back to the realist paradigmlast week, we discussed very briefly key points in the realistparadigm—today, we will return to that discussion, but willtake more time to carefully consider the meaning andimplications of each of these points
an overview: ten basic points anarchy exists in worldpolitics states are sovereign states are rational,unitary actors national security requiresself-help one nation‘s security meansanother nation‘s insecurity war is inevitable the road to order liesthrough a balance of power power trumps justice world politics is notprimarily about good andevil the possibility ofcooperation and change islimited
an overviewwe will discuss each of the ten points as we proceed, butfirst, let‘s consider the following statement …
(when push comes to shove …)we‘re all realists.
some questionswhat does it mean to say that ―we‘reall realists‖? that is, what makes thisstatement plausible?do you agree—that is, are you arealist?
basic points―Realist scholars see international relations as driven by the unrelentingand competitive pursuit of power by states in the effortto secure state interests. For realists, the most importantsource of power is military capability, and the acquisitionand use of military capability make the realists‘ worldone prone to violence and warfare.‖in other words …
basic pointsto realists, we live in a dog-eat-dogworld, one in which the ―biggest, baddest‖dogs survive and prosper: in such a world,only power mattersor, as it is often said, “might makes right”do you agree?
basic pointsit is important, however, that we not acceptrealist ideas just because they sound good;we must also—and this is critical—graspthe logic upon which they are based …so, what is this logic?
basic pointsit is important, however, that we not acceptrealist ideas just because they sound good;we must also—and this is critical—graspthe logic upon which they are based …so, what is this logic?
basic pointshuman nature realists (―classical realists‖)argued that the basic logic underlyingrealist was the inherently aggressive,violent, and power-seeking characterof human beings—the best example ofthis, perhaps, is Adolf Hitlerhow widely accepted is this viewtoday? what does the author say?
basic pointsthe human nature view has been largelyrejected and replaced by an approachcalled _________________ realism,or _______________our focus willbe primarily on thiscontemporary version of realismhuman natureviewstructuralneorealism
the structural realist perspectivethe ten points with which we started this lecture all refer to thestructural or neorealist perspective, and the first three pointsrepresent its core assumptions. to repeat: anarchy exists in world politics states are sovereign states are rational unitary actors
structural realism: core assumptionsanarchylet‘s begin with a basic definition of this essential concept in realism; forthis we can simply consider the dictionary definition:dictionary definition of anarchy. ―absence of government;the state of society where there is no law or supreme power;a state of lawlessness; political confusion.‖ [also, rememberthe antonym, or opposite, of anarchy is hierarchy]
structural realism: core assumptionsanarchylast week, we briefly discussed why this is such an importantassumption underlying the realist paradigm, but it is crucial that wespend a bit more time thinking about the significance of this concept.so …what makes anarchy so important?
structural realism: core assumptionsanarchyto understand the significance of anarchy, it would be useful toconsider what life would be like for us, at the domestic (i.e., non-international) level, if we lived in a state of anarchy or, as Hobbesdescribed it, a “state of nature”that is, what would our world be like if there were no state, thatis no overarching political authority with a judicial system, policeforce, and myriad other agencies and institutions of governance?
structural realism: core assumptionsanarchythe answer is clear: there would be a ―perpetualwar of all against all,‖ in which life was―nasty, brutish, and short‖consider, on this point, the scenario givento us in the TV series, The Walking Dead ...
in the series, the world is devastated by avirus, whichdestroyed civilization and, most importantly, allinstitutionsof governance. small groups of people are left on theirown.they live in a state of anarchy. in this condition, it iskill or be killed, as they fight, not just zombies,but other groups of humans ... in this world, theprimary goal of the group is survival.
structural realism: core assumptionsanarchyhowever, we don‘t have to rely on fictional depictions to see theconsequences of anarchy at the domestic level—incountries with ―failed states,‖ a clearconsequence is anarchy ... one particularlysalient example is present-day Somalia
excerpts from Panorama: Somalia Lainsert video here
structural realism: core assumptionsanarchyto avoid a ‗nasty, brutish, and short‘ life, humans created states,which bring order out of anarchy: this is why we don‘t all haveto arm ourselves against our neighborsat the international level, however, the ―state of nature‖still exists: there is not (nor can there be, according torealists) a ―world government‖ or transnationalpolitical authority that can overcome anarchy
structural realism: core assumptionsas a result, states must constantly be on guard against their―neighbors,‖ they must constantly seek to protect themselves, whichmeans providing for their security through force of arms (orwhatevermeans they have available to themselves)the logic of anarchy is nicely illustratedin the following clip from A Few Good Men …
insert clip from a few good menscene from a few goo
structural realism: core assumptionsimplications of anarchyto repeat: in an anarchic system, an unavoidable logic prevails,one based on the notion: ―survival of the fittest‖in an anarchic world, you can only count onyourself for help: friends are friends onlywhen it serves their intereststhis is why national security requires self-help(point #4), and also why ―one nation‘ssecurity can mean another nation‘sinsecurity‖ (#5)
structural realism: core assumptionsimplications of anarchyself-help: in an anarchic system, there is no ―international 911‖ numberthat states can call when their security is threatenedinstitutions or organizations such as the UN Security Council orNATO are set up to protect the national interests of the mostpowerful member states—they intervene only when it suit theirpurposes (or self-interests)without a reliable and disinterested ―international 911,‖ states musthelp themselves either through (1) the accumulation of militaryassets, or (2) alliances and security treaties
structural realism: core assumptionsimplications of anarchysecurity/insecurity: the exercise of self-help, however, leads to anunfortunate but predictable consequence, in what is known as the___________________[that is, what one country does for reasons of self-protection and self-preservation can be viewed by other countries as threatening to theirinterests and national self-preservation]security dilemmathe security dilemma is nicely illustrated by the rational choicescenario known as the ―prisoners‘ dilemma‖–let‘s watch a shortvideo on this topic
insert clip on prisoner’s dilemmathe prisoners‘ dilemm
structural realism: security dilemmathis table illustrates what happens in an anarchic world: both India andPakistan arm themselves with nuclear weapons because, in a self-help system, neither can afford to trust the other. The result isoutcome #1 (suboptimal, but rational), rather than #4 (optimal, butirrational because of anarchy)
structural realism: core assumptionssovereigntyanother important concept in realism is sovereignty: what does thisterm mean and why is it important?don‘t feel too bad if youdon‘t know whatsovereignty means …here‘s an example ofGeorge Bush strugglingwith the meaning of theterm ------>insert video here
structural realism: core assumptionsanarchy andsovereigntysovereignty and anarchy go hand-in-glove … why?the reason is simple: the principle of sovereignty (definedas ―supreme and independent authority over a giventerritory and people‖) is what makes it impossible tocreate a world government or overarching politicalauthority. states are unwilling—unable, really—to give upsovereignty for largely the same reason the securitydilemma exists; that is, there is no reliable mechanism toensure states will not ―cheat‖
structural realism: core assumptionsstates as rational unitary actorswhat does it mean to say that states are rationalunitary actors? how important is this assumption?(is this a ―realistic‖ assumption?)
structural realism: core assumptionsstates as rational unitary actors―In proposing that states are unitary actors, realists are saying thatstates have a set of core interests that transcend the specialinterests associated with individuals and groups theygovern. In proposing that states are rational actors, realistsare saying that an ends-means relationship exists betweenthose core interests (the ends) and the foreign policychoices that states make (the means) to reach those ends.‖
structural realism: core assumptionsstates as rational unitary actorsstate rationality, from a realist viewpoint, has at least three elementsfirst, realists assume that states (as rational actors) are goal-orientedsecond, realists assume that states have consistent goalsthird, states are assumed by realists to devise strategies to achievetheir goals, and that these strategies take into account rank-orderingof preferenceswith these basic points in mind, let‘s see how a famous realist usedthe idea of states as rational unitary actors to explain how they makedecisions …
a quote from Hans Morgenthau―We assume that statesmen think and act in terms of interest definedas 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 takenor will take on the political scene. We look over his shoulderwhen he writes his dispatches; we listen in on his conver-sation with other statesmen; we read and anticipate his verythoughts. Thinking in terms of interest defined as power,we think as he does and as disinterested observers, weunderstand his thoughts and actions perhaps better thanhe, the actor on the political scene, does himself.‖continued
a quote from Hans Morgenthau―The concept of national interest defined as power imposes intellectualdiscipline upon the observer, infuses rational order into the subjectmatter of politics, and thus makes the theoretical understandingof politics possible. On the side of the actor, it provides forrational discipline in action and creates that astoundingcontinuity in foreign policy which makes American, British,or Russian foreign policy appear as an intelligible, rationalcontinuum, by and large consistent with itself, regardless ofthe different motives, preferences, and intellectual and moralqualities of successive statesmen. A realist theory ofinternational politics, then, will guard against two popularfallacies: the concern with motives and the concern withideological preferences.‖
structural realism: core assumptionsan important point!the assumption of states as unitary, rational actors underscores aneffort by realists, starting with Morgenthau, to make realism a―parsimonious theory‖: a purposely reductive theory of how theworld works designed to emphasize the most important elements ofinternational relations (this is a point stressed by Kane)to repeat: a critical element of this parsimony is the assumption thatstates are not only central actors, but that they are unitary andrational actors
structural realism: core assumptionssummingup thus farwe have now covered the first fivepoints discussed by Bova, to nowlet‘s turn to the remaining fivepoints, which are less central torealism, but still very important ... anarchy exists in worldpolitics states are sovereign states are rational,unitary actors national security requiresself-help one nation‘s security meansanother nation‘s insecurity(re the security dilemma)
structural realism: additional pointswar is inevitablegiven our foregoing discussion, itshould not be a surprise that war isa natural and unavoidable part ofworld affairs—of course, countriesare not always at war, but they are,as the author notes, always in astate of potential warbut, this raises a somewhatobvious question … war is inevitable the road to order liesthrough a balance of power power trumps justice world politics is notprimarily about good andevil the possibility ofcooperation and change islimited
structural realism: additional pointsan obvious question?if war is inevitable, and countries arealways in a state of potential war,then what prevents actual wars frombreaking out? why isn‘t the world in aconstant state of actual (as opposedto potential) war?how do realists answer thisquestion?
structural realism: additional pointsan easy answer …the balance of power
structural realism: additional points―the logic behind the balance of power is very simple. Assuming statesare rational actors, they would only choose to initiate a war whenthey had a reasonable chance of victory. Rational actors do not pickfights they are clearly destined to lose. Thus, assuming that thepower of any one state or any alliance of states can be roughlybalanced by the power of another state or an alliance ofstates, neither side could be guaranteed victory, and the incentive tobegin a war is reduced‖does this principle make sense?before answering, a few more points …
structural realism: additional pointsthere are two forms of the balance of power. The first is the simplebalance of power, often known as a bipolar system: this applieswhen there are just two states or two major alliances involvedthe second is the complex balance of power, often known as a multi-polar system, is when there are more than two states or more thantwo major alliances involvedin realism, the which system isinherently more stable? why?
structural realism: additional pointstwo last points about the balance of power …first, its success depends on flexible shifting alliances (which meansthat countries do not choose alliance partners based on political orideological affinity, but on the basis of what needs to be done toensure a balance)second, while the balance can reduce thepossibility of war in the short run, it cannotprevent war from ever occurring
structural realism: additional pointsback to the question ...does the balance of powermake sense?also,what sort of balance dowe have now?
the balance of power and hegemonysince the end of the Cold War, the international systemhas been characterized by unipolarity, that is a systemdominated by a single, overarching power—a hegemonwhat do realists say about UShegemony?that is, can it survive? is it inherentlystable?
the balance of power and hegemonymost realists see hegemony as a temporarycondition, but have also tried to developexplanations for the relatively long periodof still-unchallenged US supremacya prevalent theory centers on the notionof “benign hegemony”: what does thisterm mean?
the balance of power and hegemonymost realists see hegemony as a temporarycondition, but some have also tried to developexplanations for the relatively long periodof still-unchallenged US supremacya prevalent theory centers on the notionof “benign hegemony”: what does thisterm mean? (discussed by Kane)
the balance of power and hegemonythe logic of a benign hegemon is straightforward:by wooing other countries, the hegemon allaysthe fears that other states about their security;as long as hegemon is not ―arrogant,‖ it canmaintain a high degree of international supportother realists, however, disagree: they argue thatthe existence of a dominant power must leadto counter-balancing efforts eventually, whichmeans that unipolarity cannot last
structural realism: additional pointspower trumps justice(and all over values)it is important to keep in mindthe ethical and moral implicationsof realism: as a theory of IR, it tellsus that there is little room for abstractprinciples such as justice and honor;instead, as we noted earlier, ―mightmakes right‖ in world politicsdo you agree? war is inevitable the road to order liesthrough a balance of power power trumps justice world politics is notprimarily about good andevil the possibility ofcooperation and change islimited
structural realism: additional pointspower trumps justice: implicationsthe principles of realism make clear that the ends(national security and survival) always justify themeans: if this means killing thousands of innocentwomen and children, so be it; it this means standingby while genocide occurs, so be itand, realists tell us this is exactly how policymakersbehave—for example, most Americans considered theatomic bombing of Japan to be justified and moral ...
structural realism: additional pointsto put the issue more simply: in world politics, even the most dyed-in-the-wool evangelical Christian who believes in the sanctity of allhuman life is perfectly and easilywilling to put that belief asideconsider the following statementby Rick Santorum, who is staunchlypro-life and who believes firmly inthe ―dignity of every human life‖ …―taking down two countries,‖ of course,means killing a lot of people, many of whomare innocent bystanders to war (including,perhaps, pregnant women and their unbornchildren)insert video here
structural realism: additional pointspower trumps justice: implicationsanother example: during the Clinton years, neitherthe administration nor the American people had anydifficultly with the notion that economic sanctionsagainst the Saddam Hussein‘s regime were leadingdirectly and indirectly to the deaths of hundreds ofthousands of innocent Iraqi children and women … thefollowing clip helps to illustrate this point
structural realism: additional pointsanother example: this very shortclip is part of an interview withMadeline Albright, Secretary ofState (1997-2001) in the ClintonAdministration. She is respondingto a question about the deaths ofhundreds of thousand of Iraqichildren as a result of USeconomic sanctionsinsert video here
war is inevitable the road to order liesthrough a balance of power power trumps justice world politics is notprimarily about good andevil the possibility ofcooperation and change islimitedstructural realism: additional pointsthis last example also underscores therealist principle that world politics isnot about good versus evil. it is simplyabout interests and the best way toprotect those interests.at the same time, the ―good vs. evil‖dichotomy is often invoked to distinguishbetween the ―good guys‖ and the ―badguys.‖ on this point, consider the followingclip from the movie Fail Safe …
In this clip, who are good guys and who are the bad guys?Ultimately, though, is it even possible to answer this question? Indeed, doquestions of good vs. bad (or good vs. evil) make any sense?insert video here
structural realism: additional pointsthis leads us to the last point: the possibility of cooperation andchange, in the realist view is limitedquestionswhy is this the case? what is the logicunderlying this assertion? do you thinkthe realists are right about this? war is inevitable the road to order liesthrough a balance ofpower power trumps justice world politics is notprimarily about good andevil the possibility ofcooperation and changeis limited
structural realism: the false promisethe article by Mearsheimer provides a quintessential realistperspective on the possibility of international cooperationin his article, Mearsheimer focuses on internationalinstitutions, which raises two questions ... first, whatare international institutions, and, second, what doinstitutionshave to do with international cooperation?
structural realism: the false promiseon the first question, here is Mearsheimer‘s definition ...―I define institutions as sets of rules that stipulatethe ways in which states should cooperate andcompete with each other. They prescribe theacceptable forms of state behavior, and proscribeunacceptable kinds of behavior. These rules arenegotiated by states … [and] entail the mutualacceptance of higher norms, which are ‗standardsof behavior defined in terms of rights andobligations‘‖
structural realism: the false promiseon the second question, the basic argument—which comes fromliberal analysis (specifically liberal institutionalism)—is thatinstitutions serve as the most reliable vehicle for cooperativerelations between and among statesmost importantly, institutions allow states toovercome the prisoners‘ dilemma: they do thisby deterring ―cheating‖ through the creationof rules, and through the monitoring and―punishing‖ of states that violate the rules
structural realism: the false promisefor realists, even though it‘s clear that states operate throughinstitutions, institutions are not independent: they are simply toolsthat the most powerful states use to more efficiently exercise theirpower—a good example is NATO, which was basically amanifestation of the bipolar balance of power during the Cold WarMearsheimer and other realists are especially critical ofthe relative vs. absolute gains issue, which is embeddedin the liberal institutionalist framework: he argues thatinternational cooperation is severely limited by states‘desires for relative gains in most cooperative endeavors—what exactly does this mean?
assessing realismmore questions what do you think? is realism the best wayto analyze, understand, and explaininternational relations? does it do a good job of explainingreal-world events and processes?(see examples on next slides) is it the Truth about the world?
assessing realismdid realism do a good jobof explaining the decisionsof George W. Bush?were, for example, the warsagainst Iraq and Afghanistanconsistent with realistprinciples?
assessing realismdoes realism do a good jobof explaining the actions ofKim Jong-un, North Korea‘snew leader?(Kim has been making explicitthreats against both South Koreaand the United States)
assessing realismback to the questions what do you think? is realism the best wayto analyze, understand, and explaininternational relations? does it do a good job of explainingreal-world events and processes?