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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. Samantha Kaufman says:

    I also wanted to clarify a few points that I made in class yesterday. We were talking about terrorism being an idea that lies most in perspective. I was not saying that every organization that is considered a terrorist group by some consortium of countries, although for the sake of this argument I will say the US, is lionized by some group or country in the world. Rather, I was noting that many of the organizations we would consider terrorist groups do have massive followings in other parts of the world; that those who we consider detrimental to our own sovereignty, dignity or world power are seen by others as rightly chipping away at the excessive control or influence they see the US as having. As it was said in class: one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. I also was not necessarily talking on the state-wide level in terms of those who do support terrorists. But rather that, for every organization we consider terrorists, there are obviously a number of people who do not see them as terrorists. Otherwise, how would these organizations remain exigent?

  2. Urvashi Barooah says:

    Today in class we made the distinction between terrorism and insurgency as being targeted at civilians and government instruments respectively. I find this distinction a little problematic. For example there is an insurgent group in my homestate called ULFA who are demanding a separate country for the northeastern part of India. Thier main grievances lie with the central government and since their objective is secession, they could be classified as an insurgent group. However their means of protest have often involved blasts in busy areas of the city which have led to civilian casualties. Does this then make them a terrorist group, even though their cause lies with the government? Also, I think terrorist groups aim at civilians to create terror as a means of destabilizing the government. I find that there is not such a clear line between attacks on political authority and those on civilians.

  3. Riley O'Rourke says:


    In class today we briefly discussed Shay’s rebellion. This rebellion prompted one of my favorite founding father quotes. In response to James Madison’s concern over the violent uprising of farmers angry over conditions in Massachusetts in 1786 Jefferson expressed no concern. Indeed, he expressed the sentiment that “a little rebellion now and then is a good thing.” While this is certainly a dangerous precedent to a current administration it serves to point out the early asymmetric nature of the American Revolution discussed in Lecture today. In addition it displays the disunity among the founders of the nation

  4. Isabella Tudisco-Sadacca says:

    Something that came to mind while reading the Parks and Roberts article was the thought of whether globalization had never occurred, would these countries have survived on their own, and is it only now that they are dependent on outside sources that there is such disaster? This question can also lead back to our discussion of whether the process of natural selection should take its course and if stronger countries should fight for the weak and lend temporary support. The argument that globalization has had negative effects on climate change is evident, but even with global warming had Tuvalu, for example, remained independent from globalization would its location alone have made it susceptible to these issues, and how does that change more developed countries duty to protect it? Granted globalization and global warming affect (hence the word global) the globe, making it hard to ignore the fact that some countries are unfortunately just poorly located; but perhaps our nurturing nature has made it more difficult for underdeveloped countries to cope as their foundations were never properly built and thus they rely on the emergency relief that has always loosely patched things up. Slightly unrelated, but in response to Jonah, I think he makes a good point in saying that each country requires different amounts of energy and material sources in order to support themselves, given their individual circumstances and structure, thus allowing larger more developed countries more use of resources. However, even this argument supports that of the underdeveloped countries in that because they already do not use the same resources or energy, that say the US does, they should not be expected to make the same sacrifices as larger countries. Therefore I believe that the richest nations should make larger sacrifices for the betterment of the globe, even if that means pursuing a slightly different standard of living. A comparison can be made to taxes, should the poor be expected to pay the same amount of taxes as the wealthy? Or is it fair that those with higher incomes give larger percentages of their income to taxes then those with extremely low wages?

  5. Oksana Cherezova says:

    I found it peculiar how the National Security Strategy of the United States of America presented by former President George W. Bush provides a good illustration to Samuel Huntington’s “The West vs. The Rest” argument. For instance, Huntington points out that “the will of the free world” is often expressed by Western-dominated institutions, or nations. George W. Bush explicitly states that the principles of liberty or freedom, on which the United States was founded, “are right and true for all people everywhere” (48). Such an argument clearly does not take into consideration the historical and cultural background of what Huntington denotes as “civilization”. Perhaps, one should not wonder then that more than 8 years after the 9/11 events, the United States still finds itself in the state of war with Iraq and Afghanistan. Although at first I was surprised at Huntington’s argument, given the dominating mindset, “the clash of civilizations” theory does indeed make sense. In the post-colonial world almost any attempt by the West to export its notions of democracy and freedom, would be counterproductive as it will only enhance the cultural consciousness, as Huntington points out.

  6. Jonah Merris says:

    Unfortunately my group was not able to touch on the readings relating to the environment assigned for today (with the exception of Malthus) and I just wanted to bring up “Globalization, vulnerability to climate change, and perceived injustice” by Parks and Roberts. I found this article particularly inflammatory and accusatory, and was rather taken back by its content. In it, the authors assert that developed industrial nations fundamentally profit from the suffering of lesser-developed nations (pre-industrial in many cases) because the great powers use disproportionate carbon resources and stand to gain from global warming (increased agriculture production).

    While I do not disagree with this characterization, I do think the authors’ focus on inequality and injustice must be reevaluated with special attention paid to the reality of the global system. Fundamentally, some societies possess advanced technological capabilities and means of production which demand greater quantities of resources than other societies. This is a fact. An internal combustion engine or nuclear reactor requires far more factors of production than a windmill. Also, we are just discovering that the climate is most likely changing due to increased human industrial activity. Did Nickolaus Otto know about greenhouse gases when he invented the first internal combustion engine? Probably not. I do not think that industrial nations purposefully developed technologies which would put low-lying Pacific island nations at a disadvantage. While Roberts and Parks are probably not making this claim either, I do think their general sentiment is echoed by many other “progressive” humanitarians who feel that there is some larger conspiracy amongst the great powers to continually repress smaller nations.

    With that being said, I do not think inequality is a component of international politics and always has been. Resources have never and will never be allocated equally. Furthermore, not all nations are situated at the same parallels. Not all men are born under the same conditions and I think once we accept this we may, as global citizens, realize that perfect equality is probably impossible.

    In the mean time, we are faced with the problem of reducing the disparity between the world’s richest people and the world’s poorest. Must the richest sacrifice their standard of living? Do we give small, developing nations technology that comes with a substantial carbon footprint? I think these are all important questions.

  7. Riley O'Rourke says:

    Today we talked about the failures of the UN oil-for-food program. Besides being ineffective and harmful to the citizenry of Iraq, it seems UN members including Kofi Annan’s, then secratary general of the UN, son lined their pockets.

  8. Derrick Angle says:

    I found the article for this upcoming week, The Iraq Invasion as a Recent United Kingdom Contribution to International Law, to be very interesting. This article focuses on the UK’s invasion of Iraq—an attack that they believe to be pre-emptive. The UK labels this attack “pre-emptive” because of the threat of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). As such, the British Government used this threat as a way to justify war with Iraq. The British Intelligence Dossier portrays that Iraq has indeed retained chemical warfare stocks. These stocks would allow for Iraq to produce a great amount of chemical weapons in a short amount of time. Therefore, the main reason for the UK invasion was to remove Saddam Hussein from power and disarm Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction that they may possess. Was the UK striving to be a hegemon, or were they simply trying to balance power? This article believes that since this was a pre-emptive attack, it was “not so different from the traditional British doctrine of the balance of power” (Carty)

  9. Paul Krugman’s article “Dutch Tulips and Emerging Markets”, in my opinion, highlights the necessity to understand the cultural and other specifics of the country before prescribing a policy. It also provides a strong counterargument to one of the main assumptions of realism, which is rationality of the actors.
    Already in the second paragraph I was surprised to read that the fall of communism “reassured” investors that their assets would not fall in the hands of the leftist governments (28). This sounded too much like Truman’s Cold War perception of the world as being separated into white and read: the “free” and the “totalitarian” societies. I found it interesting that foreign investors would expect what was built for 70 years to change at once.
    Another compelling case study in Krugman’s article points out how idealistic expectations may be sustained for a significant period of time. He explains the way the bubbles are created in the financial sector and how they create a false perception of profitability of investment. The current economic crisis, which also started with a housing bubble’s burst, should thus create a room for psychology and sociology in the conduct of domestic, and, more importantly, international financial policies.

  10. Nicholas Libbey says:

    In regard to Susan Strange’s article and the globalized economy, I have conflicting reactions towards the effect of growing international trade and competition in today’s economy. Part of me finds the growing international economy to be exciting and great. Promoting interaction and competition yields more global partnerships, improvements in the economy as a whole, technological innovation, and more checks and balances in the international system; all of which are beneficial to global prosperity. As corporations globalize, efficiency allows for more and more production at lower cost and therefore greater benefit to the majority of the world populace. Additionally, there is added pressure on the governments of developing countries to support national economic and financial growth to compete with other developing nations. However, at the same time, the added competition, growth of enormous corporations, and global economic perspective could prove to be counterproductive to international peace and well-being. The competition and enormous corporations, resulting in corporate efficiency producing large amounts of goods at low prices also wipes out countless small businesses that cannot compete, resulting in increased unemployment. Furthermore, as corporations gain international influence, these non-state actors can potentially grow so powerful to contest state powers with little to no accountability to government control. We are in a very exciting time, but so were we last time globalization was at this level, right before World War I and some of the worst decades in American and World History. Buckle up.

  11. Julia Deutsch says:

    I found Samuel Huntington’s article, The Hispanic Challenge, extremely provocative. The article discusses why and how Mexican immigration is changing the very foundational characteristics the United States was built on. He writes, “Americans should not let that change happen unless they are convinced that this new nation would be a better one.” Although I was forced to admit that his points about Hispanic immigration will create large shifts in American society were valid, I had to ask myself, if the United States were to reject Hispanic immigration, wouldn’t this also change something essential about this country? Isn’t United States supposed to be a melting pot? Aren’t we supposed to welcome newcomers? Huntington claims that, “There is only the American ream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexicans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English.” But why is it so bad to incorporate Latin American culture into our own? If, however, you believe Huntington’s logic, there still remains the question as to what is to be done about it. The largest flaw in this essay exists in Huntington’s failure to offer valid options to accelerate or encourage assimilation. He believes that Latin Americans are not assimilating into American culture in many areas, but doesn’t provide a way to promote it.

  12. Susan Strange’s article “State, Firms and Diplomacy” offers a rather provocative perspective on the international security vs. IP&E debate, which we briefly touched upon during Thursday’s class. Rather than allocating each of the areas to its respective area of concern, Strange goes as far as calling the realist school, together with the tendency to limit the scope of IP to mere security, “as demode as 1950s fashions”(66).
    The basis of her arguments lies in her assumption that economic treaties are more permanent than international security treaties. In all the theories that we studied so far, states were largely treated as constant (less Wendt, perhaps) and their regimes as rather stable (e.g. the Cold War case). Sagan points out that economic development when bound with technological development may lead to a drastic change of a regime (63) – hinting on the Soviet Union, which in its turn may arguably lead to a collapse of the state by itself (again, Soviet Union and, probably, Yugoslavia?). In fact, she goes as far as stating that the global economic interaction has changed the very essence of the international regime, where the primary goals of the states are not balance of power or hegemony, but rather out competing each other (65). Thus, international diplomacy has been transformed forever, as it currently concerns itself with firm-to-firm and state-to-firm relationships along with the traditional state-to-state framework (64).
    In my opinion, Sagan has nicely summarized the current diplomatic prerogatives of the “non-superpower” states, which the “big” theorists that we studied before tend to neglect. “Weak” states, like for example Eastern Central Europe, were supposed to join some superpower camp by definition, rather than by some policy calculation. In the present day when the developed world by large consists of democracies and is expected to abide to some international expectations, it becomes rather challenging to use the “good old” intimidation as means to force a state support a superpower’s foreign policy. Moreover, the internal political climate of “weaker” states may be rather turbulent (e.g. the most recent events in Kyrgyzstan), and thus it may be quite challenging to enforce pure political deals. This is precisely where international economics might come handy, and as Sagan correctly points out, the economic treaties need not necessarily be sealed in the state-to-state framework.

  13. Derrick Angle says:

    This week’s article Peace, Stability, and Nuclear Weapons by Kenneth Waltz was about the addition of nuclear warfare into international relations. However, despite what one may think, the spread of nuclear weapons has not increased a great amount due to the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Waltz portrays the seven different reasons that a country would want to possess nuclear weapons:
    1) For powerful countries to counter the weapons of other powers
    2) For the fear that a powerful ally will not retaliate after the attack of another power
    3) The fact that some of the countries adversaries have the weapons makes them want them as well
    4) Due to the fear of its adversaries’ present or future possible strength
    5) Weapons are cheaper than running economically ruinous
    6) Offensive purposes
    7) To increase international standing

    The article talks about how nuclear weapons have not been used for 25 years and that they are used mostly to instill fear in other countries, it makes them more cautious of their actions. An interesting topic is the control of Nuclear Weapons. How can we be so sure that countries that possess these weapons are able to control them? In other words how do countries prevent the accidental misfire that could occur? Waltz states in this article that “Fear of accidents works against their occurring.” He uses the Cuban Missile Crisis as an example of this. He makes it known that there were accidents that happened during this crisis. However, these accidents forced Kennedy and Khrushchev to end the crisis quickly for fear of losing control. In other words, the addition of nuclear warfare causes cases that are not controllable too threatening to bear. It has the reverse effect then one may think. Finally I found it interesting how nuclear weapons do not make the weak stronger, but make the stronger weaker, in comparison to other countries. It lessons the power of countries like the United States because other countries possessing these weapons can now pose as a threat through a counterattack. It hinders our freedom of action.

  14. Tina Williamson says:

    Regarding our reading, I am wondering, with the advent of nuclear arms, what are the possibilities for war? Our various readings on the topic suggest that nuclear arms, combined with the “horrible memory” of World War Two will be enough to dissuade states from not engaging in a conflict near that scale. While I understand and agree that nuclear arms are irrelevant to a degree for deterrence, I in no way think that the memory of horrible wars past, even to the scale of WW2, will keep major powers from ever engaging in conflict again. Given our study of IP’s history, it seems likely that at some point some state will want to either seek hegemony or balance powers (depending on which theorist you align with) and that desire will outweigh, for whatever reason, their memory. Also, even if we are to say that major-powers conflict is over, does this mean that the only conflict “available” is to aggress states as non-state actors (terrorism)?

  15. Isabella Tudisco-Sadacca says:

    Addressing what Greg discussed about whether the United States fell in to Mearsheimer’s offensive realism theory I would agree that the United States was seeking hegemony and that it is a trend followed throughout American history. However I don’t think that has to imply that every country was seeking to be a hegemon during WWII. In opposition to what was said in discussion on Thursday, I think it could be argued that the Russians mirror to some extent the Melians. This is because although they were not sufficiently prepared for what Natzi Germany could do, and the fact that they were weaker was most likely evident to them there is an underlying need to protect one’s own and therefore act (maybe “irrationally”) in order to preserve what would clearly be destroyed if surrendered.

  16. Robert Hutton says:

    In response to Diana’s comment, I have a large problem with Mearsheimer’s adversarial take on International politics. Indeed, as I remarked in my first paper, he seems to completely dismiss the possibility of positive interaction. While the US doctrine of containment against the USSR seems to validate his theory, Mearsheimer completely disregards a number of important events, such as the Soviet-American Grain Agreement. In this and other instances, the “great powers” choose to cooperate or at least interact in an amicable manner.

  17. Mila King-Musza says:

    I too would like to respond to a topic discussed at the end of our last discussion section (that of labeling the U.S.’s Cold War strategy and policy). I initially thought of it as a classic security dilemma (especially the arms race). But if that were the case, then both sides should have been majorly preoccupied with simply defending themselves. In this case, the status quo was not preferred, even in the face of the risks of seeking to expand. It seems as though mutual security could not be attained, as the USSR could really only establish good relations with the US if it conceded American dominance. Also, drawing from our reading, it seems as though the expansionist ideas of the USSR were driven mainly by internal forces (and partially by the ideology governing the USSR, that socialism in one country would never work). Perhaps the situation could be categorized as one influenced both by the security dilemma and hegemonic aspirations.

  18. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    In response to Emily
    I think the reason it’s difficult to use Kennan’s idea of containment when describing the war on terror is that the actors are no longer states, as they were back when Kennan was first describing the polity. Groups like Al-Queda are substate actors. Indeed they are a part of a global movement—religious extremism—that is bigger than any one state. The attack on 9/11 was not an attack by another state but by a substate actor, a group, and moreover an ideology. We went into Afghanistan not because we were afraid of the Northern Alliance (their theoretically legitimate government before the US invasion) but because of our fear of a movement, the Taliban. (Although in this case that movement happened to control most of the country.) In Iraq, the crisis we face is not one with the government in Baghdad but rather with insurgent movements in the countryside. Applying containment to a world which is vastly different from the one in which Kennan penned his theory is tricky.

  19. Jonah Merris says:

    I find Samantha’s post very engaging because I find US policy towards the USSR during the length of the Cold War difficult to characterize as entirely offensive or defensive realism. While I would initially label America’s actions as that of a offensive realist, I can also see how America was simply trying to balance power (a la Waltz) vis a vis the Soviets. For instance, in its rhetoric and interventions into such proxy states as Vietnam, Cuba, and Korea, the US appeared to be overtly offensive and hegemonic in its desire to expand its own sphere of influence. Espionage, the nuclear arms race, and NATO all seem to support the assertion that the US was simply trying to become a global hegemon. The Soviet Union’s collapse towards the end of the 20th century and the United State’s emergence as the world’s economic and military superpower indicate that when the time came for Americans to either accept of shirk this role, we stepped up to the plate. However, because the USSR, through institutions like the Warsaw Pact, the Comintern, military aid to Cuba, and reciprocal espionage paralleled America’s Cold War-era policies, it would seem that the actions of both states follow the logic of a defensive realist. Given a mutual increase of power in the postwar international system, both states simply tried to ensure their own security and thus bring stability to the system. Upon further review, I would instinctively support this characterization because neither power made any overt attempts to invade the other state. Furthermore, America maintained some level of diplomatic relations with the USSR throughout the period, no matter how strained they became. While different American administrations came and went, and as Soviet leadership changed hands, both nations seemed to pursue bold, aggressive foreign policy that never truly crossed the line into offensive military action. Thus, I would have to say that the top-down approach does not fall short in this case. Although the rhetoric varied on both sides throughout the latter half of the 20th century, neither side came to blows.

  20. Diana Gor says:

    The Domino Theory is the assumption that USSR would do anything that is possible to allow the spread of communism. This assumption suggests that the US believed in Mearsheimer’s theory that USSR is striving to become hegemony. The threat that the US perceived from USSR as described in the Domino Theory seems a little exaggerated in the light of what we have studied in class on Thursday. As was presented in class Stalin was conservative in his view on the spread of communism: “focused on unifying the Soviet empire, Stalin adopted the theory of Socialism in One Country” (slide 30). Stalin was in power until the 50’s, which is when the Domino Theory Principle was presented at first. It seems that the Domino Theory would be irrelevant if Stalin believes that the focus should remain within one country instead of trying to stir up a world revolution. Perhaps the US wasn’t aware of his believes or didn’t trust him which would explain why the Domino Theory became so accepted among Americans.

  21. Emily Wagman says:

    In our discussion on Thursday we discussed at length whether Kennan would have approved of the US invasion of Iraq. There really was no general consensus, but I think, since Kennan advocated defensive containment, he would not have supported the decision to invade Iraq. Defensive containment suggested that any move the Soviet Union made to expand would be countered by a US response to prevent the spread of communism. The move the US made in Iraq, however, was not in response to an offensive by the Iraqis. Had the Iraqi government been responsible for the September 11th attacks, then, I think, Kennan would have supported the war in Iraq as a defensive move to contain terrorism. I realize that the American people wanted a response from the government after the September 11th attacks, but was invading Iraq the best choice? I don’t think so.

  22. Zoe Hamilton says:

    Responding to Hannah and Mehdi’s exchange above, I have to say that I agree with Hannah and Mehdi. I think that thought the situations were different (JFK and Bush), they were both using the same strategy of exaggerating some semblance of the truth in order to portray their motivations as purely defensive. Though the conflict with the USSR certainly posed more of a tangible threat to the American people, that does not mean that JFK was also not taking advantage of a rumor (however concrete) for political purposes. I agree, therefore, with Hannah that the public should keep on guard while listening to politicians rhetoric and beware of true political motivations.

  23. Samantha Kaufman says:

    In our discussion section, we looked at whether or not we could considered the US’s cold war strategy as offensive or defensive realism. Later, it struck me as odd that we were thinking of the US policy as being concurrent throughout the forty or so years of the cold war. In reality, there the US had many different leaders during this time, most of which were of different political parties and had a variety of viewpoints. In this way, I am not sure if I could have applied a one-or-the-other offensive-or-defensive titled to the “US Policy” that we discussed. This is an area in which I think that this top-down approach does truly fall short: with such a variety of leaders and perhaps a variety of underlying narratives and goals, is it possible to apply one approach to the entire period?

  24. Greg Dier says:

    In our Thursday section we discussed if Mearsheimer’s offensive realism could apply to the actions of the United States in WWII. I think the United States strove to become a hegemon and thwarted Japan’s efforts to become a hegemon. In fact, the United States successfully achieved hegemony. After WWII the United States dominated the world economically, militarily and politically. From a psychological and sociological standpoint the United States also achieved hegemonic status. For a history class this term we are reading Bodies of Memory by Yoshikuni Igarashi. The book depicts the sexualized relationship between the U.S. and Japan. In this respect, the U.S. embodied the dominate male role and Japan took the subordinate female role. This image was facilitated through the media, photographs and narratives. Bodies of Memory stresses that this image was purposeful. This further supports the idea that great powers pursue hegemony through all means possible.

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