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This page is for posts that extend the discussion beyond our lectures and discussions. Here, students may post follow-ups, responses, and critical reactions to the discussions we have in class.

This page is for a whole class discussion.

124 Responses to “Extended Discussion – Whole Class”

  1. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    I am struggling to some degree about whether I’m going to buy into the Farber and Gowa reading or not. On the one hand, yes, before World War II the democratic peace theory largely didn’t apply—but then again, did any true democracies even exist prior to World War II? As we discussed in lecture, democracy has several pre-conditions: contested election, universal suffrage, and checks and balances. Certainly it is hard to imagine this existing in any country—especially any Power—before the turn of the century. (In the US: lack of universal suffrage until the 19th amendment or possibly the Civil Rights Act, in the UK: the fancy franchise and rotten boroughs, etc, in Germany: no checks on executive power) and the list goes on and on. So there really is no sample before World War II anyway. What that says to me is—there isn’t enough sample size, as the Cold War hasn’t been over very long. Essentially, all the piece proves is that true democracies haven’t been around long enough for us to prove or disprove the democratic peace theory, and the only way to improve that statistical significance of the sample, and to figure out whether the foreign policy concept of “make-the-world-democracies” is a good idea, is to wait around long enough. And that doesn’t help theorists very much.

  2. Urvashi Barooah says:

    Kant in “Perpetual Peace” brings out the need for a representative system, which he sees in his interpretation of a republic. He says that the smaller the number of people who control the power, the more they will be representative of the people. In this line, he declares that arriving at a just constitution is least difficult in a monarchy, followed by an aristocracy. There is no possibility of achieving it in a democracy without revolution.
    However, in his ideal of a republic, Kant also stresses the need for checks on executive power which is necessary to prevent its exploitation and misuse. I agree with this need completely but I find it inconsistent with his idea of power concentrated in the hands of a few. If there are only a few people who hold power doesn’t that make it easier for them to exploit it since there are few people in a position to counter them? For example I would think that a system of checks is easier in democracy than an autocracy or a monarchy. Then, what is Kant’s idea of republic with a representative system with power in the hands of a few and simultaneously a system for checking this power?

  3. Charlie Roberts says:

    I like to consider myself an optimist, or at the very least, a realist, but not a pessimist. However, Immanuel Kant’s musings on “perpetual peace” are simple impossible. Although not all states are rational egoists as realists may try to argue, the vast majority are. Any rational egoist striving for power, as Mearsheimer argues they do, would not settle with perpetual peace; they would instantly see an opportunity to exploit other nations in Kant’s “federation”. Even if Waltz is correct, and states look merely to survive, the trust needed to fulfill Kant’s ideas of perpetual peace is simply unattainable.

  4. Robert LaMoy says:

    I would also like to say a few words about James Fearon’s critique of realist/rationalist explanations for war. Fearon’s premise is relatively simple: generally speaking, states have more of an incentive to reach an agreement that will prevent war than to engage in it, because war is both costly and risky. Fearon finds it problematic to posit (as some realists do) that conditions such as anarchy or the security dilemma lead states to participate in warfare. Even under these conditions, Fearon reasons that rational states still seem to have more of an incentive to make peaceful bargains that preclude war. As such, he puts forth three possible explanations of rationalist war: 1) states have incentives to misrepresent military capacities in negotiations; 2) states suffer from commitment problems, where one or more states have an incentive to not hold up their end of the bargain; 3) states face issue indivisibilities, or issues that by their very nature cannot be solved peacefully.

    Fearon’s math suggests that states have an interest to bargain before a war starts because of ex post (postwar) inefficiencies. Still, states might be unable to locate or agree on some outcome in the ex ante (prewar) bargaining range, for the three reasons listed at the beginning of his article. Fearon is arguing within the rationalist framework, which describes states as unitary actors that act to maximize their interests. His focus on empirical plausibility is particularly helpful to his argument, since he manages to prove mathematically that states (usually) have more of an incentive to negotiate in the prewar stage than to engage in hostilities.

    Waltz, meanwhile, launches into a critique of liberalism, suggesting that liberals are mistaken to assume that states have a harmony of interests or that man is infinitely perfectible. He gives slightly more credit to “interventionist liberals” (such as Woodrow Wilson) who do not reject balance-of-power politics but think that the balance of power can be superseded. To Waltz, Wilson’s reasoning was a turning point for liberal thought, since Wilson’s call for the “organized major force of mankind” to keep peace acknowledged that force is a necessary component of tranquility. Waltz, however, worries that there might be perpetual war for perpetual peace (as realists Kennan/Morgenthau and liberals Cobden/Bright realized). He concludes that even if we neglect the subjectivity of classifying states as “good” and “bad”, “good” states still engage in wars, rendering these classifications meaningless. Ultimately, anarchy can never be an ideal condition, and states will continue to go to war because of it.

  5. Urvashi Barooah says:

    Schelling in his text makes a clear distinction between diplomacy and war. He says that diplomacy is a kind of bargaining in which both parties have some common interest. Each party somewhat controls the interests of the other and can gain from a compromise between the two. He also talks about force as bargaining power, where the power comes not necessarily from use of force but simply by the threat of it. I find this idea of coercive diplomacy very accurate of the way in which states nowadays execute conflict. Also, the emergence of nuclear weapons as Schelling points out brings a new dimension to war where victory is no longer a prerequisite for hurting the enemy. These new developments and a shift from military warfare to more destructive modes of attacking signal a more dangerous kind of fate when it comes to conflict between two states. Whereas earlier all-out wars like World War II are less likely today, there is a constant latent threat between states, which obviously affects interstate interactions.

  6. Mirwais Hadel says:

    I found James Fearon’s arguments very interesting about the rationalist explanations of war. Basically, Fearon argues that the core motivation factor for each state going into war is to maximize the national interest. Having said that, diplomacy is quite a useful tool to accomplish states national interest through agreements or bargaining with other states of similar national interests. However, according to Fearon diplomacy does not always work, especially when two states have conflict interests that can only be gained through use of pure power also known as brute power. Thus, conflict interests become between two states over national interest become a source of conflict which is unavoidable. On a similar note, Fearon argues that miscalculation of information about enemy is another reason that leads states into to war. For instance, in world war I Germany failed to accurately calculate the extent or capacity of Russian military power, which was a small inductors of what caused World War I.

  7. Alexandra McAtee says:

    Though we did not go over it in last week’s discussion, I thought Bruce Russet’s Controlling the Sword was an interesting piece that showed how the economy and politics were closely intertwined. People are very conscious of a nation’s economic condition because the economy has such a strong influence on their everyday life. As Russet points out, economics is the driving force in electoral politics even though it is essentially uncontrollable. I also thought it was interesting how politicians could use the military to help stimulate the economy and how these decisions could impact international relations. This article reminded me how the troubled economy had played such an important role in the 2008 election; it was at the forefront of every debate and definitely had an influence the way each individual decided to vote.

  8. Mehdi Prevot says:

    Personally I would also be more inclined to side with the “lite” constructivism. Indeed, as Clausewitz, Schelling or Fearon explain it in their respective text, international politics often necessitate the resort to diplomacy or cooperation, described as a “bargain” in which States attempt to get the best deal they can. It seems to be a reasonable idea, but an idea which would imply that States know what they are looking for when they start bargaining. Therefore, I can’t agree with the “heavy” constructivism because, contrary to liberalism and realism, it gives too much importance to the Interstate interactions. So much in fact that “heavy” constructivists seem to think that States interact with each other in order to decide what they want and how to maximize their preferences. Although I ackownledge that those interactions does have an impact on States’ international policies, I cannot imagine a moment that States don’t already have a road map that gives them instructions on how to manipulate other States in order to achieve their goal.

  9. Hannah Postel says:

    I defintely find myself agreeing most with “Constructivism Lite”. While to me it seems highly unlikely that the process has no effect on states’ actions, it also seems unrealistic that the outside environment does not affect their actions either. I do not think that ideas can be formed exogenously; they reflect a process as the state has evolved and been through different experiences. It would be impossible to go to war and not learn anything, or to change a point of view as you see other states cycle through war and peace. On the other hand, I find it unrealistic that, for example, a state’s policies wouldn’t change if there was suddenly no more gasoline available or if everyone had to move underground. I definitely see a feedback loop occurring (unlike the rationalist thinkers) but not to the same level as the constructivists.

  10. Isabella Tudisco-Sadacca says:

    I, like Zoe, also found myself agreeing with the Constructivist approach after this week’s readings. I find myself understanding more the Constructive “lite” approach as it involves the cyclical nature of interaction and action. I believe that an individual’s or state’s interactions influence their preferences and can change their ideas. Likewise, a country’s progression or regression changes their needs and wants, and therefore how they act internationally and nationally. So at the same time, with this change in preferences and ideas, one’s future actions will also change. For this reason it is cyclical. Above all it is interactions that influence change but it is that change itself that can end up influencing interactions. In our Thursday discussion we talked about whether Constructive Realism existed. I think it is possible in that Constructivism is only an approach and therefore can be paired with an already existing set of ideas. The reason that Constructivism and Realism can be somewhat infused is that although Wendt states that interactions are the source of change in interests, there are still fundamental preferences and interests that remain unchanged. The basic necessities for life will always be a driving cause in one’s actions. As Zoe said survival and health are examples of this. Their approaches in attaining these fundamental interests can, however, still vary.

  11. Zoe Hamilton says:

    Reading the constructivist articles last week I found myself agreeing more and more with this approach. Wendt’s investigation of where state’s interests come from makes sense when considering how much individual’s interests change based on the external pressures and influences. Interests naturally change based on the environment the individual or state is in. However, certain interests hold no matter what the environment is. Survival, or health, could be an example of one of these permanent interests. But how that interest is achieved could change based on the level of threat, the expectation of how others will act, and the means available. This means that in order to maintain security, attempting to become a hegemon is just one of the ways that states can achieve this goal. In other situations it may be better to seek protection under a current hegemon or even attempt a balance of power. But how can a state change the environment (or pressures) that will affect expectations and therefore the means states use to achieve security? What practical use does this approach have beyond understanding that the current means to security?

  12. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    In Robert’s analysis of Wendt’s theory, he summarizes Wendt’s assumption that “state actors play by a set of rules (or norms) that they have helped to create.” Although there is a certain degree of truth to this statement, I would argue that the rules/norms established by states’ actions are more specifically established by the actions of the stronger states. Therefore, not all actors play an equal role in establishing these norms, and a change desired by a small state may not be possible.

    Realistically, it is very difficult to change norms/rules of an international system. Often, in the case of norms, these changes are made both slowly and informally, as a series of actions spanning several years plays out. Again, these norm-changing actions (not really a term, but let’s go with it) are lead by the more powerful states. Although Wendt almost expresses a sense of optimism about the constant possibility for change, I’d say an analysis of this theory more accurately links back to the realist argument that might makes right.

  13. Julia Deutsch says:

    This week’s readings all focus on different facets of war: analyzing the logic behind the decision to go to war, whether war is an effective tool, from what perspective war should be viewed, and how states can effectively use force and violence. All four of the articles for Tuesday, however, were written before September 11th. I wonder how these different authors would fit the events of September 11th and terrorism in general into their theories of war. I think that terrorism calls for a number of different changes in how we view war, starting most importantly with the definition of “war” is. All of these authors seem to assume that war is between different states, but does a group of individuals inflicting massive devastation on a state qualify as a call to war? And does a new definition of war, change previous theories? Also, if terrorists simply want destruction, how does that fit into analysis of the motivation and thought process behind the decision to go to war? One could argue that terrorists are not “rational” actors and therefore cannot be included in these theories about war. However, if more and more conflict is defined by these senseless acts of violence, then theories about war might need to be revised.

  14. Nicholas Libbey says:

    When I was first introduced to realism and the Waltzian paradigm, I was instantly intrigued by the simplicity with which the model accurately describes state interaction. Like all theories, there are bound to be exceptions to the rule and it cannot cover all possible factors, but I was satisfied. However, upon learning the constructivism of Wendt and Katzenstein, I am much less satisfied with realism. Whereas before I was convinced that the “unit-level” factors have no significant impact on state interaction, now I cannot imagine ever being satisfied with this oversimplification of personal interests. It is tempting to believe that the systemic pressures eventually dominate any individual preferences or beliefs, forcing all states to either follow the rules or face the destiny of the Melians, however this point of view completely ignores the impact that even one individual can have on state interaction. As Wendt described, in the case of the Cold War, “if the United States and Soviet Union decide that they are no longer enemies, ‘the Cold War is over.'” This may be seem over-simplistic, but it is basically what the head of the Soviet state, Mikhail Gorbachev, did to end the war. By disregarding the existing tensions and moving on, he resisted the systemic pressures suggested by both Waltz and Mersheimer, and led the state away from the realist pressures as a unit-level leader. I do not suggest that Mersheimer and Waltz’s claims have no accuracy, only that the views of Wendt and other constructivists more accurately depict the influences of state interaction.

  15. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    I agree with (other) Charlie, and would contend that theories at the “state=black box” level of analysis do not accurately portray state actions, because states will often act in a manner contrary to its interests. This is because the actors are not the states themselves, but rather human beings—leaders with interests of their own. Their two primary motives, then, are not state interest but rather 1) ideological concerns and 2) electoral concerns, and in many cases the ideological concerns of the electorate. In democracies, the concerns of the electorate are paramount. It is helpful to break this down into two dimensions. In parliamentary democracy, especially in systems with many small parties, a government must constantly appease a diverse range of extremely passionate constituencies in order to remain in power. In non-parliamentary democracies, these effects can be muted because of the time-lapse between decisions and elections; nonetheless, it’s not as if the president doesn’t consult opinion polls on all policy decisions. Leaders’ ideology, too, can largely dictate policy, and this is true in both democracies and non-democracies. Of course, we want leaders to have independence and to be beholden to an ideology—the American public hates flip-floppers, and generally doesn’t go for direct democracy (California excepted?). The best way to ensure that the state’s interests are being upheld is through a system of checks and balances, but even in those cases, electoral concerns lead to contrary decisions.

  16. Robert LaMoy says:

    I apologize for cutting off the above post. Here is the entire post:

    After reading Wendt’s essay, I cannot help but think that the social constructivist approach is, at the very least, an intriguing approach to the study of international politics. It is hard for me to evaluate his approach in full (especially since I have yet to read the Katzenstein and Goldstein/Keohane articles), but I thought I might put forth some key concepts that I liked and see what everyone thinks.

    If I am reading Wendt correctly, he sees institutions as a combination of identities and interests that are endogenously (or internally) created by interaction between states. He gives practice and precedent an amazing amount of clout: the “only” reason that international institutions function to provide stability, for example, is because state actors believe that to be their proper role. Ultimately, an institution is composed of a set of beliefs- without these beliefs, the institution would have no meaning. The point here, I think, is that conditions like sovereignty are not abstract forces that exist independently of the system. States, through the creation of identities and interests, have worked to create (or construct) the system. By this logic, every aspect of the international system can find some basis in practice.

    I’ve also been trying to wrap my head around the implications of Wendt’s theory. If interests and identities are malleable and change over time, academic discussions of international politics could theoretically influence systemic level changes. Recalling the Melian Dialogue, it appears that might WOULD make right—if the international community believed this were the case. While most would agree that a high military capacity gives a state the ability to bully others, few would find the exercise of military power to be acceptable without a “just cause.”

    In this sense, I think that Wendt’s theory does well to provide a plausible explanation of the changing nature in which states have interacted with each other throughout history. Wendt would argue that these interactions have changed the structure of international relations in profound ways. States in Europe, for example, are not poised to incite World War III, nor do strong countries automatically practice imperialist policies and conquer comparatively weaker nations. International norms would not tolerate most of these actions, and so state actors play by a set of rules (or norms) that they have helped to create.

    The realist conception of international politics, which tends to focus on state aggression in response to security interests, and the liberal perception, which suggests that institutions can foster cooperation, have seemed problematic to a number of members in our class. I have no doubt that a more critical eye can point out some flaws in the constructivist analysis.

  17. Robert LaMoy says:

    created by interaction between states. He gives practice and precedent an amazing amount of clout: the “only” reason that international institutions function to provide stability, for example, is because state actors believe that to be their proper role. Ultimately, an institution is composed of a set of beliefs- without these beliefs, the institution would have no meaning. The point here, I think, is that conditions like sovereignty are not abstract forces that exist independently of the system. States, through the creation of identities and interests, have worked to create (or construct) the system. By this logic, every aspect of the international system can find some basis in practice.

    I’ve also been trying to wrap my head around the implications of Wendt’s theory. If interests and identities are malleable and change over time, academic discussions of international politics could theoretically influence systemic level changes. Recalling the Melian Dialogue, it appears that might WOULD make right—if the international community believed this were the case. While most would agree that a high military capacity gives a state the ability to bully others, few would find the exercise of military power to be acceptable without a “just cause.”

    In this sense, I think that Wendt’s theory does well to provide a plausible explanation of the changing nature in which states have interacted with each other throughout history. Wendt would argue that these interactions have changed the structure of international relations in profound ways. States in Europe, for example, are not poised to incite World War III, nor do strong countries automatically practice imperialist policies and conquer comparatively weaker nations. International norms would not tolerate most of these actions, and so state actors play by a set of rules (or norms) that they have helped to create.

    The realist conception of international politics, which tends to focus on state aggression in response to security interests, and the liberal perception, which suggests that institutions can foster cooperation, have seemed problematic to a number of members in our class. I have no doubt that a more critical eye can point out some flaws in the constructivist analysis.

  18. Otis Pitney says:

    I want to make a comment perhaps most closely linked to the Prisoner’s Dilemma. In discussion last Thursday, we talked about the view that when each member’s contribution is small compared to the total good, the self-interested, egoistic state will be unlikely to contribute since the contribution is costly to them but has an imperceptible effect on whether the good is produced. The self-interested state doesn’t know if the other states will contribute as well, and in that case, if they don’t, the state that contributed is the sucker. Keohane says: that is why we have international regimes to facilitate trust and make sure each holds up their part of the bargain, to act as a quasi-sovereign. So essentially, what the Prisoner’s Dilemma does is attract attention to the failure to communicate and information barriers. Amid all this theory, while its good to critique them rationally, it is also important to try and find examples to support or reject certain hypotheses. In considering the first part of this particular view, I thought of the Obama campaign. We constantly seem to assume that human nature is largely self-interested and egoistic, that this part of our nature is dominant. Largely from conviction of the great strength of this human quality, certain assumptions are often made, such as the point about potential small contributors and their likelihood at participating and sharing. While a great deal of the past presidential campaign funds have come from large contributors, who would seem to possess greater power on the outcome of the race based merely on the size of their contribution, this past presidential campaign’s funds came from small contributors to a far larger extent. 25-500$ donations were far more prevalent in Obama’s campaign. There was a national system in place for collecting this money, facilitating these transfers that seemed to excite people. Obama voters saw it as a mass undertaking. Assuming the realist rationale that most of these people were predominantly self-interested, and egoistic, clearly they had to have faith in the contributions of others like them. Otherwise, if Obama doesn’t win, they’ve just been screwed out of their money. Now perhaps this isn’t the most fitting example but I saw some parallels that seemed noteworthy.

  19. Charlie Wemyss-Dunn says:

    To follow on from our discussion about which theory we believe to be most effective or relevant to international relations and diplomacy in today’s world, I argue that all the realist and liberal theorists we have read make a mistake by simply concentrating on a systemic level analysis. The atomistic parts of a state make up the whole and have a significant influence on the way a state conducts it’s foreign policy. By atomistic parts I mean regime type, charismatic leadership (or not), political parties and most importantly, the people themselves. I believe that governments are limited or given freedom by what type of regime the people elect and this domestic factor is what leads on the major ways states deal with their neighbors. In the United States, for example, where the President is highly limited by the system of separation of powers and crucially by the desire for re-election, his actions are limited by public opinion and domestic pressures. The permanent campaign of US politics has led Obama to disappoint many people who thought that he was going to push through radical wholesale reforms as he is simply trying to placate those on both sides of the political spectrum, be they Republican or Democrat. I do partially agree with the Waltzian theory of Isomorphism as states do tend to react very similarly to their changing environment and patterns have emerged over history to show this. However, I will contend that the extremity of these reactions depends entirely on domestic political influences and individuals. For example when both Germany and the United States where suffering from depression in the 1930s an extreme right fascist government took power via the charismatic leadership of Hitler in Germany, while the United States turned to a much more welfare based system with the New Deal. These reactions are entirely different. I therefore feel that we should judge international relations on a case by case basis taking into account all the influences that might be occurring domestically within the states involved.

  20. Tina Williamson says:

    Someone during Thursday’s lecture stated that harmony is “too abstract” a concept for international politics. Koehane’s defines harmony under his liberalist theory as ‘when the interests of international actors align.’ Regarding harmony being abstract, I would argue that it is actually just uncommon. While the desires and actions of states do not align often without negotiation which may lead to cooperation, harmony is not abstract, it just doesn’t happen very often. It is useful I describe cooperation in the context of harmony, because then we can identify that sacrifice and compromise are necessary for states to collaborate. This is required because states usually do not have the same factors that lead to a common goal, but that’s not to say that if that sharing that interest is improbable or abstract.

  21. Robert Hutton says:

    With regard to Offensive Realism (that is to say, Realism as explicated by Mearsheimer, not Realism that I find personally objectionable!), I would like to bring up the issue of preemptive attack. Does a state have the right to attack without warning, and, if so, in what situations? Our readings would suggest that ‘large’ states can afford a modicum of trust, as their size and resources still enable them to contain attacks and mobilize. What about the case of Israel, which has repeatedly claimed the right to preemptive attack?

  22. Matthew George says:

    This Friday, my roomate was required to go to a lecture given by the director of the Council on Foreign affairs, Richard Haass. Having nothing else better to do, I tagged along. To my surprise, the lecture was amazing pertinent to our class discussion, especially the conversation we had about war in the 3pm discussion section.

    Richard Haass was a high level political advisor involved primarily in George H.W Bush’s cabinet, and an ancillary advisor to George W. Bush. Haass was interested in the concept of war of necessity vs. war of choice. Haass argues that these are two distinct forms of wars with different causes, risks, and benefits.

    A war of necessity is a war that needs to happen to prevent erosion of national security, or to solve an immediate and unavoidable problem. Haas argues that these wars cross political boundaries and are usually unanimous in their support. As examples, declaring war against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor and invading Afghanistan after 9/11.

    Haas also spoke about a war of choice. The war of “choice” is a war that does not necessarily need to be fought, but due to political forces is “chosen”. Haas argues that the current war in Afghanistan is a war of choice. Although I don’t agree with him in that regard, I found the talk very interesting and pertinent to our discussions of the various factors that take place leading up to armed conflict.

  23. Emily Wagman says:

    I’d also like to talk about the Russett article because I think that it applies really well to modern examples of countries entering into war. While the article was written in 1990, long before the events of September 11th and “the war on terror,” Bruce Russett was able to map out when and why leaders of countries will declare war. Looking back on the events that occurred after 9/11, we can see that the “rally ‘round the flag” mentality was present then, just like in the past. I find this sort of mob mentality to be unnerving – while patriotism can, and often is, be a good thing, the “rally ‘round the flag” mentality has gotten the United States into a war that has ended up causing discontent among the American population and has resulted in the US being viewed pretty negatively around the world. Russett has clearly mapped out the way wars effect presidential popularity and the economy – it would have been to President Bush’s benefit to read Russett.

  24. Greg Dier says:

    Why do we study the theories of realism and liberalism if they are broad and based on so few empirics? -A similar question came up in our Friday discussion section. It’s clear that the realist and liberal theories are not perfect. However, it’s understandable that a theory aiming to explain the interactions of the world will have grey areas and many exceptions. I think that theories of realism and liberalism are useful if the international community considers pieces of the theories as a starting point for decisions. I think that a mix of liberal and realist principles could lead to a more secure state, especially for a world superpower like the U.S. From a liberal perspective it seems healthy for a state politically and economically to engage in global cooperation and work toward changing international payoff structures for the better. In addition, a liberal image would probably be more popularly perceived than a realist image between interacting states. While it is important to project an image of liberalism, I think it is wise to maintain a large degree of realist reasoning. Although realism is pessimistic, its ideas would increase the security of a state. If a country always recognized the desire of another country to become hegemonic, the defending state would always be prepared militarily, politically, and economically.

  25. John Montroy says:

    Though neither of the two international theories we’ve studied thus far have really struck home for me, I was much more taken with the liberalism theory because of its inclusion of international regimes. We seemed to approach international regimes in our discussion with an air of leverage control; the regimes mediate and pressure in all the right ways to manage the international political scene. The regimes appealed to me otherwise, though; they could serve as powerful cultural mediators. These regimes can find the best and brightest, individuals with the skill and knowledge to work for the best of their country. An international collaboration of such experts working for common ends essentially squashes cultural barriers. This may seem like a bit of a non-sequitur, but the thought came to me when reading Jonah’s post, and seeing how he mentioned the potential irrationality of countries. Politicians and leaders deal with the pressures of people, and come to these international regimes with agendas. The proper cultural academics, however, have a much greater chance of breaching cultural gaps to make progress among states. I don’t believe that there are fundamental differences between civilizations that necessarily cause strife, but others may. We need international collaborations of the right people to work that angle. I suppose that, at the core, I’m suggesting that the international regimes of liberalism shouldn’t be so political and pushy and forced, as I felt like they were being discussed on Thursday. They need to cover all angles of international politics with the right people and the right knowledge. Hm.

  26. Nicholas Libbey says:

    In discussion I was particularly interested by the question of how a particular theory such as Waltz or Mersheimer can attempt to foresee the opinions and ultimate decisions of entire states regardless of unit level factors such as regime type, political party, and individual leaders. While I understand the goal of Mersheimer or Waltz is to generalize the interaction of nations, I think they have oversimplified the many factors that exist, especially in today’s politics. Even if these theories do accurately explain the state interaction of the World Wars, Cold War, etc. I believe the digital age has brought new forms of state interaction that were not foreseen by Waltz or Mersheimer and endanger their arguments. The availability of such instantaneous communication between the media, the polity, and the state slow down the process of governance and impede the state’s ability to do what is best for the state. Now that the governed can immediately respond and communicate with the state, all political decisions are subject to widespread discussion and dispute, potentially causing nations to act out of their international interest to preserve public support. Therefore, I don’t believe that all states act as rational egoists as they once may have due to the increased power of state (especially democratic) non-egoist polities.

  27. Hannah Postel says:

    I would like to comment on the Russett article, which I found extremely applicable to many modern predicaments. He discusses how many leaders enter into conflict, though not full fledged war, in the later ends of their terms because it “has an immediately favorable effect on the president’s popularity” (35.) George W. Bush began the Iraq war in his third year in office, and this action certainly did increase his popularity, at least in the short term. Russett also aptly describes how a “president’s speeches can be a powerful political tool” (36.) This is certainly the case for Obama, as well as the dilemma Russett describes that “the chief executive is constantly under pressure to solve problems” (30.) It is impossible to solve many large issues at once – the problem Obama is currently facing. His popularity has been declining, in line with Russett’s findings. By his theory, Obama may undertake a new conflict in the next while in order to distract the American populace from its dissatisfaction with the current issues. This is frightening. It seems dangerous to undertake a new project when the U.S. government has so much on its plate at the moment (and so little funds to solve the many problems at hand). Also, it seems selfish to inflict conflict on another region (whether or not we judge them “deserving”) for the ruling elite’s political gain. I hope that Obama proves Russett wrong and focuses on actually solving the current issues instead of distracting the public with a “rallying ’round the flag” tactic.

  28. Zoe Hamilton says:

    In discussion we talked about China’s attempted to create a bigger economy and military either to balance the United State’s power (under Waltz’s theory) or to become a hegemon (under Mearsheimer’s theory). Under both theories China is trying to gain more power. The difference really boils down to motive: why is China trying to do so? To balance the world distribution of power? Or to take the United States’ place as hegemon? I doubt that China would be satisfied with being equal to the United States. I believe that China is motivated by the natural lust for power and control. Therefore, I tend to side more with the realists and Mearsheimer.

  29. Worth Baker says:

    I too would like to comment on Wil’s thoughts on the application of the Prisoner’s Dilemma in real world politics. I disagree, mainly because in a situation where the dilemma would likely occur, I’m not sure that it would be in either states’ incentive to share their intentions. Using Prof. Morrison’s (rather extreme) China-USA nuclear scenario, do you think that if either state would be better served by sharing the knowledge that they were cheating? Also, I’m confused – are you saying that the increased transparency and ease of communications would make countries more likely to cheat, or less likely? I agree that modern telecommunications has flattened and shrunk the world with respect to international politics, but I’m unsure of how it affects different nation’s willingness to share national security information. Just because nations can/should collaborate doesn’t mean they will.

  30. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    I feel like neither realism nor liberalism accurately portrays interactions on the world political scene. The problem is that they don’t take into account anything domestic! Countries are not unified units—leaders matter, and not only do leaders matter, but domestic constraints upon those leaders matter too: Obama’s current foreign policy is different from the foreign policy McCain would have had, but also different from the foreign policy Obama himself would have if progressives controlled 70 Senate seats. In democracies, leaders pick up the newspapers to read public opinion polls first thing every morning; even in non-democracies, rational leaders care more about the entrenchment of their own legitimacy than about the standing of their state as a whole. Foreign policy—in any country—is never considered in isolation of domestic variables, not only because states are led by leaders who are constrained by public and circumstance, but also because, in our globalizing world, international and domestic realities are increasingly and inextricably linked.

  31. Julia Deutsch says:

    I found the “Rallying ‘round the Flag” argument, described by Bruce Russet in his article, Controlling the Sword: The Democratic Governance of National Security, particularly persuasive. I was immediately reminded of the American citizen’s response to President Bush’s actions following September 11th. Despite differences in political ideologies, most Americans rallied around the president and his subsequent “War on Terror.” However, just as Russet describes, his support quickly waned as some felt he handled the military operations incorrectly. Acknowledging the tendency for citizens to support the president following a catastrophe or a decisive military action can also be an important political tool for politicians, in addition to securing votes for an upcoming election. I don’t think President Bush considered the electoral ramifications of his “War on Terror” immediately following September 11th, but I do think he utilized Americans fear of being labeled disloyal to gain support for his policies.

  32. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    I’d like to comment on a post above by Wil, who suggests that the Prisoner’s Dilemma is an ill-fitted model for “real world politics.” I agree with part of his analysis – when states communicate between each other, it changes the dynamics of the Dilemma, therefore making the model inapplicable.
    However, I think I interpret the Prisoner’s Dilemma differently. I don’t see it as a model, but rather part of Axelrod and Keohane’s argument for the establishment of international regimes. If states fall under the same international regime, then there will be incentives for them to cooperate, just as the prisoners want to cooperate because they were partners in crime. Therefore, the Dilemma becomes more of a model for what could be, instead of what exists in “real world politics.”

  33. Momo Sae-Lee says:

    I have some comments on strength and weakness of three theories we have discussed in maintaining peace: Balance-of-power theory (Waltz), Offensive realism (Mearsheimer), and Cooperation theory (Keohane). I totally agree that the Walzian paradigm is a very tangible assumption on a behavior of states that weaker states, driven by fears, try to obtain the balance of power against stronger states to sustain their own stability. However, the equilibrium of power constantly generates fear that one side of the power would outshine another; therefore, misinterpretation of others’ policies might eventually lead to wars. Offensive realism, on the same basis, creates this fear as well. Although a hegemon state possesses the ability to control weaker states, the position of a high power of a hegemon state is always at risk of being taken down, possibly leading to wars.
    On the other hand, cooperation, among three theories that we are studying, seems to be the most plausible approach towards peace because there are a number of factors which could mitigate this fear of outshining power, such as international regime and multilevel games. The discredit and severe sanction to those countries who attempt to defect a cooperation might impact on their decision to do so. Military-political and economic games among members of cooperation play a consequential role in maneuvering one state’s decision to destroy the cooperation. However, the questions on the strength of an international regime to control their members still remain.

  34. Wil Hardcastle says:

    I first learned about the Prisoner’s Dilemma while reading an article on the decisions gas stations make in setting their prices. Like the theory proposes, gas stations that are close to one another benefit (profit) from communicating to keep their prices higher. But if one defects to a lower price then they all must defect, and everyone loses. However, this doesn’t happen often, as you see that all gas stations in close proximity to each other have nearly the same prices. The key is communication—which is prohibited between the two prisoners in the original scenario. It is for this reason that I have trouble connecting the prisoner’s dilemma to real world politics. With the amount of transparency and modes of communication that exist among states, it would appear that the only defecting would be done with direct mal-intent, not because of a lack of information on other party decisions. As the global recession demonstrated the world’s unprecedented interconnectedness, and the myriad global issues we face like global warming and poverty demand, defection is no longer an option. Luckily each nation is not isolated in an interrogation room and forced to make decisions, but rather sit side by side in international forums everyday. Ultimately the world’s nations have no choice but to communicate and collaborate, because if we don’t, we all lose.

  35. Jonah Merris says:

    While the Realist and Liberalist paradigms appeared rather neat, convenient, and logical at first, I have since discovered a feeling of deep-seated discontent with both theories. While the Realist conclusion is arguably pessimistic, it is not this critical attitude that disturbs me. Any examination of history would provide an observer with multiple reasons to believe that people, when organized into states, are selfish, cruel, and interest-driven. Even at the sub national level, politicians appear to be simple extensions of corporate and special interests. So if I acknowledge that interests drive politics at both the domestic and international level, why do I disagree with Realism? On the other hand, Liberalism concludes that states seek out a balance of power that will protect their interests. These two theories seem almost inseparable up until this point however. While Liberalism defends the possibility of international cooperation via regimes, Realism accepts a state of anarchy and the perpetuity of war. The common assumption, it seems to me, is that states will act rationally out of self-interest. In other words, states will pursue their security, well-being, and development by means of a somewhat logical series of decisions and actions.

    Interestingly, Keohane and Axelrod both concede that multiple factors have an impact on the decision-making process. They argue that actions cannot be considered without their relevant context, and that perception often plays a large role. However, I think it is safe to assume that both men would still claim that at the heart of every action is a preference, just as individuals are motivated by desire. This may seem so basic, so obvious that it can be taken for granted, but I would like to raise a challenge to this assumption. Why should we assume that individuals – or nations for that matter – behave solely out of self-interests? Is it correct to describe nations as rational egoists? If we can describe rogue nations such as Iran, North Korea, or even China as “irrational” actors, is it also possible to assert that states have the capacity to serve the interests of others not included in their constituency?

    There seems to be a paucity of historical empirics to assert my claim that states can be humanitarian or entertain the interests of others. Regardless, I think it is important to reconsider this common assumption. While the bystander effect demonstrates a disturbingly natural level of apathy in our species, numerous cases of intervention, unsolicited aid, or charity demonstrate that individuals are capable of acting for the good of others. A Realist or a skeptic may argue that humanitarian action only preempts or suppresses guilt, but I would argue that in many cases it is possible to put the needs of others before one’s self for completely pure and unsullied reasons. If this is true, does it not make sense that collection of individuals – states in this case – could act collectively for the sake of mankind? Must we reconsider the function of international regimes in this light? I think it would be fair to say that international regimes not only facilitate the interests of those who form them, but also work towards more abstract humanitarian ideals.

  36. Urvashi Barooah says:

    After analysing the different schools of political philosophy like Realism, Liberalism and their different versions, I have been wondering about the need to categorise the different theories under a specific school of thought. When countries determine their policies, do they really adhere to one specific philosophy? There are several other variables in the dynamics of governance that influence a country’s policies. Examples of a few of these variables are individual rulers, demands of the people in a democracy, the actions of the adversary country, etc. which causes countries to follow different policies at different times. Russett in “Controlling the Sword” examines in detail the effect of economic conditions on the foreign policy of a country but he does not arrive at a specific consensus. He gives examples from history where countries have followed aggressive foreign policy to deflect attention from domestic problems like economic downturn and to boost popularity before elections. But he also says that during economic downturn countries are less likely to go to war as they have limited resources and war needs a lot of preparation like the consensus of the people and militarization. It seems futile to me to classify the acts of a country under one philosophy like Liberalism or Realism when there are so many other factors that affect its decisions.
    Also, Mearshimer’s point about the conflict between rhetoric and practice underlines the dangers of strict classification. He illustrates this with the American principle of liberalism not being very consistent with its going to war against other nations of the basis of ideological difference. According to realist definitions, this can also classify as a realist practice, but since the idea of liberalism is something that is so deeply ingrained in the American consciousness, the citizens would be ok with America going to war as long as it is justified on liberal grounds. Therefore I think it is important to keep in mind the numerous factors that affect a country’s foreign policy rather than strictly confining ourselves to classifying them as realist or liberal practices.

  37. Logan Gallogly says:

    We didn’t get to talk about this much in the first discussion today, but I really liked Keohane and Axelrod’s “Achieving Cooperation Under Anarchy,” particularly their explanation of sanctioning problems. Sanctioning problems result from the number of players in a given situation and how their relationships are structured and they are one of the main factors that affect governments’ abilities to cooperate.
    Axelrod and Keohane name three sanctioning problems –
    1. an inability to identify defectors
    2. an inability to focus retaliation on defectors
    3. the fact that some members of the group may lack incentives to punish defectors
    I thought these 3 problems were very telling and offer explanations for much of what we see going on in international politics today. For example, one of the chief arguments about the danger of weapons of mass destruction is that terrorists may obtain them. The reason that this is so dangerous is due to the second sanctioning problem – since terrorists are generally non-state actors they don’t provide a target for retaliation. Thus the threats of retaliation and mutually assured destruction do not apply to them.
    In addition, the third sanctioning problem provides an explanation for the unequal distribution of power in the international system. In some cases, weak states can’t punish strong states without hurting themselves more. If the United States uses unfair trade policy, for example, Nicaragua could stop trading with them, but that would hurt Nicaragua more than it would hurt the United States. Nicaragua probably relies a lot on trade with the US, whereas the US could just move on to trade with another Central American country. Strong states can adopt a policy of “what are you going to do about it” and the process becomes a vicious cycle as they gain more power and weak states grow more dependent.
    There are obviously other explanations for these phenomena, but I thought that Keohane and Axelrod’s explanation of sanctioning problems was concise and gave us a lot to think about in terms of international cooperation. We have to identify the obstacles to cooperation before we can work to overcome them

  38. Alexandra McAtee says:

    In Thursday’s discussion, we talked in great depth about “The Melian Dialogue.” Many people felt that the Melian’s decision to go to war was essentially impractical, and that the Melian’s arguments to engage in battle did not outweigh risk the lives of so many people. What we did not discuss, but I thought was interesting, was the question as to whether or not the Melians had the right to use force against the Athenians. The Athenians were a direct threat to the Melian’s territorial integrity and political sovereignty, thus the Melians would be permitted in using self-defense against this imminent threat. But even though they had the right to act in self-defense, why would they do so if the odds were stacked against them? Since the Melians valued the collective over the individual, their common life, or shared experiences, was of utmost importance to them. Though the odds were against them, they felt that they were fighting for a greater cause since they wanted to protect their rights; to the Melians, these rights were worth dying for.

  39. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    I’m afraid I have to side with Emily rather than Jonah on this one, as per the results of our discussion on Thursday. While it is true that moral standards are generally subject to consensus (i.e. no one likes murder, rape, theft, etc) and indeed the international community is remarkably consistent on these matters, the issues which compel moral action on a STATE rather than personal level are subject to no such universal standards. This is the difference between international and domestic politics–in domestic politics there is the leviathan, state, which regulates basically on domestically accepted norms; the lack of such an international regulatory authority shows that there is inherently ambiguity when it comes to state action. For instance, the United States opposed Hussein’s regime in Iraq, as did most of Western Europe, from a moral standpoint. And yet the US’ decision to topple him was by no means universally accepted, even though no one condoned his massacring of Kurds, etc. Right and wrong are ambiguous at the state level because the question of state responsibility itself is ambiguous. The security dilemma illustrates this perfectly: the desire of a state to build a military is not inherently bad–states need a military for security. But because of the SD, this is bad for other states and can be perceived as a threat. But are all states with strong armies inherently bad states? No.

    So while it’s clear that personal moral codes of conduct are very real (and share many standards across the globe), states are not “inherently prone to immoral action” but rather subject to different standards of morality, because they are not individuals, but states. They have different obligations, which from a constitutional perspective are primarily towards their own peoples, and even from a humanitarian perspective, consequences of action are never really predictable. Don’t rape, pillage, and murder–yes. But strong states will in some case, for instance, allow the murder of the Kurds to go on in order not to jeopardize the lives of their own soldiers and to respect standards of sovereignty. How to judge? It’s not possible–at least not objectively.

  40. Jonah Merris says:

    In response to Emily’s post regarding the possibility of a universal code, I feel I must offer a rather liberalist response despite my realist leanings. Michael Walzer, in his seminal work “Just and Unjust Wars,” picks up on this question of morality and concludes that there is some semblance of right and wrong that we can assume when discussing human behavior. The very existence of international humanitarian law suggests that there is some common denominator between nations upon which a global conception of morality can be built. While agreement on the specific definitions of both ends of the “right/wrong” spectrum may not be complete, a majority opinion does seem to point in the same general direction. For instance, most societies prohibit murder, theft, and rape, while frowning upon a litany of other transgressions. Consistency between the world’s major religions illustrates the value of a basic code of conduct we all seem to hold dear; a code that is as pervasive as it is ancient. Thus, while morality may be subjective up until a certain point, the possibility of objective moral judgment does still exist. Cases where this is most clear include genocide and various other crimes against humanity.

    With respect to the relationship between a universal moral standard and the relations between states, I think it is best to conclude that despite the transcendent common morality we all share, the realm of international politics is inherently prone to immoral action. As in the case of suicide bombers or aggressive states, morality can be and will be manipulated to achieve and end. However, this flexibility does not negate a higher standard, rather, it simply reveals man’s nature.

    As invoking the presence of some transcendent morality invariably casts doubt and prompts argument on behalf of opponents, states acting unilaterally should try to avoid the language of morality. Although, as Walzer argues, individual states are still obliged to act unilaterally in the face of a great injustice, morality requires a plurality for it to be properly imparted on another sovereign nation. While this opens the door on an entirely different discussion, I think my original point still stands. Namely, a higher moral standard may be recognized regardless of complications regarding its finer points.

  41. Otis Pitney says:

    In reading the Melian Dialogue, I found it frustrating trying to determine which side had the better argument. I felt that both sides exhibited strong points, but ultimately sided with the Athenians because I believe they had a more realistic argument. When discussing the question of morality in international affairs, particularly historical international affairs, it is most important to look at recent precedent. What kind of international stage did these two sides occupy in terms of international relations? Their time was far different from ours, and the dialogue, when examined in the context of the time period, actually seems to favor the Athenians. Empires at that time were built upon conquest and morality did not have a role in terms of aggression and its relation to international relations. The Roman Empire serves as a great example of an empire that prospered in its period of expansion, faltering only after that period came to a close. It was live by the sword, die by the sword. In our day and age, military aggression is frowned upon morally, yes, but also because it would upset the world economy and balance of power, catastrophic consequences and casualties aside. Not so in the time of the Athenians as they expressed in their argument. A neutral city-state benefits the Athenians but it also aids their enemies, their rivals. Why, when they have the power to prevent their enemies from receiving that aid, and making sure that they alone reap the profits from that city-state, would they consider allowing neutrality? There would not have been room in the political sphere, no time and not enough power, to “set a precedent” as the Melians suggested, which brings up the complicated question of how or whether any significant state can remain neutral in an international conflict? At the very least, it would need to submit itself to changes in economic policy, restructuring in order to trade evenly with both sides which brings up a whole host of other dilemnas. In our day, perhaps it would be doable, but to me it does not seem like something that was reasonable for the Melians to expect from the Athenians. And given the improbability of achieving victory, probably should have accepted the slight infringement upon their freedom in exchange for survival. Instead, their noble, yet foolish commitment to their morality argument got them all slaughtered.
    And then just really quickly, I want to denounce Hobbes’ simplistic view on human nature, that humans see each other as a threat and by nature expand outward until each threat is vanquished. Thus, others must do the same or be defeated. Those are the bare essential foundations of his argument which I believe to be flawed. There may be great evidence to support his point in the empire-dominated, dog-eat-dog world that he perceives from human history. However are there not also examples that point to the contrary such as the Natives of North America or large areas of Africa where tribes also managed to live in a larger degree of peace. To me it seems that increases in technology, and the ability of eccentric individuals–in the vast minority–to make larger splashes in the human pond has spiraled to create the empires and gladiator, war-poised states that Hobbes refers to.

  42. Nicholas Libbey says:

    I was particularly interested in the views of war and its effect on national growth between Thomas Hobbes and Edward Carr. As Thomas Hobbes describes, during wartime, “there is no place for industry,[…] no culture of the earth,[… and] no society,” making war unproductive due to the resulting obsession that takes precedence over all other concerns. Therefore, war is unattractive as it restricts the country from making progress towards its economic, social, and political potential. Carr however differs as he describes the unattractiveness of war as a threat to the ruling class. So the international power “prays for domestic peace, which guarantees its own security and predominance.” This view of war is more focused on the dangers of uprising and class conflict as opposed to the distractions it may bring. The Athenians in the Melian Dialogue share Carr’s attention to the importance of international peace as the predominant power, explaining their reason to conquer the islanders as the “subjects smarting under the yoke […] would be the most likely to take a rash step and lead themselves and [Athens] into obvious danger.” While Hobbes and Carr differ in their perceptions of war, they agree in that it restricts the predominant powers in all areas of growth.

  43. Mehdi Prevot says:

    I have a problem with Realism, for example expressed by Hobbes in Chapter XIII of Leviathan. He asserts that men need a “common power”, namely a government with defined laws, to keep them all out of a constant state of war. I agree on that part. However, it is paradoxical to have such a negative opinion about men and such a positive one about something they have created: laws. How could men, so greedy and egotistic, be able to sit together and, after a little chat, decide that we would be better off if we had laws to rule our society? Unlike realist thinkers, I strongly believe that a human being is a “perfectible creature”. How could they live if they were thinking so little of themselves?

  44. Hannah Postel says:

    In reading the Melian Dialogue, I found the rhetoric of the two sides very interesting. The Athenians appealed to the Melians’ dignity, their sense of unity, humanity, and honor. When this failed, they couched hidden insults in seemingly kind suggestions. In the first class we discussed how Wilson was forced to work with Clemenceau’s plan because he had no concrete agenda of his own. The peace was thus on Clemenceau’s terms. In the Melian Dialogue, the Athenians say, “Make no set speech yourselves, but take us up at whatever you do not like, and settle that before going any farther. And first tell us if this proposition of ours suits you.” This is exactly what Clemenceau did, but the Melians were able to resist (at least at this point). Broad theories are of course useful and many times proven to be true, but individuals still have a large influence on the outcome of their situation.

  45. Emily Wagman says:

    In our discussion on Thursday, we talked about the idea of having universal standards that everyone must live up to and the possibility of such standards. After thinking about this for the past few days, I’m still not completely sure if universal standards are possible, especially since there is a variety of governments and leaders in the world. To have universal standards of, say, right and wrong, there must first be universal definitions of the two. I don’t really think that there can be universal definitions of right and wrong without uniform similarities from country to country. One example that we talked about in the discussion was a suicide bomber – he/she thinks that what he/she is doing is right, but from an outsider’s perspective, suicide bombing is wrong. Situations like this prove that universal definitions of right and wrong do not exist (as of now) and by extension, it is clear that universal standards do not exist either. I do hope, however, that universal standards will someday be possible and put into place.

  46. Sophie Gardiner says:

    I think John makes a strong point about our new world network of communication and trade making it possible for an international organization to develop. I think that what is preventing us from reaching this is the great difference between the developed and developing countries. We’ve seen that it has been very profitable for developed countries to create trade agreements between one another. Clearly, states acting in their own interest will only join trade agreements when they have something to gain from them. If extreme poverty still exists, will these states continue to be left out of the global trade alliance network because some developed countries see no benefit from a relationship with them? If there were stable and lucrative trade between each and every state would we finally see fit to establish an international Leviathan?

  47. Robert Hutton says:

    Our discussion both introduced me to new concepts and allowed me to place opinions I already held within an intellectual framework. I would classify myself as a Realist; as such, Hobbes’s Leviathan is a compelling solution to the timeless problem of conflict within human societies. Yet I am also an atheist, and in this regard I am dubious that any absolute morality is attainable or even extant. This troubling opinion leads to only one logical conclusion: any notion of right and wrong is a solely human invention. Why, then, should we respect conventions of law and order, themselves products of man’s artifice? I myself am unsure.

  48. John Montroy says:

    Our discussion led us towards, naturally enough, the question of whether the existence of a global community is possible. By Hobbes’ ideas, such an entity would deal with the problem of global anarchy, although Hobbes himself never suggested such an idea. The premise behind such an entity would likely be to enforce a set of moral absolutes on the global community of states, to hold everyone to an equal standard. This is the basic premise behind local, small governments, so why not extend it to an international level? Before the 21st century and modern technology, I don’t think such an entity was not even imaginable. For one, sheer geographical distance made even yearly interaction between states difficult, never mind the daily stream of communication required to maintain order. States could carry out their needs and desires with little to no exposure to the rest of the world. Now, modernization and globalization has created a much more opportune landscape for the establishment of a global entity to keep all other states in awe.

    Of course, I don’t have the ability to give this idea its proper treatment. What kind of specifics would be needed for this whole idea? A lack of leaders at the state level? One big ruler/ruling committee for the global power? What are the implications for economy, trade and so on? I have no idea, really, but from a Hobbesian, realist standpoint, such an entity is the only solution to our current state of anarchy.

  49. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    I’d like to respond to a point made Thursday’s lecture – Slide 56 – wherein Hobbe’s argument is summarized with the point that a strong state keeps the peace. However, the Melian Dialogue brings up a contradiction to this. The Athenians argue that it is rather “subjects smarting under the yoke who would be the most likely to take a rash step and lead themselves and us into obvious danger.” If a Leviathan, as Slide 57 claims, truly does “work for individuals,” what would Hobbes say about rebellions that happen in spite of a fear of the state? In fact, many rebellions occur specifically because of a fear of the state, when the people want to free themselves of that fear. Does this disprove Hobbes’ hypothesis?

  50. Tina Williamson says:

    I am continually surprised by the humanity exhibited by the actors we read about, as in Thucydides where both the Melians and Athenians show similar opportunistic behaviors. Hobbes comments on the similarity between people, and Thucydides records that behavior: The Melians contend that they will attempt everything before submitting to be Athenian slaves, while Athens says they will conquer in the “interest of empire,” and the Melians should submit rather than die.
    It is interesting that both parties are opportunistic in that they want what is best for their party, and justice and “right” is called in on behalf of both. The Melians also say that they hope for a God to be on their side-the same God or religious power that could be called on by Athens as well.
    It is interesting to postulate that both parties in the Dialogue, and in most international relations would probably behave the same was as their opposition if they were “in their shoes.” This is similar to what we discussed on Thursday in that the US should/not be criticizing China for imperialist behavior that the US itself exhibited in the past.

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