’s travels throughRussia in the summer of that year and the controversy surrounding the publication,in 1841, of the Marquis’s book, a searing, tabloidstyle critique of Russian politicalculture and Czarist abuses during the reign of Nicholas I.Kennan judged that Russiain 1839 was perhaps an unfair book about nineteenth-century Russia, but that itwas an excellent book, “probably the best of books,” about the Russia of Stalin andBrezhnev and Kosygin. As Kennan saw it, in the Marquis’s depiction of NicholasI were all the seeds of Stalinism:
  • 88. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 81 The absolute power of a single man; his power over thoughts as well as actions; the indecent association of sycophancy upwards with brutality downwards; the utter disenfranchisement and helplessness of the popular masses; the nervous punishment of innocent people for the offenses they might be considered capable of committing rather than one they had committed; the neurotic relationship to the West; the frantic fear of foreign observation; the obsession with espionage; the secrecy; the systematic mystification; the general silence of intimidation; the preoccupation with appearances at the expense of reality; the systematic cultivation of falsehood as a weapon of policy; the tendency to rewrite the past. (Kennan 1971:124–5)This is the gist of Kennan’s approach to the past as a foundation for presentdaypolitical analysis and diplomatic practice. There are no exact historical analogiesto today’s dilemmas, but understanding the past is imperative to understandingthe present. Whatever a regime’s current ideology or outward mask, continuitymatters more than change. Political culture, administra tive methods, nationalcharacter, the nature and scope of interests, all display persistent traces and patterns.As Mark Twain said, history may not repeat itself; but it rhymes. Kennan was a student of Russian language, literature, and culture. He studiedtraditional Russian history (as opposed to “Sovietology”) under Otto Hoetsch andKarl Stählin at the University of Berlin in the course of his Foreign Service trainingin the late 1920s and early 1930s. As director of the policy planning staff of theState Department from 1947 to 1949, and as ambassador to the Soviet Union andlater Yugoslavia, Kennan’s ideas about history were at the core of his vocation, mostfamously in his elucidation of the idea of containment of the USSR. During a raftof visiting fellowships and in his long tenure at Princeton’s Institute for AdvancedStudy, Kennan produced monographs on Russian and American diplomacy,histories of nineteenth-century Franco-Russian relations, a study of the origins ofthe First World War, three volumes of memoirs, several more on statecraft in thenuclear age, and, more recently, an unusual work of political philosophy, Aroundthe Cragged Hill (1993), and a collection of essays, At a Century’s Ending (1996).Throughout, he has been a vigorous and literary sage. Kennan’s affinity for history seems to rest as much on philosophical tenets ason empirical methods. His “moral closeness” to history springs from an apparentlyspiritual, more or less Burkean, traditionalism. He believes that “Wherever theauthority of the past is too suddenly and too drastically undermined—wherever thepast ceases to be the great and reliable reference book of human problems—wherever,above all, the experience of the father becomes irrelevant to the trials and searchingsof the son—there the foundations of man’s inner health and stability begin tocrumble, insecurity and panic begin to take over, conduct becomes erratic andaggressive” (Kennan 1954:34). This traditionalism should also seep into politicalpractice. Kennan suggests that the complete diplomat reads history closely, but alsograsps a received code of political conduct. In this fashion, broadly construed
  • 89. 82 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS“historical” knowledge is preserved and woven into everyday conduct. Still, whenKennan exhorts us to forswear the “histrionics of moralism” (1985/ 1986:212)—toshun a foreign policy aimed at defending our ethical sensibilities rather than ournational interests—his pronouncement issues from within a generally liberaltradition. History and containmentThis traditional ethic surfaces repeatedly in Kennan’s bleak view of the destructivemessianism of Soviet communism—its claim to upend tradition and supplanthuman nature, and its conceit of “creating truth” quite apart from “objectivereality.” Echoing Morgenthau, Kennan argued in his famous Long Telegram (1946),that Soviet ideology was a tool of historic Russian interests, “borne along by deepand powerful currents of Russian nationalism” (Kennan 1967:557). Fear ofcapitalist encirclement was a hangover from old anxieties about being ringed byhostile states. However, Kennan also argued that Russia’s history and societaltemperament fueled a special virulence and sophistication—almost a pathology—inthe ideological state. Even in Custine he found “the terrible, cynical, demeaningcontempt for the truth that seemed to pervade Russian government and society…the cultivation of a series of massive fictions—fictions not just subconsciously andinnocently appropriated into the minds of the bearers but deliberately conceived,perpetuated, and enforced” (Kennan 1971:80). In telling us how immoderate and un-Burkean Russian society can be, Kennanengages in cultural or collective psychohistory. True, he gives us great swaths ofevent-centered “political” history stretching back to the Grand Duchy of Muscovyin the thirteenth century, through the rise and fall of czars, and the reach and recoilof the Russian empire. But Kennan’s history extends as well to the psychologicalmachinations of Russian society, its congenital insecurity, mental fusion ofaggression and defense, “Oriental secretiveness,” conspiracy, “self-hypnotism,”“savage class distinctions,” and xenophobia. As he wrote of his diplomatic tour inMoscow in the 1930s: “Politically, I had to go back into Russian history and toprobe the origins of the traditional suspicion and diffidence on the part of theRussian rulers, I had to weigh the effects of climate on character, the results ofcentury-long contact with Asiatic hordes, the influence of medieval Byzantium, thenational origins of the people, and the geographic characteristics of the country”(Kennan 1967:74). Kennan’s “X” article, “The Sources of Soviet Conduct” (1947),the cornerstone of containment, reads like Edward Gibbon’s sweeping culturalcommentary, though with only a trace of Gibbon’s moralism from the high groundof reason. More than once, Kennan quotes the Enlightenment historian’s Declineand Fall of the Roman Empire (1776–88), as here, describing the earnest deceptionsand self-deceptions of the Bolsheviks: “From enthusiasm to imposture the step isperilous and slippery; the Demon of Socrates affords a memorable instance how awise man may deceive himself, how a good man may deceive others, how the
  • 90. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 83conscience may slumber in a mixed and middle state between self-illusion andvoluntary fraud” (Kennan 1947:567). Clearly, Kennan did not use a reproducible historical method to arrive at hisview of Russian politics. His ample survey of Russian culture and anthropologywas informed as much by Tolstoy and Gogol and Dostoevsky as by Klyuchevski’slectures on Russian history that Kennan read in Berlin. Kennan is interested inmore than political history, more than the balance of power, more, even, thanpatterns of national interests. He says he is drawn instead to history’s personaldramas, “the mystery of the individual personality—its ultimate autonomy ofdecision—its interaction with the mass” (Kennan 1989:21). No doubt, his culturalreading of Russian history eclipsed many individual dilemmas. Yet, even if notsystematically set out, this focus on Russia’s political personality reflects an erawhen national character and civic resolve were regarded as critical in the East-Weststruggle. These subtleties of style and method may well have doomed Kennan’s historicalarguments. What befell his vision of containment is instructive in the difficultiesof transposing history into policy. Kennan was confident, based on his knowledgeof Russian history, that Soviet foreign policy was propelled by domestic factors.The party line “is not based on any objective analysis of the situation beyondRussia’s borders; that it has, indeed, little to do with conditions outside of Russia;that it arises mainly from basic inner-Russian necessities” (Kennan 1967:549). Sovietleaders would trump up threats and exploit traditional fears in order to solidifytheir own tyranny. They would flatten domestic foes, perhaps smear them as agentsprovocateurs in the pay of hostile powers. Nevertheless, hewing to the well-worntracks of historic Russian external relations, the Politburo would not be militarilyreckless or adventuristic. This would needlessly risk the Kremlin’s prestige. Mostimportantly, Kennan assured the West that, behind a veil of vigor and industry,the Soviet system contained the seeds of its own decay. The United States and itsallies might hasten the day, but the passage of time was certain to produce “eitherthe break-up or the gradual mellowing of Soviet power.” Until then, the policyshould be one of “long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment of Russianexpansive tendencies” (Kennan 1947:582, 575). Kennan meant containment to be a political instrument, marked by “cool andcollected” diplomacy, not “threats or blustering or superfluous gestures of outward‘toughness’” (ibid.: 575). Yet, already in the spring of 1946 he foresaw thatcontaining his own colleagues might be the more difficult task. It would be hardto “restrain the hot-heads and panic-mongers and keep policy on a firm and evenkeel” (see Miscamble 1992:28). Of course, Kennan’s fears were realized. His viewwas eventually overrun by harder-bitten analyses of the Soviet threat. Containment,codified in NSC-68, became primarily a military, albeit defensive, doctrine. As thecold war escalated, he increasingly felt, he wrote later, “like one who hasinadvertently loosened a large boulder from the top of a cliff and now helplesslywitnesses its path of destruction in the valley below, shuddering and wincing ateach successive glimpse of disaster” (quoted in Zakaria 1996:6).
  • 91. 84 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Had Kennan at the time turned his political profiling skills on his StateDepartment colleagues, he might have realized how distant his ideas were fromtheirs. To say in the face of the Kremlin’s diplomatic bluster and elaborate militaryparades, that Soviet-style expansion had over the centuries exacted a “severe tax onTsardom” looked to many like a policy of insouciance, and a retreat into history.The un-Washington character of Kennan’s language and historical deductions mayalso have contributed to rejection of his recommendations. His own writings couldbe deeply ambivalent. (William F.Buckley called Kennan “one of the principalambiguists among the American intelligensia” (quoted in Hixson 1989: ix).)Defending the primacy of diplomacy in one argument, Kennan would stress “theadroit and vigilant application of counter-force at a series of constantly shiftinggeographical and political points” in the next (Kennan 1947:576). Generally, thereaction to Kennan’s “policy history” was to seize on the combative, workaday“lessons” it contained, and to discard the longer-term, moderating ones. When DeanAcheson was Under-Secretary of State, for example, he dismissed Kennan’s mutedestimation of the USSR’s intentions and its history of risk aversion, emphasizinginstead the Soviet capacity for aggression. Later, at the State Department helm,Acheson would welcome NSC68 as an appropriate tool with which to “bludgeon”the executive into setting an aggressive policy. As Acheson later recalled, Kennan’s“recommendations …were of no help; his historical analysis might or might nothave been sound, but his predictions and warnings could not have been better”(Miscamble 1992:26). Lost on policymakers, Kennan’s “Shakespearean insight and vision,” as LouisHalle called it, is exactly the sort of approach that sets social scientists’ teeth onedge. Reading Kennan’s Gibbonesque passages, one can almost hear the chorus ofderision—“intuitive,” “folkloric,” “anti-scientific,” “unoperationalizable,” “dyad-specific,” and on and on. Apparently, though, Kennan’s attention to the long termwas fruitful. This is clearest in his views that political motivations can be deeplyanchored in the national psyche; that, especially on rhetorically-charged issues,professional diplomacy remains an important tool of statecraft; and that historicalperspective can be a source of moderation in policy. The depth of Kennan’s viewsof the Soviet Union, for example, makes for less dire scenarios than we saw inNiebuhr. Within this framework, Kennan provides a plausible description of theend of the cold war. As previously mentioned, Kennan expected that Kremlin highpriests would soften their ideology, and he believed in the historic perils of“imperial overstretch,” to use Paul Kennedy’s words. The following assessment ofRussian political economy, from the 1947 “X” article, also rings true: “Russia willremain economically a vulnerable, and in a certain sense an impotent, nation,capable of exporting its enthusiasms and of radiating the strange charm of itsprimitive political vitality but unable to back up those articles of export by the realevidences of material power and prosperity” (Kennan 1947:578). That said, Kennanwas surprised by how abruptly and bloodlessly the end came. Kennan continues to try to bridge the gap between plausible and useful history:pointing, in 1983, to late nineteenth-century Europe in order to illuminate the
  • 92. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 85“dreadful and dangerous condition” of US—Soviet relations, where antagonism,suspicion, and militarization formed “the familiar characteristics, the unfailingcharacteristics, of a march toward war” (quoted in Oberdorfer 1991:30); comparingthe complex, post-cold war foreign vista to that which confronted the early Republicin the wake of the Napoleonic Wars and the splintering of the Spanish Empire(Kennan 1995); or mapping the rivers of hatred in the Balkans (Kennan 1993b). It would be foolish to deny that Kennan’s ideas have not been, to some extent,politically instrumental. The more interesting question is whether he twisted hishistory to fit his politics. Kennan scholar David Mayers suggests that there was noneed. Precisely because of the meticulousness of his scholarship, Kennan’smonographs serve as compelling “exercises in political edification and resonatewith lessons for American leaders,” raising “a warning from the past and [an]implied rebuke of present trends” (Mayers 1988:219–20). Mayers notwithstanding,Kennan’s interpretation of the immediate origins of the cold war is couched tovindicate the idea of political, rather than military, containment. As Kennan tellsit, with the Marshall Plan putting down roots and the Berlin Blockade successfullythwarted, he felt the time was ripe for “serious talks” with the Russians. Thus, hewrote, “it was one of the great disappointments of my life to discover that neitherour Government nor our Western European allies had any interest in entering intosuch discussions at all. What they and the others wanted from Moscow…wasessentially ‘unconditional surrender.’ And they were prepared to wait for it. Thiswas the beginning of 40 years of cold war” (Kennan 1994: A17). This is a plausible,though not universally held, interpretation of events. Most explanations considerthe intransigence of both sides. It should be noted that Kennan has also beenaccused of distorting history in order to blame the cold war squarely on Russia.William Appleman Williams (1956: 222–4), the shrillest of these critics, blastedRussia Leaves the War, the first volume of Kennan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Soviet-American Relations, 1917–1920 (1956) on grounds that the diplomat-turned-chronicler had rearranged Russia’s historical scenery in order to justifycontainment, perhaps even in hopes of cadging a job as Secretary of State in theevent that Adlai Stevenson were to be elected President. Despite these charges, Kennan’s historical claims seem to maintain a basicmodesty and balance. As a practicing historian, after all, he is struck most by howsubjective and open-ended history is: “its multi-dimensional quality, its lack of tidybeginnings and endings, its stubborn refusal to be packaged in any neat andsatisfying manner…every beginning and ending of every historical work is alwaysin some degree artificial and contrived” (Kennan 1960:205). Kennan insists thatthe historian is never merely a purveyor of facts. At his disposal are “only thehieroglyphics of the written word, as preserved in the crumbling old documents,and sometimes a few artifacts that have survived the ravages of time and neglect—perhaps even a portrait, or a drawing, or, if he works in recent history, a photographor two. But these evidences only hint at the real story—they don’t tell it” (Kennan1986: 42). The telling is left to the historian’s imagination.
  • 93. 86 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS This unassuming method becomes a foil for too certain a science of history. Thetexture of Kennan’s history could not be more different from the pinpoint “events-data” we shall see in Chapter 6. “In the fabric of human events, one thing leads toanother,” Kennan observes in American Diplomacy (1950:50); “Our action in thefield of foreign affairs is cumulative; it merges with a swelling stream of otherhuman happenings; and we cannot trace its effect with any exactness once it hasentered the fluid substance of history.” Admittedly, Kennan is not exactly brimmingwith an historical logic to diplomatic practice. If anything, he represents a sort offatalism in his belief that the Russian character would endure, or, similarly, thatTashkent would always be Tashkent. Nevertheless, if he sounds at times like a manfrom another century, in other ways he can be quite acute. He recognizes the limitsin statecraft of relying solely on eurocentric history, pointing, as an example, tothe aridity of applying Westphalian logic to the Chinese experience; and he is alertto the fallacies of tracking cross-cultural historical “stages.” This skepticism alsoseems to underlie Kennan’s entreaties for a modest, self-effacing foreign policy,where, he says, “our own national interest is all we are really capable of knowingand understanding” (ibid.: 103). Conclusion: through a glass darklyThis is also the thesis of an eerily current essay of Kennan’s, “America and theRussian Future,” which appeared in Foreign Affairs in 1951. Kennan concedes inthe article how superficial and imperfect our knowledge is. He notes that if thereare laws of politics, they will be peculiar to circumstance, modified by nationalcharacter, and vulnerable to contingency—all of which means that the better partof political prediction is spent poking at historical tea leaves. “These things beingso,” he concludes, “we must admit with respect to the future of government inRussia, we see ‘as through a glass, darkly’” (Kennan 1951:368). However, there is another sort of darkness in Kennan’s realist approach generally:a deep historical pessimism that casts gloom on the narrative as well as the lessonsof history. If classical realism represents a philosophy of history, as Martin Wightbelieves that all international theory must, it is a somber outlook. More to thepoint, realist history has sustained a philosophy of prudence in statecraft. In pursuitof the Aristotelian ideal of bridging theoretical and practical wisdom, policy realismhas perhaps issued in grimmer scenarios than those of detached political science.4That said, however, many of the subtleties of realist thought, especially normativeones, stem from that same Aristotelian commitment. A troubling suggestion in thischapter, however, is that those subtleties translate poorly into policy. Percolatingthrough political and bureaucratic filters, “realism” has prompted schemes thatbear little resemblance to the theory, even taking into account the diversity of realistthought. Policymakers may prefer historical deductions that bear at least the colorof science. Realism’s attention to history lends a salutary “concreteness” to interna tionaltheory, but its predisposition to inquire into certain features of the international
  • 94. HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM 87landscape at the expense of others threatened to cut short debate and sharpenforeign policies. Realists too easily link the idea of historical inevitability to thatof political necessità. The challenge for realists is to avoid this trap of tragedy. Toomuch pessimism and prudence risks closing off alternative scenarios and blindingleaders to obvious historical changes. As Niebuhr cautioned in The Children of Lightand the Children of Darkness (1944: 176), “if hopes are dupes, fears may be liars.”Realists continue to take perverse pleasure in the defects of legalism and populismin foreign policies, but that is the reality today, and the result is not all windyWilsonian moralism either. World politics are still distant from what the poetSeamus Heaney called “that further shore where hope and history rhyme,” but therecord has not been irretrievably grim.
  • 95. 88
  • 96. 5 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISM Kenneth N.Waltz and neorealist theoryBernard Crick once noted (1964:239) that American political thought seems alwaysto be evolving from “mere opinion” to “scientific knowledge,” as enthusiasticrevisionists haul ideas out of the shadows and up the peaks of science. Neorealistsclaim to have done precisely this with classical realism, replacing their forebears’ideas about human nature, historical contingency, and diplomatic practice with anelegant theory of international politics. At the center of neorealism’s scientificclaims is its avowed ahistoricism. Neorealists contend that their predecessors’attention to history reflected a basic misconception of theory. In place of anunwieldy “struggle with the facts,” neorealists offer a timeless deductive theory inthe tradition of natural science. The anarchical structure of the international realmis the cornerstone of the project. Neorealists argue that structure explains moreabout the history of international relations, and does so more economically, thanany other level of analysis.1 This chapter first briefly describes neorealism’s foundations in the philosophyof science. It then examines the writings of the preeminent neorealist, KennethWaltz, focusing on his landmark work, Theory of International Politics (1979), which,according to one study, “revived the flagging fortunes of the Realist tradition”(Buzan et al. 1993:1). Turning toward structural research more generally, the chapterexplores historical challenges, problems of theorizing historical change, andquestions of statecraft and ethical choice. A further section reviews StephenM.Walt’s Revolution and War (1996), a recent addition to the neorealist literature,highlighting the problem of “theoretical filtering,” or how a closed theoreticaldesign may unduly narrow the researcher’s range of historical interests and evidence.Waltz has had a vast impact on the discipline, both in the development of theneorealist research project, and in various reactions against it. In terms of the useof history in international relations, Waltz has pervasively affirmed—even for hiscritics —that rigorous deductive methods are a way of overcoming the historicalproblem. A “scientific research programme”Since the mid-1980s, neorealism has dominated international relations in theUnited States, although its position of “intellectual hegemony” has perhaps passed
  • 97. 90 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMits peak (Burchill 1995:83). In the field’s empirical wing, Waltz’s theory spawned anumber of structural hypotheses about geopolitics (for example, Gilpin 1981,Mearsheimer 1990, Liberman 1993, and Mastanduno 1997); nuclear proliferation(for example, Frankel 1993, and Sagan and Waltz 1995); political economy (forexample, Gowa 1989 and Grieco 1995); international cooperation (for example,Oye 1986, Snidal 1991, and Mearsheimer 1994/1995); the formation of alliances(for example, Walt 1987, Snyder 1990, Labs 1992, and Schweller 1994); and actualforeign policymaking (Elman 1996). Neorealism has also elicited two main counter-theories: neoliberalism and constructivism. These are errant, though identifiable,children of Waltz in that they adopt much of his method and language and mirrormany of his assumptions about the philosophy of science (see, for example, Baldwin1993, Kegley 1995, and Wendt 1995). Neorealism has prompted scores ofphilosophical and empirical challenges from a wide range of other perspectives aswell.2 Neorealists argue that the inductivist approach to theory lays an inadequatefoundation for a cumulative science of international politics. For Waltz, theory isa tool that makes political explanation possible. It is “a picture, mentally formed,of a bounded realm or domain of activity…and of the connections among its parts”(Waltz 1979:8). Without a theory, we are left with disconnected and randomlyselected facts. Moreover, theory should be ahistorical in the sense that it is liberatedfrom details of history, and is meant to apply with equal force to any historicalperiod. “Though related to the world about which explanations are wanted,” Waltzsuggests (ibid.: 6–7), theory “always remains distinct from that world. ‘Reality’ willbe congruent neither with a theory nor with a model that may represent it.” On these grounds, Waltz describes Quincy Wright’s The Study of InternationalRelations (1955), for example, as a profoundly anti-theoretical enterprise, attempting“a synthesis of all possibly relevant knowledge” (Waltz 1959b: 66). He criticizes theCorrelates of War project, the subject of the next chapter, on the grounds that its“data-making” is naïvely inductive. Without a theory, one does not know where tobegin, or what data to generate (Waltz 1975: 9). He tars the entire school of classicalrealists as “behavioralists” who strove to bring theory into focus with history. Theyfailed “to take the fateful step beyond developing concepts to the fashioning of arecognizable theory.” Waltz concedes that Morgenthau presented “elements of atheory…but never a theory…without a concept of the whole he could only dealwith the parts.” He adds that Morgenthau “was fond of repeating Blaise Pascal’sremark that ‘the history of the world would have been different had Cleopatra’snose been a bit shorter’ and then asking ‘How do you systemize that?’ Hisappreciation of the role of the accidental and the occurrence of the unexpected inpolitics dampened his theoretical contribution.” Waltz is equally critical of Aron’sexplication of the qualitative difference between economic man and political man,and the challenges this poses for a theory of politics: “Aron did not relate obviousdifferences between economics and politics to the requirements of theoryconstruction. He merely identified differences in the confident belief that becauseof them no international-political theory is possible” (Waltz 1990: 24–6).
  • 98. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 91 If the deductive method is, as Buzan et al. (1993:191) note, “happily adrift fromthe world,” where does theory comes from? According to Waltz (1979: 9), theory isa creative act that transcends “experimental” history. “The longest process of painfultrial and error will not lead to the construction of a theory unless at some point abrilliant intuition flashes, a creative idea emerges.” While inductivists propose tobuild theory out of facts, Waltz points out that “many of the greatest naturalscientists, even in the nonage of their disciplines, built upon highly abstract andtruly breathtaking generalization” (Waltz 1959b: 58). Theory requires moreabstraction and less history. Logical inquiry must begin with a conceptualproposition, and then deduce and test assumptions derived from it. Only after atheory is established may evidence be systematically canvassed. Waltz cites AlbertEinstein: “A theory can be tested by experience…but there is no way fromexperience to the setting up of a theory” (Waltz 1979:7). The deductive mode of inquiry that Waltz champions has assumed nearcanonicalstatus in the natural sciences. Some social scientists have adopted this model,believing that a social “physics” may be derived through a chain of logicaldeductions. As Carl Hempel did with history, deductivists pursue “covering laws.”They deduce particular outcomes from general assumptions. Elegance (simplicity)and parsimony (economy of explanation, not enumerating causes unnecessary toaccount for the facts) are considered virtues here. It is probably fair to say that, inthe wake of Theory of International Politics, most empirical work in internationalrelations, at least in the United States, has adhered more or less to the mainpropositions of deductive social science.3 Many of Waltz’s critics have respondedin kind, attempting to falsify neorealism and suggesting other deductive andpositivist paths of research. Even constructivists, who have tried to redirect thediscipline away from neorealist materialism and toward the social underpinningsof “state” behavior, espouse “a very pro-science line” and “fully endorse thescientific project of falsifying theories against evidence” (Wendt 1995:75). According to deductivists, a rigorous process of falsification compensates forthis theoretical elegance. This is the laboratory idea of testing theory againsthistorical facts. Karl Popper’s (1959 and 1965) rigorous doctrine of falsification iswell known, notably his example that the proposition that all swans are white isfalsified by the existence of a single black swan. (Cf. Ashley (1986:261, 298, n. 9 and11.) Waltz applauds Popper’s critique of induc tivism, although he is less takenwith Popper’s low empirical threshold for falsifying theory. Waltz argues thattesting theories is “a difficult and subtle task…questions of truth and falsity aresomehow involved, but so are questions of usefulness and uselessness. In the end,one sticks with the theory that reveals most, even if its validity is suspect” (Waltz1979:123–4). What Waltz is describing is Imre Lakatos’s “sophisticatedmethodological falsification.” Lakatos argues that theories should be tested not somuch against the “facts” as against other theories. His model states (Lakatos 1970:116):
  • 99. 92 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISM a scientific theory T [is] falsified if and only if another theory T′ has been proposed with the following characteristics: (1) T′ has excess empirical content over T: that is, it predicts novel facts, that is, facts improbable in the light of, or even forbidden, by T; (2) T′ explains the previous success of T, that is, all the unrefuted content of T is contained (within the limits of observational error) in the content of T′; and (3) some of the excess content of T′ is corroborated.This simply means that a few falsifying cases do not overturn a theory. Accordingto Lakatos, a good theory subsumes a number of previously disparategeneralizations in a single explanatory system. In terms of falsification, there is nosuch thing as a “crucial case.” No single experiment capsizes a theory. The importantthing is how well a proposition withstands repeated attempts at falsification. If itdoes well, the theory grows in stature; it has proved its mettle, and research basedon the model gains momentum. If it does poorly, the theory is subjected to furthertests, refashioned, or, in extreme circumstances, discarded. What Lakatos calls a“positive heuristic” arises among researchers, and a “protective belt” of auxiliaryassumptions and hypotheses is erected around the theory’s core. These peripheralassumptions endure actual testing. The idea is to shield the core theory throughthe project’s fits and starts, even as postulates based on it may be upended. Onlywhen the number of anomalies becomes overwhelming is the model displaced bya theory that appears to offer greater explanatory power. Within this rigorous framework, neorealists set out to fashion what Lakatos callsa “scientific research programme,” a focused progression of experiment andcriticism. The idea was, literally, to discipline the field of international relations.Researchers would dedicate themselves to one theoretical approach over anextended period, and not be deterred by initial contrary findings.4 The anarchicalstructure of the international realm has been neorealism’s core, and has sustaineda range of hypotheses and testing aimed at generating novel explanations andpredictions about inter-state relations. The apparatuses of the discipline have alsosupported this research program, with several journals well disposed towardneorealist research. “Scientific” realists have also traced the evolution of realism, using Lakatos’sprocedure for “rationally reconstructing” the paradigm. The “steps” of realistscientific discovery are thus retraced by recounting the paradigm’s “internalhistory.” In such reconstructions of field, the realists that have been discussed thusfar are deemed “foundational” thinkers in a linear progression of increasinglysophisticated and precise theories which ends with Waltz. One account thatexplicitly follows Lakatos’s methodology describes realism’s “growth of objectiveknowledge” in this way: what “began as a philosophical reflection on the natureand behavior of security-seeking entities, has gradually been transformed—howeverimperfectly—into the abstract, deductive formulations which modern social sciencedemands” (Tellis 1995:4).
  • 100. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 93 As noted earlier, Lakatos himself was uncertain to what degree his assumptionsand methods applied to the social sciences. He noted (1970:175–6 n.) that muchsocial science theorizing was lacking in rigor, and required “patched-up,unimaginative series of pedestrian ‘empirical’ adjustments.” He was particularlydubious of attempts to quantify social studies, fearing that statistics might function“primarily to provide a machinery for producing phony corroborations and therebya semblance of ‘scientific progress’ where, in fact, there is nothing but an increasein psuedo-intellectual garbage.”5 Setting Lakatos’s own doubts aside, it is interesting to note that while Waltzclaims to have hurdled the “logical-positivist” problem of the behavioral realists,the whole process of falsification hinges on historical evidence. In other words,because neorealist theory is deliberately “underdetermined” by the “facts,” the wallbetween history and theory stands. Nevertheless, in terms of developing the researchprogram, the empirical battle wages on in the “experimental” literature. Waltzobviously holds a sophisticated view of the relationship between theory and fact.He notes, especially in his early work, that “facts” are “theory-laden.” “Direct”observation is influenced by expectations, and the distinction between evidence andobservation is often blurred. He also contends that “empirical verification, whileimportant, cannot produce certainty, in the social or in the natural sciences, for bythe most intricate and oft-repeated tests one does not exclude alternativepossibilities.” Consequently, he says, “historical refutation is seldom accepted asconclusive” (Waltz 1959b: 57–9). In his later writings, however, Waltz holds that,if subjected to “hard cases,” a theory may in fact be “confirmed,” although he notesthat any test is conclusive only in reference to the assumptions postulated. Thepossibility lingers that some untried series of tests might undercut a theory, just asa new theory may explain or predict more than the abstraction at hand (Waltz 1979:123–4). Nevertheless, when Waltz suggests that deductive methods have subdued thehistorical problem, we might bear in mind the serene protocol he establishes inTheory of International Politics for testing a theory: 1. State the theory being tested. 2. Infer hypotheses from it. 3. Subject the hypotheses to experimental or observational tests. 4. In taking steps two and three, use the definitions of terms found in the theory being tested. 5. Eliminate or control perturbing variables not included in the theory under test. 6. Devise a number of distinct and demanding tests. 7. If a test is not passed, ask whether the theory flunks completely, needs repair and restatement, or requires a narrowing of the scope of its explanatory claims. (ibid.: 13)Although presented as straightforward scientific procedures, these are challengingstandards by which to judge historical evidence. Neorealism has been able to
  • 101. 94 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMsidestep troublesome historiography because a few contrary cases do not overturnthe theory, but the entire research program will be paralyzed if dismissing historicalevidence becomes common practice. Early Waltz: philosophy, history and the pursuit of parsimonyThis section looks briefly at the development of Waltz’s ideas. This developmentis germane to our topic because it traces a leading theorist’s attempts to bridge askeptical view of history and rigorous structural theory. Despite Waltz’s insistenceon a uniquely “political” voice of inquiry, there are unavoidable parallels with otherfields. In many ways, international relations was ripe for structural analysis.Structuralism made its mark in sociology and anthropology in the works of ÉmileDurkheim and Claude Lévi-Strauss. Structural work revolved around the idea thatsocial characteristics were interrelated in a systematic way, and that orderedrelationships could be discovered among these social “facts” and institutionswithout resorting to psychology or history. Writing for a 1954 international theory symposium, Waltz acknowledged theappeal of historical discourse, noting how the play of the mind over historicalevidence elicited patterns of behavior, parallels with contemporary dilemmas, andpitfalls to be avoided. He suggested as well that an anchor in history helped saveanalysts from being swept up in vogue methodologies and strategic fads. However,there were limits to historical inquiry. Waltz pointed to Warren S.Thompson’swarning, in 1929, that without some sort of global distributive justice, populationpressures alone would lead the “havenots” to launch war on the “haves.” He notedthat Thompson’s estimate of cause “seems to be stated in a form that permitsempirical-historical testing,” yet when the thesis is unpacked, “it becomesimpossible to estimate the significance, or insignificance, of this one factor withoutrelating it to others” (Waltz 1959b: 54). Why have intense population pressures notalways resulted in wars? What might constrain the wrath of the impoverished?Would a more equitable distribution of wealth necessarily reduce the incidence ofwar? Data never clearly show these sorts of correlations. What was needed was anonhistorical and nonempirical framework—a theory— with which to establishthose ties. Waltz’s own grasp of the imperfections of historical knowledge bolsters hisdefense of ahistorical theory. He recognizes problems of objectivity, “utility,” andpresentism in history. As noted above, his early skepticism centered on the problemthat historical “facts” are easily tailored to fit the observer’s expectations. “It wouldbe foolish to argue that simply by taking a more intensive look at the data one canbuild a compelling case for one or the other explanatory theory,” he explains.“Staring at the same set of data, the parties to the debate came to sharply differentconclusions for the images they entertained led them to select and interpret thedata in different ways. The estimate of cause is an idea related to but not identicalwith the occurrence one seeks to explain. The idea we entertain becomes a filterthrough which we pass our data” (ibid.: 60). If one were convinced that democracies
  • 102. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 95are pacific, for instance, it would be easy to argue that democratic wars werepreventive or defensive actions. Alternatively, one might argue that democracy hadslipped, perhaps at the hands of an overzealous president or a frenzied legislature. Waltz’s skepticism about using history has been obscured by his broadertheoretical achievements. His most conspicuous revision of classical realism is acausal reversal in explaining state behavior under anarchy. Broadly speaking,classical realists followed what Waltz calls the “inside-out” method of theorizing.They saw foreign policies originating at the individual and state level. Humannature, calculations of interests, political leadership, national character, and avariety of other domestic factors drove decisions. Neorealists, by contrast, suggestthat state behavior is generated by the structure of international power, and a state’srelative position in the system. Neorealists thus proceed from the internationalrealm and backtrack toward unit-level analysis, discounting classical ideas aboutinterests, leadership, values, and so forth. To this end, Waltz’s book, Man, the State and War (1959a), re-categorizes thehistory of political thought around the problem of war. Spinoza, Kant, andRousseau provide the philosophical models for what Waltz calls the three “images”of political life: the individual, the state, and the international realm. Spinoza sawpolitical ills as an outgrowth of individual passions. Kant believed that, over time,war weariness, cosmopolitanism, and the proliferation of constitutional stateswould yield international reforms. For Rousseau, international behavior was a riskygame in which survival and cooperation were always at odds. Waltz draws a handfulof historical analogies and makes a seven-page dash through European history, fromthe origins of the First World War to the 1956 Hungarian uprising. However, thebook is primarily a synthesis of traditional political philosophy. These “ahistoricalanalyses,” he says, “lay bare the logic of civil society and at the same time makeclear why the logic does not carry men past the establishment of separate states tothe founding of a world state” (ibid.: 228). Waltz deals adeptly with the “level of analysis” problem. His critique ofreductionism in explaining political conduct is effective, particularly his extendedtreatment of the first-image “psychologism” of behavioralism. Waltz also arguespersuasively that the “irrationalities” of clashing political preferences cannot beattributed to a fixed human nature: While human nature no doubt plays a role in bringing about war, it cannot by itself explain both war and peace, except by the simple statement that man’s nature is such that sometimes he fights and sometimes he does not. And this statement leads inescapably to the attempt to explain why he fights sometimes and not others. If human nature is the cause of war and if, as in the systems of the first-image pessimists, human nature is fixed, then we can never hope for peace. If human nature is but one of the causes of war, then, even on the assumption that human nature is fixed, we can properly carry on a search for the conditions of peace. (ibid.: 30)
  • 103. 96 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMSounding much like Niebuhr, Waltz suggests that “First-image optimists betray anaïveté in politics that vitiates their efforts to build a new and better world. Theirlack of success is directly related to a view of man that is simple and pleasing, butwrong” (ibid.: 39). Analysis centered exclusively on the state is not very productive either. Even ifit is true that bad states make war, says Waltz, “the obverse of this statement, thatgood states mean peace, is an extremely doubtful proposition” (ibid.: 122). Viewedin isolation, the failings of each causal tier are apparent. We need an integratedtheory that includes the idea of structure. “The action of states, or, more accurately,of men acting for states, make up the substance of international relations. But theinternational political environment has much to do with the ways in which statesbehave. The influence to be assigned to the internal structure of states in attemptingto solve the war—peace equation cannot be determined until the significance of theinternational environment has been considered” (ibid.: 122–3). A causal hierarchy is beginning to crystallize. Waltz sees the first and secondimages as methodologically intractable. They are diverse and malleable, and thus“underpredictive” from a deductive standpoint. The third image, however, is the“more inclusive nexus of causes” and is therefore the final determinant of war andpeace. It is “social structure—institutionalized restraints and institutionalizedmethods of altering and adjusting interests—that counts” (ibid.: 230–1). In a worldof sovereign states, conflict is inevitable. “Each state pursues its own interests,however defined, in the way it judges best. Force is a means of achieving the externalends of states because there exists no consistent, reliable process of reconciling theconflicts of interest that inevitably arise among similar units in a condition ofanarchy” (ibid.: 238). Waltz illustrates his principal idea—international anarchy—by recountingRousseau’s parable of the stag hunt: as the hunting party closes in on the deer, oneof its members is distracted by a hare. Making a quick calculation about hisindividual interests, the hunter deserts the collective effort, spooks the stag, andchases after a unilateral dinner of hare. Rousseau suggests that the uncooperativehunter is acting rationally. Because any member of the party may decide to defect,it is in the interest of each to do so first. Again, conflict is inevitable. It is a “by-product of competition and attempts at cooperation in society…conflict resultsfrom the seeking of any goal — even if in the seeking one attempts to act accordingto Kant’s categorical imperative” (ibid.: 171). Citing John McDonald, Waltzconcludes, “Everybody’s strategy depends on everybody else’s” (ibid.: 201). Thisproblem has been given mathematical form by game theorists and has beenrediscovered by comparativists and international relations scholars as “two-level”and “nested” games (see the classic Neumann and Morgenstern 1944, and the morerecent Evans, Jacobson and Putnam 1993). Waltz’s excellent “second-image” book, Foreign Policy and Democratic Politics (1967)is an historically rich snapshot of the provenance of American and British foreignpolicies. In it, Waltz presents a very different view of what drives state behavior. Ashe remarks at the outset, “adding the internal to the external dimension of foreign
  • 104. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 97policy makes for many complications” (Waltz 1967: v). He finds that, in settingforeign policy, democratic polities are hobbled by their inclusive, debate-driven,and populist governance. In an instructive counterpoint to this plodding process,Waltz invokes Bismarck, who, when questioned in the Reichstag about his foreignpolicy, reportedly told the members of the lower house that the conduct of foreignaffairs was difficult enough without “three hundred asses” trying to impose theirillinformed opinions. Waltz concludes not only that “third-image” constraints aredistorted as they filter through democratic institutions and processes, but thatforeign policies originate at the unit level. They are not rational and ineluctableresponses to external conditions of anarchy. Waltz describes all too well how USforeign policy acquires a “Dixiecrat” drawl, just as class interests and civil servicemandarins set the tone of British foreign relations. Waltz’s early work is perhaps most important for its insistence that there beinternational relations theory. Leery of empiricism and aware of the attendantepistemological problems, Waltz exhorts theorists to indulge in abstraction, totranscend the descriptive and anecdotal. The problems of empiricism, he writes,“constitute not merely a justification for theory but an argument that theorizingis an omnipresent, though often merely implicit, operation” (Waltz 1959b:54–5).Waltz made his own theory explicit in Theory of International Politics, the main designof which is the subject of the next section. Theory of International PoliticsWhen it was published in 1979, Theory of International Politics got a chilly reception.Hedley Bull (1980:20) called Waltz’s work a “reductio ad absurdum of its own startingpoint,” with implications “at loggerheads with common sense.” Margaret Bates(1981:589) noted that “the quest for explanatory power turns into a search fordescriptive adequacy.” Richard Rosecrance (1981:712–13) decried Waltz’s “extremestructural formulation,” which “fails to pay attention to the real differentiation ofstate units that has taken place in the last one hundred years.” Waltz’s formerteacher, William T.R. Fox, suggested (1980:493) that “A new Plato or a new Aristotlewriting in the field of International Relations would…be a theorist whether or nothe plays the game according to Waltz’s philosophy of science rules.” Theory of International Politics offers a bleak assessment of postwar internationaltheory. Waltz notes that “nothing seems to cumulate, not even criticism”—aproblem he attributes to the field’s stubbornly anti-deductive leaning (p. 18). Waltzlabels as “reductionist” theories that encompass first- and secondimage analysis.His criticism of classical realism on these grounds has already been mentioned.Much of this book is devoted to upending competing “systems” theories. Waltzshows that Lenin, Hobson, Galtung, Wallerstein, Hoffmann, Rosecrance, andKaplan are all inductivists of one sort or another. Waltz’s corrective to this, trueto the “third-image” focus of Man, the State and War, is the idea that structure isthe “prime mover” in international politics. Analysis must center on theinternational system itself, as distinct from the character of states and people.
  • 105. 98 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMAlthough the shape of the system is determined by the interactions and characterof states, each state is “black-boxed” into a rational unitary whole. Its componentparts and dynamics are assumed in the theory rather than incorporated as variables. Amid Waltz’s scientific goings on, it is easy to forget that he is a realist. Headheres to an unreconstructed realist view regarding the pursuit of interests andconflict among nations. “The ruler’s, and later the state’s, interest provides thespring of action; the necessities of policy arise from the unregulated competitionof states; calculation based on these necessities can discover the policies that willbest serve a state’s interest; success is the ultimate test of policy, and success isdefined as preserving and strengthening the state” (p. 117). However, the methods of economics, not of history, inform Waltz’s realism. Hebelieves economics is a more “mature” science than international relations by virtueof its development of deductive theory. He also believes that the economic modelis proper. “Reasoning by analogy is helpful where one can move from a domainwhere theory is well developed to one where it is not. Reasoning by analogy ispermissible where different domains are structurally similar” (p. 89). Throughoutthe book, Waltz draws parallels between balance-of-power theory and neoclassicalmicroeconomic theory, i.e., ideas about how market forces condition the behaviorof firms. The idea is that the international structure shapes political outcomes justas “the market” intervenes between economic acts and outcomes. In both cases,order emerges out of self-interested acts and the interactions of the units. “No stateintends to participate in the formation of a structure by which it and others willbe constrained. International-political systems, like economic markets, areindividualist in origin, spontaneously generated, and unintended” (p. 91).Structural incentives and punishments devalue norms, transcend the vagaries andintentions of specific actors, and lend coherence to decisionmaking. Waltz believesthat this logic applies not only to the 350 years of Westphalian history, but “obtainswhether the system is composed of tribes, nations, oligopolistic firms, or streetgangs” (Waltz 1990:37). The economic model is an attractive parallel, a way of rationalizingdecisionmaking and outcomes in an anarchic and competitive realm. Then again,the analogy prompts a number of questions: Is power fungible? (See Keohane 1986:184.) Is it useful to think of power as a single currency, encompassing differenttypes of capabilities? Are the ends that states seek constant enough that the parallelwith firms holds? Does military power translate directly into political power? Howmight one gauge the strength of what Montesquieu calls the “spirit of a nation”?Looming over the entire analogy, however, is the rational choice problem. Theeconomic model assumes that we can confer a rationale upon acts, and thatoutcomes can be reliably anticipated. True, firms and states try to survive in acompetitive and unregulated realm (the neoclassical assumption). However, whereasfirms survive by maximizing returns, states survive by very diverse means. AsRaymond Aron argues in Peace and War (1966:8–18), the rules of the game are neverclear in politics; the ends of political action vary with the actors. Unlike soccerplayers or economic man, for whom winning or “maximizing satisfactions” are
  • 106. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 99unambiguous and universal goals, diplomats and soldiers pursue no single, rationalend. Not all states function alike. They initiate policies and react to events indifferent ways. Waltz defines his “market,” the international system, according to three criteria:its ordering principle, the character of its units, and the distribution of unitcapabilities within it (pp. 88–97). Looking at the modern world through this lens,he makes a number of observations:• the international system is anarchic;• under anarchy, states are functionally alike in that all seek survival through “self- help.” The character of states “drops out” of the equation; they become “units” that differ only in their material capabilities for survival;• the system is (was) bipolar;• states’ positions in the system are determined by their relative power capabilities —“the placement of states affects their behavior and even colors their character” (p. 127);• these capabilities are translated into political power through the “utility of force”; and• the system tends toward self-perpetuation. Various balances of power arise as alliances form to counter revisionist states.In structure, Waltz seeks a broadly plausible reason why states behave the way theydo; “why the range of expected outcomes falls within certain limits,” “why patternsoccur,” “why events repeat themselves” (p. 69). Although his theory is not a theoryof foreign policy, its main implication is that state choices are driven by externalconditions. Configurations of power “socialize” state behavior. This is the basis forWaltz’s balance-of-power hypotheses. Either “states” are rationally persuaded towarda balance, or a hidden hand of structure impels them there. These structuralincentives override ideology and other unit-level characteristics. As Waltz argueselsewhere (1986:329), “state behavior varies more with differences of power thanwith differences in ideology, in internal structure of property relations, or ingovernmental form. In self-help systems, the pressures of competition weigh moreheavily than ideological preferences or internal political pressures.” In Theory ofInternational Politics, Waltz submits into evidence two “hard cases”: the Franco-Russian “Dual Alliance,” formalized in 1894 in reaction to the “Triple Alliance”of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy; and US rearmament following the SecondWorld War. He contends that second-image analysis would not anticipate thesealliances. “Republicans” and “cossacks” did not want to ally. Americans and theirleaders wanted to retrench in isolation, not divide the globe with the Soviets. Waltzpoints also to the dynamics of the cold war. He argued that although the UnitedStates and the USSR comprised very different, if not antithetical, social and politicalorders, the behavior of each was remarkably similar. The idea is that these partieswere driven by structure; they acted as balancers despite themselves.
  • 107. 100 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISM Many of these assertions have been challenged on logical as well as historicalgrounds. Before addressing those challenges, I would like to relate three hypothesesWaltz derives from his third-image focus. Each presents intractable problems interms of historical testing. Interdependence increases opportunities for conflict. “Interdependence,” Waltz (1979:138) writes, “looks different when viewed in the light of our theory.” If one assumesthat the international system is premised on “self-help,” then interdependenceproduces vulnerability. “Close interdependence means closeness of contact andraises the prospect of at least occasional conflict. The fiercest civil wars and thebloodiest international ones have been fought within arenas populated by highlysimilar people whose affairs had become quite closely knit together. It is hard toget a war going unless the potential participants are somehow closely linked… Itwould seem to follow that a lessening of interdependence is desirable” (Waltz 1970:205). In fact, Waltz is sanguine on this point. He believes that during the cold war,bipolarity effectively curbed the spread of interdependence, and that economicmight is furthered by state power. Challenging Charles Kindleberger’s contentionthat “the nation-state is just about through as an economic unit,” Waltz argues(1979:94) that “economic capabilities cannot be separated from the othercapabilities of states … States use economic means for military and political ends;and military and political means for the achievement of economic interests.” Thestate remained the ultimate arbiter of economic activity: “When the crunch comes,states remake the rules by which other actors operate” (p. 94). This line of reasoningwould perhaps apply to the rise of the “trading state,” but less so to the emergenceof multi-national commercial networks. Wallerstein (1974) and others deny thatthere is such a thing as national development in the modern world system (see alsoRosecrance 1986, Kennedy 1987, and Strange 1996). Bipolarity is best. Morgenthau preferred a multipolar balance to a bipolar onebecause the uncertainties generated by multiple power centers instilled greatercaution in statesmen. Waltz favors bipolarity; he contends that it cultivates“transparency” in the system, which breeds general stability and predictability instatecraft. “Those who are elevated to power and direct the activities of great statesare not wholly free agents… The pressures of a bipolar world will strongly encouragethem to act in ways better than their characters might otherwise lead one to expect”(Waltz 1964:906–7). In extolling the advantages of bipolarity, Waltz returns to theeconomic analogy, citing duopoly benefits, prospects for collusion, heightenedforeseeability, lowered transaction costs, and so forth. Waltz’s prime exhibit is thepostwar world. Writing in 1964, when US troops in Vietnam were still “militaryadvisors,” Waltz was able to sanction bipolarity’s lack of “peripheries” as a systemicvirtue. In a multipolar world, “the dangers are diffused, responsibilities unclear,and definition of vital interests easily obscured.” Such a precarious order temptsleaders into rash adventures. In a bipolar system, on the other hand, there are noshadowy zones on the map. International politics is a zero-sum game where“caution, moderation, and the management of crisis come to be of great andobvious importance” (ibid.: 884). The idea is a clear reflection of its times. But
  • 108. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 101Waltz seems blind to the potential for escalation that bipolarity implies, a problemhe later acknowledges with respect to the US military buildup that began in theCarter administration and continued through most of the Reagan period, andwhich “burned up resources that could have safely been put to constructive use”(Waltz 1993:54). The same sort of presentism fueled Waltz’s predictions that theUnited States and the USSR would long endure as the predominant world powers,a quite different prophecy from Kennan’s historically inspired vision of the rot ofthe Soviet Union. More nuclear weapons may be better. According to Waltz (1979:180), nuclearweapons did not transform the nature of strategy. “Gunpowder,” he notes, “didnot blur the distinction between the great powers and the others… nor have nuclearweapons done so.” Waltz’s provocative thesis is also linked to the stability of thelong bipolar peace, where the “balance of terror” reinforced an already stable bipolarsystem by heightening the risks of miscalculation. He suggests (1981:3–4) that“much of the writing about the spread of nuclear weapons has this unusual trait:It tells us that what did not happen in the past is likely to happen in the future,that tomorrow’s nuclear states are likely to do to one another what today’s nuclearstates have not done. A happy nuclear past leads many to expect an unhappy nuclearfuture.” Through the “measured spread” of nuclear weapons, he writes, new nuclearstates “will confront the possibilities and feel the constraints” of their newlyacquired power. They will be “more concerned for their safety and more mindfulof dangers… Nations that have nuclear weapons have strong incentives to use themresponsibly.” He argues that this logic applies even more forcefully to weak states.“A nuclear Libya, for example, would have to show great caution, even in rhetoric,lest she suffer retaliation in response to someone else’s anonymous attack on a thirdstate” (ibid.: 30, 12). Two observations may be made about Waltz’s theory. First, although Waltz is ofthe ex nihilo “brilliant intuition” school of theoretical insight, one wonders if histheory was not born of the interplay of observation and abstraction. In many ways,Theory of International Politics depicts the seemingly settled bipolarity of what Waltz(1979:203–4) calls the “mature,” post-Nixon world, where prescriptions for statecraftdevolve into the “managerial” tasks of maintaining this “sensible duopoly.” Writingin the tradition of E.H. Carr, Robert Cox has noted (1986:248) that neorealism“appears ideologically to be a science at the service of big-power management ofthe international system.” Cox sees an “unmistakably Panglossian quality” toWaltz’s defense of bipolarity, noting that “the historical moment has left itsindelible mark upon this purportedly universalist science.” Second, Waltz’s method prevents him from exploring the origins andunderpinnings of anarchy, actual state calculations about their power positions vis-à-vis other members of the system, and what it is, exactly, that states do. Althoughhe is content to do so, Waltz can merely describe the mechanics of the system itself.There is a kind of modesty here. “Although neorealist theory does not explain whyparticular wars are fought,” Waltz writes (1988: 44), “it does explain war’s dismalrecurrence through the millennia.” He suggests that asking balance-of-power theory
  • 109. 102 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMto explain specific policies of states is like expecting the law of gravity to predictthe “wayward path of a falling leaf” (Waltz 1979:121). In this respect, JustinRosenberg (1994:27) suggests that Waltz isolates only a permissive cause, as opposedto any efficient causes, of war. Neorealism is “a contradiction of perpetual peacerather than a theory of international politics.” If neorealist theory has adeterministic ring to it, Waltz insists that this is not the case. Indeed, whenchallenged on this, he relaxed his stance somewhat, claiming only that “structureshapes and shoves the units of a system” (Waltz 1986:336). Still, perhaps more thanmost classical realists, Waltz is of the “recurrence and repetition” school ofinternational thought. In this, neorealist theory is nothing if not a philosophy ofhistory. Waltz (1979:66) notes: The texture of international politics remains highly constant, patterns recur and events repeat themselves endlessly. The relations that prevail internationally seldom shift rapidly in type or in quality. They are marked instead with dismaying persistence, a persistence that one must expect so long as none of the competing units is able to convert the anarchic international realm into a hierarchic one. The enduring anarchic character of international politics accounts for the striking sameness in the quality of international life through the millennia. Historical critiquesThe nub of historical objections to neorealist theory and research is that an exclusivefocus on structure and on the “striking sameness” of inter-state behavior shroudscrucial historical distinctions and leaves little room for explaining or understandingeven large-scale change. Waltz simply notes (1986: 341) the constancy of balance ofpower politics “as practiced over the millennia, from ancient China and India, tothe Greek and Italian city states, and unto our own day.” The assumption of anarchyRecall that the neorealism begins with anarchy as an inventive ordering principle.At some point, however, the idea of structure is taken to represent structure in fact.Declaring that the world has never been hierarchically governed, neorealists do notdelve into the particulars. The system is assumed to exist in the form Waltz proposes(see Buzan et al. 1993:182–6). This either-or attitude parallels earlier realist notionsthat the makeup of the international system could only be either state pluralismor a world state. Barry Buzan and Richard Little (1994) take up the question of internationalsystem via a long view of history that extends beyond Europe and the Westphaliancenturies. This critique of neorealism is rooted in the English School traditionassociated with Wight, Bull, Butterfield, John Vincent, Michael Howard, AdamWatson, and other members of the British Committee for the Theory of
  • 110. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 103International Politics. Instead of accepting structure as an atemporal framework ofanalysis, the idea is to consider what ‘international system’ means in a morehistorically patient and probing way. Buzan and Little (ibid.: 231) suggest that eventhe most abstract of international relations theories are eurocentric, and thus are“skewed by the historically unrepresentative, and rather brief, record of events inone corner of the planet.” They point to what they term the “anarchophila” ofrealism, especially structural realism. This is the “disposition to assume that thestructure of the international system has always been anarchic, that this is natural,and (more selectively) that this is a good thing” (ibid.: 236). The approach unleashesa number of questions glossed over in Waltz: How big does a system have to be? Isa system composed solely of military-political interactions? Can culture oreconomics engender systems? Do all international systems have structural effects,i.e., do systems always shape behavior among its “units”? Indeed, when Waltz evokes “ancient China and India,” and the “Greek andItalian city states,” as evidence of the cross-cultural and timeless nature of anarchy,he is reciting a standard realist litany of historical international systems. It may bethat the field’s anarchists favor these periods precisely because they represent someof the “few historical times and places that resemble the international anarchy ofmodern Europe” (ibid.: 234). One also wonders if these periods do not leap to mindbecause they form the historical backdrop to the usual suspects in realism’smulticultural pantheon: Sun Tzu, Kautilya, Thucydides, and Machiavelli,respectively. A longer and wider historical survey suggests that Waltz and otheranarchy-based systems theorists are narrowly informed. The kind of global structurethat Waltz proposes, with politicomilitary systemic effects, has been in existencefor about the past 500 years. Before that—and arguably “unto our own day”—systemssomewhere between anarchy and hierarchy appear to have been the norm. Buzanand Little (ibid.: 249) suggest that almost nowhere (except in the relatively short history of modern Europe) is anarchy persistent. Numerous cases offer reasons to question the neorealist argument that anarchy is self-sustaining: in South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, anarchic systems regularly and repeatedly collapsed into empires or suzerain systems. If one focused on East Asia and the Middle East (rather than on Europe as we mostly do) the question would be why hierarchic systems persist.Adam Watson (1992) elaborates on this broader range of “ordering principles.” Hissurvey extends from the first stirrings of the Sumerian system 5000 years ago (asinferred from cuneiform tablets) to the contemporary scene. He posits a spectrumof international orders, stretching from anarchy at one extreme, through hegemony,suzerainty, and dominion, to empire at the other (see also Mann 1986). For Watson,absolute independence (sovereignanarchy) as well as absolute empire are theoreticalextremes that do not exist in practice. Yale Ferguson and Richard Mansbach (1995)have offered an equally rich view of non-Westphalian polities which encompasses
  • 111. 104 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMa vast assortment of other (often divided or crosscutting) political identities andloyalties. They contend that statist language and theory create a false sense ofcontinuity in the international system. This tendency to regard Westphalian politiesas timeless also underpins statist ideology, “reinforcing the institution it purportsto describe and explain” (ibid.: 24). For now, let us set aside the broader criticismof the assumption of anarchy on grounds of interdependence and internationalsociety. A critique of the billiard ball model of realism will be advanced in theconcluding chapter of this book. Do states act alike?“If there is any distinctly political theory of international politics, balanceof-powertheory is it” (Waltz 1979:117). Consonant with his philosophy of science, Waltzexhibits little interest in the underlying history and process by which the balanceof power happens. Balancing is an automatic response to changes in the contoursof systemic power. Wendt argues (1987) that the neorealist conception of structurefails to explain political conduct, because it fails to develop any linkage with humanagency. It is not simply that neorealism fails to consider agency and process. Moreimportant is the assumption that there are sharp limits to historical choice. In this,the theory veils a profound belief about political necessity. It also downgrades theeffects of political process, institutions, conceptions of legitimacy, and so on (cf.Howard 1991:188–200). The degree to which political action is structured by thesystem is almost postmodernist in force. If postmodern politics are imprisoned bythe structure of language and knowledge, then neorealist politics are surelyimprisoned in the structure of power. This can lead to a facile view of politicaldynamics. The neorealist John Mearsheimer (1994/1995: 13), for example, breezilyobserves that “the balance of power is the independent variable which explains war.” Paul Schroeder’s criticisms of balance-of-power theory, discussed in the previouschapter, apply with far greater force here. Interestingly, Schroeder is a “systemic”historian whose analyses focus on the interactions between states and theinternational system. He writes that Ranke’s Primat der Aussenpolitik (primacy offoreign policy) is obsolete, but that historians must nevertheless continue tointerpret international affairs in terms of its own dynamics and norms, “not as adependent variable of any other systems or structures in society” (Schroeder1994b:ix). As we have seen, Schroeder’s system is mildly “institutional.” He describesan international order in which the use of force is regulated by conventional normsof political conduct and association. He also suggests that what internationalpolitics have meant in practice has always been bound up in the ideology of thepractitioner and the context of his times. In this sense, statecraft is not simplyshaped by one’s relative power position; rather, statesmen play a role in creatingand changing the system in which they operate. Thus, while the Congress of Viennais often hailed as a restoration of the European balance in the wake of theNapoleonic Wars, Schroeder contends—as against the “sameness” principle ofneorealism—that the Congress transformed the European system. A “competitive
  • 112. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 105balance-of-power struggle,” he writes, gave way to a system founded on “benignshared hegemony and the mutual recognition of rights underpinned by law” (ibid.:580). We also suggested in the previous chapter that states, especially weak ones, donot necessarily “balance” against power or threats, but exhibit a range of responsesincluding denial, isolation, embracing the threatening state in a restraining alliance,diplomatic settlements, and bandwagoning with aggressors. Schroeder points to thediverse strategies that states adopted in response to Austrian Emperor Joseph II’s1785 attempt to “exchange” the Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) for Bavaria, a swap,which, if successful, would have heightened and centralized Austrian power andthus threaten the German equilibrium. Schroeder notes that “the balance” at stakewas not simply a material one existing between the great Austrian and Prussianpowers. He suggests that “the balance” referred also to the virtues represented bythe Reich constitution, which provided for certain liberties within Germany’s manystates. (This, he notes, “is another indication of the ways in which a purely power-political view of international politics is too crude to capture vital elements of theprocess.”) Many “units” hid from the Austrian threat, ignored the issue, or remainedneutral, even while acknowledging that Austria’s triumph would likely harm theirinterests. Some states—Prussia and Hanover—did balance. Others began by hidingout, then bandwagoned with the winning Prussian side. Still others tried totranscend the threat, banding together in an attempt to revive and reform theinstitutions of the Reich as a means of guaranteeing territorial rights and arbitratingfuture disputes (Schroeder 1994a: 118–19). Schroeder contends that this type of scenario, in which different states perceiveand respond to the same threat in different ways, recurred in almost all the majorcrises of the Westphalian era (the Napoleonic wars and the Second World War werediscussed in the previous chapter). He writes that neorealist theory “not onlyprevents scholars from seeing and explaining the various strategies alternative tobalancing, or the different functions and roles of various actors within the system,but even blocks a genuine historical understanding of balancing conduct and thebalance of power itself as a historical variable, changing over time, conditioned byhistorical circumstances, and freighted with ideological assumptions” (ibid.: 148). As for the assertion that self-help and the security imperative preclude anyinternational division of labor, Schroeder points out that states have frequentlytaken on different functions within international systems. Waltz’s contention that“the domestic imperative is ‘specialize!’” while “the international imperative is ‘takecare of yourself!’” is over-simple. In the nineteenth century, for example, functionalcooperation was the norm. Britain claimed a special role as holder of the Europeanbalance, Russia saw itself as guardian of the monarchical order, Switzerland actedto keep the passes between Germany and Italy out of any single great power’scontrol, Denmark and Sweden guarded the entrance to the Baltic, the Ottomansblocked hegemony over the Turkish straits. Schroeder argues that specialization wasin fact a sound state strategy, and that a failure to specialize might be punished.He also argues that it would be wrong to see these roles as reducible to their impact
  • 113. 106 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMon security and the balance of power (ibid.: 124–7). One could also say that thiswas not the system forcing compliance on the units so much as it was the unitsworking “inside-out” to keep the system afloat. Schroeder concedes on this andother issues that history offers no “ironclad” retort to neorealism. Still, theneorealist framework almost certainly forces misexpla-nations upon the evidence.Schroeder concludes that neorealism’s assumptions about the “unchanging,repetitive nature of balance-of-power politics and outcomes throughout the ages,may make its theory of international politics simple, parsimonious, and elegant;they also make it, for the historian at least, unhistorical, unusable, and wrong”(ibid.: 129). The problem of changeAs noted earlier, Waltz’s world is remarkable for its changelessness and its focus onstructure at the expense of process. Anarchy, ironically, is an extraordinarily stablesocial condition. Richard Ashley (1986:290–2) offers what is perhaps the mostthoroughgoing critique of the approach on these grounds. He argues thatneorealism is silent on four crucial historical dimensions, what he calls the “fourp’s: process, practice, power, and politics.” Historical and political process isoccluded by a “fixity of theoretical categories” and “pregiven structure.” Practicevanishes as “men and women, statesmen and entrepreneurs, appear as mere supportsfor the social process that produces their will and the logics by which they serveit.” Each is reduced “to some idealized Homo oeconomicus, able only to carry out,but never to reflect critically on, the limited rational logic that the system demandsof them.” Neorealism’s portrayal of power is entirely material, denying the socialbases and limits of power. That is, unlike Morgenthau, neorealism fails to see poweras a social or psychological relationship. Ashley stresses that “no other position onpower could possibly be compatible with neorealism’s atomistic and utilitarianconceptions of international order.” Finally, politics are reduced “to those aspectswhich lend themselves to interpretation exclusively within a framework ofeconomic action under structural constraints.” Politics becomes “pure technique…strategy is deprived of its artful and performative aspect, becoming instead the merecalculation of instruments of control.” John Ruggie, like Schroeder, contends that functional differentiation does occuramong states, and indeed is indispensable in understanding systemic change. Ruggieis thus reluctant to see the character of the units “drop out” of the analysis. Hecontends that international politics have not been static; anarchy has a history.Unit-level change in the foundations of anarchy has in the past underpinned thetransformation of the international system, he insists, pointing to the shiftingnotions of sovereignty and legitimacy behind the passage from medieval Europeto the modern state system. Because the medieval system reflected “a patchwork ofoverlapping and incomplete rights of government,” it was a tangle of anarchy andhierarchy. It was also impossible to distinguish the conduct of “international”affairs from domestic ones. These were not unitary, sovereign actors; there was no
  • 114. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 107absolute boundary between public territories and private estates. The medievalpolity was a “segmental realm,” but its parts were separated from each other byprinciples that are profoundly different from those of the modern age. It is thus abald anachronism to force neorealist logic on the period; it is “historicallyinaccurate, and nonsensical besides.” Shifts in the bases of sovereignty producedthe modern state system. To assume that the new principles are now timeless is todeny the motion of history. As Ruggie summarizes, “the problem with Waltz’sposture is that, in any social system, structural change itself ultimately has no sourceother than unit-level processes. Waltz’s theory of ‘society’ contains only areproductive, but no transformational logic” (Ruggie 1986:142, 152). One attempt to describe the medieval period in neorealist terms has drawn sharpcensure for its portrayal of history. Markus Fischer (1992), employing the neorealistmodel, reports that the historical record “shows,” “suggests,” and “indicates” thatmedieval polities were constrained by Europe’s power structure as well as by thenorms of Christendom. The implication is that neorealism explains Europeanpolitics even before the dawn of Westphalia. In response, Rodney Hall and FriedrichKratochwil (1993:491) argue that Fischer’s thesis rests on precarious historiographicground—that he has allied himself with historians with “structuralistmethodological proclivities” and has studiously avoided unhelpful historiography.The critics suggest that “it should be possible to learn from historical materials bytreating the dead fairly or even sympathetically…The credibility of claims ofneorealist scholarship to scientific status is not enhanced by arguments that appearto violate explicit injunctions of science against selective use of data.” Theransacking problem is raised, but the exchange, including Fischer’s response (1993),also suggests that international theory is being overworked, especially if its validityrests on specialized debate among historians. Waltz does not deny that international change—albeit glacial—occurs. “Surveyingthe rise and fall of nations over the centuries,” he notes, “one can only concludethat national rankings change slowly. War aside, the economic and other bases ofpower change little more rapidly in one major nation than they do in another”(Waltz 1979:177). Furthermore, “The death rate among states is remarkably low.”“Who is likely to be around 100 years from now -the United States, the SovietUnion, France, Egypt, Thailand, and Uganda? Or Ford, IBM, Shell, Unilever, andMassey-Ferguson?” (ibid.: 95). Waltz’s conception of what is changing—namelynational power capabilities—is striking because it is so sharply circumscribed.Neorealism appears incapable of envisaging any outcome that transcends thecalculus of power and control. One is tempted to say that this is not historical change.The advent of nuclear weapons, the rise of capitalism, the Enlightenment, theIslamic conquest of Africa, the spread of Confucian teachings—these varieties ofhistory are homogenized in a sea of structure. Outside of their connection to powerthey are merely ideas, technologies, and social forces with no specific bearing onthe international system. Then, of course, there is the end of the cold war. If neorealism’s stock prosperedalongside the grand strategic thinking and arms racing of the 1980s, it plummeted
  • 115. 108 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISM(or should have) when the cold war ended and the international system changeddifferently and more rapidly than structuralists had anticipated. This was, after all,precisely the sort of tectonic upheaval one would expect the theory to explain orpredict. Waltz (1993:50) has since offered a quasi-structuralist reading of events:“The political and economic reconstruction attempted by the Soviet Unionfollowed in part from external causes… Economic reorganization, and thereduction of imperial burdens, became an externally imposed necessity, which inturn required internal reforms.” The fact remains that the Soviet Union crumbled,and bipolarity ended with virtually no change in Soviet military capabilities. Nordid the superpower standoff end in the sort of hegemonic war prophesied by manyneorealists. The whole affair, rooted in less than systemic factors, seriouslyundermined the approach (see Everts 1992). Gaddis argues that fixity on structureblinded neorealists to this possibility: Structuralists see time as a scale against which to measure events, but they pay little attention to the fact that the passage of time, in and of itself, also shapes events. In this respect, they resemble those pre-Darwinian paleontologists who believed in the immutability of species: despite being surrounded by evidence showing that animals, plants, and even land forms had evolved over time, these scientists simply assumed the absence or the unimportance of evolution and therefore lacked the means to understand, account for, and anticipate structural change. (Gaddis 1992/1993:38) Through the looking glass: Stephen Walt’s Revolution and WarIn some ways, Waltz anticipated Gaddis’s criticism. Waltz conceded that theory wasan “image” or “idea” through which historical evidence is filtered. “Knowledge, itseems, must precede theory, and yet knowledge can precede only from theory”(Waltz 1979:8).6 This paradox is unavoidable in any research. Waltz’s skepticismis aimed largely at historical inductivists who believe that theory will materialize atthe end of their inquiry. Nevertheless, its implications are no less profound fordeductive theory and scientific research projects. Indeed, because the problem ariseswhen preconceptions precede observation, an inductivist might be less disposed tointerpret things in a particular way. How has this problem affected actual research within the neorealist program?This section considers a prominent current example of neorealist inquiry, StephenM. Walt’s Revolution and War (1996). Revolution and War has been the subject of ajournal symposium and conference roundtables. One reviewer notes that the bookrepresents “one more piece of evidence that [neo]realism remains a rich and vibrantresearch tradition despite recurrent claims to the contrary” (Desch 1997:126). Walt’scentral contribution to the field is to emphasize how perceptions about power affectstate behavior. This is not a new idea, but it is helpful inasmuch as it has enriched
  • 116. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 109the neorealist framework of material capabilities. In Origins of Alliances (1987), Waltproposed that states balance not only against power, but also against threats. Hecarries this idea forward in Revolution and War. Whether or not this is the sort of“patched-up adjustment” of neorealism that Lakatos criticized in deductive socialscience, Walt’s threat-based approach is a signal example of second-generationneorealist theory and research. If the approach appears to have more in commonwith Robert Jervis’s classic Perception and Misperception in International Politics (1976)than with Theory of International Politics, it should be noted that Walt’s language,assumptions, belief in deductive science, as well as his view of the internationalrealm as composed of rational, unitary, self-seeking states whose motivations arereducible to security interests, are all firmly in the neorealist tradition. Revolution and War examines the international impact of revolutions. The bookpursues an explicitly systemic approach. “Decisions to go to war are not made ina vacuum. War is ultimately a response to problems that arise between two or morestates. Understanding revolution and war thus requires an international-politicalperspective: instead of focusing primarily on the revolutionary state itself, we shouldconsider how revolutions will affect the relationship between the state and the othermembers of the system” (p. 12). He contends that revolutions are watershed eventsin the international system, causing sudden shifts in the balance of power, alteringpatterns of international alignments, casting doubt on existing agreements anddiplomatic norms, and enticing other states to try to improve their own geopoliticalpositions. Foreign aggressors may exploit the national upheaval that attendsrevolutions. Later, when the revolution has been solidified, its leaders may enter aheady period during which they attempt to export the revolution. Revolutionarystates and foreign powers often exaggerate each other’s hostile intentions, andconflict ensues. All of these concerns, Walt argues, are mediated by state (elite)perceptions. Setting out to rectify a number of “folk theories” about revolutionand war, Walt theorizes that revolutions intensify security competition and increase the probability of war by altering each side’s perceptions of the balance of threats. In addition to affecting the balance of power, a revolution also fosters malign perceptions of intent and a perverse combination of insecurity and overconfidence, based primarily on the possibility that revolution will spread to other countries. Although war does not occur in every case, strong pressures for war are always present and, invariably, the level of security competition increases significantly. (p. viii)Revolution and War suggests several intriguing dynamics that underpin this “securitycompetition.” What Walt terms “spirals of suspicion” mount as threats andinsecurities are exaggerated on both sides. Revolutionaries resort to bombasticlanguage, stress historic wrongs in inter-state relations, and interpret other states’reactions in the worst possible light. If status quo powers respond in kind, evenmild diplomatic disputes are likely to escalate. When either revolutionary or
  • 117. 110 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMreactionary fervor is linked to a belief that one holds an offensive advantage, conflictbecomes even more probable. Walt’s interest in perceptions yields a furtherobservation: good information is scarce during revolutionary periods. Normalchannels of inter-state communications collapse at precisely the moment when theyare most needed. Diplomats are withdrawn, intelligence networks are curtailed,scholarly exchanges are suspended, and media freedoms are circumscribed. All thewhile, nefarious accounts of revolutionary intentions are sown abroad by counter-revolutionary émigrés. Walt carries forward the theory-hypothesis-testing method. He compares “process-tracing” case studies, precisely the sort of analysis so lacking in Waltz’s approach.Looking at revolutions in France (1789), Russia (1917), Iran (1979), China (1949),America (1776), Turkey (1921), and Mexico (1910), Walt effectively bridges levelsof analysis and strikes a good balance between economy of explanation andhistorical content, making extensive use of historical evidence and interpretation.Walt considers his theory “supported” if the mechanisms described above werepresent, even if war did not result. Wars did follow close on the heels of the French,Russian, Iranian, and Chinese revolutions. Walt argues that war did not result inthe other cases because leaders decided that the costs outweighed the benefits ofconflict. He suggests that these decisions were gauged according to perceptionsabout the offense—defense balance and beliefs about whether or not the revolutionsmight be exported. Interestingly, Walt is trying to make an elite preferencesargument, yet he has difficulty discerning elite preferences. He relies on anoftenepigrammatic method that highlights “state” perceptions as expressed in thepublic pronouncements of Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Khomeini, and others. Walt has little trouble finding historical examples to demonstrate his main ideas.His thesis, after all, is not that revolutions cause war, but only that they heightensecurity competition in the system. This stance allows Walt to gainsay historians’suggestions that wars were on the horizon whether or not they were propelled byrevolution (p. 118). His historiographic focus does appear to be largely governedby the degree of theoretical fit. He devotes eighty pages each to the French andRussian revolutions, and sixty pages to the Iranian case. The American, Mexican,Turkish, and Chinese revolutions, where the thesis seems to apply in only the mostgeneral way, if at all, are canvassed in a single chapter. The international impact ofthe French Revolution, his first case study, seems to provide a kind of template bywhich to view the other revolutionary periods. The French Revolution is probablyso deeply ingrained in our thinking that this is unavoidable. Walt contends thathis cases show how “revolutions have independent causal effects on the level ofsecurity competition and the probability of war” (p. 333). However, it seems difficultto separate these effects, as Walt claims to have done, from other sources of conflict.Walt points, for example, to Poland’s invasion of Russia in 1920 as evidence thatthe 1917 revolution had created an inviting vacuum. However, it seems equallyplausible that the systemic upheavals of the First World War, rather than theRussian Revolution, “caused” Poland to take the offensive.
  • 118. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 111 At other turns, Walt seems to fit the evidence to his theory. In keeping with hishypotheses, he describes the Soviets’ “highly paranoid view of world politics” as ageneric revolutionary trait (p. 203). Kennan, as we have seen, suggested that thisparanoia had much deeper roots. The Chinese Revolution no doubt indirectlyaffected the outbreak of the Korean War, but the case fits a number of othertheoretical scenarios as well (p. 323). Newly available archival materials suggest thatStalin had more influence over North Korea than did Mao (see Foot 1996:473–82).The Turkish case seems to be a particularly poor fit, leading Walt to judge that its“familiar dynamics or revolutionary situations” took on “a muted and lessdangerous form” (p. 310). Whether this was a revolution at all remains a point oflively debate. At the time, the outline of “Turkey” (as mapped at the Treaty ofSevères) was in dispute. The “liberation” movement drove the occupation forcesfrom Anatolia and Thrace, before leading an extraordinarily successful (and oftenheavy-handed) program of modernization and westernization. This consensus wasslow to emerge, however. Initially, the movement was a hydra-head of diverse elites,ranging from Kemalists espousing a kind of Anatolian nationalism, othernationalists who harked back to the French Revolution, the Turanists, whoenvisioned a Pan-Turkic state stretching across Central Asia to China, and a strongretinue of Ottoman military officers and civil servants who intended to reestablishthe Caliphate and rebuild the empire. Again, the Turkish case seems to have beenmore a question of perceptions and misperceptions than of objective assessmentsof international threats, if any. The European powers appear to have imposed theirown “orientalist” interpretations on events, which is particularly ironic givenAtatürk’s eventual orientation of Turkey toward Western manners and mores.Ultimately, the revolution probably enhanced Turkish relations with Europe farmore than it undermined them. The international effects of the Iranian Revolution best buttress Walt’s thesis.The Iranian case highlights Walt’s vast improvement over Waltz’s analysis: materialcapabilities alone could never do justice to the meaning of revolutionary Iran.Ayatollah Khomeini certainly provided abundant provocative “foreign policy”pronouncements. On one occasion Khomeini stated, “we have in reality, then, nochoice but to…overthrow all treacherous, corrupt, oppressive, and criminalregimes” (p. 210). On another, “it is only through the active, intentional pursuitof martyrdom that unjust rulers can be toppled” (p. 215). The bounty on SalmanRushdie’s head was also unambiguous. The Iran—Iraq War was almost certainlysparked by Baathist fears that the revolution might spread. Still, it seemsproblematic to squeeze the Islamic theocracy into a self-help unit, treating it as justanother revolutionary state. The possibility also exists that Khomeini’s threats weremanufactured in order to cement his hold on power—though admittedly this wouldnot assuage perceptions abroad. V.S.Naipaul has argued recently (1997) that to thinkof the Iranian stance toward the West in terms of rational “foreign policy goals” isto misjudge a cynical system of domestic control. Revolutions heighten uncertainties, and create power vacuums and geopoliticalopportunities. They may have profound impacts on both security and economic
  • 119. 112 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISMinterests. Besides posing this insight in a fashion acceptable to political scientists,one wonders about the originality and profundity of Walt’s contribution. Moreimportantly, Walt’s approach leaves whole realms of questions unasked. His inquiryremains encased in neorealist assumptions about the nature of internationalpolitics. The real filtering lies in the idea that states seek security above all else.Explanations are couched exclusively in terms of capabilities, threats, and powervacuums. The “selfhelp” assumption sustains the validity of the comparison.Otherwise, changes in international context and norms would cast doubt oncomparisons of the international reaction to, say, the American and Iranianrevolutions. The assumption is that states will go to war when these conditions arepresent. What might inhibit this outcome? How might international institutionsmitigate the uncertainties that put states on edge in revolutionary times? What rolecould third parties play? Can revolutions enhance concord between states? In severalof Walt’s cases, war did not follow revolution, and these questions remainunanswered because they are unasked. Conclusion: politics without processWaltz notes that “the more complex and intricate the matters being studied are,the stronger the urge ‘to be simple-minded’” (Waltz 1990:27). In political analysis,parsimony may be a dubious virtue. Being simple-minded closes off other ways ofunderstanding, abbreviates inquiry, and undercuts progress in the field. It may alsoveil a complacent historical epistemology. As Kratochwil (1993:64) has noted, a“Platonist preconception” with form has dominated structural theory. “The searchfor invariable laws of international politics has not only significantly reduced thenumber of interesting questions, it has also led to premature closure… Theunchanging or cyclical nature of international politics is substituted for theinvestigation of actual processes and decisions.” Besides affirming that powerpolitics are here to stay (and that arsenals should remain well stocked), Waltz offersno counsel to the prince. Indeed, having toiled so long to isolate a theory ofinternational politics, Waltz closely guards his achievement. No one has arguedmore consistently than he that neorealism is not, and was never intended to be, atheory of foreign policy (Waltz 1996). Meanwhile, neorealist claims about structuraleffects have grown so extensive as to very nearly render the theory unassailable tohistorical challenges, i.e., unfalsifiable (Elman et al. 1995:194). Ironically, this isexactly what neorealists used to say of classical realism. Other visions of the international system open up realms of inquiry rather thanclose them off. It is worth pointing out in this regard that, while neorealists revereThucydides for explaining the Peloponnesian War in terms of economics, they areoften guilty of a reductionist view of the Athenian’s great History, which is shadedby far more than relative numbers of spiked shields, hoplites, and archers.Thucydides was intrigued as well by the “spirit” of the Athenians, by different formsof power, the psychology of clashing cultures and economies, open versus closedsocieties, innovation versus resistance to change, self-reliance versus international
  • 120. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 113commerce, constitutions and law, the role of rhetoric, the dislocations of social andeconomic upheaval. Thucydides also grasped the moral tragedy of war. Waltz notes that internationalaffairs are conducted “in the brooding shadow of violence,” but the ethicalimplications of anarchy are left unexamined (Waltz 1979:102). Discourse oninternational ethics generally revolves around the tension between politicalnecessity and moral demand, with ethical choices either derived from “rules” orbased on calculations of expected consequences. In neorealism, such questions aredeemed “unscientific” or “metaphysical,” in any case, beyond the pale of theoreticaldiscourse. A foreign policy based on the third-image, says Waltz, “is neither moralnor immoral, but embodies merely a reasoned response to the world around us”(Waltz 1959a:238). Neorealists seem convinced that states, much less individuals,are powerLess to alter the system in which they find themselves. If structural theorydoes not actively sanction existing structures, it at least fuels a certain fatalism aboutchange. This itself is an ethical stance. As one critic notes of the “science” ofinternational relations: “The subject is unavoidably normative. It is not thatnormative concerns ought to be addressed, rather that they have always been at thecentre of the subject. Lying at the heart of value-neutrality was a very powerfulnormative project, one every bit as ‘political’ or ‘biased’ as those approachesmarginalised and delegitimised in the name of science” (Smith 1992:490). Weddedto structure and sameness, neorealism restrains rather than inspires meliorist hopes.Diplomats may conclude that ethics no longer matter.
  • 121. 114
  • 122. 6 “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” J.David Singer and the Correlates of WarThe use of history in international relations reaches its methodological zenith inthe quantitative approach. While neorealism pursues scientific rigor by way ofdeductive theory and empirical falsification, quantitative political science employsthe full arsenal of computer and statistical methods in heavily inductive fashion.Quantitative researchers believe that their methods remedy many of the historicalproblems recounted in the preceding chapters: selection bias, interpretive prejudice,theoretical filtering, anecdotalism, and ahistoricism. “The historian can continueto pile up facts and do his case studies but only as he borrows from the socialsciences can he produce hard evidence or compelling interpretations of the past,”argues J.David Singer, founder and director of the Correlates of War project at theUniversity of Michigan Center for Research on Conflict Resolution. Failing thisscientific rigor, “our understanding of the past will remain in the hands of theliterati, responding to one revisionist or counter-revisionist interpretation afteranother, as the consensus ebbs and flows” (Singer 1969:82).1 Begun in 1963, the Correlates of War (COW) is today the premier behavioralresearch program in international politics. Heralding a true science of internationalrelations, the project held out reproducible, long-term historical study in place ofthe “intuition,” “folklore,” and “armchair theorizing” that have marked “severalcenturies of pre-operational speculation” and “wisdom literature” about the causesof war (Singer 1981:1). A succession of researchers has compiled a statistical databasefor major wars, alliances, civil conflicts, and systemic attributes from 1816 to 1992.(COW data sets include Singer and Small 1972, Small and Singer 1982, and Singerand Small 1994a, 1994b.) Analysts continue to digest historical accounts, and workbased on COW data is ongoing around the globe. (The latest bibliography ofCOWbased research is Diehl 1992.) Pursuing a diverse agenda of data-making, indexconstruction, statistical manipulation, and theoretical modeling, the project’scontribution has come in the form of fragmentary findings and as the result of itsmore narrowly posed hypotheses. As yet, there has been no major breakthrough inthe study of war (see Vasquez 1987).2 Quantitative work is the most scientific approach to international relations inthat its historical sample extends far beyond the cases cited anecdotally oranalogically in traditional work, and its statistical analyses are, in themselves,objective and reproducible. Nevertheless, it is also the most historical approach in
  • 123. 116 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSthat its findings and prescriptions hinge entirely on “coded” historiography. AsDonald Puchala (1990:64) has noted, “behaviorists were not ignoring history. Theywere coding it!” Indeed, the COW has done extraordinarily heavy historical lifting,in terms of both numbers of hours and history books, far outpacing any otherresearch project in the field. Nevertheless, historical appraisals of the COW, andof quantitative international relations generally, have typically amounted to blanketpronouncements on social science methods, and have ignored the cliometricsdebate among historians. This chapter first places quantitative internationalrelations in the context of social science history, before exploring the COW as acase of behavioral science. It then addresses problems of “data-making,” theprocedure by which narrative history is transformed into statistical indicators, andattempts to replicate a randomly selected sample of COW historical data. Thechapter moves on to address the “quantitative fallacy,” before, finally, assessing theCOW and other quantitative work from the perspective of historical skepticism. History by the numbersThe strength of quantitative history, or cliometrics as it is also known, is that itoffers a method of systematic, comparative historical research buttressed by clearstandards of evidence. Figures take the place of “feel,” variables are defined anddelimited, operations are precisely described. Once a data set has been prepared, itcan be subjected to any number of statistical tests. Perhaps the most commonapplication is the “large n” analysis of “aggregate” data, meaning that historicalhypotheses are put simultaneously to many cases, usually with the help of acomputer. The hope is that such “longitudinal” or “time-series” analyses may revealpatterns and associations which had been not simply undiscovered, but wereundiscoverable using traditional methods. Is it possible to extend quantitative methods to international history? Is this aworthwhile strategy for exploring the causes or correlates of war? Does thequantitative historian, as one critic suggested, “borrow the vices of other disciplinesand surrender the virtues of his own”? (Fischer 1970:37). Because the traditional—quantitative argument in politics is paralleled so closely in the debate over historicalmethods, a brief review of what has happened in Clio’s domain is in order. Cliometrics was born the twin of l’histoire annaliste, the “bottom—up,”socioeconomic history invented by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre of the Annalesschool in the 1920s.3 The annalistes denounced “event-centered,” “political” historyas superficial and elitist. Far more important was the history of everyday life (lavie quotidienne) which, when studied over the long term, would reveal the “geologic”contours underlying societies and economies. These were historical problems thatrequired quantitative inquiry: tariffs, divorces, the growth of industry, patterns oftrade and extraction, exchange rates, crop yields, literacy rates, caloric intake, andso on. The method was urged on other historical genres as well. Emmanuel Le RoyLadurie’s insistence that “history that is not quantifiable cannot claim to bescientific” was a slap at narrativists, but also undercut traditional nomothetic
  • 124. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 117practitioners who believed that their work, while not quantitative, was neverthelessscientific (see Jarausch 1985: 14). Georges Lefebvre, the great historian of the FrenchRevolution, coined what would become the password for a generation ofquantitative historians: “Il faut compter” (quoted in Thomas 1966:275). The admonition to count got a rocky reception. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1962:770) noted in 1962 that “almost all important questions are important preciselybecause they are not susceptible to quantitative answers.” In his presidential addressto the American Historical Association that same year, Carl Bridenbaugh (1963:325–6) inveighed against “scientific” approaches to history, which he saw as “culturallyimpoverished” and revealing “little if any historical sense.” He announced, “Thefinest historians will not be those who succumb to the dehumanizing methods ofsocial sciences… Nor will the historian worship at the shrine of that Bitch-goddess,QUANTIFICATION.” Nevertheless, the method spread in popularity in the 1960s and profited fromcomputing advances in the 1970s. In 1966, the TLS published a famous series, “NewWays in History,” pitching cliometrics’ statistical methods and socioeconomiccontent. The lead piece noted that it “seemed certain that the computer will replacethe ‘stout boots’ worn by the advanced historians of the past generation,” and thateconometrics especially offered “definitive solutions” to historical debates (Thomas1966:276). Another contributor added that cliometrics had liberated history fromthe “tyranny of literature” by making intelligible a cache of new sources (Weaver1966). Elsewhere, François Furet (1971:160) saw cliometrics not merely as “atransformation of the raw material of history,” but as representing “a revolutionin historiographical consciousness.” Lee Benson (1966:12–13) hailed a “genuinelyscientific historiography,” and held out the possibility of discovering or developinggeneral laws of human behavior. Sophisticated mathematics and models soon meant that narrativist historiansdid not know what their behavioralist brethren were up to. Two cultures emerged,one qualitative and “humanistic,” the other quantitative and claiming the mantleof science. For some historians, the idea that their craft might be enriched by thesocial sciences implied a certain shoddiness or inadequacy in traditional work.Traditional historians also felt coerced to accept historical assertions grounded inthousands of hours of research and the latest statistical technologies. For many, theonly options were to accept quantitative findings uncritically, or, more likely,simply ignore them. The divide deepened as historians took sides in several highprofile cases, most prominently the publication of Robert Fogel and StanleyEngerman’s Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (1974). Basedon data on 80,000 slaves drawn from probate and census records from fifty-fourcounties in eight Southern states between 1775 and 1865, the book’s authors arguedthat slavery was a relatively mild form of industrial organization, that slave familiesrarely were rent apart, that slaves adhered more or less to a Protestant work ethic,and that however ethically abominable slavery was, economically it was a rationalstrategy. Fogel and Engerman claimed to have demolished a century’s worth ofslavery historiography, yet a series of hostile reviews, many written by economists
  • 125. 118 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSand statisticians, suggested that their strong conclusions rested on indefensibleinterpretation of sources and defective manipulation of data (see Handlin 1979:206–6). Unfortunately for the behavioral camp, Time on the Cross had securely hitchedits claims to the quantitative method. The episode was seen to vindicate the skeptics,lending credence to Mark Twain’s aphorism about “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Historians were most alarmed, however, that evangelical cliometrics would erodethe humanistic and literary foundations of the discipline. In its utopian stage,quantification held out a computerized version of Acton’s pledge of a “Rankean”historical science of “completeness and certainty.” Quantitative claims have sincereceded. Revisiting the new history in the TLS in 1975, Elie Kedourie (1975:238–40) cooled to the approach, calling quantitative “scientism” a “paradoxical, not tosay impossible, quest,” and urging historians to abandon the “dizzying heights ofmethod” for the more solid ground of resourceful and imaginative description.Theodore Rabb, a founder of The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, noted in 1981that “The great hopes of the early days of the computer have apparently beendisappointed; now there is a more limited role for those who wish to count” (Rabb1981:322). Still, despite what Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie (1977:136) called the “futilebanishment proceedings” taken against it, a modest cliometrics is ensconced in thecanons of historiography. It is important to recall, however, that although methodshave progressed from IBM keypunch technology to a cornucopia of softwarepackages, quantification does not replace the historian’s interpretive and logicalskills. The method may lend a keener edge to research and causal claims than thosebased on narrative, but quantitative findings rely nonetheless on the accuracy ofthe data employed. In any case, today’s “new” historians are not limited to numbers.“Bottom—up” history is now being applied to cultural “mentalities,” material andpopular culture, intellectual and labor history, and historical sociology in themanner of Charles Tilly. Through all of this, only the most tenuous link has existed between cliometricsand diplomatic history. Happily, the construction of diplomatic history has evolvedover the years from “dry-as-dust” monographs summarizing official communiquestoward a richer interpretive practice, tracking inter national trade, technologytransfers, political economy, environmental issues, institutional roles andbureaucratic politics, as well as providing new takes on traditional areas of powerand statecraft. (Many practitioners now prefer the more inclusive term,“international history.”) Rarely, though, has diplomatic history taken the form ofstraight quantitative work. Charles Maier notes (in a survey of diplomatic historythat sparked a raft of rebuttals), that “Rankean exegesis still forms the basis of thecraft,” suggesting that “history from the bottom up takes its toll in a field of humanactivity that is still largely executed, if not ultimately shaped, from the top down”(Maier 1980: 356–7). This may be why the many historians who favor social science methods rarelyattempt diplomatic history. The Journal of Interdisciplinary History, ComparativeStudies in Society and History, Journal of Social History, Social Science History, and
  • 126. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 119Historical Methods are all venues for longitudinal studies seeking greater comparativecontent and broader generalizations than found in traditional outlets. Yet, over thepast 10 years these journals combined have published no articles based on“operationalized” diplomatic historiography. Meanwhile, Diplomatic History, Revued’histoire diplomatique, The International History Review, and Diplomacy and Statecrafthave hewed to traditional methods. Singer and long-time COW historian-in-residence Melvin Small organized a diplomatic history section of the Social ScienceHistory Association, but the group disbanded a few years later for lack of conferencepapers (Small 1990:21 n. 1). The hope, voiced by Ole Holsti and Robert North(1965:155), was that “modern social science methods coupled with the use ofcomputers may transform history into something approaching a laboratory ofinternational behavior.” Today, however, virtually no one is doing quantitativediplomatic history on the history side; the initiative for cliometric work ininternational politics rests almost entirely with political scientists. The COW as behavioral science: “systematic, visible, explicit, and reproducible” (Jones and Singer 1972:20)The COW has been the source of scores of articles and several books addressing awide range of empirical questions on war. Among the COWs own basic findings(some of which are hotly contested among COW “users”), are the following:• There were 209 international wars between 1816 and 1992;• The international arena remains “fundamentally as war-prone as it has been since the Congress of Vienna,” although war is perhaps becoming less frequent but more lethal (Small and Singer 1979:80). Of the 177 years under study, some kind of international war was underway every year except 1908;• European states were the most bellicose. Since the Congress of Vienna the most frequently warring nations were: Britain (52 wars), France (44), Turkey (27), Russia/Soviet Union (25), China (17), and Italy (15);• States won 65 percent of the wars they initiated; they lost 28 percent of them;• Wars do not appear to begin with any cyclical regularity. Peak amounts of war underway, however, show a strong periodicity in the range of 15 to 20 years;• There is a fickle relationship between alliances and security. In the nineteenth century, the greater the number of formal alliances covenanted by states, the less likely was war to occur; in the twentieth century the opposite is true;• Preparing for war rarely ensures peace. Disputes between and among major powers tend to escalate into war if preceded by an arms race; disputes not preceded by an arms race do not;• A “transparent” international system of disparate powers seems to promote peace; findings are mixed on the bipolar/multipolar question, although a “tight” bipolar system is associated with greater amounts of war; and• There is reason to be skeptical of “democratic peace” claims. “States with such governments have not been noticeably peace-prone or unaggressive over our
  • 127. 120 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS historical period…they did become involved in quite a few wars, and not always as defenseless victims of a dictator’s aggression” (Small and Singer 1976:67–8). Geller and Singer (1998:87–8) note that the evidence that democratic dyads are more pacific than non-democratic pairs is “consistent and cumulative,” although there are competing explanations for this phenomenon.Singer’s principal claim is that these and other COW findings are distinguishedfrom mere assertions by virtue of the rigorous, reproducible manner in which theyare derived (Singer 1965:75). That is to say, the project’s methodology underpinsits epistemology. Singer’s work is a running indictment on these grounds of thetactics employed by traditional researchers. He calls international relations“methodologically, the most retarded segment of one of the most retarded socialsciences,” and anticipates a day when the “antiscientific” mentality, “untouched byany post-Ptolemaic tendencies,” will seem as anachronistic in the study of globalpolitics as alchemy or astrology do to today’s natural scientists (Singer 1989:225).Co-investigator and diplomatic historian Melvin Small makes the parallel claimthat “Historians of international relations are among the most methodologicallyconservative of a conservative trade,” clinging to “ways little changed since the timeof Thucydides” (Small 1990:29). The idea is that the field’s Luddites have producedvolumes of “literary speculation” on the causes of war, but no hard evidence. Funded initially by the Carnegie Corporation and later by a series of grants fromthe National Science Foundation, and, most recently, the United States Instituteof Peace, the COW has sought policy as well as intellectual “payoffs.” Singer hasnever hesitated to link up the project with a long stream of progressivist,quantitative peace research back to Jean de Bloch’s six-volume work La Guerre Future,published in Paris in 1898, which used a mathematical model to argue that modernfirearms and social organization had made war an economic impossibility, to LewisRichardson’s accounts of “deadly quarrels,” and Pitirim Sorokin’s and QuincyWright’s studies of war and revolution. Singer has never said that politics can be a pure science. Like “hard” science,though, the COW is ardently nomothetic, or law generating, in its approach tohistory. “The moment that one goes beyond the telling of a single narrative or theinterpretation of a single case, one is into the ‘nomothetic’ mode, and is thus layingthe groundwork for cumulative knowledge” (Singer 1990a:142). Singer dismissesthe differentia specifica school, suggesting that an “undue preoccupation, yeaobsession, with the unique, the discrete, the non-comparable, is what has largelykept history from developing into a cumulative discipline” (Singer 1969:77). “[W]e begin with the assumption that there are indeed regularities in the origins ofdifferent types of wars, and that they are discoverable…we assume that thoseregularities are as relevant to the future as to the past” (Singer 1972a:244). The project has pursued these regularities inductively, waiting agnostically forthe data to mount before making theoretical claims. As statistical patterns emerge,the mode of inquiry becomes increasingly theoretical and the search for causalpatterns more focused. Singer sees deductive theory as fashioned from “whole cloth”
  • 128. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 121and limited in compass, often producing dueling monocausal explanations. Withits built-in flexibility and sophisticated computing, the COW is prepared forcomplexity. Thus, if states go to war based on an elaborate, multi-level logic thatchanges with the international environment, presumably this can be discovered. Asan agnostic, however, Singer should also be prepared for indeterminacy. If statesgo to war for all sorts of reasons, if there is no clear pattern, that too would be animportant discovery. This behavioral road to theory follows a three-fold epistemology: existential,correlational, and explanatory. Existential knowledge. The lion’s share of the COWs work has been devoted totransforming historical narrative and other artifacts into data sets on war (definedas combat between armed forces including at least one member of the internationalsystem in which at least 1000 battle deaths occur annually). Because the COW isheavily inductive, this initial marshaling of evidence is critical. Deciding what tostudy is, of course, a “theoretical” exercise, but the COWs attempt not to sift thehistoriography for theory-friendly cases seems to have succeeded. As Singer notes,“we set up our coding rules and then examine all the cases which qualify; there ismuch less of a tendency to ransack history in search of those isolated cases whichsatisfy one’s theoretical or rhetorical requirements of the moment” (Singer 1969:79). The COW has created a massive trove of statistical evidence. Its data sets,published as The Wages of War (Singer and Small 1972) and Resort to Arms (Smalland Singer 1982), are avowedly existential, while the 1994 update is a computer filewith minimal text. “All we have done is to generate a particular set of data and thenrefined and systematized it into a multitude of potentially useful forms,” writeSinger and Small (1972:374). The value of the work is more instrumental thanintrinsic. The data comprise: identification of all international wars from 1816 to 1992,and the magnitude, severity, and intensity of each; systemic data including amountsof war begun and underway, secular trends, cycles and periodicity, and seasonaldistribution in the incidence of war. Data at the national level include the war-proneness of nations, and statistics on victory, defeat, and battle deaths. Similarcompilations are made for civil wars. Other indicators include, at the national level:industrial capabilities, military preparedness, diplomatic standing, and regimestability. At the “dyadic” level are alliances and other diplomatic ties, sharedmembership in international organizations, and geographical proximity. In termsof regional and global “ecologies,” the COW has prepared data on the“configurations” formed by alliances and other diplomatic bonds, power polarity,and the distribution of capabilities. Supplementary data touch on trade patterns,demographic history and ethnic composition. The Behavioral Correlates of War(BCOW) tracks 34,000 discrete diplomatic, economic, military, and unofficial“moves” in the midst of some forty-eight international crises. Correlational knowledge. The second level of knowledge builds on the first. Thegoal is a “correlational coefficient,” a measure of the association between two ormore variables, generally between a class of events or occurrences associated with
  • 129. 122 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSwar (outcomes) and certain state-level traits or system-level conditions orconfigurations (predictors). Singer (1990a: 139) is quick to point out thatcorrelation is necessary but not sufficient to establish a cause. He advises socialscientists to “forget about (or, at least, sidestep) causality. Almost any social processof interest can occur via so many different and unobservable routes that we wouldhave to make inferential leaps of heroic proportions in order to specify causality.”However, assuming the existential work is sound, quantitatively derived correlationsare more reliable than patterns “observed” via narrative. Thus, rigorous statisticaltechniques permit at least a “modicum of prudently inferred causality” (Singer 1979:162). Explanatory knowledge. This is the prize. Synonymous with theory (“a reproducibleand compelling explanation of a given class of events” (ibid.: 162)), explanatoryknowledge illuminates why a correlation holds historically and why it will or willnot hold in the future: it has predictive value. “Correlational knowledge can carryus part way,” says Singer, “but until we have built and empirically tested a theorywhich offers a compelling explanation of the changing as well as the constantassociations in the past, we make predictions of less than desirable solidity” (ibid.:162–3). Arguably, this is the most creative or intuitive aspect of the COW, as theresearcher shelves his coding manual and quits the mechanics of correlation infavor of theory. This is also the site of some of the project’s most innovativecliometric work. In what Singer dubs the “controlled historical experiment,”regression analysis is used to “isolate” the effects of individual predictor variablesas a way of pinpointing causality. A good analogy is a flight simulator, on whichcrash investigators experiment with different weather patterns and rudder positionsin order to match the flight-data record of an airplane that has crashed. In theCOW’s case, a computer acts as the simulator, the historical record holds the black-box information, and the outbreak of war is the plane crash. As Singer explains: we can experiment with a large number of contending explanations. If we begin with a reasonably extensive and accurate database, we can experiment with differing magnitudes of our key variables. And if we are willing to move back into the referent historical world when we run into dead ends in the simulation, we can achieve a valuable interplay between our deductive and inductive emphases. These and other virtues add up to a method in which we can ultimately—by a systematic trial-and-error procedure—“reproduce” diplomatic history. (ibid.: 165)For Singer this is the surest way to unravel “the almost inevitable system dynamics”underlying 175 years of world politics (ibid.: 162). The researcher not only subjectscorrelation-inspired hunches to the “hard facts of history” but also jigs multiplevariables, i.e., hones personal hypotheses, until a good “fit” emerges. Through this
  • 130. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 123sophisticated seesawing between imagination and testing, it is hoped that aconsistent body of theory will fall into place. Data-making: doing history or undoing it?“The problem of science in international relations,” Singer writes, “is ultimatelythe problem of data-making,” of translating historical traces into “operational”language (Singer 1965:78). Because quantitative experiments rise or fall based onthe quality of their inputs, explicit coding criteria are imperative to sort through abewildering array of artifacts and generate good historical data. This is no smalltask. As Singer notes, “in no social science field is [data-making] any more difficultthan in international relations. Even the original gathering of reliable facts issurrounded with the impediments of governmentally imposed secrecy anddistortion as well as the diffuseness of such facts in time and space” (ibid.: 69).Each time the COW data set has been published, its creators have disclaimed thatthey were “painfully aware of the inconsistencies and dissimilarities that made theoriginal datamaking operations a source of such agony and frustration” (Small andSinger 1982:23). Is it history? Can historical narrative or archival materials be “coded” andstatistically manipulated without undoing the standards that make it “historical”in the first place? It seems to me that cliometricians are “doing history.” Even ifthe description of diplomatic events takes statistical form, the broader questionsaddressed are not so different from those raised by comparatively mindednarrativists. These days, certainly, the scholarship of social science historians iswidely accepted by their guild peers. Most importantly, cliometrics is a creativeprocess, governed by certain rules of historical construction. As Small (1990:33)describes it, “Much of our data is literally made by converting the buzzing welterof historical traces into analytically useful indicators.” Whatever its “end use,” thisis knowledge produced. Is it reliable, valid knowledge? The cliometric refrain about having transcendedthe foibles of the humanities rests above all on the claim of reproducibility, thathallmark of science where findings are “confirmed” by re-running tests andreproducing results. Repeatedly in quantitative work, we hear that thetraditionalist’s personal idiosyncrasies have been squelched. Singer (1990a: 298)suggests that experimenter bias “need not concern those of us who conducthistorical experiments.” After all, the major purpose of clear operational proceduresis “to minimize or eliminate those pre-investigative biases which make traditionalresearch so unproductive of generalized, high confidence knowledge, and soephemeral in its scientific effects” (Singer 1972b: 87). Singer even rejects the rubricof “content analysis,” as data-making is sometimes called, on the argument thatcoders are not analyzing anything, but are merely translating historical informationfrom the narrative to the numerical idiom. For all this talk of reproducibility, however, it is important to recognize thatreplications of COW findings have centered almost exclusively on the
  • 131. 124 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS“experimental” stage: they target the project’s modeling efforts and computer runs,not the historical data themselves. Reproducing outputs is in any case a modestfeat. Outputs should be perfectly reproducible, or nearly so, since they involveplugging a given set of numbers into a well-defined computer operation. Reproducing the data is much harder. Even with the coding manual in hand, itis impossible to know exactly how statistical indices were tabulated in the first place.We cannot re-create the individual and group decisions regarding historicalselection, interpretation, and reconciliation taken by COW investigators. Of thehistory books strewn upon his desk, which does the investigator choose to follow?Is he or she drawn to an elegant account? Does he or she have an eye for a gooduniversity press? John Vasquez (1987:115–16) reports that among the COW teamthere is “constant discussion on [data reliability], only a small portion of whichfinds its way into print.” What are the project’s principles of historical selection?How does it resolve inconsistencies? The COW bibliography lists, with a handfulof exceptions, only those sources finally adopted, not all the materials consulted.If a particular historian’s estimates or interpretations are ultimately discarded, thebook does not appear. This practice gives a smoother gloss to data-making and tothe data themselves than perhaps was the case (Small and Singer 1982: Appendix A). Also, the more obscure a conflict is, generally the less information we have aboutit. Conversely, there may be a host of perspectives on prominent wars, necessitatinga certain amount of “picking over” the evidence. Thus the COWs details on theChangkufeng War (Japan and the Soviet Union, two weeks in 1938) appear to havebeen drawn only from Alvin Coox’s Anatomy of a Small War (1977), the British-Zulu War (1879) is represented by one book, Donald Morris’s Washing of the Spears(1965), the Central American War of 1907 (Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador) byanother, Pedro Zamora Castellanos’s Vida Militar de Centro América (1934), a generalaccount of military affairs on the isthmus published by the Guatemalan Army press.Evidence of the Javanese War (1825–30) rests on Klerck’s History of theNetherlands East Indies (1938) and Bernard Vlekke’s Nusantara (1960). Meanwhileeight sources are cited for the First World War, six for the Second World War. Theeffect is probably unique to history: a paradox of obscurity, where little-treated warsseem historically “settled,” while debates continue to surround major conflicts. The COWs minor coding conveniences add up as well. In tracking alliances, forexample, it was decided to code only written undertakings, not de facto or secretones, and not to code alliances forged during wartime. Treaty obligations areinferred literally from the document, without considering any informalarrangements or other contexts. By a similar legalistic logic, the Russo-Afghan War(1979–1988), for example, is not considered an international war at all, but issubsumed in the Afghan Civil War. COW researchers also routinely constructmissing materials through “informal estimates,” mathematical extrapolations,“moving averages,” and graphic “curvefitting” (see Singer 1990a: 121–2). It is also clear when examining the COWs protocols that some figures cannotbe tallied with the kind of precision the project advertises. As a rule, the mostintractable of these involve battle deaths. Between the fog of war and the fog of
  • 132. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 125history, where the numbers are fiddled in war office propaganda, memoirs, statepapers, and nationalist historiography, body counts are notoriously hard to pindown. Lewis Richardson complained after “long searches in the pages of literaryhistory,” that such sources were deplorably vague on the subject of casualties. We look for numbers but find instead phrases such as “many fell in battle” or “routed their enemies” or “suffered heavy loss” or “Thus closed the struggle which for seven years had stained the peninsula with blood.” The number killed in one or two outstanding battles may be mentioned, but these melancholy statistics are seldom totaled for the whole war. Military historians…sometimes give precise casualties for their own forces, but only very vague statements about their enemies. (Richardson 1960:9–10)Richardson’s way around this was to use logarithmic scaling of the magnitude ofwar death instead of absolute numbers. The COW has tried to overcome theproblem through more exhaustive research, poring over shelf-loads of historieswritten in the nineteenth century, adding machine at hand, trying to recaptureearlier, presumably more accurate, estimates. That these estimates are more accurateis, it seems fair to say, largely an article of faith. Interestingly, the project claims tohave found the vast carnages of the twentieth century more difficult to calculatethan earlier wars. Especially troublesome were the First World War, the SecondWorld War, Korea, Vietnam, Iran—Iraq, and the Gulf War, in which it estimates100,000 Iraqi combatants died. Acknowledging these problems, the COW rates its battle death figures as either“high confidence” or “somewhat lower confidence” estimates. Of the battle deathslisted for the 118 inter-state wars identified in Resort to Arms, twenty-nine are “highconfidence” numbers, while eighty-nine merit “somewhat lower confidence” forone or more participant. (No confidence levels accompany battle fatalities for theninety wars that appear for the first time in the 1994 update.) These qualificationsvanish in subsequent calculations, to profound effect. Because war dead is a primaryindicator used to construct other indices, “lower confidence” estimates creep intovirtually every corner of the data set. The severity of war, for example, is inferreddirectly from battle deaths. In turn, the intensity of war is calculated by dividing acomposite number (nation-months at war, estimated size of pre-war armed forces,estimated total pre-war population) into the total number of fatalities. These carnagefigures are then used to calculate “annual amounts of war underway,” from whicha series of systems-level secular, cyclical, and periodic trends are derived. These samefatality figures are incorporated into a basket of state-level patterns including war-proneness, win-loss—battle death ratios, initiator—battle death ratios, and nationalperformance in war.
  • 133. 126 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Is the Correlates of War “realist”?These are difficult numbers compounded in derivative indicators. Broad, theoreticalbiases accumulate as well. Even in inductive work, data-making cannot proceedwilly-nilly; especially when working with a large number of cases, some theoreticalselectivity is required. This is part of the small n/large n tradeoff: although hobbledby truncated sample size, small n work can be historically “rich,” i.e., it canincorporate a great many variables and tell a fuller story; large n work, by contrast,surveys many cases but can scrutinize only a few variables lest the project becomeunwieldy. Thus, in quantitative work especially, initial assumptions are critical sincethese few indicators will determine the broad contours of the data. One of the ironies of the COW is that Singer, an exuberant critic of realism,opted to work within the paradigm. The result, he notes, is a “rather familiar setof variables” apropos of state-centered power politics, militaryindustrialcapabilities, alliances, polarity, and so forth (Singer 1976:26). Leng and Singer (1990:224) suggest that “a realpolitik perspective identifies the key variables to whichpolicymakers historically have directed their attention in the course of disputes inwhich their security is threatened.”4 Some COW researchers sound downrightWaltzian in their views on global conflict, pointing to “the constancy andtimelessness of basic inter-state relations” (Gochman and Maoz 1990:221). However,nowhere does Singer admit that the realists had got it right. The aim rather was towade into the paradigm, constructing more precise and complex realist models,eventually putting its hypotheses to the empirical test. Collecting realist data is thesensible way to proceed here. At the same time, Singer hopes to remain alert toalternative theoretical schemes. This is the agnostic’s strategy of traveling far alongthe inductive road before committing to a particular paradigm. The COW simplyhas not made the data needed to explore whole realms of international politics,apparently deciding that it would be more profitable to focus on the dyadic militarylogic by which conflicts unfold rather than test the influence that economics,international norms, international organizations, or black-letter law may have onwar. The project’s state-centeredness has its empirical pitfalls as well. Most glaringly,extra-systemic wars (colonial or imperial conflicts in which at least one combatantwas not a member of the state system) are coded as if the system actor were the onlyparticipant. Thus, looking at the data, the only combatants in the Javanese War(1825–30), the Congo Arabs War (1892), and the Mozambique War (1964–75) wereHolland, Belgium, and Portugal, respectively. In such wars, virtually no data arerecorded for any non-system member, a significant coding decision given that extra-systemic wars account for two-thirds of COW conflicts. In these 134 cases, theproject’s concern with the inter-actionary dynamics of war simply falls down.Looking exclusively at system members through a Westphalian lens helps toformalize and operationalize conflict, but the practice no doubt portrays war as amore tractable problem than it really is.5
  • 134. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 127 On the question of validity and reliability, we must in the end rely on the COWsassurances of respectable “inter-coder reliability,” a measure of how similarlydifferent people code the same material. Inter-coder reliability is, as Singer says, afactor of the “clarity, explicitness, and precision of the coding rules” (Singer 1990a:119).6 More importantly, though, it is a factor of the consistency of the materialbeing coded. That consistency happens to be quite high in the case of the COWsince coding of events, actions, targets, etc., proceeds on the basis of a “clean”history: a master verbal chronology in which ambiguities and/or discrepancies thatmay have existed in the original sources have been smoothed over or reconciled.Given this ready-to-wear approach, where coders are handed these assumptions andthis set of facts, outcomes should be reasonably close. The real historical work, the“agony and frustration” part—slogging through the history books, delving in thearchives and state papers, dredging up memoirs and media reports, drawinginferences, choosing narratives and extracting what is important—has already beendone. Hewing to the coding rules, the coder merely gives this prefabricated historyits final, operational form. A more meaningful test would involve having our coders, preferably seasoneddiplomatic historians, march up the steps of the Library of Congress or theBibliothèque Nationale or some other depository of knowledge, where eachresearcher would then select, digest, and harmonize his sources. Then he would startcoding. Bound up in historical judgments and expertise, this sort of replicationwould be far rowdier than the COWs perfunctory routine. Think of the problemslurking in the realist, declinist, progressivist, nationalist, Marxist, and otherideological or axe-grinding histories and hagiographies our investigators mightdiscover in the stacks! The point is, if subjected to a true test of reproducibility, inter-coder reliability would presumably plummet. Testing randomly: selected COW dataI am not a diplomatic historian and had at my disposal only a good universityresearch library, yet my own attempt to replicate COW data supports a skepticalview. I first had a computer randomly select five COW wars: Sepoy, ItalianUnification, Italo-Turkish, Chaco, and Indonesian Independence. Withoutknowing which sources the COW used or what numbers it had arrived at, I thenconstructed data for each war’s primary indicators: magnitude (nation-months: thesum of all the participants’ months of active involvement, emphasizing, as theCOW does, military rather than legal events), severity (battle deaths by participant),and intensity (calculated two ways: battle deaths per nation-months, and battle deathsper 10,000 population). My findings are as recorded in Tables 6.1 to 6.5. The Sepoy War (1857–9)—Table 6.1Sen (1992:5) states that “no military revolt in the world has produced so muchliterature.” The conflict has drawn commentary from Disraeli, Marx, and Victorian
  • 135. 128 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSTable 6.1 Sepoy War (1857–9)do-gooders, to contemporary Indian nationalists. There is a yawning interpretivegulf in the literature over whether the war was a “mutinous uprising” against theBritish by the sepoys, the native soldiers of the Bengal Army, or whether it was a“Great Rebellion” or “Popular Resistance,” a premonition of the independencemovement. Not surprisingly, debate about causes and consequences has been lively,even coloring battleto-battle accounts. A recent history suggests that, despite itsardor, this debate has been fueled by “a sparse diet of questionable depositions,muddled accounts, dubious journals, and the narratives of shell-shocked survivorswith axes to grind” (Ward 1996:555). Others note an “inevitable bias” born of“superficial, inadequate and essentially partisan” British source materials and adearth of documents on the side of the “mutineers” (Harrison 1980: lvi and MutinyReports from Punjab 1976: introduction). Amid this “orgy of murder,” battle deaths,especially on the Indian side, are extremely hazy. There are plausible accounts ofindividual battles, yet the “Independence Movement” school claims that theinsurrection was general. It is unclear who among the Indians were fighting, muchless dying. A “Narrative of Events” issued by the Raj several months into the conflictnoted that “in consequence of the general nature of the rebellion and theimpossibility of identifying the majority of the rebels the Magistrate recommendedthe wholesale burning and destruction of all villages proved to have sent men totake active part in the rebellion” (Majumdar 1963:390). Making this gruesomecalculus even more precarious is the fact that the conflict raged in the midst of nearpestilence across Northern India, a region that during the conflict became knownas the “Famine Tract.” Bhargava (1992:142) estimates that between starvation andforced emigration, 500,000 Indians died. In such an atmosphere, it is folly topretend anything approaching accuracy in gauging battle deaths. Embree (1963:63)says only that “hundreds and thousands” gave up their lives. (The COWs 1994estimate of total battle deaths, including Indian ones, is 15,000. I preserved the 1982methodology—which neglects extrasystemic actors, i.e., the Indians—in order tocompare intensity figures.) On British casualties, Edwardes (1963:202) is the least
  • 136. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 129equivocal and most quoted, noting that 2034 men died in action, while 8987succumbed to “sunstroke and sickness.” Following the COWs criterion of includingall “war theater” deaths induced by combat wounds, exposure, or disease, I adoptedthese figures and added the roughly 400 British non-combatants thought to havebeen massacred at Cawnpore and Lucknow. The War of Italian Unification (1859)—Table 6.2This conflict is often considered part of the lengthy ferment of the Risorgimentofrom 1848 until 1870, when Rome was finally wrested from the Pope. Thisperiodization makes for a protracted, low-intensity conflict usually referred to asthe War(s) of Italian Independence. That said, historians have been just as likely tocompress the periodization, identifying a number of separate wars —althoughbecause the COW has included none of Garibaidi’s southern campaign, it hasperhaps misnamed the war. I collected data through 1861 only to discover laterthat the COW was referring only to the three-month conflict more commonlyknown as “The War of 1859” or “The Franco-Austrian War.” Also, neatly packagingPiedmont-Papal States and Piedmont-Sicily as distinct wars results in a misleadinglysimple picture of Garibaldi’s crusade. (According to my research, the Papal Stateswere not a member of the state system. The COW defines a member of the statesystem as an entity of at least 500,000 inhabitants whose sovereignty was“legitimized” by both Britain and France posting to its capital a resident diplomatabove the rank of chargé d’affaires. In 1860, the Papal States met the populationcriteria, yet Britain’s envoy to the Eternal City was a lowly counsel general.) Mosttroublingly, the Westphalian model distorts the dynamics of Italy’s unification.This was a case of anarchy mitigated by nationalism. As the conflict spread south,not everyone was averse to being “conquered” by Piedmont, and the fighting waspunctuated with a series of plebiscites. In the literature, battle death estimates rangewidely and mix “methodologies,” referring to “killed, wounded, or missing” oneday, and “fallen” or “losses” the next. I compiled my decidedly “low confidence”figures according to the four major battles, employing a killed-to-wounded rationof 1:3.5. At times, I split the difference between accounts. The COW adopted someunusual population figures. The Italo-Turkish War (1911–12)—Table 6.3Prime Minister Giolitti described Italy’s attempt to wrest Libya from the OttomanEmpire as “a war sui generis” (Herrmann 1989:332). Prompted by a surge innationalism at home, the Italian campaign quickly became mired in a delicate messas Germany and Austria tried diplomatically to constrain Italy’s actions, which theyfeared might topple the feeble old man of Europe. Thus, third and fourth partieswhom the COW does not acknowledge were crucial “participants” in the war. AsBosworth (1996:63) notes, “It was a war in which experts in warfare were lessimportant than experts in bribery.” On participants and periodization, the
  • 137. 130 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSTable 6.2 War of Italian Unification (1859)anthropologist Evans-Pritchard (1949) argues that it was more an Italo-Sanusi Warthan an Italo-Turkish one, and that resistance led by Sanusi guerillas continued fora decade following the Peace of Ouchy. He also cautions that Italian battle accountsmust be read “with reserve,” as they are probably distorted by state censorship andthe belief that an “African” war could only be a runaway victory for Italy. Beehler,a former US Navy commodore and naval attaché to several American embassies,writes as a naval advocate. He almost certainly exaggerates the significance of Italy’snaval warfare, which is portrayed elsewhere as a diversion from the stalled desertwar. Beehler’s book (1913) comes complete with block letters to call attention tocrossroads where peacetime Turkey neglected to prepare for war, thereby sealing itsdoom. Also, tucked into the volume was a sheet of paper that appeared to be a hand-typed entreaty from the author directing the reader to the “Lesson” of the book,namely that “the weak are prey for the strong man armed,” adding that “oceans nolonger protect us from oversea invasion but facilitate it,” hence “the urgent necessityof an adequate U.S.Navy.” My battle death guesswork for “Turkey” is elevated byreports that 180,000 natives were killed in Cyrenaica province between 1911 and1914.
  • 138. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 131Table 6.3 Italo-Turkish War (1911–12) The Chaco War (1932–5)—Table 6.4After the War of the Triple Alliance, the Chaco War was South America’s greatestarmed conflict. Fought in one of the most desolate places on earth, over rumoredoil riches, the war was more of a patriotic clash than a rational, interest-based affair.As Clodfelter (1992:703) notes, “there were probably fewer gallons of oil in the areawon than there had been gallons of blood sacrificed to win it.” As the numberssuggest, at the time, the war had a profound impact on the nations involved.Roughly 15 percent of all Paraguayans and 10 percent of Bolivians saw duty in theChaco. Bullets continue to fly in contemporary Latin American historiography ofthe war, with no shortage of heroes, martyrs, and villains. This is the sort of “toy-soldier” war—with two system members, clean start and stop dates, and minimalnon-combatant involvement—that most easily conforms to the COW’s codingcriteria. The Indonesian War (1945–6)—Table 6.5This conflict is usually considered part of the Indonesian War of Independencestretching from 1945 to 1949. The COW focuses on the British/Indian“replacement” of the departed Japanese until Dutch forces could arrive, and on amajor pacification effort by the Dutch beginning in December 1946, includingWesterling’s notorious six-week campaign on the island of Sulawesi, in whichperhaps 40,000 Indonesians were butchered to death (Zainu’ddin 1980:224 andNeill 1973:329). After March 1947, negotiations took the forefront, although the
  • 139. 132 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSTable 6.4 Chaco War (1932–5)Smith sources: Zook (1960), Clodfelter (1992), and Farcau (1996).Dutch continued a series of potent “police actions” between July 1947 and February1949, which included indiscriminate shelling of Medan, Palembang, Modjokertoand other cities. As many as 4000 additional islanders were killed. Because of system-member battle death inclusion criteria, the entire “guerilla phase” of theindependence struggle (lasting about two years) is missing from the COWscalculations. The COW does not include these tens of thousands of Indonesianbattle dead because Indonesia was not at the time a member of the state system.The coding introduces an extraneous dynamic to the conflict, where “war” endsabruptly when the numbers fall below the threshold; conflict does not peter outinto peace. I opted for the “orthodox” periodization, hence the quite differentnation-month periods and intensity figures. There seems to be no satisfactory wayto account for Indian troops acting as British agents. Almost all “British” battledeaths were members of the 4th Indian Division. (According to its 1994methodology, the COW lists zero British deaths, and a total of 5000 battle-related deaths.) As the conflict dragged on, world opinion probably became Indonesia’sstrongest ally. The perils of data-makingSifting for details on nineteenth-century diplomatic postings in a crumbling, onion-skin Alamanach de Gotha (which is the size of a deck of cards and written in French),I developed a new appreciation for the grueling work of datamaking. I am afraid,however, that what really stood out in my attempted replication were the historicalproblems associated with the process. First, the COWs exclusion of non-systemmembers from its data seems to me indefensible. As I noted earlier, the project
  • 140. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 133Table 6.5 Indonesian War (1945–6)inflicts this Westphalian bias upon 134, or fully two-thirds, of the 209 conflicts itidentifies. The practice ensures that any logic of war discerned in these cases (andin the aggregate) will be seriously flawed. Most wars are simply not of the tidy “toy-soldier” variety, with two system members, clean start and stop dates, faithfulmilitary records, and minimal non-combatant “interference.” Second, historicalinferences and interpretations can be quite fluid, even as they relate to “factual”questions such as battle deaths. It was revealing to track the historical “archaeology”of the data, as qualified battle death estimates, for example, were repeated matter-of-factly by later writers. I was reminded of the adage that history does not repeatitself; historians repeat each other! Third, differences in periodization affectstatistical results, with intensity figures being especially volatile. Do we conceive ofone long war or a series of short ones? Was a war preceded or followed by a numberof guerilla raids or police actions that fall outside our definitions? To say that thisis a question of “clear coding criteria” seems inadequate. Fourth, soaking in thehistories, one appreciates the complexity of events, as well as some of the distortionsimposed by the quantitative method. With the possible exception of the ChacoWar, the COW seems to have missed the central dynamic of each of the wars understudy. Finally, the exercise chips away at the notion that thoroughness in historicalresearch will necessarily lift the interpretive mist from events. The opposite may betrue. As the critic Leonard Woolf once noted: “the moment one begins to investigatethe truth of the simplest facts that one has accepted as true it is as though one hadstepped off a firm narrow path into a bog or a quicksand—every step takes one stepsdeeper into the bog of uncertainty” (quoted in Guralnik 1994: xii).
  • 141. 134 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS When one compares the reliability of different data sets, it becomes clear whata quagmire war research can be. War data sets are most at odds over what theyinclude. The COW compared its first list of wars with six prior compilationscovering comparable time frames and found “an overall interstudy agreement ofonly 12 percent,” although Singer and Small (1972:79) suggest that if we controlfor different theoretical foci and inclusion rules, disagreement is less severe. EdwardMansfield compared the wars in common in five different war data sets—thosecompiled by Wright, Richardson, Small and Singer, Bueno de Mesquita, and Levy—on a number of variables and found marked differences, most surprisingly a lowcorrelation (about 0.22) from one compilation to the next between numbers of warsbegun in any particular year, a figure that remained low even after the data wereadjusted to include only inter-state wars, thus eliminating those hard-to-datecolonial conflicts (Mansfield 1988:25–6). Perhaps nowhere is the volatility of war data more conspicuous than in theevolution of the COWs own data sets. In between the 1982 list (international warsn=118) and the 1994 list (international wars n=209), COW researchers added fiveinter-state wars fought during the 1980s and early 1990s (Falklands, Lebanon, Sino-Vietnamese, Gulf War, and Azeri-Armenian), but also, citing a “relaxation” in theinclusion criterion on battle deaths, they have added a remarkable eighty-fiveinternational wars between 1816 and 1980 which were not included in the earliersurvey (Singer and Small 1994a: 8–11). These ballooning numbers have to beunsettling for researchers who have based their work on the earlier data. Data-making is not a science. A data set’s crisp tabulations are the fruit of apainstaking, but ultimately untidy, historical process where theory shapes the broadoutline of the data while individual coders craft its finer features. Given variancesfrom one compilation to the next, as well as each data set’s internal yardsticks,claims of reproducibility should be scrutinized closely. The problem seems less afactor of research design or disingenuous investigators than of the nature of thematerial, with its competing and controversial truths. Small puts a brave face onthe historical problem, in the end appealing to the macro-validity of the data: “Forthe social scientist, the question is how valid is the indicator for the thousands ofcases in the sample, not whether each figure represents absolute historical reality”(Small 1979: 75). Yet, as we saw with battle deaths and other primary indicators, itis precisely the aggregate numbers that get muddled. “Guesstimates” snowball intoconjecture as imprecisions and biases in selection, interpretation, and coding arereproduced throughout the data. However candid COW researchers are about theagonies of data-making, the project nevertheless proceeds on the basis of a clean setof data points which effectively conceals, but does not eliminate, the historicalproblem. Contending with the quantitative fallacyWhen method is king, does it rule the material? According to David Hackett Fischer,a frequent history error is the “quantitative fallacy,” which arises when a factor’s
  • 142. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 135importance rests on its susceptibility to measurement. Historians should counteverything they can, Fischer encourages, but singleminded behavioralism can bypassqualitative questions and impel the historian into some causal backwater justbecause that is where the numbers happen to be (Fischer 1970:90–4). Cliometric international relations seems especially prone to the quantitativefallacy. Security, power, interests, aggression, prestige, deterrence, polarity, anddemocracy are all ambiguous abstractions that resist counting. Since the COWpurports to quantify national attributes, inter-state relationships, and actualdiplomatic behavior, let us look at how validly it measures one element from eachof the categories: material capabilities, prestige, and crisis behavior. Material capabilities. The COW calculates state power capabilities according to sixfigures: population (total and urban), industry (energy consumption and steelproduction), and military capabilities (size of armed forces and level of militaryspending). This material-realist conception of power, a husk of classical realistcriteria, departs forthwith from Morgenthau’s idea of political power as apsychological construct. COW criteria seem better suited to study nineteenth-century European realpolitik, with its “quid pro quo with a measuring cup” approachto the balance of power, than contemporary foreign affairs. Even then the COWsidesteps questions of geography, military morale, strategic competence, publicopinion, and autonomy in decisionmaking, the strength of political institutions,and regime legitimacy, not to mention all the intricacies of culture, ideology, ornational identity. Not that these are easy concepts to grasp: Singer is probably rightin believing that such variables are “too idiosyncratic, state-specific, and dyad-specific to permit valid comparisons across space and time” (Singer 1990b: 55).Still, the quantitative method debars us from exploring them at all. Prestige. COW seeks to measure the “diplomatic importance” or “status”attributed to states by other states without regard to power, capabilities, andinfluence (Singer and Small 1966:236). The indicator is constructed by tallying thenumber of diplomatic missions and the rank of the foreign emissaries accreditedand dispatched to each state capital. The presence or absence of an embassy andtop envoys is thought to imply the host country’s diplomatic status. More than afew implausible rankings turn up, however. In 1955, Mexico (17th) is deemed ofgreater diplomatic importance than the Soviet Union (18th). In 1960, Italy leadsthe list. In 1965 Israel (13th) is on par with the Soviet Union (15th); and NorthVietnam ranks 112th. In 1970 the United States is ranked 6th, trailing Holland(2nd), Belgium (4th), and Switzerland (5th); the Soviet Union (17th) is deemed lessdiplomatically important than Austria, Denmark, Pakistan, and Yugoslavia (13th–16th, respectively); while pre-Nixon China is ranked 63rd, lagging Sudan (32nd),Mali (46th), and Guinea (49th). Something is clearly amiss. A better measure of diplomatic stature might focuson diplomatic outcomes, or factor in military-industrial capabilities or tradeprowess, which must have some bearing on prestige. Again, the COW forestalls anysuch complex of factors. We are left with a lonely indicator, which again is foldedinto other variables and operations.
  • 143. 136 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Crisis behavior. Coding of the project’s truly behavioral questions spirals into theinterpretive stratosphere, demanding judgment-calls that fall well outside the“explicit descriptive dimensions” outlined in the BCOW protocols for codingmilitarized inter-state crises (Leng 1995). What was the “specific precipitant event”?What was the “tempo” of the action? Were threats and ultimata made? (Theseprejudicial terms have been euphemized into “intend action” and “request action.”)Were threats conditional or unconditional? Did they challenge the “vital interests”of the target? Were they a “serious affront” to the “dignity or prestige” of the targetstate? Did a “display of military force” constitute an “alert,” a “mobilization,” ora “show of force”? Did the use of force constitute a “blockade,” an “occupation ofterritory,” a “seizure,” a “clash,” a”declaration of war,” or a full-blown “war”? Weretrade talks an “economic consultation” or an “advise (economic)”? (Note the“neatness effect” flowing from the precise, either-or options available to coders.) These questions were plucked from the BCOWs behavioral “choice tree.” Theapproach replaces static explanations of outcomes, such as geography or regimetype, with a dynamic model of “influence attempt-response sequences.” Thirty-fourthousand distinct “events” surrounding forty-eight international disputes have beenfitted into 132 different military, diplomatic, economic, and unofficial categories.Most of the crises comprise hundreds of distinct events. The most complex case isthe 1956 Suez Crisis (Egypt, Britain, France, Israel), with 2300 events. Each crisisis then translated into a string of numerical event codes that can be analyzedstatistically. COW researchers see in the data evidence that “the evolution ofinterstate disputes is more structured than is often believed” (Gochman and Leng1983:98). Crises tend to escalate more rapidly when “vital interests” are at stake,and great power involvement aids effective conflict resolution. Moreover, how onenegotiates seems to sway outcomes: coercive tactics are likely to elicit defiantresponses, while chances are that “reciprocity” (“mixing tit-for-tat responses withoccasional accommodative initiatives”), will yield a peaceful resolution (Leng andSinger 1990). Dispute behavior may be less structured than the COW suggests. Its hierarchicalchoice tree gives the impression that history is not path dependent but pathdetermined. In hindsight, the “steps to war” lead ineluctably to the outcome, eachlimb representing an isolated, independently operating, mechanistically causal link.The assumption is that an added pinch of “consultation,” a dollop of “politicalconcession,” or a touch less “violation of international law” would send the processbranching off in a more pacific direction. However, strict causal tiers may conferan artificial coherence on crisis decisionmaking, obscuring broader historicalprocesses or neglecting other causes. In other words, this could be neatly sketchedpost hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning. If a “show of strength” is followed by an“evacuation,” or if an “antiforeign riot” is followed by a “change in economicassistance,” were the events that followed caused by the events that preceded them?This is a challenge for any historical construct, although “diagramming” statebehavior in this way assumes an unequivocal cause and effect, something moreeasily hedged in narrative. The connection between events is direct (“antiforeign
  • 144. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 137riot→new economic package”) rather than implied (“Two days after the riots inManila, the Prime Minister unveiled a new foreign aid package.”). When codingbegins, causal rumination ends. The method cannot abide any modesties ofnarrative: “perhaps,” “appears,” “seems,” “suggests,” etc. If there are historicalambiguities, they are better preserved in narrative. This is not to suggest that diplomacy is immune to path dependence.Decisionmakers always work within historical contexts. Constraints are imposedby previous decisions taken, and the range of choices narrows. However, this isdifferent from an iron cage of causality. There were choices along the way, thingsdid not have to turn out the way they did. As Lawrence Stone (1977:38) warns,“crunching historical explanation into a single one-way hierarchy of causation…threatens to strangle imaginative historical inquiry. It blocks off any possibility thathistorical explanation may, in fact, be a much messier and more loose-endedprocess. To borrow the language of the engineers, it may be a nonlinear, multiple-loop feedback system, with many semiindependent variables, each responsivelyreacting to the influence of some, or all, of the others.” Indeed, the BCOWs precision coding, with its 132 discrete inputs neatly dividedinto functionally distinct military, diplomatic, economic and unofficial actions,almost certainly demands artificially sharp coding distinctions. Can we truly sever,as the BCOW does, a “military intrusion” from a “violation of territory”? Can wetreat “supply nuclear weapons” and “political intervention” as separate occurrences?Is there a clear line between official and unofficial actions? It is not clear that theseare independent variables. Cause and effect may spill back and forth across differentstate functions. Certainly diplomatic initiatives are taken bearing in mind variousmilitary and economic relationships, or a military intervention might be foreconomic reasons. Modeled after a decision-tree rather than a continuum, the COWdoes not entertain the possibility that war may be politics (or economics) by othermeans, that there might be a unity to foreign policy. Clausewitz will be spinningin his grave. The question is crucial because this is international history, with its gray zonesof diplomacy, and oftentimes intentional lacunae of ambiguity, where words anddeeds may target a domestic audience or an unnamed third party as much as anobvious foreign adversary. Paul Schroeder has noted that it is deceptive to codeonly overt behavior since doing nothing is one of the most important “actions” inforeign policy. The effect of nonintervention can be passive cooperation, such asGermany’s tacit encouragement of French colonialism in Asia and Africa as a “safe”outlet for la mission civilisatrice. It can be over-simple to categorize diplomatic tiesin terms of either conflict or cooperation, since alliance and antagonism oftencoincide as states join or seek alliances for reasons of control as well as friendship.Austro-Prussian behavior during the Schleswig-Holstein dispute and the resultingDanish-German War in 1863–4, for example, appears on the surface to be a litanyof shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation between Austria and Prussia against the Danes:allying to intervene in the dispute between Denmark and the GermanConfederation; together muscling the other German states out of deciding the issue;
  • 145. 138 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSpresenting a joint ultimatum to Denmark; launching and fighting the war together;agreeing jointly to an armistice; in lock-step resuming hostilities after negotiationsbroke down at the Conference of London; together imposing terms on defeatedDenmark; declaring joint sovereignty over the conquered provinces and sharingadministrative duties. Yet, what looks like a catalogue of cooperation was in factpart and parcel of Bismarck’s strategy to undercut Austria’s influence in Germany,and throughout the entire episode Austria was trying unsuccessfully to resist thePrussian’s designs. This in mind, Schroeder asks us to imagine the followingsequence of events: “(1) A man takes a woman by the hand; (2) He puts his armaround her; (3) He draws her close to him; (4) He kisses her; (5) He strangles her.”Only a deluded coder would treat these as five separate actions, four amicable, onedeadly, but this is essentially how diplomatic history is translated into events data(Schroeder 1977:4–8). The quantitative fallacy at each of these levels of analysis, whether we are lookingat power, prestige, or actual state behavior, is that the “aggregate” data are actuallya compilation of disaggregated historical traces. Even the narrativist does not startat the beginning of the story: his periodization is somewhat arbitrary; there arealways earlier antecedents. As Maitland famously put it, “Such is the unity of historythat anyone who endeavors to tell a piece of it must feel that his first sentence tearsa seamless web” (quoted in Marwick 1970:326). This is radically the case withsnapshot data points, each of which has no history. “Historical context” turns outto be cross-sectional, as “time series analysis” usually means looking at a fewhistorical shavings under a glass slide. It is unclear how well the approach capturesthe longitudinal character of international conflict (see Goertz 1994:172). By focusing on the immediate logic of conflict, and pegging a number of indicesto the war’s “initiator,” the COW sidesteps problems of deep causality andunderlying motivations. Not all wars start with tanks crashing across borders. Theymay be preceded by generations of low-grade tensions, motivations bred in thebones of the participants. Knowing that India “started” the Bangladesh War of 1971is no substitute for understanding the poisonous history of the subcontinent. Wasthe Sinai War of 1956–7 precipitated by Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal, orearlier by Britain and the United States withdrawing support for the Aswan Dam,or earlier still by Zionism itself? Causality works at many different levels. TheBCOW cites Egyptian border raids as the “first hostilities” in the Sinai War, whilethe main COW data set credits Israel with initiating the conflict some monthslater, yet neither project really accounts for decades of enmity between Arabs andJews. Across quantitative work, such complex questions of responsibility andperiodization are handled in too simple a manner. Finally, a word on the qualitative side of war. Raymond Aron (1966:328–30) onceobserved that although “all national histories resemble each other in the eyes ofthe statistician or the moralist,” in fact some historical episodes are “creative,”setting precedents and spurring ideas, while others turn out to be “historicallysterile.” The COW adopts an homogeneous conception of conflict. The projectdoes draw distinctions in some operations, notably in measuring alliance
  • 146. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 139configurations, though for the most part all states and all wars end up in the samestew. The Lopez War (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, 1864–70), the Riffian War (Franceand Spain, 1921–6), or the Soccer War (Honduras and El Salvador, five days in1969) are considered analogous to the Second World War or the Gulf War in thesense that each, equally, is plumbed for the logic of conflict. Behavioral dyads aretreated generically as well: the Pastry War (France and Mexico, 1838–9) and theRann of Kutch (India and Pakistan, three months in 1965) lumped with theAnschluss and the Fashoda Crisis. Individual diplomatic and military “moves” areanalogized too, at times uncongenially. Russia’s occupation of the Danubeprincipalities in 1853 is classified as a “show of force” preceding the Crimean War,as are Egyptian troop movements near the canal during the Suez Crisis and theSoviet Union’s “air-shows” in the throes of the Berlin Crisis. Ship rammings andtrawler line cuttings during the Cod War (Iceland, Britain, et al., 1975–76) areclassified exactly the same way. Viewed through a lens of prudence or discretion, crucial distinctions emerge.Lessons gleaned in the aggregate may be ill-suited for a great power uniquely placedin the international system, or for a modern Asian city-state, or a diminutivecountry nestled in a federalist Europe. Moreover, in the realm of self-given meaningsrather than scientifically conferred ones, some historical analogies loominordinately large, either as high-water marks to emulate or debacles to avoid. Asone scholar notes of the “Copenhagen complex” (the fixation spawned by Britain’scapture of the neutral Danish fleet in 1807), it “seeped into men’s perceptions andbecame part of the vocabulary of political life,” influencing German foreignpolicymaking in particular for a century (quoted in Levy 1994a: 280). In 1914 andagain in 1939, the French General Staff diligently studied “the lessons of last time”and committed appalling strategic and tactical blunders as a consequence. DesertStorm, Munich, the “loss” of China, Vietnam, the Suez Crisis, the War of the Pacific,the Conquest of Mexico, and the ill-fated UN intervention in Somalia all becametouchstones for subsequent foreign-policy decisions. In sum, the quantitative approach tends to focus on the obvious exterior to whatare almost certainly complex and deep-seated phenomena. It is like comparingbuildings by Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry on square footage alone. Thereinlies a fallacy. For this reason, qualitative history, in depth and in context, mayprove more fruitful in explaining international politics. As David Dessler hasargued, it may be that only careful and intensive case studies, contending with acomplex of variables over the long term, will reveal the underlying “generativestructures and processes” of causality (Dessler 1991: 352). Balance-of-power politicsis probably best understood by charting the depths of German and Britishdiplomatic-economic history over the decades prior to the First World War—a closereading across levels of causality and considering far-flung variables as well as thosecloser to home. The role of prestige in international politics is highlighted by akeen look at the motivations that seem to have driven involvement in the KoreanWar. Steeping oneself in the history of the Cuban Missile Crisis may reveal theforest of crisis behavior better than hundreds of choice trees.
  • 147. 140 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS Rigor on its face: cliometrics assessed“The good of counting,” Dr. Johnson remarked in 1783, “is that it brings everythingto a certainty which before floated in the mind indefinitely” (quoted in Stone 1977:17). The danger of counting in international relations, however, is that the methodwill burden history with more certainty than it can bear. Quantitative work helps curb impressionism, anecdotalism, and selection biasin historical usage in the field, and reins in theoretical wanderings too far from thehistorical “record.” It can also prod other researchers to define clearly theirassumptions and terms, and, unlike structuralists, quantitative researchers arewilling and methodologically able to work across levels of analysis. The COW inparticular has broached a number of counter-intuitive challenges to orthodoxinternational relations, which have spurred more theoretically focused qualitativework. The project’s findings on obverse alliance indicators in the nineteenth andtwentieth centuries have kindled further work in that field. Early on, Singer engagedthe bipolar/multipolar question, while more recent (and more skeptical) COWwork has pointed to the multidimensionality of polarity and its aversion to precisemeasurement. The project has also contributed to the democratic peace debate, boththrough its own early work on the subject, and through its BCOW dyads beingincorporated into Bruce Russett’s (1993) research. It has also advanced an array ofsmallerscale findings. Throughout, the project has been a source of inspiration aswell as a clearinghouse of methods and data for quantitative analysts. Still, the COWs approach exhibits a certain quaintness. From the start, the COWassumed that the “facts” of diplomatic history existed independent of interpretationand theory, that the historical scientist really did “go naked into the laboratory.”It also deemed that those facts could be extracted from the larger story withoutdoing violence to the parts or the whole. Yet, repeatedly we see the materialshoehorned into the method—a method not particularly congenial to diplomatichistory, with its murky motivations and where perceptions about security, power,prestige, interests, and norms seem so important. These ambiguities appear to becharacteristic of a sphere where states (and other entities) pursue a variety of politicalends defined in a variety of ways. The greatest folly of quantitative work may bethat it strips this ambiguity from political inquiry. Michael Howard (1983:192–3)notes that the narrative military historian creates order out of chaos, “with neatlittle blocks and arrows moving in a rational and orderly way, with the principlesof war being meticulously illustrated,” and that this, he says, is “an almostblasphemous travesty of the chaotic truth.” If quantitative methods make an evengreater travesty of the truth, they are doing us no favors. This may be why diplomatic historians have shied away from cliometrics. Drivenby the admonition to count, the method may not track the most fruitful predictorsof state behavior. Indeed, it may trivialize war and diplomacy, as easily quantifiableindicators stand in for less tangible but perhaps more theoretically importantfactors. Claims of reproducibility, meanwhile, seem overstated. Interpretiveproblems are concealed in a neat set of “de-bugged” history, a composite of “hard”
  • 148. “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 141and “soft” numbers where errors in the “independent” variables are reproducedacross the data which, nevertheless, become the authority for all manner ofassertions. One can imagine how apocryphal history might become hard data. Ithas been remarked that the COW, like other data-making enterprises, has spawnedan “invisible college” of researchers who use its data. More to the point, lowreliability in correlations between data sets suggests that unique inclusion rules andcoding interpretations make each compilation an island of knowledge, boundedby its own definitions and models of conflict. This may be the reason thatquantitative work rarely cumulates much beyond the research communities thatsprout up around each data set. Thus, to the skeptic’s eye, the more guarded quantitative conclusions are, themore confidence they inspire. Appearances to the contrary, cliometrics does nothave a clinch on rigor. As M.J.Moroney has noted, the method induces “delusionsof accuracy.” “When the job is done it looks very accurate. It is an easy and fatalstep to think that the accuracy of our arithmetic is equivalent to the accuracy ofour knowledge about the problem in hand” (quoted in Duvall 1976:70). Themethod’s comparative advantage in rigor does seem inflated. “Data” are veryseductive, yet no amount of statistical trapeze-swinging or quantitative boosterismshould divert us from fundamental historical questions. Even when cliometricsreveals a particular pattern or correlation, how that relationship is interpretedremains a historical judgment, ambiguities and all. Finally, how has the COW fared as an exercise in nomothetic science? What lawsof behavior does it propose? Thirty years hence, hundreds of histories have beendigested and megabytes of data prepared, yet the theoretical denouement remainsjust around the corner. Despite great optimism and enormously hard work, theproject’s crucial explanatory phase is lagging badly. The fact is that the materialstill exhibits “no dominant theoretical strand, no culminating argument, norecurrent cadenza” (Small and Singer 1982:292). With COW data widely available,it is not surprising that research based on that information is strewn across theliterature. Still, the findings remain fragmented. Singer has edited several volumesof disparate papers, but to date has not attempted to integrate them.7 Surveying this pinnacle of historical work in international relations, elevated byquantitative methods and the canons of social science, the obvious question is whyhas the payoff been so paltry? A better question might ask if there is an anti-payoff.With no robust correlations to show, not to speak of theoretical coherence, themost rigorous conclusion might be that state behavior is not so formulaic ornomothetic after all. Indeed, it may be misguided to take too Olympian a cyber-view on the problem of war. Middle-range theories buttressed by a close reading ofa variety of histories may turn out to be more fruitful. Quantitative researchersmight consider the conclusion of that masterly work of social science history,Fernand Braudel’s The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of PhilipII: “we must visualize a series of overlapping histories, developing simultaneously.It would be too simple, too perfect, if this complex truth could be reduced to therhythms of one dominant pattern” (Braudel 1992:651). This anticipates some
  • 149. 142 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSstrands of postmodernism explored in the next chapter, and is one of a number ofremedies that will be advanced in the final chapter.
  • 150. 7 EXIT FROM HISTORY? Postmodern international relationsTo the postmodern eye, the field’s scientific theorists resemble eighteenthcenturyencyclopédistes, amassing information in hopes of discovering the underlying unityof knowledge. Postmodernists regard this as an impossible task. In the kaleidoscopicworld of postmodernism, knowledge is fragmented, relative, and particular. Truthdoes not exist in the form of “laws” of history or human behavior. There are nouniversal political structures or normative values. The scientific formalism thatpostmodernists abhor is most evident in the quantitative research we have justsurveyed, but in fact it underpins all positivist social thought back to the eighteenthcentury, perhaps to Machiavelli. As Chris Brown notes (1994:60), all postmodernists—post-structuralists, post-positivists, post-Fordists, feminists, Foucauldians, criticaltheorists, methodological anarchists, dissident theorists, Marxist epistemologists,Gramscians, the Frankfurt School, and American neopragmatists—are united by “asense of the futility of the defences of modernist rationality offered by traditionalsupporters of the Enlightenment Project.”1 Postmodernist theory is extraordinarily diverse, encompassing a wide array ofaesthetic and epistemological challenges to “modernity,” itself a contested idea.Even so, the broad challenges postmodernism poses for history and politics arerelatively straightforward. Postmodernists forcefully reject Ranke’s archival methodand Acton’s optimism regarding the “completeness and certainty” of history.Indeed, postmodernists view all historical truth claims as unfounded. They scornhigh political accounts, both of the great-man and drum-and-trumpet varieties, anddenounce “philosopher’s history” conveying universal lessons or tracing themeaning and direction of events. Some postmodernists (for example, Jameson 1983:125) contend that we live in a “perpetual present,” as the flux of events leads to“the disappearance of a sense of history.” Others (for example, Baudrillard 1994)view history as a dustbin of recycled images and ideologies. Still others followMichel Foucault’s (1984:95) claim that “all knowledge rests upon injustice,” andview history as a Western myth that oppresses people from other cultures. But fewpostmodernists reject history altogether. As this chapter should make clear,postmodernists rely on de-formalized history, apart from “heroic” or statist scripts.Postmodernists identify closely with the “new” narrative historians, who havedemocratized and localized history. Postmodernists are keenly aware of theproblems of history, so much so that their historicism threatens all historical
  • 151. 144 EXIT FROM HISTORY?learning. Nevertheless, postmodern views of history have produced a number ofnovel explanations for international politics. These include strategies for“decentering” power, “counter-memorializing” political theory, historicizingidentity politics, reconsidering the impact of time and space, and rethinkingglobalization and pastiche. Postmodern knowledge: content over formIn 1995, The New York Times described the conflict in Bosnia as a “postmodernwar,” in which the distinction between armies and peoples dissolved, hi-techweaponry played little role, tribal identity supplanted national loyalty as the seatof conflict, and atavistic warlords terrorized United Nations peacekeepers —all ofwhich was filmed by camera crews for immediate global consumption (Cohen1995). The war underscores several themes in postmodern historical and politicalanalysis: The Fallacy of “Metanarratives.” That this war happened at all belies several modern“metanarratives” (grand theories), namely, the march of progress, the end of history,and the rise of European unity (Lyotard 1984). The West failed to comprehend thistribal bloodletting because it did not fit the modern models. Genocide, which the“civilized” world had declared would never happen again, was, in fact, happeningagain. International paralysis over intervention illustrated the lack of universalnorms that might spur multilateral action. Anti-essentialism. There are no pure Platonic forms. Social life is plastic, ephemeral,and amorphous. Local culture and local knowledge shatter universal conceptionsof truth. Different readings of events are different realities, in this case based onethnic identity. Modern institutions are not natural or permanent. There was no“essential” Yugoslavia, but neither is there an essential Bosnia or Greater Serbia.Despite their organic rhetoric, these are “imagined communities” (Anderson 1983). Pastiche. Pastiche refers to a hodgepodge of eclectic forms that coexist andsometimes clash in the postmodern world: modern/pre-modern, religious/ secular,universal/parochial, high/low technology, high/low culture, Fordism/ handicrafts,traditional/rational-bureaucratic, etc. In the Bosnian case, ethnic clans browbeatingworld government is a perfect pastiche. A multiplicity of new (and a return to old)forms of political association undermine the state as the sole seat of power andobject of political allegiance. Pastiche challenges “totalizing” descriptions of socialphenomena. Societies may move in several different directions at the same time. Power/knowledge. Foucault (1980) argues that knowledge is inherently political,that a web of specific social conditions governs truth. People in power shape truthby manipulating language, symbols, and images. In the Yugoslav case, cohesion andthen war were justified by officially sponsored views of history. Tito held Yugoslaviatogether by exploiting images of federalism and interpretations of foreign threats.Slobodan Milosevic and Franjo Tujman have torn the country apart by exploitingethnic Serb and Croat (respectively) versions of history.
  • 152. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 145 Time-space compression. The war illustrates the fragmentation of time and thetwisting of historical memory. Centrifugal forces in culture and history shatterstatist geography, unsettle continuity in international politics, and encroach ontraditional modes of political deliberation. Geography becomes a mental construct(Harvey 1990). Instant news emancipates us from time. The media anticipate andinfluence events. Knowledge and images are commodified for global consumption.Spectators become inured to violence (Baudrillard 1994). As these concepts suggest, fragmentation as much as globalization is the hallmarkof postmodernity. The former Yugoslavia is only one of a number of modern statesthat have been challenged along fault lines of language, culture, tradition, and ethno-history. This is indicative of a global trend toward separatism, regionalism, andcultural and ethnic nationalism. According to the Carnegie Commission onPreventing Deadly Conflicts (1997:25–9), virtually all violent conflicts in the worldtoday are being waged within states, often with domestic irredentist fighting asfactions seek to reclaim and ethnically cleanse legend-veiled regions. Butpostmodernists see centrifugal forces everywhere: in the growing popularity of“gated communities,” in the resurgence of private and parochial schools, inprivatization and the devolution of power and money to states and provinces, indisintegrating urban life, declining civic spirit, and spreading alienation anddespair. Postmodernists acknowledge that the information revolution has broughtpeople together, but hasten to add that it also provides a soapbox for cranks andspawns Internet chat rooms devoted to exclusive interests. Idiosyncratic versions oftruth flourish in this environment. In radical politics, Marx’s internationalist battlecry, “the workingmen have no country,” has given way to local fundamentalisms,neofascism, cults of tradition, and spates of terror. The death of metanarrativePostmodernists argue that in such an atmosphere, universal myths and archetypesare obsolete. Hence, Jean-François Lyotard’s canonical statement that “thepostmodern condition” is defined by “incredulity toward metanarratives” (grandsrécits), and “the failure of the universal.” “Modern,” conversely, designates “anyscience that legitimates itself with reference to a metadiscourse…making an explicitappeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of Spirit, the hermeneuticsof meaning, the emancipation of the rational or working subject, or the creationof wealth” (Lyotard 1984: xxiii–iv). The great political narratives of modernity—Marxist utopianism, theEnlightenment unfolding of reason, Capitalism, Nationalism, Revolution,Emancipation, Modernization—certainly can strain credulity. Postmodern critiquestend to single out the Enlightenment, which is doubly flawed for its scientisticmethods and progressivist faith (precisely the critique of Enlightenment thoughtmade by classical realists such as Niebuhr, Morgenthau, and Kennan). Certainlynot all the political promises of the Enlightenment have been met. The growth ofknowledge was to have been liberating and intellectually enriching. Public
  • 153. 146 EXIT FROM HISTORY?administration would stem the arbitrary use of power, heighten productivity, andfree people from backward thinking and practices. “Only through such a project,”notes David Harvey (1990:12), “could the universal, eternal, and the immutablequalities of all of humanity be revealed.” The twentieth century, the test tube ofmodernity, has shattered any such optimism. Paul Fussell, writing about the FirstWorld War, points to the “hideous embarrassment to the prevailing Meliorist mythwhich had dominated the public consciousness for a century.” The prosperity ofthe welfare state has been matched by novel Leviathan efficiencies in coercion,cruelty, surveillance, and fear. International politics have seen the advent of nuclearwar and total war; technology, propaganda, mass movements, unconditionalsurrender, Machtpolitik, jack-booted glorification of violence and “corpse-likeobedience” have become wedded to the state (Fussell 1975:8). For some postmodernists, Hitler and Stalin represent Enlightenment thoughtrun amok. For others, totalitarianism represents the logical conclusion of theEnlightenment project, that the quest for human emancipation was doomed tobecome a system of universal oppression. This was the thunderclap that issued fromthe Frankfurt School, the wellspring of Critical Theory, beginning with its Anti-Semitism Project in the 1940s. Walter Benjamin set the tone: “The currentamazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentiethcentury is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable”(quoted in Wiggershaus 1994:327). Benjamin’s colleagues Theodor Adorno andMax Horkheimer argued in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1972) that such horrors asgenocide and purges were inherent in modernity. They were not vestiges ofprimitivism that the instruments of civilization had failed to eradicate or suppress,but rather were seated at the core of progressive thought, before tunneling outwardand spilling forth in events. In short, “Enlightenment was totalitarian” (ibid.: 328).The scientific domination of nature was extended to humankind, crushingdissenting expressions of culture and personality. Here, critical theory dovetailswith “traditional” critiques of the gospel of progress. Voegelin, Arendt, de Jouvenel,Oakeshott, Popper, Koestler, Orwell and others have argued that modern,“totalizing” ideologies and “scientific” renditions of politics may turn gnostic andgenocidal. Above all, the end of modernity signals the death of the great paradigm of science.Fairly or unfairly, postmodernists contend that all science is ensnarled in theEnlightenment myth, that “the hero of knowledge works toward a good ethico-political end—universal peace” (Lyotard 1984:xxiv). Postmodernists claim that, as afoundation for knowledge, science verges on the totalitarian. Any project aimed atthe pursuit of truth is wrong-headed, as there is no final and definitive truth “outthere” waiting to be discovered. Lyotard contends that science creates and thenconsumes this discovery ethos in order to justify itself. The conditions of scientifictruth, the “rules of the game,” he claims, are “immanent in that game…they canonly be established within the bonds of a debate that is already scientific in nature…there is no other proof that the rules are good than the consensus extended to them
  • 154. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 147by the experts” (ibid.: 29). Postmodernists not only tear at the moorings of science,but also the methods they suggest in place of science are further undermining. AsRosenau (1992:8) suggests, postmodernists “seek to ‘locate’ meaning rather than‘discover’ it. They offer ‘readings’ not ‘observations,’ ‘interpretations’ not ‘findings’;they ‘muse’ about one thing or another. They never test because testing requires‘evidence,’ a meaningless concept within a post-modern frame of reference.” Alldiscussions are equally “interesting.” Distinctions may be made on aesthetic andsometimes moral grounds, but not on the basis of epistemology. In place of science, there is what Lyotard calls “narrative” (as opposed tometanarrative), which simply means discourse that does not depend upon priorjustification for truth; it is not “founded” on anything. Narratives are pragmatic,“legitimated by the simple fact that they do what they do” (Lyotard 1984:23). Tothe scientist, of course, narrative practices reflect an alien mentality: savage,primitive, backward, composed of opinion, custom, tradition, prejudice, ignorance,and ideology. Lyotard claims (ibid.: 27–9), however, that science has trouble logicallygrounding its own claims. It rests upon the Enlightenment idea, yet the rules ofscience dictate that this debt not be acknowledged. Science “cannot know and makeknown that it is the true knowledge without resorting to the other, narrative, kindof knowledge, which from its point of view is no knowledge at all.” Without mooring or center, the postmodern world may seem disorienting andterrifying. For many postmodernists, though, these realizations are liberating.Monolithic truth, after all, could be arrogant and authoritarian, used to justifyprivilege and make the poor and the weak feel inadequate. Now truth is pluralisticand contextual, redefined as “self-understanding” or perspective, and changing withethnicity, gender, class, race, age, religion, time, place, etc. (Rosenau 1992:78–81).Non-Western peoples no longer lag behind “universal” forms of culture ordevelopment. People may now embrace their own experience and culture, and moveto traditional rhythms rather than world time. The narratives of international relationsFor postmodernists today, the bankruptcy of Enlightenment thought is obvious,and the modern myths are in the process of being dismantled. Yet, internationalrelations continues to resist the sublime of the postmodern. The field remainsalmost exclusively modernist in outlook and method, representing reality throughsweeping world-historical forms (for example, structural realism, world-systemstheory, the balance of power, hegemonic stability, the rise and fall of great powers,long waves in international political economy, the end of history, the clash ofcivilizations) as well as more modest, but nonetheless universal, aprioristic concepts(for example, sovereignty, anarchy, security, Asian tigers, Islamic fundamentalism,international law, human rights, etc.). According to postmodernists, each of these, as a foundational narrative, is a sham.Just as E.H.Carr argued of the harmony of interests and free trade, they are“naturalized” conventions, i.e., historically constituted trajectories raised to the level
  • 155. 148 EXIT FROM HISTORY?of model or law. They explain individual, unique events by inserting them intoformal explanatory systems and lines of progress. Postmodernists argue that thisconformity and standardization deprives us of history by denying the authenticityand uniqueness of events, as well as the variety of other, potential historicalconstructions. Security policy, for example, can be viewed as historicallyconditioned responses to crises of identity or perceptions about anarchy (Campbell1992). Postmodernists explode the assumption of anarchy (Ashley 1995). They blurthe line between domestic and international politics through “rearticulations ofpolitical time and space” (Walker 1993:79). Postmodernists contend that there isnothing natural about democratic elections or free markets (Rosenberg 1994).International development and modernization are not assured, certainly not alongpreconceived lines. “Development” can be destructive of traditional social fabricand ways of knowledge. Samir Amin (1989:114) argues that eurocentric “humanistuniversalism” has “brought with it the destruction of peoples and civilizations whohave resisted its spread.” International law does not necessarily benefit all mankind,but may be rigged in favor of the industrialized North (Grovogui 1996). Theuniversality of human rights flies in the face of all postmodern thought. “New” history and postmodern politicsWhat narratives do postmodernists tell? Much of the difficulty in understandinghow postmodernists use history is due to the fact that postmodernists typicallyendorse local knowledge, yet remain skeptical toward knowledge in general.2Postmodernists subvert most of the conventions of historiography. They resist truthclaims, and willfully blur history and fiction. Many see history as nostalgia,anachronism, or myth. Some postmodernists reject the idea that people make theirown history, believing that events are determined by chance and trivia rather thanvoluntarism. Others renounce the idea of history as a coherent and worthwhileobject of study. Postmodern history has been controversial, to put it mildly (see, for example,Windschuttle 1997). Critics claim that postmodernism undercuts professionalstandards and subverts long-established rules of historical narrative. By dismissingthe idea of historical correspondence to a true past, postmodernism is said to invitea general disregard for truth. Even the quest for truth as the historian’s ideal isrelinquished, replaced by an “anything goes” attitude that fosters Oliver Stone-stylefictionalizations of history, in which the historian is free to exploit any gap orambiguity in the record. Critics claim that postmodern political correctness stiflesfree debate, and that its murky jargon enfeebles the mind. Many critics findpostmodernism’s ties to Nietzsche especially noxious. The philosopher’s specterhangs over postmodern history, both in his subjectivism regarding truth and, moredistantly, in the admonition to destroy the past in order to make way for thesupermen of the future. Perhaps the most cutting criticism of postmodern historyis that its relativism erodes ethical judgment—that of the author, the audience, the
  • 156. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 149discipline, and in any moral lessons that one might draw from the past. One critic(Gilley 1996) calls this “History without morality, history without truth.” That said, postmodernists are not, for the most part, antihistorical. Rather, theyview history, and its role in political life, differently than their modern counterparts.First, postmodernists highlight forms of historical knowledge that are diminishedor disqualified within the hierarchy of science. In this, postmodernists have“brought that peripheral, blurred area between history and fiction close to the centerof contemporary historiographical debate” (Ginzburg 1991:87). Second, whiletraditionalists seek to explain or understand the past, postmodernists seek to“problematize” it, to unmask its biases, assumptions, and political uses. As BrendaMarshall (1992:4) explains, Postmodernism is about history. But not the kind of “History” that lets us think we can know the past. History in the postmodern moment becomes histories and questions. It asks: Whose history gets told? In whose name? For what purpose? Postmodernism is about histories not told, retold, untold. History as it never was. Histories forgotten, hidden, invisible, considered unimportant, changed, eradicated. It’s about the refusal to see history as linear, as leading straight up to today in some recognizable pattern.(It is worth inserting that modernity can be inimical to history. It defines itself inopposition to the past, turning to history chiefly in order to establish whatmodernity is not. The past’s sepia tones affirm the brilliant hues of modern novelty.But history holds few lessons for modernity, whose gaze is always on the future.) In the postmodern attitude toward the past, again there is confluence betweenpolitical and historiographic theory. Historians and political scientists breathe thesame academic air and register similar frustrations with social science. Moreimportantly, the postmodern ethos encourages breaking down boundaries ofinquiry. It even entails something of a duty to borrow from other fields, and therules for doing so are relaxed. Postmodernists thus lapse easily between history andpolitics. It would be wrong to say that postmodernist politics “borrows”postmodern history in the way that, say, realist theory may turn to realist historyfor evidence. Rather, methods and insights from other fields are bundled with one’sown ideas, with none of the anxieties usually felt when appropriating from anotherdiscipline. In terms of method and content, both fields have seen theory cumphilosophy of history be chipped away by the tighter focus of “micro-narratives”—smaller, stand-alone accounts that make no claim to universality. Given thehistorical profession’s characteristic ambivalence about its affiliation with socialscience, many historians have found “small is beautiful” a palatable creed. Theskepticism with which most political scientists view postmodern narrative is alsounderstandable, since the entire nomothetic tradition is at stake. Lawrence Stone became the standard bearer for the new historical sensibility withhis essay, “The Revival of Narrative: Reflections on a New Old History” (1979).Stone argued that the historical profession had undergone a transformation during
  • 157. 150 EXIT FROM HISTORY?the 1970s, as the premise of social science history, “that a coherent scientificexplanation of change in the past” was possible, was widely contested. He urgedthat historical subjects be broadened to include aspects of everyday life that hadbeen neglected by the Annalistes’ penchant for studying large, often quantifiable,historical trends. This reflected the growing belief “that the culture of the group,and even the will of the individual, are potentially at least as important causal agentsof change as the impersonal forces of material output and demographic growth”(quoted in Iggers 1997:97). New narrative lent itself to explanations that focusedon human agency and political process much more than structural conditioning.Stone later became a great defender of history against postmodern incursions, buthere he shares a great deal in common with his future foes. Both dispense withworld history and historical “geology,” embracing instead modest narratives joinedto local culture and knowledge. New history and postmodern politics both view “heroic” history as obsolete—narrow, elitist, victorious, patriarchal, or merely dry in its veneration of great eventsand deeds. Great-man history is thought to attach excessive importance toindividuals, presenting history in dramatic form, with leading roles and tragicchoices. Rosenau (1992:64) suggests that the method does not chronicle great men;it creates them. The method also bars access to the chaos and complexity of reality.A state at war, for example, is a vast machine, a fact concealed in military historythat confines itself to the deeds of warlords. Drum-and-trumpet history glorifiesconquests and triumphs, when “victories” may in fact be more equivocal and lessprecise in their effects than Churchillian history suggests. Names, dates, battles,wars, treaties, winners, losers, etc., all seem tangible on the historian’s page, yet theymask important details. Chief among these for postmodernists is the politics ofhistorical representation itself. Struck by the link between power and “discourse”(practices and patterns of speech and writing), postmodernists typically see this“old” approach to history as justifying “old” raison d’état politics. It reflects andreproduces established powers and interests and diplomatic practices. Old historyis also seen as handmaiden to dubious political teleologies—the nation-state, therise or fall of the West, the march of civilizations, world capitalism, globalfederalism, and so on. The approach is unacceptable because it assumes history isgoing someplace in particular, fulfilling a premeditated trajectoral narrative. Postmodernists are generally receptive, however, to new history’s populist andlocalist views of the past. New history features fragmented and diverse subjects.Redressing modernism’s supposed contempt for ordinary people, it directs researchaway from the high and mighty, and toward socially invisible and inarticulatepeople. It explores microhistory, or “petite histoire,” as cultural close-up, as inEmmanuel Le Roy Ladurie’s Montaillou (1978) or Natalie Zemon-Davis’s famedReturn of Martin Guerre (1983). It attempts to salvage “illegitimate,” “discredited,”“deviant,” “estranged,” and other neglected subjects. It advocates “victim’s” history,women’s “(her)story,” black history, and other “niche” accounts. New history isgenerally social in nature, but on a small scale, elevating the ordinary and thehumdrum over global theory. Asef Bayat’s Street Politics (1997), for example, bridges
  • 158. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 151history and politics in analyzing poor people’s social movements in revolutionaryIran, a process Bayat describes as “quietly encroaching” on state power. New historyis also interested in how identities are shaped and practiced, for example in GeorgeChauncey’s Gay New York (1994). It privileges peripheral peoples and “fourthworld” accounts, sharing much in common with ethnography, as in Eric Wolf’sEurope and the People Without History (1982). New history includes subaltern (ofsubjugated, especially colonized, people, usually a reference to the Indiansubcontinent) and post-colonial histories such as Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencingthe Past (1995), which seeks to recover Haitian history from colonialism. Thisapproach also employs “heteroglossia,” meaning that the Actonian Voice of Historyis replaced by “varied and opposing voices,” a device that underlines multipleviewpoints and conflicting interpretations of events (Burke 1992b: 239). As evidence, new historians frequently cite “secret texts,” “hidden transcripts,”and other unorthodox sources, as in James C.Scott’s Domination and the Arts ofResistance (1990), equally a work of new politics and new history. Seeing identityshaped at home and hearth, new history incorporates local vernacular, myth, legend,story, and song. Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983) and KirstenHastrup’s volume, Other Histories (1992) are good examples of this. New historyemphasizes the oral tradition, as in Elizabeth Tonkin’s Narrating Our Pasts (1992),which describes traditional storytelling across Africa, or Patricia Turner’s I HeardIt Through the Grapevine (1993), a major study of rumor in American black culture.A classic of the genre is Ronald Fraser’s Blood of Spain (1986), an oral history of theSpanish Civil War. Fraser argues that oral narratives are valuable as “straight”history, but that omissions and oversights and reworkings of historicalconsciousness also expose deeper currents of culture and politics. New historians view the oral tradition as a bond of narrative and memory thatpreserves traditions and identity. It serves as a kind of “kitchen-table” resistance to“official” history, as in Eastern Europe, China, and the Soviet Union. It may be atool of cultural resistance for oppressed people—secret Jews, for example—orminorities and nationalities whose language has been banned in public and in print.This was the case with Catalan, Gallego, and Basque in Franco’s Spain, part of thecaudillo’s campaign to abolish “dissident” political memory. This was also true ofKurdish in Turkey until 1991 (uses of Kurdish language and culture in other thanfolkloric fashion are still discouraged) and in East Timor following the Indonesianoccupation in 197 5, as Jakarta has sought to undermine East Timor’s commonindigenous tongue, Tetum. Ironically, use of Portuguese in East Timor has emergedas an everyday form of resistance against Indonesian domination. Oral history isperhaps the only way to grasp the horror of concentration camps, gulags, or prisoncells, and even then it falls short of recapturing what really happened. Postmodernists take a broader view of art as historical and political artifact. The“opera-house” definition of culture succumbs to popular culture, at least the high/low distinction is deemed artificial, or reality is a pastiche of the two. FernandBraudel’s (1979) notion of “material civilization” is extended to encompass popularand populist traces. Slang, aphorism, jokes, film, newsreels, advertisements, graffiti,
  • 159. 152 EXIT FROM HISTORY?street art, reggae, rap, or 1950s lounge music, as well as dime-store comics, tabloidnewspapers, television sitcoms, video games, and other manifestations of “kitsch,”are all considered valid expressions of human experience and a suggestive archiveof political culture. Stephen Whitfield’s Culture of the Cold War (1991), for example,argues that the cold war was sustained through the use of popular media. JohnJohnson’s Latin America in Caricature (1980) contends that United States publicopinion and foreign policy toward Latin America were reduced, literally, tocartoons. Postmodernists suggest that these “tacky” images may reflect greateremotional appeal and political meaning than the prism of high politics. Thehistorian Warren Susman wonders if “Mickey Mouse may in fact be moreimportant to an understanding of the 1930s than Franklin Roosevelt” (quoted inRosenau 1992:66). New history “privileges,” that is, pays special attention to or elevates, the local,the neglected, the inarticulate, the powerless. In theory, postmodernists rejectprivileging of any sort: all perspectives are equally valid. But in practice, they doprivilege the oppressed in order to restore balance to a long tradition of heroichistorical representation. New historians typically claim only to be telling stories,or describing rather than explaining. Yet, also in a positive way, the “polyvocality”of new history gives voice to previously muted and marginalized political actors,and is keenly attuned to popular groundswells of political change. The crisis of representationIf new history no longer seems very new, that is because it has passed easily intothe profession. Most historians today are probably doing one form or another ofnew history, or have been influenced by it. This is less the case with postmodernism’smore radical critiques. Postmodernists claim that history and time cannot berepresented through conventional historical models. The so-called “crisis ofrepresentation” reflects postmodernists’ great interest in language and in “texts,” aterm used to denote all human artifacts—cave paintings, buildings, literature,political oratory, film, foreign policy, etc. Most people will probably accept thatlanguage is an imperfect medium; it is impossible to represent reality withoutdistortion. However, postmodernists reverse this relationship between reality andrepresentation. Language is now said to produce a world of its own making. It doesnot convey reality, it constitutes reality. Postmodernists apply this critique to spokenand written texts, but also to texts in general. Hence the “linguistic turn” in virtuallyevery field in the humanities and social sciences. All discourse — architectural,artistic, literary, political, historical, and so on—is subjugated to what FredericJameson (1972) called “the prison house of language.” Thus, amid “modern” debate about facts versus textual representations, orhistorical events versus historiography, the French philosopher Jacques Derridaintervenes to announce that there is no “outside-the-text”: “Il n’y a pas de hors-texte.”The world certainly exists independent of language. Derrida’s statement is usuallyunderstood to mean that our comprehension of things, nonetheless, is always
  • 160. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 153textualized, or cast in terms of language (see Callinicos 1995:3). Derrida uses theterm différance to refer to the gap between a word (the signifier) and the thing towhich it refers (the signified). He contends that no one-to-one correspondence existsbetween them. Expression is derivative, a copy or “simulacrum” of something else.Words contain traces of other words, images refer to other, similar images. Thesenever convey clear meanings because there is no privileged spot from which adefinitive meaning can be ascribed. There will always be gaps between what anauthor intends to say, what he actually says, and what the reader understands. Tomake this clear, Derrida would write certain problematic words “sous rature” or“under erasure.” He would write a word, cross it out, then leave it on the page, stilllegible beneath his redaction. Derrida’s point was that words were necessary, yetinadequate for the tasks set for them (Sarup 1993:33). The larger point is that thestructure of language collapses, taking truth with it. All debates are deemed“intertextual,” with no final resting point or resolution. The determination of thought by language leads to Roland Barthes’s widelyreported “death of the author.” Barthes argues that any text is comprised of a “tissueof quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture” (quoted in Bertens1995:7). Regardless of what the author intends, he or she remains a mouthpiece forlanguage, culture, and context. Conversely, the readers of a text take on a heightenedrole. They no longer passively imbibe the author’s “message,” rather, they interpreta text according to their own cultural and mental markers. This is gibberish whencontrasted to the liberal idea of history as an individual creation. Even Oakeshottclaimed that history was “the historian’s experience” and no one else’s. The viewof history as a linguistic and cultural construction meshes neatly, however, withpre-modern notions of history as story. The storyteller, troubadour, balladeer, andsaga writer convey traditional, collective knowledge. They do not claim ownershipof the narrative, nor do they claim to be telling the truth as measured against someexternal standard. The liberal idea of the author as a unique, copyrightable voicewould appear much later (along with what Harold Bloom called the “anxiety ofinfluence,” that the authors’ ideas are not their own). History as politicsMichel Foucault lends a sharp political edge to constructed knowledge. Foucaultis a consummate reductionist in his political theory. He views not merely all politics,but all knowledge, in terms of power and domination. This is the power/knowledge(pouvoir-savoir) construct noted earlier. Foucault rejects the juridical andinstitutional study of power in favor of analysis of the techniques and tactics ofdomination. Mitchell Dean (1994:152) felicitously calls this the “anti-Leviathan”approach to power. Foucault contends that the creation and transmission ofknowledge is regulated by the episteme of the era. Episteme governs discourse, bysetting the boundaries to how people think, talk, and act. In turn, “discursivity”engenders a “regime” of truth, “linked in a circular relation with systems of powerwhich produce and sustain it” (Foucault: 1980: 131–3). Thus, the crisis of
  • 161. 154 EXIT FROM HISTORY?representation is acutely political. The will to power is transubstantiated into a “willto knowledge” (la volonté de savoir). Theory is practice, part of the workings of powerand domination. The definitions and methods of knowledge are at the center ofthe permanent coercions that keep “bodies docile.” This is especiaily true of “theoretical” history, i.e., accounts in which a theoreticallens will “filter, hierarchise, and order” knowledge (ibid.: 83). In his own “historical”work, Foucault carries out what he first termed “archae ology” and later“genealogy,” an approach associated with Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals (1887).Genealogy is a “history of the present.” It illumines the conditions and rituals ofpower. Genealogy does not claim to have discerned the true meaning of the past,nor does it aim to present a complete picture of the past. By confining itself to thepresent, genealogy intends to avoid the dead end of trying to represent events boundup in past, and hence inaccessible, discursive archives. Genealogy is not so much an historical method as it is a sustained assault on thephilosophical approach to history. Far from rejecting history, Foucault claims thatgenealogy demands “relentless erudition,” “patience and a knowledge of details,”and “a vast accumulation of source material” (Foucault 1984:76–7). In short, itrequires more history and less theory. Still, its aim is to destroy the idea of historyas stable or monotonous or unfolding according to some transcendental plan.Fittingly, Foucault’s discussion of genealogy streams forth in the language ofdissolution: “divergence,” “marginalism,” “dissociation,” “disintegration,” “self-destruction,” “inconstancy,” “dismantling,” “decadence,” “singularity,”“inaccuracy,” “impermanence.” As this outpouring of skepticism washes overtraditional history, it reveals that knowledge is a matter of perspective. “We wanthistorians to confirm our belief that the present rests upon profound intentionsand immutable necessities. But the true historical sense confirms our existenceamong countless lost events, without a landmark or a point of reference” (ibid.: 89). History as literatureDerrida and Foucault generally see history as a branch of politics. Hayden White,a prominent historiographic theorist, argues that history is a branch of literature,though certainly with political and ideological colorations. Treating history asliterature in style and/or content is not new. Many dissident (i.e., non-Rankean)nineteenth-century historians, particularly Anglo-Saxon ones, wrote popularhistories in novelistic form. Thomas Babington Macaulay, the doyen of theseliterary historians, once noted that “facts are but the dross of history,” and his ownwork often fell afoul of those facts. Arthur Marwick (1970:51–2) recounts awonderful passage in Macaulay’s History of England (1848–55) in which William IIIbids farewell to the States of Holland before setting out for Britain. Macaulay writes:“In all that grave senate there was none who could refrain from shedding tears. Butthe iron stoicism of William never gave way; and he stood among his weepingfriends calm and austere, as if he had been about to leave them only for a shortvisit to his hunting-grounds at Loo.” This is, in fact, a direct plagiarism from the
  • 162. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 155Odes of Horace, describing Regulus making his farewell to the Senate. The imitationmay be conscious or unconscious, and we do not know the king’s actual state ofcalm or austerity, but this compelling, classical image adheres to the historian’s aswell as the reader’s imagination. For White, this is how all history works. He argues that we must treat “historicalwork as what it most manifestly is: a verbal structure in the form of a narrativeprose discourse” (quoted in Jenkins 1995:146).3 The historian uncovers certain facts,but when it comes to plot, he employs a repertoire of culturally specific literaryconventions. The historian is a vessel for literary and rhetorical culture. White isinterested in telling the truth about history, but he claims that beyond isolated factsthere is no truth to tell. History has neither rhyme nor reason. Whether the historianis aware of it or not, these literary models alone infuse history with meaning. Assoon as the historian steps beyond the mere recital of structured facts in the formof annals or chronology, he is, to use a Derridean word, signifying. All plots becomemetaplots. Author and reader turn to the devices of literature in order to grasp whatis, in fact, a chaos of singular events. White steps beyond earlier constructionist assertions to elaborate a scheme bywhich history drifts into literature.4 He argues that historical artifacts are firstselected and arranged from the “unprocessed historical record” into a chroniclethat pinpoints a beginning and an end. The historian then fashions a “primitive”story, adopting a “hierarchy of significance” that assigns priorities and chains ofcausation. This stage in historical construction entails a measure of invention andinterpretation on the historian’s part, and is drawn to suit his intended audience.The account is then sharpened by formal historical explanations according to theconventions of argument, emplotment, and ideology. By emplotment, White meansa culturally resonant and recognizable meaning that is produced and then encodedinto the story; he contends that in all history this mythos takes one of four forms:romance, comedy, tragedy, or satire. As for ideology, White holds that “every historyis attended by specifically determinable ideological implications,” and he lists four:anarchical, conservative, radical, and liberal. He adds a final twist in the form oftropes, or figurative uses of language. White again points to four: metaphor,metonymy (substituting for the name of a thing the name of an attribute of it),synecdoche (using a more comprehensive term in place of a less comprehensiveone), and irony. These are, respectively, representational, reductionist, integrative,and negational in their usage. Tropes are significant for White because he believesthat “direct,” corresponding language is inadequate to recount what reallyhappened. Instead, the historian must circle around the subject, identifying thingsby reference to other things, incorporating singular events into broader categoriesor reducing them into manageable parts, or, in the case of irony, explaining throughopposition. The way in which this rhetorical recipe is “cooked up” produces the historian’ssignature style. But in the end, the explanatory effect is the same as that of a poemor novel. White’s taxonomy may come across as Procrustean and maddeninglylinguistic. Still, the idea of culturally specific story lines should not be dismissed.
  • 163. 156 EXIT FROM HISTORY?Such icons allow us to imagine a reality that is whole and complete. A number ofother iconic scripts leap to mind: paradise lost, pride goeth before the fall, Athensand Sparta, the Bildungsroman, the cautionary tale, vanquished villains, and tales ofredemption, to mention a few Western standards that might guide politicalexplanations. Hayward Alker, a (modern) micro-structuralist, suggests that“mythopoetic” or “moral-ideological” narratives are imbedded in all social scienceparadigms and theoretical traditions (Alker 1996:270–2). Thucydides, for example,may be read as a morality play in which the gods castigate Athens for her hubris.Malthusians prophesy damnation in the form of subsistence wages to check theprolificity of the laboring classes. Marxists offer earthly salvation. Stories may befar more complex as well. But, like fairy tales, they still adhere to definite scripts,which may be formally analyzed using scriptural hermeneutics, grammaticalreconstructions, plot summaries, and other models. (See also Suganami 1997.)Although most interest in the literary aspects of political theory is animated byLyotardian skepticism toward metanarratives, it is possible that “culturallyresonant” stories may exhibit patterns across cultures, and that these may beamenable to formalization. Citing Jonathan Culler, Alker (ibid.: 173) foreseesresearch related to cross-cultural “essences” in terms of the norms and expectationsthat infuse all literary texts. These and other literary aspects of historical narrative are not lost on historians.Norman Davies, Richard Price, Golo Mann, Simon Schama, and other workinghistorians have experimented with different ways of couching narrative, writinghistory backwards, introducing heteroglossia in the text, and engaging a variety offictional forms (see Burke 1992b). Though no postmodernist, Schama has taken towriting what he terms “historical novellas,” which, he says, “while they may at timesappear to observe the discursive conventions of history,” are in part, “pureinventions, based, however, on what documents suggest” (quoted in Callinicos 1995:3). Other experiments further blur the line between fiction as history, ashistoriography edges toward the “non-fiction novels” of Truman Capote orNorman Mailer. The distinguished historian William McNeill, a devotee ofToynbee and defender of world history, argues that history must reach the mythicalplane in order to make intelligible the “elastic, inexact character of truth, especiallytruth about human conduct” (McNeill 1986:7). On a related front, somepostmodernists see no reason that the disjointed nature of reality should not bereflected in a more fragmentary approach to history (Burke 1992b: 237–8). Historymay read like Yeats, Joyce, Kafka, Faulkner, Huxley, García Marquez, or Rushdie.Some argue that literary pastiche or filmic montage, which edit chronology andimage sequence, may offer a better likeness of reality than traditional writings.Faulkner, who wrote fragmented stories about history and memory in the AmericanSouth, once noted that the past is constantly with us; it is not even past. GarcíaMarquez has argued that shifting images and broken time of “magical realism” mayseem fantastical to the rational European mind, but they are the everyday realityin Latin America.
  • 164. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 157 History as commodityFinally, a word is in order about Lyotard’s (1984) notion of “commodity culture”as it relates to history and historiography and what is sometimes called the “heritageindustry.” For Lyotard, knowledge is commodified and mercantilized, reaching afever pitch in the “computer society.” This leads to a not very flattering view ofwhat historians typically do. Historical bestsellers tap into current consumerpolitical and aesthetic tastes, seek out market niches, and avail themselves of theretailing ploys of book clubs. Museum curators make a spectacle of the past,violently squeezing history into thematic exhibitions that target audience appealand boost gift shop sales. University historians and political scientists embraceacademic fads and succumb to institutional and political demands. Edward Said(1979:295–300), for example, contends that historical representation of the Orientwas shaped by European academics, and later by elites in the American StateDepartment and defense establishment, the RAND Corporation, the Middle EastStudies Association and other politically privileged cadres. No doubt there is somehyperbole here. Postmodernists may be working on Nietzsche’s bon mot that truthinheres only in the exaggerations. Yet, as someone who has lived in the Near Eastand has had some opportunity to compare its reality with its “otherly”representation, Said’s thesis, in any case, does not seem so outlandish to me. Patrick Joyce has argued that “the major advance of ‘postmodernism’ needs tobe registered by historians: namely that the events, structures and processes of thepast are indistinguishable from the forms of documentary representation, theconceptual and political appropriations, and the historical discourses that constructthem” (quoted in Callinicos 1995). Students of politics should also take note. Apromising trend in each of the postmodernist critiques explored here is that thepolitics of historical representation are ripe for “deconstruction.” For Derrida,deconstruction meant attempting to hoist a text on its own petard by revealingways in which the author’s words are employed inconsistently and paradoxically.But deconstruction can also simply mean exposing political motives and ideologies.Postmodernists are clear that discourse involves strategy; people have “projects,” aterm usually used unflatteringly to describe advocacy that is concealed in languageand method. Whatever one decides to call it, dismantling ideological biases (andlaying bare what is privileged and what is censored), is a form of sound andaffirmative historical inquiry. Shifting explanationsWe have seen that postmodernists view history as perspective with politics. Thereis no single, objective reality, but rather a multiplicity of experiences, some of whichhave achieved “privileged” status, typically because they benefit established interests.The resultant “hegemonic discourse” is a disguised system of control anddomination that legitimates and safeguards its own favored status. This broadenedintellectual and historical ambit elicits new forms of political analysis and
  • 165. 158 EXIT FROM HISTORY?explanation. It also points to a kind of subterranean history of possibilities. AsRichard Ashley notes (1989:33), historical narratives privilege “one or anothersubject as the sovereign center, the ultimate origin and register of truth andmeaning, in whose terms all else must be interpreted.” Here I set out briefly severalpostmodernist reformulations of international theory that rest upon this“problematized” understanding of history. I focus on shifting views of power,critiques of the anarchy/ sovereignty problem, strategies of “counter-memory,”foreign policy as identity politics, radical views of time and space, and an emergingpastiche theory of globalism. Decentering powerFoucault argues that one of the great failings of political theory is its fixation uponthe person of the sovereign. “We need to cut off the King’s head; in political theorythat has still to be done” (Foucault 1980:121). Postmodernists in internationalrelations follow suit, rejecting the “juridicalpolitical” theory of sovereignty andremoving the analysis of power (and there is a great deal of emphasis on power)from the center to the margins — from the head, as it were, to the extremities ofthe body politic, thus connecting with the political actors whose stories newhistorians recount. In this “decentered” analysis, identities and boundaries are constantly in motion.The rituals of power are now played out everywhere, on the factory floor, in theoffice, within families, in the structure of institutions, in language itself. RichardAshley and R.B.J.Walker argue that decenteredness is increasingly the condition ofeveryday global life: “narratives of knowing and doing intersect in mutuallydestabilizing ways, contingency threatens to displace necessity, the very identity ofthe subject is put in doubt, and human beings live and toil as exiles, deprived ofany absolute territory of being to call home.” They point to working mothers tornbetween home and career; draft-age youths who see themselves as cosmopolitan, yetare expected to take up arms in the name of national security; “foreign” workerswho find themselves suspended between two different cultures and jurisdictions,belonging fully to neither; journalists who must make impossible distinctionsbetween domestic, international, environmental, economic, sports, and fashionnews; businessmen torn between traditional identity and the identity of themarketplace; peace activists dissatisfied equally with nationalist and universalistrhetoric (Ashley and Walker 1990b: 260–1). Each of these experiences chips awayat that great signifier of international relations, state sovereignty. These are experiences of exile. Rocked from its narrative foundations, lifebecomes ambiguous, paradoxical, and deterritorialized. Identities, loyalties, andvalues span cultures and continents, or fall in the interstices of sovereign space.Ashley and Walker argue that one can no longer speak of rational individuals whoseidentities are given, and whose interests coincide with those of their compatriots.The postmodern condition throws shared moral principles into doubt, jeopardizessocial norms, and fragments common sense. Citing the Bulgarian-French
  • 166. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 159psychoanalyst and cultural theorist Julia Kristeva, they suggest that exile leads todissidence. Estrangement from the certain truths of modernity creates a space inwhich one can think and act outside of the forms of knowledge imposed byessentialist narratives. This leads in turn to new ways of power and resistance, aspeople confront “a diversity of representational practices that would traverse them,claim their time, control their space and their bodies, impose limitations on whatcan be said and done, and decide their beings” (ibid.: 261). As the sovereign staterecedes, new complexities and identities emerge. This type of discourse undercuts the “naturalness” of sovereignty and theconcomitant “fact of anarchy.” Here, postmodernists are up against a formidabletradition of Western political philosophy that has “reified” the nation-state,mentally fashioning it into a “real” thing. Anarchy as well as its remedies, notablythe “domestic analogy,” are said to be rooted in caricaturized Hobbesian, Kantian,and Grotian representations of reality. In the section on counter-memory thatfollows, we will see how postmodernists seek to expose the disjunction andincoherence of this “tradition.” In terms of contemporary international relations,Ashley argues that (especially North American) discourse has been “disciplined” bythe twin assumptions of anarchy and sovereignty. To be considered a “seriousthinker” in this milieu, one must pose questions that in one sense or another addressthe “anarchy problématique.” This applies equally to theorists of realism, liberalism,world order, economic interdependence, international cooperation, internationalinstitutions, and so forth. Each understands the world in terms of the absence ofa global Leviathan and the presence of a multiplicity of sovereign states. Each locatesthe sovereign state at the heart of personal analysis, ignoring other historical andpotential forms of social organization (Ashley 1995: 95–6). Even the appellation“international relations” is laden with these assumptions. Ashley contends that sovereignty is an “heroic practice,” another Foucaultianidea. Sovereignty is said to be “double-voiced,” that is, it turns on a dichotomy, inthis case on the opposition of sovereignty versus anarchy, with sovereigntyprivileged as the regulative ideal. In one voice, this heroic practice holds outsovereignty as representing resolution, meaning, security, domesticity, and truth.In another, it invokes the perils of anarchy, “a fearsome time and place of ambiguity,contingency, and chance,” where truth is contested and power is arbitrary (ibid.:103). Posed in this either-or fashion, sovereignty becomes the natural and necessaryantidote to the absence of knowledge and authority—an absence modernity cannottolerate. Ashley describes this as a discourse of domestication, a foundation foruniversal truth and security within its domain. Modern sovereignty also domesticates the wilds of history. For Ashley, modernitydenotes a “disposition to privilege some historically imposed limitations of humanknowing and doing as essential to ‘reasoning man’s’ sovereign being and, as such,as the already present transcendental foundation and source of humans’ capacitiesfor the autonomous use of reason in history” (ibid.: 99–100). The strategy of themodern sovereign is to “enclose history,” to mark contingency and ambiguity asdeviant and fearsome, and thus to discipline historical “indeterminacy and
  • 167. 160 EXIT FROM HISTORY?equivocity…to impose boundaries and ‘domesticate’ the chance, contingency, andambiguity of a pluralistic history” (ibid.: 102). The success of sovereigninterpretations of history, i.e., of reifying the nation-state teleology, is not based onrepression, nor is it beholden to classical or Christian conceptions of divine reason.Instead, sovereignty is uttered by the anthropocentric voice of modernity. Theweight of historical contingency and not knowing bears down on “reasoning man.”He relents, believing that he is mastering his own historical contingency byacknowledging power and truth as mediated by the sovereign state. Postmodernists argue as well that when political identity is bundled withsovereignty, identity is reduced to a sense of place, to the “flat Euclidean spaces ofmodernity” (Walker 1993:176). The modern mind (and state), with its penchant forfixity in categories, systematically excludes other forms of social organization andother axes of identity such as culture, class, race, and gender. In the internationalcontext, fixed geography is said also to privilege spatial conceptions of identity(identity as loyalty to place) over temporal ones (identity as tradition or sharedhistory). Postmodernists emphasize that the emergence of the Westphalian systemwas an historically specific pattern of political differentiation. A new canon ofdiplomacy and law restructured political space, curtailing medieval forms of dividedsovereignty, of overlapping and crosscutting loyalties where localism anduniversalism coexist (ibid.: 117). Universalism is now pursued within the boundsof the sovereign state. In this context, identity and difference become anotherheroic, binary practice with its rituals of inclusion and exclusion. Postmodernistsregard these absolutist boundaries as obsolete. What is needed in theory and practiceis a shift away from international politics toward a global politics that recognizesexile space and dissident identities. Counter-memoryPostmodernists define “memory” and “counter-memory” as opposed historicalstrategies for reading a text. Memorialization is said to encase history in an“originary” past, where ambiguities and uncertainties are forgotten. Thismemorialized past then serves to “ground” modern disciplinary thought andpolitical practice. Counter-memorialization, by contrast, contests this iconic,foundational reading of history. It resists the “politics of forgetting” and seeks toretain the ambiguities and complexities of the history of any discipline and theclassic texts that anchor it. Memorial history fixes the past along neat dichotomous markers that imposediscipline and order on an ambiguous and chaotic past. It papers over paradox,ambiguity, and uncertainty. Instead, it attributes a high degree of coherence to atext as well as a central logic—a plot, White would say—of crisis overcome andambiguity resolved. A text is thus easily summarized and caricaturized, its basicthemes encapsulated and enumerated (Ashley and Walker 1990a: 384). Throughcatechistic invocation, these themes become the substructure of paradigm andtradition. Ultimately, they transmute a contextual, temporal historical construction
  • 168. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 161into a powerful myth of origin. As Walker (1993:27) argues, “Other points ofdeparture are rendered trivial or even unthinkable. The highly problematiccharacter of claims about origins, continuities, teleologies, progressions andruptures is conveniently forgotten.” Counter-memorialized readings of history refuse to repeat this “willful amnesia,”instead approaching “settled,” “classic” texts as “openly contested cultural terrain,”and analyzing “afresh the ways in which classic texts contend with ambiguity,uncertainty, and resistant counterinterpretations.” Like genealogy, counter-memoryis said to require more history, not less. It is conceived as an exercise in fealty towardtexts: honoring detail, specificity, and context, and retaining intended paradoxesand crises of interpretation. This is another tactic to problematize essentialistinterpretation, but it is more than that, it is a joyous reading of a problematic past.Counter-memory aims “to enrich not diminish, the cultural resources of adiscipline, community, or culture…to appreciate the intrinsic ambiguity,uncertainty, irony, and recombinatorial possibilities of its own textual inheritance”(Ashley and Walker 1990a: 385). Postmodernists are not unique in this, but theydo face the task with greater irreverence (and joy) than the typical historian ofpolitical thought. It also bears mentioning that international theory is full of cracksinto which to drive this wedge. Critics have long held that students of internationalpolitics are licentious in their use of the classics. Michael Donelan (1990:42)observes that political philosophers often become mere “ventriloquists’ dummies”in the hands of their modern international relations manipulators. Walker asserts precisely this in his counter-memorializing deconstruction ofMachiavelli as the foundation for traditional international relations. Walker arguesthat modern theories of international relations express assumptions about politicalcommunity that crystallized in the early modern period, with Machiavelli and hisconception of lo stato as expounded in The Prince at the roots of “a tradition, anorigin, a code, a centre, a home from which one can set out to explore thecontingencies and transformations of the world outside” (Walker 1993:44). Walkercontends that an originary reading of Machiavelli caricatures a complex mind aswell as a complex time. Immunized from critical analysis, Machiavelli becomes thelegal and geopolitical expression of sovereignty, an “ahistorical apology for theviolence of the present” (ibid.: 31). Blind acceptance of this tradition in turn debarsus from fundamentally confronting the narratives by which the state bestowslegitimacy on its power apparatus. A counter-memorializing reading attempts to limn the Florentine’s “historicalmoment” of cultural and religious ferment on the cusp of modernity. Counter-memory opens up connections to Machiavelli’s other works, The Discourses, TheHistory of Florence, and The Art of War. These texts are then seen for what they are:feints and thrusts in the wide-ranging negotiations among Machiavelli, Savonarola,Guicciardini, and others about the character of civic humanism, politicallegitimacy, political ethics, the roots of identity, and the role of the church (Ashleyand Walker 1990a: 386). This fuels a more searching and unsettled depiction ofMachiavelli as a voice of crisis rather than essence. The point is that the “tradition”
  • 169. 162 EXIT FROM HISTORY?of international relations is not, in fact, rooted in a fixed historical marker of powerand authority. Ashley and Walker suggest that the same sort of historicism holdsfor Hobbes, Rousseau, Bentham, Marx, Kant, Weber, and so on. All the pillars ofthe tradition “emerge and reply to historical circumstances where margins widen,ambiguity and chance seem to undermine every certain referent, temporality seemsto displace every extratemporal standpoint” (ibid.: 383). Historicizing identityThe finest example of the new historicism in international relations is DavidCampbell’s Writing Security (1992). Amid orthodox, revisionist, post-revisionist, and“joint-venture” interpretations of the cold war, Campbell casts American foreignpolicy in a fresh light. He places security at the heart of identity politics. He arguesthat, historically, global threats have been interpreted in ways that definedomesticity and foreignness. United States foreign policy has represented the“other” as a way of creating and controlling American identity. Like Ashley and Walker, Campbell sees the production of identity as a way ofmastering geopolitical ambiguity. He suggests that the Hobbesian conception ofanarchy rests on a stylized history, in which one form of social organization andidentity (the church) is supplanted by another (the state) at a clear juncture(Westphalia). A nuanced reading of history will appreciate the coeval emergence ofstates and the international system. This leads Campbell to a different conceptionof foreign policy: Foreign policy shifts from a concern of relations between states which takes place across ahistorical, frozen and pregiven boundaries, to a concern with the establishment of the boundaries that constitute, at one and the same time, the “state” and the “international system.” Conceptualized in this way, foreign policy comes to be seen as a political practice that makes “foreign” certain events and actors… The construction of the “foreign” is made possible by practices that also constitute the “domestic.” In other words, foreign policy is “a specific sort of boundary-producing political performance.” (ibid.: 69)In this context, Campbell argues that the “constant articulation of danger throughforeign policy is…not a threat to a state’s identity or existence; it is its conditionof possibility” (ibid.: 12). The national security estate identifies and interpretsthreats so as to create and maintain a consensus about security. Crisis becomes apermanent part of the cultural terrain. Threats enforce closure on the communityat risk; they set the behavioral and normative boundaries of the community beingprotected. In this way, identity is constituted in opposition to “foreign” threats.Unlike essentialist or materialist views of security, this approach is anti-foundational. National interests and security are not founded on anything. Theyare highly arbitrary, resting solely on imagination, interpretation, and rituals of
  • 170. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 163inclusion and exclusion. Campbell believes this is especiaily true of the UnitedStates, which he calls the imagined community par excellence. “There has never beena country called ‘America,’ nor a people known as ‘Americans’ from whom anational identity is drawn… Defined therefore more by absence than presence,America is peculiarly dependent upon representational practices for its being.Arguably more than any other state, the imprecise process of imagination is whatconstitutes American identity” (ibid.: 105). Campbell supports his claim with extensive use of foreign policy “texts” drawnfrom American political and cultural history. He argues that civilization andbarbarism was the leading trope of eighteenth-century boundary building. Americais said to have imagined itself in moralistic opposition to the primitive “OldWorld,” and later through the myth of the frontier, which created boundariesagainst “Indians” and, within its borders, “Africans.” In the nineteenth century, theimage of civilization and barbarism was replaced by the metaphor of the normaland the pathological. Campbell points to the proliferation of medical languageframing foreign policy texts of the period. Political elites used the “trope of thebody” in order to define the moral and physical space of identity. The “other” wasdescribed in terms of disease, infection, cancer, epidemic, madness, and so on, whileforeign policy pronouncements cited dangers of degeneration, miscegenation, anddecay. (This discourse parallels broader nineteenth-century cultural trends linkedto ideas about evolution, eugenics, sociology, anthropology, etc. In their infancy,the “human sciences” lent themselves to a number of dubious social projects,particularly the policing of race.5) For Campbell, such “socio-medical discourse”served to regulate American political hygiene. It rendered threats in bodily form,and invoked the authority of diagnostic nomenclature as well as the necessity foroften-invasive intervention. Now the health and security of the patient dependedon the specialized knowledge of “national security managers” (ibid.: 96). ForCampbell, this is the tradition of social purity in which Kennan described the“malignant parasite” of communism, and Ronald Reagan responded to the 1985hijacking of a TWA aircraft in Beirut by claiming that no nation was “immune”from terrorism: “If we permit it to succeed anywhere it will spread like a cancer,eating away at civilized societies and sowing fear and chaos everywhere.” “In suchdiscourse,” Campbell notes, “there are no gray areas, no complexities, nohistoricized understandings, no doubts about the self, and no qualms about thenature of the response” (ibid.: 97). The cold war extended this “geography of evil” as a way of scripting Americanidentity (ibid.: 143). The “red scare” followed an American pattern of whatCampbell calls the “apocalyptic mode” of statecraft, in which exorbitant fears areused to quell dissidence and prescribe action against impending disaster (ibid.: 153).Campbell highlights the “quasi-puritan” sermons shaping from on high thediscourse of the cold war. Through the florid preaching of NSC directives, theSecurity State set out to displace God as the object of ultimate loyalty. War becamedomestic politics by other means. The security community turned on the enemywithin, tilling the soil for McCarthyism. Campbell’s recounting of the loyalty-
  • 171. 164 EXIT FROM HISTORY?security programs of 1947–57 is enough to make one’s skin crawl. His discussionof the cultural crisis of the 1960s is also compelling. Campbell argues that rationalassessments of the cold war fail to grasp the motivations behind these policies. Hecontends that world communism, the economic collapse of Europe, Red China,North Vietnam, Cuba, Nicaragua, Libya, etc. never posed a threat in terms oftraditional calculations of military power. They were dangerous because of their“proclivity for anarchy and disorder” (ibid.: 32). Policing these threats was a wayof policing America’s image of itself. Enmity toward communism and the SovietUnion functioned as a code for the inscription of boundaries. Through “a seriesof ritualized performances…the figuration of difference as otherness in the coldwar rendered a contingent identity (‘the West,’ ‘America,’ et al.) secure” (ibid.: 195). How will the United States maintain difference and identity in an increasinglyinterdependent and homogenized world? Campbell argues that the war on drugsduring the Reagan and Bush (and now Clinton) administrations has parroted thefear-mongering script of the cold war, citing the “clear and present danger” tosovereignty, security, authority, families, values, children, and so on. The drug warhas also been openly militarist in imagery and language, with talk of offensives,eradication, and boot camps; it has in fact been militarized along US borders andin the Andean campaign to staunch the supply of cocaine. Campbell argues thatMcCarthyist drug testing was just one of a number of hysterical erosions of civilrights in the effort to ferret out this particular un-American activity. He contendsthat “drug profiles” were reinvented stereotypes rooted in a long tradition of linkingdrug use to psychological, sexual, and political deviants, and of pegging minoritiesand “foreign” ethnics as habitual abusers. Turning to another branch of politicaleconomy, Campbell looks at how Japan has been depicted at a time when theboundary between domestic and foreign industry is increasingly blurred. He citesa revisionist trend in academic discussions of “the Japan problem” that emphasizeswhat Steven Schlossstein calls the United States’s “dark side” of “racism, insularity,arrogance, narrowness, and resentment” (ibid.: 228). This is paralleled in theeconomic press’s depiction of Japan “buying up” America in the 1980s, even thoughJapan’s share of total foreign assets in the US remained fairly steady during theperiod (and lagged behind the percentage held by the Netherlands and Britain).Villainous portrayals of Japanese people in advertisements and in popular fictionand movies further darkened American perceptions of Japan. Campbell argues these“texts,” like the “deviance” attached to drug use, delimit everything that Americais not, thus again negatively defining American identity. This fascinating thesis raises a number of questions: Is identity constituted chieflyin relation to difference? It seems one could construct an affirmative theory ofidentity as well. To what extent is identity molded by elite pronouncements? Attimes, one wonders if Campbell does not bend the evidence to his thesis. Some ofhis claims seem to parallel the colorful oratory from the likes of Billy Graham,J.Edgar Hoover, and Strom Thurmond that Campbell favors as evidence.Occasionally, a throwaway line by a cabinet member or political appointee will beportrayed as firm identity policy. Is the construction of identity as top-down as this
  • 172. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 165model suggests? Who is scripting whom? During the McCarthy period, andcertainly during the 1960s, there was a great deal of dissent against elite “scripts.”Likewise, anti-drug diktats by the Reagan and Bush administrations resonated withmany Americans, but a great many others found Ronald (and Nancy) Reagan’s“just say no” campaign ludicrous. Linguistic deconstructions are probably morelikely than reserved historiography to fall in this trap of rhetoric. Interestingly,Writing Security claims to be a genealogy, not a history. Campbell states at the outsetthat other, valid interpretations of American foreign policy are possible.Nevertheless, like many postmodernist works, the book presents evidence andargument in relatively traditional form. And while the book’s claims are not posedas necessarily true, they are presented with greater solidity than one might expect. Disrupting time and spaceWhile modernists follow a rational, orderly conception of space and time,postmodernists emphasize discontinuity, historical “moments,” bursts of insight,and spatial fragmentation. Some postmodernists take the idea of past, present, andfuture to be egocentric and presentist. They aim to remove contemporary man fromthe position at the center of history he has held since the Renaissance. Others reject“chronophonism,” the assumption that time is linear or chronological. A cyclical,random, or erratic vision of time may be equally engaging; or it is possible to thinkof time as spherical, with the present drifting between horizons of past and future.Unsurprisingly, this departure from linearity engenders skepticism about modernnotions of cause and effect. Postmodern analysis casts occurrences in terms ofcontingency, discontinuity, complexity, and intertextuality. Events are essentiallyauthorless. Everything is related to everything else; it is impossible to isolate causesor “heroic” agents. It can be tyrannical, even, to suggest that certain inputs producea certain outcome (Rosenau 1992:32–3). Postmodernists reconceptualize space as well. They attempt to undo the Age ofDiscovery view of the world as a finite, mappable entity that can be integrated intoa universal body of knowledge. David Harvey argues that modern geography restson an “outside” perspective honed in the art of the Renaissance. He argues thatmodern mapmaking creates a “seeing eye” that hovers above the earth, a perspectivethat is privileged as authentic and scientific despite its distance from the humanmind. This “outside” cartography departed radically from medieval ideas about therelationship between people and place, and was instrumental in locating people insovereign space by clarifying and controlling boundaries, property, identity, andan array of other spatial practices (Harvey 1990:242–4). Postmodernists reject thissystematically fixed view of the world. They consider boundaries fluid, mentalconstructs, and deem the local space of traditional communities more authenticthan scientific geography. In the postmodern concept of “hyperspace,” geographycollapses altogether. Space is no longer fixed; all places are in flux. What does this mean for world politics? In one take on the contemporary scene,Jean Baudrillard pessimistically calls history “a catastrophic process of recurrence
  • 173. 166 EXIT FROM HISTORY?and turbulence.” There is nothing new under the sun in the form of original orunique events. Instead, history is an “immense simulation model,” in which politicsrecycles leftover ideologies and images of conflict (Baudrillard 1994:7, 11).Baudrillard suggests that the dissolution of empires, for example, results in recycledmicrohistories: micro-imperia, micro-dictatorships, micro-autarkies, and so forth.Like the shards of a shattered mirror, each reflects the polity from which it wasdispersed. Baudrillard also applies this idea of recycled imagery and virtuality tothe Gulf War. He declares that the Gulf War was only imagery, a “quasi-unrealevent,” an “orgy of simulation,” stripped of authenticity and meaning. He arguesthat the war followed a second-hand script, hatched during the cold war, that couldbe played out without the use of nuclear weapons only after the collapse of theSoviet Union. The war’s virtuality was driven by the media as well. It was not simplyconveyed by television, but was made by televi sion. The war was a spectacle ofimagery, laden with manipulative “anticipation of effects, morbid simulations,[and] emotional blackmail,” and consumed by a public “overexposed to the media,underexposed to memory” (Baudrillard 1994:62–3). Postmodern ideas about “synchronism” and “diachronism” (single-time and dual-time) are especially germane to development studies. Postmodernists typically adoptthe diachronic view that traditional cultures are not lagging behind modern ones,but instead are following their own calendars. This makes for a less egocentric viewof non-Western societies and an almost ethnological interest in cultural dignity.Here, postmodernists, perhaps more than other theorists, cut through the familiarforms of liberalism to appreciate differences in politics and culture. Althoughsynchronism by other names has long been the bane of modernization theory,postmodern critiques are particularly acute, extending beyond the fallacy ofmechanistic development in their expression of contempt for the blind teleologyand “outside” benchmarks of moral and material status of the development ethos.Postmodernists also turn modernization back on the industrialized world, whereproductive capitalism is thought to trap people in a mechanical, “time-clock”regime (Harvey 1990: 226–39). Postmodernists also offer cogent explanations forcivil and ethnic strife based on the fragmentation of time within states and societies.In Israel, for example, a Biblical past coexists uneasily with a modern state. In thepolitical geography of Africa, a modern statist narrative arbitrarily overlays a tribalone. During the prelude to the war in Yugoslavia, Serbian nationalist texts“centered” the Battle of Kosovo Field, in which Ottoman troops routed Serbianforces, and laid claim to their Balkan empire. The fact that Kosovo Field took placein 1389 did little to diminish its evocative reality in this late twentieth-centuryethnic cauldron. Some Serbs still refer pejoratively to Bosnian Muslims as “Turks.”Serbian defendants at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague have foundedtheir defenses on historic fears of Muslim persecution. Such atavistic uses of history and memory suggest that social groups may beforever haunted by their past. However, postmodernists also make the case thatpeople are not bound by history. The centrifuge of modernity has separated societiesfrom their prior practices. Unlike realists (and Annalistes), who focus on the almost
  • 174. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 167geologic “slow-time” of social life, postmodernists are struck by the impermanenceof social forms. “The transitoriness of things makes it difficult to preserve any senseof historical continuity,” argues Harvey (ibid.: 11). This lends plasticity to politics:states are protean, the international system is more ephemeral than modernistsassume. Moreover, volatility in geopolitical and other commitments heightensinsecurity. Lyotard (1984:66) sees a trend toward “creative turmoil,” in which “thetemporary contract is in practice supplanting permanent institutions in theprofessional, emotional, sexual, cultural, family, and international domains, as wellas in political affairs.” Paul Virilio’s Speed and Politics (1986) argues that contractingtime and space accelerate military logistics to a permanent state of crisismanagement. James Der Derian’s Antidiplomacy: Spies, Terror, Speed, and War (1992)suggests that power is now more compelling in time than in space, that swiftnesshas become the greatest military comparative advantage. The lightning speed ofunfolding events and communications also increases fears that “nothing takes placein real time. Not even history. History in real time is CNN, instant news, which isthe exact opposite of history” (Baudrillard 1994:90). The rapidity and“imagification” of events may render obsolete modern modes of politicaldeliberation and circumspect statecraft, particularly those rooted in the frozen timeof the cold war. Postmodernists lock horns with Marxists over the question of historical laws,but when it comes to the effects of global capitalism the two are frequent allies.Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto (1848) of the explosive effectsof capitalism spurring the “canalization of rivers,” “the clearing of wholecontinents,” achieving “wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Romanaqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals.” The social and cultural dislocations ofcapitalism are even more striking: “All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their trainof ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formedones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air”(Marx and Engels 1991:738–9). Marx’s prediction that economics would ultimatelyturn on the economy of time also seems borne out in the compression of time andspace of capital accumulation. Time is money, the expression goes. Today, capitalis also radically deterritorialized. Transactions are instantaneous, occurring, as Marxenvisioned, in “the twinkle of an eye.” Postmodernists echo this great critique ofmodern political economy, pointing to the socioeconomic implosions sweepingthe “peripheral” world, and seeing the globalization of production for profit as avast regime of social and political control. Central Asia, for instance, has beentransformed in less than a decade from a backwater of the cold war to an epicenterof geo-economic rivalry, as vast oil supplies “commodify” the former Sovietrepublics. The juggernaut of Chinese “market-Leninism” may radically change thenature of that country’s society and politics. The economic collapse in SoutheastAsia has seen domino theory recycled as “contagion theory”—the idea that if onecountry’s economy is permitted to implode, it could start an uncontrollable chainof events involving markets and investors around the globe (Sanger 1998).
  • 175. 168 EXIT FROM HISTORY? Globalization and pasticheWhen Oliver Reiser coined the term “globalization” in Planetary Democracy (1944),he envisioned the process in unmistakably metanarrative form, as the “planetarysynthesis of cultures” into a kind of universalistic humanism. This triumphalisttone resounds in neoliberal appraisals of globalization, both in terms of commerceand democracy. Postmodernists are not alone in decrying this way of thinking,nor in pointing out the ill effects of globalization, notably the bland homogeneityspurred by time-space compression and the diffusion of capitalist “technoculture,”a process that may suppress or even eradicate traditional identities (Scholte 1996:48–9). However, unlike many critics and advocates, postmodernists do not viewglobalization as an inevitable, totalizing process. Rather, eclecticism replaces themaster script of globalization. The contemporary landscape is seen as a pastiche ofglobal, local, and hybrid cultures, as modernist narratives intersect with local historyto create novel social complexities and configurations. Traditional culturesnegotiate with global practices and norms, assimilating some easily, rejecting others,or producing hybrid forms in which global mores are tailored to local conditions.One sees this eclecticism in everyday dualities of shopping malls/farmers’ markets,storytelling/information highway, Fordism/flexible accumulation, globalblockbusters/independent film-making, state agencies/NGOs, federalistmovements/militia movements, and so forth. Postmodernists explore how these disparate scripts interact across differentrealms of society: Who profits from globalization? Do the benefits of globalismoutweigh the violence done to traditional forms of economic exchange and politicalorganization? Are benefits evenly distributed? How does globalization influencesociety and psychology? How to square the universalization of liberal democracywith the troubled welfare state? Importantly, postmodernists and other criticaltheorists argue that globalization entails more than these kinds of rationalistic andstructural reforms: it also demands a degree of cultural amnesia, an erosion ofhistory and memory, a forgetting of the old symbols and norms of authority, andan (arguably, forced) march into globalist terra incognita. Because globalizationthreatens identities and cultures, it may elicit indigenist or atavistic reactions. Therevival of historical enmities—real or imagined—shores up identity, clarifying orreclarifying the “we” and the “they” in the face of global homogenization, anomie,and disempowerment. Folkways become a form of resistance, but so mayprotectionist, nationalist, racial, or ethnic appeals fuel a kind of renationalizationand remercantilization. Harvey (1990:306) notes that “there are abundant signs thatlocalism and nationalism have become stronger precisely because of the quest forthe security that place always offers in the midst of all the shifting that flexibleaccumulation implies.” Zygmunt Bauman (1997:65) contends that globalizationand tribalization are “close allies and fellow conspirators.” In this age of pastiche, an understanding of local history is perhaps moreimportant than ever, particularly since both Marxism and modernization theory(and a great deal of international relations theory) discount the role of culture and
  • 176. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 169historical forms of political association (Kellner 1998:34). A monoperspective isgone. People live local lives in the shadow of global culture and capital, neitherfully autonomous, nor fully members of universal civil society and economy. Nolonger can one speak of whole societies as “traditional” or “developing.” Countriesmove in different directions at once. Historical continuities coexist withmodernization and change; novel forms do not necessarily signal a completerupture with the past. Even developed states witness neo-Luddite movements,various fundamentalisms, “mininationalisms,” splintered identities, and localizedviolence. Local history is essential to appreciate the historic allure of nativism andto demystify mythistorical appeals. Amid this eclectic geography, borders—evenwithin states—become increasingly poignant. Whether in Bosnia, Mexico, or Turkey,or in ASEAN, the EU, NATO, or NAFTA, questions of culture and identity arecentral to drawing boundaries. Again, local history illuminates these shifting andoverlapping frontiers of identity. It is impossible to do full justice here to the impact of pastiche on the study ofinternational politics. Suffice it to say that pastiche parallels a growing commitmentto pluralism in the field, particularly as the discipline awakens to the socialconstructs underpinning politics. The title of Yosef Lapid and FriedrichKratochwil’s volume, The Return of Culture and Identity in IR Theory (1996) speaksfor itself, as does that of Jill Krause and Neil Renwick’s collection of essays, Identitiesin International Relations (1996). Socially-based constructivist theory borrows heavilyfrom postmodernist identity politics (Wendt 1992). Increasingly, one discerns twistsof pastiche in “traditional” works as well, such as Fred Halliday’s RethinkingInternational Relations (1994), Anthony Smith’s Nations and Nationalism in a GlobalEra (1995), or Ian Clark’s Globalization and Fragmentation (1997). James Rosenau’sAlong the Domestic-Foreign Frontier (1997:31) describes the ambivalence ofcontemporary politics in terms of “fragmegration” (a portmanteau word forfragmentation and integration). Rosenau argues that this emerging world view ismarked by imaginary, fluid, or porous frontiers, a diversity of actors, issues, values,norms, practices, and global structures, and the centrality of “citizen skills” intaming a turbulent world. ConclusionDespite an alleged disdain for the past, postmodernists exhibit a broad interest inhistory and a salutary self-consciousness about the politics of historicalrepresentation. Disgruntlement with positivism and the assumptions that itentertains has led postmodernists to reassess what Rankean history has offered (andfailed to offer) international relations, and to question the field’s canon of receivedhistorical verities. In this, postmodernism throws open doors for the mind,revealing new vistas, problems, and relationships. Nevertheless, linguistic, cultural, or contextual determinism is no better than anyother form of determinism. Foucaultian postmodernism perhaps underappreciatespeople’s capacity for independent thought and action, and, when pursued to its
  • 177. 170 EXIT FROM HISTORY?logical conclusion, ends in despair. By closely historicizing ideas and events,postmodernists threaten to immure them within a parti cular past. An unstintingbelief in difference blinds theorists to parallels, analogies, and similarities that may,in fact, exist. One may also ask, how postmodern is it? Theorists of internationalpolitics who bear that appellation are invariably critical of high politics, but thisis accompanied by a sense that local knowledge is the level of analysis with therichest payout. Even hardened postmodern epistemologists often accept non-traditional histories at face value, or report their own discoveries in a tone of beliefreminiscent of Waltz discoursing on great-power strife. There is more than a vestigeof positivism in the idea that marginalized historical actors offer a more authenticand fruitful archive than state papers or press conferences. Postmodernists mayromanticize traditional resistance, much as cosmopolitans idealize the “globalvillage.” Celebrations of, say, the Ogoni in Nigeria or the Zapatistas in Chiapas canfall into folkloric “otherness,” reducing indigenous peoples to anti-globalist icons. More importantly, there is a profoundly illiberal side to postmodernism thatraises questions about the historical and political responsibilities of social theorists.Some versions of postmodernism reject the idea of shared humanity and universalnorms of freedom, human rights, or international law. These beacons of hope fadeinto the mists of particular cultures. This is one of the reasons that critics haveencouraged postmodernists to abandon the role of gadfly and contributeaffirmatively to the field. Keohane (1988) has challenged postmodernists to proposeand pursue a reflective research program of their own. Waltz, Mearsheimer, Holsti,and others have voiced similar admonishments from what postmodernists view asthe comfortable cave of orthodoxy (Smith 1996:34). But there is a postmodernproject that is looser, hipper, more localist than that of social scientists. Arguably,postpositivists are among the most activist theorists in the field. In place ofstructural sameness and scientific detachment, postmodernists assume amultiplicity of pragmatic truths, an idea akin to Aristotelian phronesis, or practicalwisdom. While much of the reaction to globalism is vilified as atavistic, tribalist,or fundamentalist, for example, one may also see resistance to globalization asfavoring a renewal of small-scale collective solidarities, which may or may not betied to place (Scholte 1996:53). In this vein, Richard Rorty has explored a kind ofanti-foundational communitarianism based not on belief in God or Reason, buton historic practices and affinities. Rorty notes, “If we give up this hope, we shalllose what Nietzsche called ‘metaphysical comfort,’ but we may gain a renewed senseof community. Our identification with our community—our society, our politicalinstitutions, our intellectual heritage —is heightened when we see this communityas ours rather than nature’s, shaped rather than found, one among many which menhave made…what matters is our loyalty to other human beings clinging togetheragainst the dark, not our hope of getting things right” (quoted in Novick 1988:541). Much, though certainly not all, of this project turns on a new vision of history,not as social science laboratory or gigantist narrative, but as a site of complexityand possibility. Hayden White submits a strategy for using history in a time of
  • 178. HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS 171apparently history-less chaos, arguing that the crisis of representation frees us fromthe “terror of history”: Since the second half of the nineteenth century, history has become increasingly the refuge for all those “sane” men who excel at finding the simple in the complex and the familiar in the strange. This was all very well for an earlier age, but if the present generation needs anything at all it is a willingness to confront heroically the dynamic and disruptive forces in contemporary life. The historian serves no one well by constructing a specious continuity between the present world and that which preceded it. On the contrary, we require a history that will educate us to discontinuity more than ever before; for discontinuity, disruption, and chaos is our lot. (quoted in Jenkins 1995:144–5)It is hard to be a little postmodern. Nevertheless, postmodern insights increasinglyfind their way into “traditional” international thought. In Britain, Canada, andAustralia, critical theorists have drawn epistemology to the center of the disciplinein a way that underscores the narrowness of the field’s great (positivist) debates(Smith 1996). In the United States, there is a vigorous cadre of postmodernists, yetthe mainstream seems intent on rescuing the discipline from them. A recent surveyon history and international relations in the journal International Security aimed todefend diplomatic history, which is described as one of the few remaining outpostsof “pre-postmodern” history (Elman and Elman 1997). Traditionalists fear thatdiplomatic history is being elbowed aside by politically correct “social history,” apastiche of inference and artifice “uncoupled from objective evidence” (Haber etal. 1997: 40). The conceit of this argument is that it equates “objective” history withhigh political history, and suggests that broader social forces cannot be representedin a rigorous way, or else are trivial in their effects. One wonders if this is not thepolitical equivalent of Matthew Arnold’s attempt, in Culture and Anarchy (1869), todefend Victorian high culture against the low-brow tide of “Barbarians, Philistines,and Populace.” The populist usurpation in international relations is perhaps lessdire—and the views being defended less deserving—than they may seem. Seriousscholarship can no longer shrug off concerns about the nature of evidence and thediversity of politics.
  • 179. 172
  • 180. 8 CONCLUSION History, skepticism, and the recovery of theoryThis study has attempted to examine critically the historical assumptions, methods,and evidence underpinning a range of approaches to international politics. Therelation between history and international relations is indeed deceptively simple.What are breezily thought of as “empirical” historical questions are to the skeptic’seye a troublesome link in a science of international politics. Modern theoristsattempt to transcend the ambiguities of political choices and a diversity of statepractices and “bottom—up” politics. History is tidily packaged or transformed intodata, then fitted to mechanical laws and economical explanations. Postmoderntheorists view history with sharp skepticism, but nevertheless render historical and“genealogical” judgments that cut against the grain of Enlightenment politicalthought and practice. At the same time, the divide between history and international relations is notnearly as stark as it is often painted. History is a discipline in motion, and is notimmune to theory. Historians would be at sea without models and concepts andnarratives that lend coherence to the artifacts and, perhaps, intimate the stories theytell. Similarly, theory often parallels current political problems and historicalstructures. Rarely are history and theory distinct spheres overlapping, like a Venndiagram, only at the “testing” stage. “Theory” does not refer simply to abstraction,or “history” simply to the canvassing of a body of evidence. Moreover, the paralleldevelopment of the disciplines—from great-power narrative, systems analysis,cliometrics, populist appeals, and back to narrative—suggests that the historians andpolitical scientists do, in fact, converse. The involution of international relations theoryNevertheless, theorists continue to rend from the historical record ever moreingenious explanations for international politics. In empirical war research alonewe find “heretofore neglected variable” explanations hinging on prestige, tradeexpectations, environmental scarcity, ascendant power, descendant power, inter-dependence as a condition of peace, inter-dependence as a condition of war, strategicculture, power structures, threat structures, governance structures, social structures,regional security regimes, democracy, nationalism, culture, justice, religion, andcivilization. The quest for parsimony encourages theorists to identify these sparse
  • 181. 174 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSmodels. Heedlessness toward the historical problem seals their success. It appearsnot to hinder one’s career if one’s theoretical claims are “counter-intuitive,” evenslightly outrageous. Surveying this embarrassing riches of theories, half-theories, and hunches,K.J.Holsti (1987) labeled international relations the “dividing discipline.” It seemslikely, however, that the field is undergoing not division but involution. Involutionrefers to increasingly complex or intricate development within fixed parameters.The result of this process, explains the anthropologist Arthur Goldenweiser, is progressive complication, a variety within uniformity, virtuosity within monotony. This is involution… The basic forms…have reached finality, the structural features are fixed beyond variation, inventive originality is exhausted. Still, development goes on. Being hemmed in on all sides by a crystallized pattern, it takes the function of elaborateness. Expansive creativeness having dried up at the source, a special kind of virtuosity takes its place, a sort of technical hairsplitting. (quoted in Geertz 1963:80–1)The involution of the field yields a gothic proliferation of “historicallycorroborated,” but often flatly contradictory, theories. The discipline has largelysettled on orthodox political science methods, notably the theory-hypothesistestingapproach, as the way to proceed. Driven to publish novel ideas, yet boxed in bythis pattern of inquiry, theorists fashion increasingly meticulous designs, and, likeTalmudic scholars or Marxist dogmatists, expound on arcane distinctions andhaggle over pennies. This discourse proceeds apparently unconcerned whether ornot the ideas being entertained can be tested and sustained historically. Theapproach may simply yield islands of highly abstract theory that exist for their ownsake, without any sense of meaning or purpose. Indeed, the Lakatosian emphasison identifying a “winning” theory makes one wonder if students of politics havenot internalized the conflicts they study. The fine-tuned linguistics ofpostmodernist theory threatens to fall into the same trap. This theoretical elaboration, with its medieval flavor, may simply be selfdefeating.It is important to recall that theory arises in response to interpretive problems.Because historical evidence is complex, we need a theory to direct our inquiry. Yet,while theory is a guide for framing questions, it also becomes a template foranswering them. This undercuts any role that history might play as an independentbody of evidence. Within a research program, where the bounds of inquiry arestipulated, theory may be merely self-verifying. We propose hypotheses andinterpret historical evidence in light of our theoretical project, which we then claimto have confirmed and advanced. Thus, despite its apparent industry and vigor, research within the bounds ofpolitical science does not necessarily evolve toward greater understanding or morepowerful explanations. Since history is filtered through theory, a proliferation oftheories further fragments historical interpretation. Supporting historical evidence
  • 182. CONCLUSION 175surfaces in the wake of theory; but then, it surfaces in the wake of most theories.Theorists generally find what they are looking for. History is rich enough andambiguous enough to sustain a wide range of narratives. The unfixed nature oftheory and history often has researchers reeling from fad to counter-fad. As YaleFerguson and Richard Mansbach lamented in The Elusive Quest (1988), the academiczeitgeist more than any rational scientific progression seems to buffet theory along. The historical problem, then, seems partly a theoretical problem, a consequenceof the parsimony and elegance of theory, and the ensuing extravagance of its claimson history. The simpler the model, the more Procrustean its treatment of history;reasoning outward from an unbending principle “forces” the researcher to twistthe evidence. Grand structure and overbroad axioms alike seem misguided, not leastbecause they encourage a licentious historical method. It would not be too fancifulto say that the search for historical laws or something very much like them, longdismissed as quixotic by most historians, has been taken up by internationaltheorists. Brimming with Victorian confidence, Seeley championed “scientific”historical methods, as the way to uncover “great truths having…scientific generalityand momentous political bearings,” notably “the laws by which states rise, expand,prosper and fall” (quoted in Thorne 1988:19). Moderate the language slightly, andSeeley has described international relations’ more ambitious research projects. In this quest for novelty and parsimony, we have seen theorists try to recasteconomic thought in political terms. Microeconomic theory has offered aparticularly alluring model for structuralists. As Stanley Hoffmann suggests (1987:15) of international relations in America, this “fascination with economics…hasled scholars to pursue the chimera of a masterkey. They have believed that the studyof a purposive activity aimed at a bewildering variety of ends, political action, couldbe treated like the study of instrumental action, economic behavior.” Many theoristsadapt theories of the firm, in which competitive markets shape behavior inpredictable ways, to the workings of the international system; or else theory isinspired by the workings of economic efficiency, linking up political choices to theproduction of goods or the allocation of resources. Both approaches see in thedynamics of politics a “hidden hand” guiding interest and conflict to anequilibrium. The economic approach seems wrongheaded as applied to politics. Soldiers,diplomats, populations, cultures, or civilizations rarely seem to acquit themselveslike rational economic actors. Economic choices revolve around the single,reducible goal of maximizing satisfactions. Political choices are motivated by manydifferent goals, pursued in many different ways. This would cripple Pareto-optimalor rational choice models that claim to have discovered a behavioral blueprintbeneath the apparent chaos of political conduct. More importantly, this sort ofclosed explanatory world tends to impose uniformity upon political diversity.Historical license is probably required in order to sustain the illusion that theresearcher has struck on a masterkey, either by carefully avoiding unhelpfulhistoriography, or canceling the search after uncovering a few confirming cases.
  • 183. 176 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSResearchers can even be oddly candid about their historiographic forays in searchof “best cases” offering “goodness-of-fit.” I discuss this further below, but the diversity of political goals suggests that amplehistorical content is required in order to understand what does inform decisions.Instead of imposing a rationale on political behavior, researchers should critically“consult,” via historical work, the people and processes involved. Pursued seriously,this imperfect art will help to keep theory within the pale of plausibility.Unfortunately, the plausibility of international relations theory is increasinglybeing drawn into question, and not only by postmodern critics. The Americandiplomat David Newsom (1996:121–9) has argued recently that faux science andmasterkey-ism have left the lion’s share of the discipline’s research stranded inacademia. Sloppy analogies and inaccurate accounts of the policy process haveundercut the field’s credulity and deepened the fault line between theory andpractice. The role of theorists as commentators on the current scene—considerablein the days of Niebuhr, Morgenthau, Kennan, and Aron—has been abdicated to thepundits. Perhaps worst of all, political science departments have become parchedterrain in which to cultivate future diplomats and political leaders. Recovering history and theoryA recent wave of commentaries on selection bias in the social sciences exhibits littlesense of the historical dimensions of the problem. Political scientists have tendedto “methodologize” historical challenges. Questions about epistemology areneglected in favor of more tractable problems about research design, in a way thatfurthers the clinical view of history. Works by Barbara Geddes (1990), David Collier(1995), and Collier and James Mahoney (1996) do not mention history orhistoriography at all. Gary King, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba’s celebratedDesigning Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (1994) brushes overhistorical questions (see Lustick 1996). The trio note (King et al.: 133) thatinvestigatorinduced selection bias is an “endemic problem” in research, though itappears not to extend to historical selection. Instead, we are told to consult “goodhistorians” who “understand which events were crucial” (ibid.: 53). The book doesdiscuss (ibid.: 212–13) the perils of analogical reasoning, yet the hazards are seento lie in the method’s shallow basis for generalizing, not, historically, in the analogybeing poorly drawn. Two works have looked more closely at these problems. Donald Puchala, a self-described refugee from positivist political science, argues that it is hopeless to foundinternational studies on the idea of historical truth. Following Rorty, Gadamer,Adorno, and others, he invites students of international affairs to abandon anyepistemological claims in favor of a “pragmatic” attitude toward history, that “wemay finally be prepared to allow truth to be useful instead of controversial” (Puchala1995:3). Puchala perhaps has in mind something like the “consensushistoriography” practiced in the United States in the 1950s, which employed motifsof shared values rather than societal conflict. While pragmatic views of history—
  • 184. CONCLUSION 177foundation myths, core norms, collective goods, and the like—may have virtuouseffects on domestic polities, international parallels have proved elusive. Theconjoining threads of international history are more apt to enflame animosities:the myth of the “white man’s burden,” imposed Lockean, Smithian, Marxist, orFukuyaman evolution, visions of manifest destiny, dependencia narratives, orvulgarized realist histories. Arguably, theorists have been pragmatic, and that hasbeen part of the problem. Ian Lustick’s paper, mentioned at the outset, illustrates clearly the problem ofmultiple historical records. However, Lustick appears not to grasp what this impliesfor research. He attempts to dissuade social scientists, faced with differentrenderings of the same reality, from throwing off the theoryhypothesis-testingharness. He suggests that the problem can be mitigated if researchers “direct explicitand systematic attention to historiography… and demonstrate self-consciousnessin the selection of source material and in the construction of stylized backgroundnarratives.” He advises researchers to lay bare their historiographic allegiances, toseek regularities across interpretive schools, and to mediate different accountsthrough “quasitriangulation.” Lustick points to a “silver lining” in the historicalcloud: acknowledging the diversity of historical accounts and expanding ourdatabase “will help, not hinder, efforts to find opportunities for study in whichcases outnumber variables” (Lustick 1996:605, 615–16). Lustick seems less concernedthat there are rival explanations; he turns a philosophical question into amethodological game. More accounts means more cases. One could adopt thismethod and do a multiple-case comparative analysis of a single event! If pragmatism seems defeatist and political science tinkering inadequate, wheredo we turn? My own view is that historical work should, in epistemology, inhabita middle ground between naïve chronicle and pure subjectivism. In method, itshould abandon the treasure-house view of history in favor of greater reflection andresearch. In place of trying to distill the essence of politics from history, theoristsmight wade deeper into history’s complexities. A more supple conception of theoryis also in order. Theory should seek as much light as possible, and avoid amonolithism that flattens diversity and closes off ideas. For the ancient Greeks,theory meant considering, contemplating, or speculating outside of fixed forms ofthought. In this vein, theorists might reconsider involuted theory, and instead relaxtheir scientific claims and nomothetic judgments, and tether their ideas closer tothe ambiguities of the material. Oakeshott often said that a “conversational” styleof theorizing was more fruitful than rudely juxtaposing truth claims. This in mind,let us consider some remedies to the historical problem, and a broader view of whathistorical skepticism might mean for international relations. “History is not a feeding trough”So declared the nineteenth-century historian Dietrich Schäfer (quoted in Marwick1970:63–4). Understanding rather than instrumentality should guide historicalusage. We should resist viewing the past as an arsenal of unambiguous weaponry
  • 185. 178 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSto be deployed in international relations’ theory wars. Historical inference shouldbe guided by a critical spirit rather than by convenience. Historical evidence shouldnot be manipulated in order to flatter one’s ideology or to embellish one’steleological edifice. Patterns and perennials should not extend far beyond theartifacts or arbitrarily occlude events that do not fit. Recalling that in “pure” historythere is no such thing as an aberration, theorists should acknowledge contraryhistoriography. Theorists who contend with a variety of historical schools and arguments arelikely to produce what are ultimately more compelling—and complex —insights.Often the best history is the most engaged, not that which appears to have beenwritten on another planet. At least one knows where the historian stands; it is alsoclear that his/her work represents in some sense an argument (and often a coherentview of the world), rather than an infallible disquisition or edict on the past.Researchers might go to some pains to consult histories that do not necessarilyshare their theoretical proclivities—realist, structural, liberal, conservative, military,economic, etc. If the goal is truly to “test” theoretical claims, then disturbing a cozyconsensus between history and theory suggests that research is proceeding apace.As Georg Schwarzenberger noted in Power Politics (1951:10, 18), “Practically everygeneration rewrites its history books, and not always for the reason that newdocuments have come to light… Students of international relations could do worsethan to analyze any situation from all relevant points of view… In cases of doubt,it is wise to remember that the choice is hardly ever between white and black butonly between various shades of gray.” Nor should accounts be ripped from context. It can be deceptive to approachhistoriography as a series of detachable events, which flow neatly one to the next.There will, of course, be tears in Maitland’s famous “seamless web” of history, butthis is not to claim that events and broader social movements can be understoodand evaluated apart from the broader processes in which they are embedded. Takinga cue from the Annalistes and the new historians, researchers might weigh broaderconceptions of international history than traditional, “event-centered” politics.Viewing foreign affairs only through “diplomatic,” “military,” or “political” lensessurely yields a distorted account of complex events and long-term trends. J.H.Hexter referred to this old problem as “tunnel history.” By this, Hexter meantthe practice of splitting the past into a series of tunnels, each continuous from the remote past to the present, but practically self-contained at every point and sealed off from contact with or contamination by anything that was going on in any of the other tunnels. At their entrances these tunnels bore signs saying diplomatic history, political history, institutional history, ecclesiastical history, intellectual history, military history, economic history, legal history, administrative history, art history, colonial history, social history, agricultural history, and so on. (Hexter 1961:194)
  • 186. CONCLUSION 179Lest one assume that this arrangement evolved because it represented the mostfruitful approach to the past, Hexter points out that tunnel history originated withthe peculiar filing systems of various public and private archives. The system wasperpetuated, until the Annales breakthrough and other interdisciplinary andpostmodernist efforts, by historians themselves, and survives in the social sciencesto the extent that each discipline draws on “its” historical tributary in research. In international relations, as in international history, what tunnels are relevantand which walls should be breached are matters of some dispute. (I know a politicaltheorist who, at a faculty senate meeting, proposed renaming his department “TheDepartment of War and Imperialism,” since that seemed to be how most of hiscolleagues conceived of politics.) Event-centered, “headline” history can beenriched, though probably not replaced, by cultural, sociological, normative, andeconomic foci, as well as aspects of cultural psychology and identity politics.Political economy and studies of globalization, certainly, are booming in bothdisciplines. Top-down or bottom-up?This eclecticism in history and theory is changing the face of international relations.As was noted at the end of the previous chapter, it has also sparked defenses of old-fashioned diplomatic history. As noted, Charles Maier (1980: 356) contended thatthe nature of international politics resisted any movement toward “methodologicaldemocratization.” “Rankean exegesis” was still the mainstay of diplomatic historybecause international affairs were still dominated by necessitous, top-downstatecraft. More recently, traditionalists have skewered new historians for theflimsiness of their constructs and have called for a renaissance in elite-baseddiplomatic history, where at least there is a hard core of documentary evidence ofthe sort “that statesmen and diplomats, at least at one time, scrupulouslymaintained” (Haber et al. 1997:39). Whether or not this represents the advent of the “documentary fallacy” remainsto be seen. The suspicion lingers that this historiographic claim is, in the firstinstance, a theoretical claim—and one that many historians and political scientistscontest vigorously. (As noted, the more inclusive designation “internationalhistory” seems to be gaining in favor.) What is really at issue is the Westphalian,dare we say, “realist,” “billiard ball” assumption that states are “unitary, rationalactors.” Lashing back at social history and postmodernism, traditionalists welcomeRanke’s aim to recount history “as it really was,” yet in the same gate slips Ranke’sbelief that high politics as reflected in state papers is the level, focus, and methodof historical analysis which best explains international outcomes. An exclusively, or even primarily, top-down model seems increasingly difficultto justify as high politics are eroded by the democratization of foreign policies andthe free flow of money, goods, and ideas. Fred Halliday (1996: 324) suggests thatthe realist wedding of history and international relations, in particular, “rests on arather limited, if not dated, conception of history itself—that of diplomacy and
  • 187. 180 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSwars, with little space for more recent developments of economic, social andpopular orientation.” Even the assumption of anarchy requires a leap ofimagination. As Hedley Bull (1977) argued so well, foreign affairs unfold not understark anarchy, but under the precarious norms of an anarchical society. Althoughsome postmodern work might lead one to think otherwise, states are not apt towither away any time soon. However, many other forces coexist alongside the statesystem, tempering anarchy, and, at times, sparking local reactions. One cannotassume these forces away as inconsequential, or of such minor effect, that theorycan afford to overlook them. Of course, there are other, less tractable ways of thinking about internationalpolitics that employ matrices that are more complex or center on the interstices ofdomestic and international realms, or work across different facets of society. Fortyyears ago, A.E.Campbell decried the dominance of that “tradition ofhistoriography, long-established…that diplomatic history can be studied as a thingapart, and that the relations of nation-states proceed with little reference to…theemotions and the private interests of the people who live in them” (quoted inThorne 1988). The historical sociologist Michael Mann suggests (1986:16–17) thatstates are “functionally promiscuous.” “Complexities proliferate the more we probe.Military alliances, churches, common language, and so forth, all add powerful,sociospatially different networks of interaction.” Mann acknowledges that “toconceive of societies as confederal, overlapping, intersecting networks rather thanas simple totalities complicates theory,” yet no rigor need be lost in the process. A great deal of relevance stands to be gained. The enemy in today’s world is notgreat-power strife or dyadic conflict so much as it is violence and chaos flowingfrom anomie and terrorism and ethnic conflict, as empires collapse and thecartography of states is tested from below. Much of the field is now focusing onthe influence of non-state factors in political development, on shifting notions ofsovereignty and political loyalty, the interaction between global and local forces,economics and identity, and so forth. This sort of layering seems vastly superior tothe “levels-of-analysis” lottery, where the theorist decides at the outset where to focushis inquiry. This kind of work is messy and localist. It rewards smaller narrativesand greater historical expertise as a way of illuminating underlying causes andhistorical precedents. There may also be less pressure to bend history to fit universaltheory. New history need not usurp the traditional narrative approach. In fact, event-centered narrative is undergoing something of a recovery in contemporaryhistoriography, though in a way that favors description over analysis, and whichstresses the context in which events are imbedded as well as how they affect, andare understood by, “ordinary people.” In addition, historians increasingly recognizethat their narratives, like all narratives, are conditional constructs (Burke 1992b:235). This eclecticism may be seen as invigorating theory and history, not gutting them.It may also engender greater appreciation for political change. The most pedestrianhistorian is attentive to change, yet theorists of international politics more likelydirect our interest to continuities rather than innovations. The static assumptionsof many theories, wedded to law-based analysis, can yield a sort of behavioral
  • 188. CONCLUSION 181fatalism that presumes fixed patterns: political choices as thought to be more orless determined by certain conditions and configurations of variables; states andother actors reacting similarly to similar circumstances. Theories of internationalchange are still rare, or, like neorealism, depict change in glacial terms. One mightexpect that as a discipline matures, dynamic theories would replace static ones.However, international relations has marched in the opposite direction. Carrthought more about change than Waltz ever did. The failure of the discipline to anticipate the collapse of the Soviet Union wasa striking indication of this theoretical paralysis. The field was hardly looking fordramatic change. The Winter 1989/1990 issue of International Security, under thebanner of “New Challenges for Soviet Security Policy,” explained the necessaryincrementalism of Soviet foreign relations and Western responses. One pieceventured to ask, “Beyond the Brezhnev Doctrine: A New Era in Soviet-EastEuropean Relations?” A year earlier, the journal had been probing urgent questionslike, “Is There a Tank Gap?” and whether or not conventional European securitycould rest upon the “3:1 Rule,” which held that an aggressor required three timesits opponent’s “power” on the ground in order to pierce the adversary’s front-linedefenses. In retrospect, of course, it all has a surreal quality. As bells tolled the Sovietdemise, most of the discipline proved stone deaf. Kennan’s “X” article, steeped inCzarist history and Russian cultural psychology, foretold the collapse better thanthe array of modern theories. Consider statecraft when conferring causalityThe failure to understand the end of the cold war is related to the fact that muchof theory resides at a “safe” distance from everyday politics. Nearly forty years ago,J.David Singer (1961:78) lamented that students of international politics “roamedup and down the ladder of organizational complexity with remarkable abandon.”Most theorists, Singer included, eventually landed on the systems rung. Severaldovetailed circumstances favored this model: its analogy to classical economictheory; consensus on the approach among behavioralists; the structural aversion tocracking open the “black box” of the state; perhaps the perception that systemicresearch connoted systematic research. Most importantly, the systems path seemedto be ascending to that El Dorado of the field: a “general theory” of internationalrelations. The problem with distant theory is that it foists a rationale upon events andactors. Theorists and researchers working at any level of analysis might play morelight on political process. The orthodox approach, beginning with Morgenthau“looking over the diplomat’s shoulder,” has been less concerned with understandingthe rationale behind political acts, than it is with conferring a rationale upon thoseacts—without regard to the actor’s intentions or motivations. Intentions are difficultto gauge, but that does not make them any less important. The path tounderstanding foreign policymaking almost certainly travels through the minds offoreign policymakers. Unlike the tides, which rise and fall by no will of their own,
  • 189. 182 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSsetting and executing foreign policy requires human agents. Diplomatic behavior,where motivations are murky and where perceptions about security, power, prestige,interests, economics, and norms are so important, seems particularly uncongenialto “outside” explanations. Viewed from afar, the “dynamic” “at work” in political choice may seem clear.Yet, the fit between our model and the events it purports to decipher disregards theuncertainties, the contingencies, and the ends sought that attended the decision atthe time. Imputed rationales curtail debate about necessity versus discretion instatecraft, and disregard the fragile circumstances that surround political processes.Ascribing causes to diplomatic decisions has become an excuse to ignore ortranscend ambiguous historical evidence. This could well be missing the point.With politics working at many different levels and social domains, it is entirelypossible, as Aron (1966:7) contended, that “the ambiguity in ‘internationalrelations’ is not to be imputed to the inadequacy of our concepts: it is an integralpart of reality itself.” Only historical inquiry can bridge this gap between political acts and scientificexplanations. As Peter Winch argued in The Idea of a Social Science and Its Relationto Philosophy (1958), “no historical situation can be understood simply by ‘applying’such laws, as one applies laws to particular occurrences in natural science. Indeed,it is only in so far as one has an independent historical grasp of situations…that oneis able to understand what the law amounts to at all” (Winch 1958:136). This is theidea advanced earlier of “consulting” political actors and processes to keep one’stheory on track. Did foreign policy acts occur as hypothesized? Were decisionstaken for the reason(s) our model provides? Were leaders influenced or inspired bypressure from below? Theoretical assertions require historical ballast. Again, this isan imperfect art. At the level of traditional diplomatic history, content analysis ofpublic speeches is probably not the way to proceed. As Thucydides and Ranke bothfound, personal accounts are often tainted, as memoirists flatter their own deedsand wisdom; in most countries, extensive state secrecy is still in place; mentalitiesand norms are difficult to gauge; coding of diplomatic history seems of marginalutility. Still, historical evidence nevertheless remains the raw material of researchin the field. Its defects do not justify historically distant, “hang-in-the-air” assertions. Distant theory is most distressing, however, because it overwhelms the humanfactor in history. Politics are seen to unfold at a great remove from ordinaryexperience. The historian William Dray (1963:132–3) deplored how “covering”explanatory models—the deductive method—raise “a kind of conceptual barrier toa humanistically oriented historiography.” The same is true of political models thatconceal people and process behind a mass of variables, or, as the case may be, onebig variable. Many theorists celebrate having diminished the place of leadership ordiplomatic practices or the perceived meaning of events in their explanations. Thesame analysts will be hard pressed to grasp, say, the 1989 revolutions in EasternEurope without reference to Adam Michnik or Václav Havel or Mikhail Gorbachev,or without some sense of the tenor of the times. These are the social sciences. Thissame detached logic of necessity buttresses the belief that outcomes were somehow
  • 190. CONCLUSION 183foreordained. Even under the most compelling conditions, history wie es eigentlichgewesen ist was bound up in individual or collective choices. Structure and processwere both at work. Nor were political decisions simply mechanically causal; theywere also morally responsible. As Hugh TrevorRoper noted (1981:364), “History isnot merely what happened: it is what happened in the context of what might havehappened.” The fruit of skepticismInternational relations theory dwells in the twilight between history and prophecy,and it is sometimes tempting to conclude that its “back to the future” argumentsfail on both counts. Parsimonious social science explanations seem something ofa charade, marching, methodological banners flying, into the fog of human history.History is not the autonomous body of evidence empirical researchers envision; itis theory-laden, present-centered, and the source of a rainbow of interpretations.Although the patterns of history are not as facile or nomothetic as social scientistsmight like them to be, we can make modest claims on history and derive broadhistorical lessons. But those lessons are complex and ambivalent; closer tointimations, they underscore the abiding predicaments of world politics—thedilemmas of power and security, of jealous sovereignty and the precariousness ofworld community—but steer us along no definitive theoretical or practical path. Given this empire of circumstance, skepticism remains a sound position. Thehistorian H.A.L.Fisher once noted that “Men wiser and more learned than I havediscerned in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. These harmoniesare concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following upon another…only one safe rule for the historian: that he should recognize in the developmentof human destinies the play of the contingent and the unforeseen” (quoted in Wight1992:29). Fisher was arguing against the idea of progress, but he was not proposinga doctrine of cynicism and despair. Indeed, not knowing, or withholding judgment,keeps us alive to the possibilities of history, just as structure and determinism mayfuel complacency about our lot. One can argue that the historical process itself challenges us morally, givingsubstance (and ambiguity) to moral life. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr. notes (1966: 17),history should lead us “to a profound and humbling sense of human frailty.” Itshould lead us to the perception, “so insistently demonstrated by experience andso tragically destructive of our most cherished certitudes,” that “the possibilities ofhistory are far richer and more various than the human intellect is likely toconceive.” And yet, since “the tragedy of history implicates us all in the commonplight of humanity, we are never relieved, despite the limits of our knowledge andthe darkness of our understanding, from the necessity of meeting our obligations.”Only normative theory can suggest where those obligations lie. The fruit of skepticism is the knowledge that the elaborate machinery of politicalscience cannot fathom the potential of history. At some point, scientificunderstandings fail us. As Kant (1970:63) wrote, “Such illusory wisdom imagines
  • 191. 184 HISTORY AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONSit can see further and more clearly with its mole-like gaze fixed on experience thanwith the eyes which were bestowed on a being designed to stand upright and toscan the heavens.” Empirical work needs a more critical attitude toward history,especially awareness of presentism and ideological spin, but also of the conditionalcharacter of history itself. “History,” in the words of the Dutch historian PieterGeyl (1949:16), “is indeed an argument without end.” We should view what is forhistorians their own “great debate” about the precision and use of their craft as apath toward greater rigor and relevance in our own ideas.
  • 192. NOTES 2 THE HISTORICAL PROBLEM1 Important works on the relation between history and international relations include Bryce (1909), Hughes (1960), Gilbert (1968), Birch (1969), Jensen (1969), Ford (1972), Reynolds (1973), Purnell (1976), Small (1976), Schroeder (1977), Stone (1977), Singer (1978), Lauren (1979), Maier (1980), Friedländer et al. (1981), Craig (1983), Thorne (1983), Hill (1985), Gaddis (1987), Thorne (1988), Sked (1989), Njølstad (1990), Howard (1991), Kavanagh (1991), Watson (1992), Hall and Kratochwil (1993), Salomon (1993), Buzan and Little (1994), Levy (1994b), Schroeder (1994a), Spence (1994), Buzan and Little (1995), Puchala (1995), Ferguson and Mansbach (1996), Lustick (1996), Elman and Elman (1997), Gaddis (1997a), Ingram (1997), Levy (1997), Schroeder (1997), and Suganami (1997).2 The original German is in Ranke (1874: vii). Georg Iggers points out that “eigentlich,” the key to the phrase, had an ambiguity in nineteenth-century German that it no longer has. The word meant “actually” or “really,” but it also meant “characteristic” or “essential.” Iggers attributes this latter usage to Ranke, and suggests that a better translation of the phrase might be, “how, essentially, things happened” (see Iggers and Moltke 1973: xix, 137).3 Cf. Marc Bloch’s (1963:140) plea to historians not to become obsessed with judging their subjects: “Robespierrists! Anti-Robespierrists! For pity’s sake, simply tell us what Robespierre was.” Cf. also Ernst Renan’s stricture that history be written “with as much supreme indifference as if [it] were written in another planet” (Snyder 1958:8).4 This was the reported rejoinder of Benjamin Jowett, Master of Balliol College, Oxford, to William Stubbs’s attempts to instill Ranke’s method in undergraduates. From 1866 to 1884, Stubbs held the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Oxford (see Marwick 1970:54–5).5 Of the luminaries of nineteenth-century American historiography, George Bancroft, who studied under Ranke in Germany, probably comes closest to the master’s great- nation Historismus. Bancroft’s magisterial History of the United States (1834–1840) sees reflected in US history the tide of a universal democratic spirit, and in the case of “manifest destiny,” harmony between divine will and US national interests.6 The classic statement is Ernst Bernheim’s Lehrbuch der historischen Methode (1889), which focuses on the “logic of discovery,” setting aside narrative construction as a
  • 193. 186 NOTES matter of aesthetics and ideology. Similar arguments are made in Goldstein (1976) and Ankersmit (1983). 7 Here Oakeshott builds on criticism of the “Whig” interpretation of history, which Herbert Butterfield (1931:v) described as “the tendency in many historians … to praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasise certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present.” Cf. this culminatory account of history with R.H.Tawney’s contention that “Historians give an appearance of inevitability to an existing order by dragging into prominence the forces which have triumphed and thrusting into the background those which they have swallowed up” (Tawney 1912: 177). 8 Spiro (1994:62) notes, “it is important to remember that the subjective judgments by which variables are coded in data sets have significant and important effects on the results yielded by analysis of those data.” He adds (ibid.: 78) that such analysis elevates a static explanation (regime type) over path-dependent explanations, such as a shifting balance of power, thereby “remov[ing] the variables from their historical context.” See also Russett et al. (1995), wherein the authors essentially accuse each other of manipulating data to conform to their theories. The broader interpretive question is lost in this thicket of blame laying. 9 See the collection of papers prepared for the conference, “The Korean War: An Assessment of the Historical Record,” sponsored by The Korea Society and The Korea- America Society and held at Georgetown University, 24–25 July, 1995. 3 HISTORY, CONTINGENCY, AND THE ROOTS OF REALISM 1 This is not to suggest that the classical approach is unique to realism. 2 Oakeshott (1983:39) hastens to point out that “it was in ‘Livy,’ a well-known collection of legenda, lying upon his table in Sant’Andrea in Percussina, and not at all in ‘Roman history,’ that Machiavelli found the exemplars of human conduct which he used so effectively to identify current situations, to express his reading of what was afoot in his time, to predict what was likely to come of it and to counsel and admonish the rulers of his day.” 3 Niebuhr first spoke of a nascent prophetic minority in Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932:87). Although the idea of a moral elite (not necessarily religious in inspiration; “realist” liberals might play this role) was a product of Niebuhr’s more radical days, it is a notion he advocated, and in many ways embodied, throughout his life. See Smith (1986:110–11). 4 By the late 1950s, Niebuhr had begun to question on prudential as well as ethical grounds the wisdom of expanding the United States’ nuclear arsenal. In a perhaps revealing passage he noted, “The uniqueness of this development probably can only be explained by the fact that economic power is more readily transmuted into military power than into political power” (Niebuhr 1959:295). 5 Michael Joseph Smith (1986:75–6) has pointed to the shallowness of Carr’s historical probing, specifically his “virtually determinist” “sole reliance on undifferentiated power as an explanatory factor.”
  • 194. NOTES 187 4 HISTORY, ANALOGY, AND POLICY REALISM1 Morgenthau wrote scores of essays against American intervention in Vietnam. For his trouble, he incurred the wrath of the Johnson administration, which stripped him of his security clearance and, perhaps, investigated his private affairs. In one piece, Morgenthau (1965) expressed “the likelihood of Soviet military intervention” in Indochina.2 For variations on this theme see Claude (1962:25–37) and Tucker (1952: 214–24). Tucker suggested that Morgenthau confused empirical and normative analysis: that when he posited the “laws” by which politics did work, he was actually describing the norms by which politics should work.3 Hoffmann (1987:10), for example, argues: What the leaders looked for, once the cold war started, was some intellectual compass which would serve multiple functions: exorcise isolationism, and justify a permanent and global involvement in world affairs; rationalize the accumulation of power, the techniques of intervention, and the methods of containment apparently required by the cold war; explain to a public of idealists why international politics does not leave much leeway for pure good will, and indeed besmirches purity; appease the frustrations of the bellicose by showing why unlimited force or extremism on behalf of liberty was no virtue; and reassure a nation eager for ultimate accommodation, about the possibility of both avoiding war and achieving its ideals. “Realism,” however critical of specific policies, however (and thus self-contradictorily) diverse in its recommendations, precisely provided what was necessary.4 I would be remiss if I did not mention that in a statistical survey of research in the field, John Vasquez found that in 7000 applications of realist hypotheses, 90 percent were either proved weak or were falsified. He tested a bare-bones conception of “realism,” which conceived of states as autonomous, unitary, self-seeking, and rational. He suggests that psychological approaches may pose the greatest challenge to realism. “Rational” choices were heavily influenced by beliefs, perceptions, and the different ways that statesmen digested information (Vasquez 1983: 176–203). 5 THE POVERTY OF AHISTORICISM1 The title of this chapter is inspired in equal parts by Karl Popper’s The Poverty of Historicism (1957) and Richard Ashley’s (1986) essay “The Poverty of Neorealism.”2 The most concise survey of neorealism’s impact on the field is Keohane (1986). The following other commentaries and critiques only scratch the surface. Challenges from the classical realist school include Thompson (1996:125–45) and Forde (1995). A critique of neorealism built around the role of prestige in international politics is Mercer (1996). For the constructivist position, see Wendt (1987 and 1992) and Katzenstein (1996). Representing critical theory are Ashley (1986) and Cox (1986). In
  • 195. 188 NOTES terms of historical change, see Walker (1987) and Kratochwil (1993). For criticisms from the standpoint of globalization theory, see the essays in MacMillan and Linklater (1995) and Hirst and Thompson (1996). Critiques grounded in historical sociology include Spruyt (1994) and Hall (1986). The “democratic peace” thesis is a direct challenge to neorealism. See Nincic (1994), and Brown et al. (1996). Weighing in on behalf of the English School are Buzan and Little (1995) and Little (1995). 3 See Richard Ashley’s (1986:26–63) discussion of “the triumph of scientific realism.” 4 The crispest exposition of the Lakatosian aims of the neorealist research program is Tellis (1995). A number of other neorealists have been explicit in adhering to Lakatos’s progressive approach to science. See, for example, Elman (1996). See also Vasquez (1997). 5 In fairness, neorealist research has generally not relied on quantitative analyses. However, see Walt (1987:275, Table 16, and 289–91, Appendix II). The field’s increasingly frequent invocation of Lakatos over the past decade is probably a function of the sociology of the discipline, not a reflection of any great awareness of Lakatosian research parameters. Of course, Lakatos’s forgiving view of theory meshes well with Waltzian and other deductive views of theory. 6 This is a restatement of Kant’s idealist epistemology, which held that the world could only be observed through a synthetic framework of a priori principles (see Kant 1970: 16–17). The affinity with constructionist historians is also apparent. 6 “THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING SCIENTIFIC” 1 Here Singer speaks of “the importance of being scientific.” 2 Independent appraisals of the COW include Duvall (1976), Job and Ostrum (1976), Starr (1976), Vasquez (1987), Dessler (1991), and Gaddis (1992/1993). 3 The School is named after the journal Annales d’histoire économique et sociale, founded by Bloch and Febvre at Strasbourg in 1929. After the Second World War the journal was renamed Annales: Économies, sociétés, civilisations, and was edited by Febvre and later Fernand Braudel at the Sixième Section of the École Politiques des Hautes Études. 4 John Vasquez argues that data-making is a “paradigmatic activity.” In other words, it operates within the bounds of Kuhnian “normal science.” Vasquez’s “color it Morgenthau” thesis holds that virtually all quantitative work in international relations has adopted realist precepts. See Vasquez (1979) and Vasquez (1983: 139–41). 5 The 1994 data set makes a nod toward this problem, providing an aggregate figure for all battle-related combatant deaths sustained in extra-systemic wars. This does give a better sense of the overall killing. Unfortunately, the number is not broken down by participant, making a muddle of a series of intensity figures based on battle deaths per each participant’s population and months at war. Also, importantly, COW researchers have recently proposed a new typology of war. Included are three new categories of extra-systemic wars that involve non-state actors. One of these is a future- looking classification of wars composed entirely of non-state actors, which some COW participants see as a trend in conflict around the world. If carried through, this would entail an enormous recoding task, as well as a rethinking of many of the project’s central claims. See Wayman et al. (1997).
  • 196. NOTES 1896 The COW claims inter-coder reliability as impressively high as 0.94 using Scott’s pi, although reliability falls off in more complex coding procedures.7 Geller and Singer (1998) is a broad survey of the state of the art of quantitative research on war, much of which is based on COW data. The book falls short of a “synthesis” of quantitative work in the field, for reasons the authors make plain (Geller and Singer 1998:3–5). Nevertheless, the survey is clearly organized around a number of important themes at the decisionmaking, regime, dyadic, and systemic levels, and will prove useful as an extended literature review. 7 EXIT FROM HISTORY?1 These are contested categories. Brown distinguishes postmodern theory from critical theory, but affirms that all postmodern approaches are united by skepticism toward Enlightenment social science: no small commonality. Yosef Lapid (1989) sees post- positivists united by concerns about paradigms, perspectives, and relativism. The relation between Marxism and postmodernism is hotly debated. On these points see also Vasquez (1995) and Brown (1994). General surveys of post-modernism readers may wish to consult include Harvey (1990), Bertens (1995), and, for a skeptical take on postmodern social science, Rosenau (1992), which includes a helpful glossary of postmodern terms. Ninkovich (1998) is an excellent review of recent postmodern literature in international relations.2 Pauline Rosenau (1992) makes a helpful distinction between skeptical and affirmative postmodernism, which I generally adopt. However, I would amend this to say that most postmodernists seem to be of two minds: skeptical on certain issues, affirmative on others. Postmodernists in international relations generally seem more affirmative than Rosenau allows.3 Cf. W.B.Gallie’s statement that “history is a species of the genus story” (quoted in Alker 1996:297).4 For a fuller explanation of White’s theory than is possible here, see Jenkins (1995: 146–73), on which this discussion is based.5 Thanks to Desmond Dewsnap of the University of Southern California for pointing this out to me.
  • 197. 190
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  • 218. INDEXAcheson, D. 84 Arnold, M. 12;Acton, Lord 44, 52, 142; Culture and Anarchy 170 The Cambridge Modern History 14–15 Aron, R. 8, 33, 90, 98, 138, 175, 181Adams, H.B. 15 Ashley, R.:Adams, President J. 43 counter-memory 160–8;Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M.: hegemonic discourse 157; Dialectic of Enlightenment 145–2 identity and geopolitics 161;Alamanach de Gotha 132 modern sovereignty critique 158–6;Albrecht-Carrié, R. 7 neorealism critique 105;Alker, H. 156 and Walker, R.B.J. on decentering powerAmerican Civil War (1861–5) 26 157–6American Historical Association 15, 116 atavism 143, 166Amin, S. 147 Augustine, Saint 33, 39analogical reasoning 28–1, 47–9, 66–69, 84– 9, 97–2, 175–3 Bacon, F. 54anank ē 35 balance of power:anarchy: alternative explanations for 72–7; Bull, H. critique 179–7; and cold war 74–9; historical critiques 101–8; as historiographic school 72; neorealist model 96–3; history of idea 69–3; postmodern critique 157–6, 161–9; and moral reasoning 43, 73; realist conception 33 Morgenthau, H.J. theory 70–5, 73–8;Anderson, B.: neorealist model 104–10; Imagined Communities 151 Niebuhr, R. theory 43;Anderson, M.S. 70 Schroeder, P.W. revisionism 72–7Angell, N.: bandwagoning 72–6, 104 The Great Illusion 50 Bangladesh War (1971) 137Ankersmit, F.R. 27 Barth, K. 41Annales (Annales d’histoire économique et Barthes, R. 153 sociale/Annales: Économies, sociétés, Basel, Treaty of (1795) 68 civilisations) 7, 30, 115–1, 149, 177–5 Bates, M. 97Anschluss (1938) 138 Baudrillard, J. 165–3antiquarianism 3 Bauman, Z. 168appeasement 34, 55–8 Bayat, A.:Arendt, H. 146 Street Politics 150Aristotle, 12, 33, 64, 65, 69, 86, 170 211
  • 219. 212 INDEXBeard, C.A. 16, 18, 51 Buzan, B. 90, 102Becker, C. 16, 18, 51, 65Behavioral Correlates of War (BCOW) 121; Campbell, A.E. 179 coding methods 135–1; Campbell, D.: path dependence 135–2; creation of cold war identity 163; process tracing 135–3 McCarthyism 163;Benjamin, W. 145 US portrayal of Japan 164;Benson, L. 116 US war on drugs 163–1;Bentham, J. 161 Writing Security 161–71Berlin, I. 44–6 Canning, G. 71Birch, A.H. 24–6 Capote, T. 156Bismarck, O. von 96 Carlos V 28Blainey, G. 23 Carlyle, T. 14Bloch, J. de: Carnegie Corporation 119 La Guerre Future 120 Carnegie Commission on PreventingBloch, M. 115 Deadly Conflicts 144Bodin, J. 54 Carr, E.H. 14, 21, 31, 33–5, 48–58, 61, 101,Bosnian War (1992–5) 143–50 147;Bradbury, M. 30 harmony of interests critique 49–2;Bradley, A.C. 42 on historical knowledge 51–4;Bradley, F.H. 16 on historical lessons 51;Braudel.: and historical selection 18, 52; and Annales 188n.; idea of progress in 52; history and social science 5; Locarno Treaty (1925) 55; material civilization 151; Munich Conference (1938) 55–8; The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean Nationalism and After 57; World in the Age of Philip II 141 objectivity in history 52;Brezhnev, L. 80 power and historical judgment 55–58;Bridenbaugh, C. 116 progressivist historical interpretationBritish Committee for the Theory of 51–7; International Politics 102 realism critique 49;British-Zulu War (1879) 124 sociology of knowledge 31, 49–2;Brown, C. 142 The Soviet Impact on the Western World 58;Bryce, J.: task of the historian 52–5; International Relations 6 Twenty Years’ Crisis 28, 49–3;Buckley, W.F. 83 What Is History? 52Bueno de Mesquita, B. 6, 134 Carter, President J. 100Bull, H. 9, 54, 56, 97, 102, 179 Cassirer, E.:Bultmann, A. 41 The Philosophy of the Enlightenment 12Burckhardt, J. 20, 40, 47, 48 Castellanos, P.Z.:Burke, E. 11, 33