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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 Roberts says:

    In light of our studies of international politics theories, Kennan’s containment strategy is a little funny. In essence, Kennan has embraced two contradicting theories, defensive and offensive realism. He understands the USSR to be offensive realists looking to expand power at all costs and become global hegemons. On the other hand, to combat this, he prescribes the ultimate defensive realist stance–containment in order to maintain balance of power. Ultimately his theory worked out, but I wonder if the US’s policies were offensive realist–looking to become the world hegemon–cloaked in defensive realist terms.

  2. Mehdi Prevot says:

    I understand Hannah’s concern but in fact, I quite agree with JFK when he says that “The 1930’s taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war”. The situation at that time cannot be compared to the Irak situation, because JFK had enough factual elements to know for sure that there was a very dangerous situation. It reminded me of the concerns of Japan when North Korea fired a missile that flew over the Japanese Island (I think). Could we say that because the missile did not hit Japan there was no reason to be so panicked? I wouldn’t think so because precisely we know that tensions exist between those two countries. Therefore, I think it was courageous and appropriate for JFK to warn the Soviet Union in order to prevent any attempt at intimidating the USA. Now Bush clearly used the same idea to justify the Irak war and I believe it was a mistake to use such strong political/military action for no good and grounded reason. Indeed, now that a really dangerous situation is looming with Iran, the USA can no longer use this threat as a means to pressure Ahmadinejad because it has lost a great deal of its support in the Middle-East and tarnished its reputation. The very fact that JFK’s decision led to a positive outcome, as opposed to the mess that is reigning in Irak today, clearly shows how different those two situations are. Unlike JFK, Bush ignored Kennan’s policy of containment by invading both Afghanistan and Irak. If the invasion of Afghanistan was somewhat justified (although it is arguable), the war in Irak was obviously not, which resulted in what Kennan foreshadowed: a mess.

  3. Hannah Postel says:

    I want to comment about something that’s been bothering me in a lot of the speeches by American politicians that we’ve read. The rhetoric of going to extremes in order to capture the public’s attention is not only misleading, but destructive. Not only is our own government exaggerating the facts in order to be able to act in the way it desires, but these actions often times lead to war and death. John F. Kennedy said, “It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” While this is the way the United States may desire to respond, it is definitely an extrapolation unsupported by fact. The United States is looking for confrontation. I’m not saying that the concept of nuclear war with the Soviet Union shouldn’t have been taken seriously, or that retaliation would be out of line. I just think that extrapolating the United States to any nation in the Western Hemisphere is a little too broad of a reach. Obviously if such an attack had occurred, we should have been concerned and taken some sort of action. But it is neither as directly focused nor as harmful as an attack on American soil, and it should therefore not be treated in the same way. I find this kind of rhetoric to be scary because only a few years ago we were drawn into a war based on the same sort of “facts” presented by George W. Bush, data which turned out to be untrue. We have been conducting a war for completely different reasons than the ones our government cited. I think the public should be very careful when listening to politicians and decide if what they are hearing is fact or exaggeration.

  4. Nicholas Libbey says:

    I find it interesting to consider the effects of the introduction of the atomic bomb on international politics. As Brodie discusses at length, there are many different possible outcomes that the influence of nuclear power may have on military and political spheres. Including who has it, who has more, why they have it, and how willing they are to use it, atomic power possession can mean many different things in international relations. I especially find it interesting to consider how atomic power may affect the logic of theorists such as Mearsheimer. By his logic, all states strive to be a hegemony to preserve their own safety as the hegemony is the safest of states. This however may not be the case with the possibility of nuclear weapons. As more and more states and even nonstate actors acquire the technology, it can be argued that the more conspicuous a country, the more inclined others are to be intimidated and fight back. Especially with the power of a nuclear bomb, a surprise attack that previously would be inconsequential can now instantly cripple an opponent of any size. Therefore, this new weapon may have changed the playing field and shifted the goals of countries away from hegemony to the safety of cooperating, less conspicuous nations (possibly along the lines of Jervis’ argument).

  5. Patrick says:

    i just wanted to put into writing an idea i had in discussion today – about the importance of geography to international politics. i didn’t even make the connection at the time, but in my historiography class, we just finished reading a lot of work to come out of the french “annales school,” which basically advocated for a more holistic study of history, one which takes into account not just great men and great events, but every aspect of the social sciences – anthropology, archaeology, sociology, geography, climatology, etc. this idea of a comprehensive look at history is important for our class, because i think we have a tendency to talk about international politics in terms of events that a big white man brought about, whereas they are in reality much more complicated.

  6. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    Today in discussion we talked about the application of Waltz’s and Mearsheimer’s theories to US entrance into WWII, and I wanted to clarify this point. Some argued that the situation reflected Waltz’s theory of a balance of power because the US sought to balance out Russia. Others sided with Mearsheimer, saying that the US intended to become a hegemon.

    I believe that both theories are applicable to the situation; however, the intention differs from the actual outcome. Despite the fact that the US was somewhat forced to go war by Pearl Harbor and the later declaration of war against the US by Germany, I think the US intended to fill the power vacuum created in Europe by the fall of Britain, France, and what they hoped would be the defeat of Germany. Although yesterday’s lecture suggested that the death toll of Russia reflected their strength and commitment to the war, I would argue that the US saw this as a sign that Russia would emerge from the war crippled by their losses, and therefore underestimated Soviet strength. Therefore, I believe that Waltz’s theory played out in actuality even though Mearsheimer’s theory was the original intention.

  7. Otis Pitney says:

    Today in discussion we were talking about how we might apply Kennan’s broad containment policy regarding the USSR to the current War on Terror. How would Kennan argue for or against the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq? As far as Iraq is concerned, as I said in class today, I believe he would have been against an Iraqi invasion. Saddam was contained by no fly zones, his military paled in comparison to what it had once been in the 80s and the early 90s during the invasion of Kuwait. He was not a threat. Had Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, it may have been a different case, certainly an arguable one. And a good point was brought up on this basis, that had Kennan believed in the possibility of WMD’s in Iraq, he would have acted and invaded Iraq. However, again I find this problematic because Saddam was complying with the UN inspectors, and in large extent, the diplomatic process was proceeding smoothly. I don’t think Kennan’s views reflect those of a war hawk, I don’t think his arguments search for a reason to fight as George Bush and his administration did. He would have allowed the diplomatic process to run its course before making the hugely controversial and consequential decision to compromise another nation’s sovereignty, to make their future government our responsibility. I certainly don’t think he would have supported it considering our involvement in Afghanistan.
    Afghanistan is a little more tricky because the government there had harbored and supported men who had attacked us. But still, the question has to be asked, would he have supported a full scale invasion of the country and a removal of its government, guaranteeing our involvement for years to come. Or would he have preferred a targeted attack against the direct perpetrators, the option that didn’t entail the establishment, maintenance and enforcement of a system of government in a foreign country? I’ve made it obvious which option I think he would prefer from the way I phrased the questions. What a responsibility and a burden the former would be, as we see today. The question soon became, what might Kennan do if he were commander chief? It was said that anything but an invasion was unrealistic given the sentiment of the American people after 9/11. They wanted war. The necessity of domestic politicians decided the matter. And yet, isn’t that what the executive branch was in part constituted for? Isn’t the idea that we put the most elite, intelligent members of society in special positions of power to be levelheaded, to counteract decisions of passion, to make rational decisions sometimes in contradiction of an emotional public majority. Obviously public opinion must be separated from what is best for the country. Unfortunately the two do not always correlate. The term servant can be misleading. In our government being a popularly elected servant of the public such as the president, does not mean that the public dictates the executive’s decisions. From there we must go a step further. It was said that any President would have been considering reelection and anything but war was political suicide. But what is the point of reelection if you are taking the country in the wrong direction? I don’t think the good, elite, well qualified member of our society runs for reelection on the basis of selfish desires for personal glory. The office of the president is the highest in the land, I should hope anyone who gets to that office is not thinking about his/her future political career. Besides, there is no glory for the president who runs the country into the ground. John Quincy Adams will be remembered more favorably for his one term in office than George Bush will be for both of his. That being said, as we heard from the brief Kennan excerpt at the end of discussion, sometimes men like this do come to power, unfit to govern the highest office in the land in the way described above. If that is the case, then maybe something ought to be changed in our government. I do not think Kennan, had he been elected president, would have been one of these men.

  8. Mirwais says:

    My initial reactions to George Kennan’s arguments indicate the importance of shifting U.S. foreign policy to be pro cautious toward the threat from USSR. Kennan argues that the danger of spreading communism is not an option for the U.S. Furthermore, the balance of power between capitalism and communism will determine the influence of West versus East. The Marxist regime at the time was focused to spread its ideologies in Europe and Asia. Countries like Turkey and Iran have rejected the whole concept as a whole. Kennan indicates that Russians were ready to take whatever actions necessary to become a more powerful nation by accepting communism as their central belief.

  9. I am rather puzzled by the prevailing tendency of George Kennan to consider Soviet ideology as a sole source of its foreign policy, especially provided the year in which he was writing. Moreover, he goes as far as to calling this ideology fiction (30). I feel like this article deliberately omits the fact the Soviet Union at that time was still recovering from a four year war with Nazi Germany, which was started by an invasion of the latter. It also disregards the fact of a brief foreign intervention during the civil war between the Reds and the Whites. Having witnessed the Nazi atrocities in western parts of the USSR, the Party and the people had some serious reasons to suspect that the outside world was indeed hostile, hence giving rise to a certain style of foreign policy, described by Kennan. It is especially true of Central East European countries, which joined the communist block after World War II, since most of them were essentially betrayed by Western powers and given away to Hitler. I don’t think we should disregard ideology as an important factor, by I also don’t believe that it was based on pure fiction and arrogance of Soviet leaders.
    The article, however, gives a good insight on the origins of the Western foreign policy in the beginning of the Cold War.

  10. Mila King-Musza says:

    Like Sam’s post above mine, this is a late response to the week before spring break.
    I’d like to comment on something we very briefly touched upon at the end of our discussion last week. It was mentioned that the Nazi party and Hitler’s genocide sparked a global realization of the terrible treatment of many peoples and of genocide itself. For me, it was a quick reminder of the somewhat arbitrary, and definitely modern, nature of human rights that sometimes gets forgotten in a political world filled inundated with rights discourse. World War II is what gave birth to the modern conception and term ‘human rights’. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was greatly a response to the Holocaust. And while some of the founding ideas are rooted deep in history (from the Greeks and Locke, for example), human rights are specific values that have been shaped by specific historical events and experiences; they are not universally accepted fact.

  11. Samantha Kaufman says:

    This is late! oops, for the week of spring break/week before:

    This is actually in relation to a conversation that we had in our discussion section a few week ago. For another class, we have been reading excerpts of Martin Buber’s writings, an earlier zionist thinker. In one of his earliest pieces, entitled “Nationalism” he discusses nationalism and details about the state. In his piece, some of his rhetoric was reminiscent, to me, of similar discussions we had in class. In his writings, he examines the idea of nationalism versus egoistic nationalism, that which exceeds necessity. Buber considers “[h]e… who regards the nation as an end in itself will refuse to admit that there is a greater structure…He does not meet responsibility face to face. He considers the nation its own judge and responsible to no one but itself.” This last sentence, that one who “considers the nation its own judge and responsible to no one but itself” is very much our own definition of sovereignty: that a country can determine its own laws and boundaries. It was also very much the crux of the argument that we were having in class: when is sovereignty positive and when it is a negative force on the world stage? According to Buber, it seems that it is always negative. Countries should be more invested in the international system than in the national system, its a negative when a country is responsible on to itself and not to the world at large.

  12. Charlie Roberts says:

    We need to be specific and careful when we define that economic interdependence theory. In the case of Japan, as mentioned above, Japan was not truly dependent on the United States for oil. If Japan was actually dependent on the US, the Japanese war effort would have ceased almost immediately after Pearl Harbor; if the Japanese were dependent on the US for oil they would not have been able to fight the war–they would have had no oil! Instead, Japan was merely engaged in economic relations with the US. Simple economic relations have been proved to be ineffective at preventing countless times. True economic dependence, or reliance upon another country’s trade or aid, does lead countries away from war. No country actually dependent on another would country would be capable of maintaining a war effort. While economic relations probably help to a small degree in maintaining peace, actual dependence will be far more effective and shouldn’t be discounted by the examples cited above.

  13. Diana Gor says:

    I want to go back to one of our recent discussions where we discussed the possibilities of war in an economically interdependent international environment. We were saying how this relationship between states would most likely decrease the chances for war because of the great costs that come along with it. The case of Japan proves differently. During WWII Japan was extremely dependent on the US and yet decided to attack it. This shows that its dependence on American oil did not stop it from the aggressive assault on Pearl Harbor. Perhaps we can even claim that what caused this attack was Japanese economic dependence on the US. Japan had no interest in a war against the US and was well aware of its military disadvantage; it acted out of mere desperation. As Sagan mentions this act was completely rational seeing that Japan was trying to survive (Origins of the Pacific War, 894).
    With the Japanese case as an example for the failure of economic dependence to prevent war should we dismiss all theory that claims so? Or is the case of Japan should be considered separately perhaps because it occurred during a different time in history?

  14. Emily Wagman says:

    In our last discussion, when we talked about World War II, the question of who was to blame for the atrocities of the war, namely the Holocaust. I thought a lot about this question after the discussion. Can you really blame one person for the deaths of over six million people? While it would be convenient to just blame Hitler, there are more factors and players involved that make blaming one person for the Holocaust wrong. I think the leaders of the Allied powers are also to blame, not for directly causing the Holocaust (although they were involved indirectly), but for letting the Holocaust happen. The indirect cause of the Holocaust was the Treaty of Versailles, which punished Germany very harshly and caused many Germans to want to find someone to blame. Had the Treaty been more fairly written, the Holocaust might never have happened. There is also evidence stating that the Allied powers knew what was going on in the concentration and death camps scattered throughout Europe, but nothing was really done to stop the atrocities until the war was almost over. Why? I suppose one could say that the Allies were more concerned with losing their own soldiers in the fights to free the camps’ inmates, but in my opinion, stopping human rights violations, especially the killing of over six million people, should be more important than fighting battles in other locations in Europe.

  15. Mehdi Prevot says:

    When reading the Memoranda from Japanese Imperial Conference, I realized that it was a perfect illustration of Fearon’s rationalist explanations of war and, in fact, of many other points touched upon in class.
    First, the report fits with Fearon’s statement that rational states will always try to reach an “ex ante agreement” that can spare them the costs inherent to any war since, in the appendix n3, Nagano says that the Japanese Empire “must avoid any war that can be avoided. it shows that what Fearon calls “commitment problems” could indeed explain warfare. But, although the negotiations were still on, Japene army officials were already envisaging the worst: a war against the USA. Several times in this Memoranda they urge the Empire to “take final diplomatic action to determine peace or war” for they didn’t trust the USA and believed the Americans would use this time to grow stronger with the intention to overpower the Japanese Empire. In appendix 4, Sugiyama clearly states that they must prepare “for military operations to cope with both peace and war” and a bit later that they “must open hostilities against the United States and Britain while [they] have confidence in waging war against them”. They wouldn’t take the risk to be in a less favorable position and thus planned what could be seen as a preemptive war, which seems to prove Fearon right when he says that “commitment problems” are on possible explanation of warfare. In a context of such great mistrust, achieving peace was almost impossible.
    Beyond that, two other points caught my attention as they seemed to concretely examplify a few points made in class:
    1) A major cause of Empires’ expansion has to do with those Empires’ foreign policy. In that case, it is clearly a will to “Secure Vital Military Assets” (Morrison, Lec9 Sld25). As Nagano put it in Appendix 3, “the first requisite for enduring [a long war] is to promptly occupy the enemy’s strategic points and areas rich in natural resources”.
    2) A coalition is comprised of self-interested units trying to maximize their interests: “The most important item in the direction of war is to prevent Germany and Italy from concluding a separate peace with the United States and Britain” (Sugiyama appendix 4).

  16. King Charlie says:

    This might be a little bit tangential, and I’m aware that there were lots of good talking points based on Thursday’s discussion, but… a lot of our discussion rested on the assumptions about globalization that Professor Morrison gave us. He asserted that the extent of globalization prior to the first world war was even greater than its extent today. I think that’s missing the point. Granted, from an economic perspective, there’s absolutely no doubt the monetary volume of international trade at the end of the 19th and beginning of 20th centuries was enormous. As a percentage of world economy, it was massive. While today’s percentages are becoming more and more comparable with the passage of time, the reality is that today we are globalizing in very different ways. The globalization of today does not emphasize the flow of goods (although this is obviously occurring as well) but rather the flow of services and ideas. This is largely facilitated by technology—advances in communications have brought us this fantastic medium, the internet, which means that I am writing this blog post at an airport in New Jersey and my classmates will read it in Vermont and California and Cancun. We’re using it as a tool for collaboration and to enhance our ideas, despite the miles and the difference in climate, and that’s something that obviously couldn’t have happened before the first world war. If the computer I am writing this blog post on were to break down, I would speak with an IT guy in India. He is part of a larger company, Apple, which uses technologies to outsource specific jobs to the place where they can be most efficiently performed. That kind of thing didn’t happen before WWI. We’re living in an era in which not just goods but services and ideas are traded like wildfire, enabling cultural imperialism and also expanding access to the products of globalization (goods, services, and ideas) beyond an elite and into the realm of ordinary folks. The premise that the world of WWI was as globalized as ours is today doesn’t make sense at this level.

    Full disclosure: I am in the middle of reading Thomas Friedman’s “The World is Flat”

  17. Charlie Wemyss-Dunn says:

    I want to briefly point out the complications of the Luttwak article “Give War a Chance” which I found to be highly provocative. When I first read the article my initial gut reaction was very negative towards Luttwak’s main point that intervention only serves to prolong wars and in many cases leads to a detrimental effect on the states and people involved. Luttwak believes that if wars were left to run their course, there would be far fewer casualties and a refugee nation would not be created. The first major issue I have with this utility based argument is simply that if we left all the crazed dictators and totalitarian leaders around the world to subject their people or another states’ people to brutal suppression and atrocities there would be utter mayhem on the international scene not to mention the possibility that an entire race or people would face annihilation. I am arguing from an individual and state based view here rather than a systemic view where Luttwak’s solution could indeed work as the state with the most power would eventually overpower the weaker state with less casualties. In reality this clearly would not happen as it is hard to believe that figures like Hitler, Milosovic or Pol Pot would have ended extermination/displacement policies once the war had finished. In this sense, some intervention has take place in order to prevent a complete failure of human rights.
    However, I do give Luttwak a few points. I believe that, although the idea of letting a war progress is counter intuitive, I feel that intervention should only be used on a case by case basis. This is because not all conflicts are as simple as the presence of an insane individual at the top. Many have been civil wars or have involved breakaway terrorist organizations that are separate from the government. In these cases justifying aid and intervention proves much more difficult and can only be vindicated by the claim that civilians must be protected. Of course this justification has led to many notable failures (Somalia, Iraq) and begs the question, should the west and western humanitarian aid agencies stay out of these conflicts? This is a question that cannot easily be answered and only precedent and taking each new case as it comes can lead to a ‘right’ plan of action.

  18. Logan Gallogly says:

    I would like to discuss the ideas in Hannah’s post a little more.
    I’m not sure if you still think that the US should have gotten involved in Rwanda. If you don’t, then disregard this… But for those of us who do, we need to note that according to Hannah’s rules, the US did what they should have done with regards to the genocide. The US didn’t have broad support – if they had intervened in Rwanda they would have been doing so unilaterally. In fact, Powers suggests that the US should have done just that. That was a point of hers that I had a problem with – it seems like a double standard to encourage the US to enter a country without UN support to stop a genocide, putting her own citizens at risk, and then criticize the US when we enter Afghanistan without UN approval.

    Also, about the last point – you bring up a good point about not inserting our own bias into intervention, but if human rights groups are trying to improve the state of living of any repressed people like you say, they really shouldn’t be helping everyone. Supporting the oppressor at the same time as you’re supporting the oppressed just worsens the conflict. Part of international intervention I think is recognizing when one side is doing something wrong that we want to stop, so I don’t think there’s a way to intervene without bringing in some kind of bias.

  19. Patrick says:

    I want to try to articulate better a point I was trying to make in discussion on Thursday, the relocation of Ignatieff’s “The Attack on Human Rights” to the state level as it pertains to our discussion about sovereignty. In the article (one of my favorites that we’ve read so far) he makes the case that global human rights should revolve around the issue of individualism, despite criticisms that it’s too Western to be global: “Rights language cannot be parsed or translated into a nonindividualistic, communitarian framework; it presumes moral individualism and is nonsensical outside that assumption.” He goes on to argue that “rights are universal because they define the universal interests of the powerless – namely that power be exercised over them in ways that respect their autonomy as agents. In this sense, human rights represent a revolutionary creed, since they make a radical demand of all human groups that they serve the interests of the individuals who compose them”(606). It is easy to relocate the issue on a global scale: sovereignty is a extremely important because without itt, states lose the right to protect themselves and act in their own interest.

  20. Otis Pitney says:

    In discussion, Prof. Morrison asked took a poll-did we think that the United States should be more active on the international stage or less active? I fell on the side of less active, although I thought it would take some time and action to get out of our current disastrous decisions. I claimed that there were times when interventions were needed on the basis that there were certain universally understood laws of humanity that could not be broken w/o imperialist international response. I maintain that while all manner of crimes are remain possible, all manners of imperialism could be called upon. Of course, Morrison promptly took the provocative pose and offered up the question of where we drew the line. What was ok and what was not and how does a country determine that? Clearly this is an incredibly difficult question so he posed an example: should the United States attempt to stop China from censoring google. My gut reaction came out w/o thought and of course I worked myself into quite the predicament. I said absolutely not, that is another nation’s matter, the United States cannot become embroiled in another country’s domestic affairs. Morrison was quick to press me on this question: should the United States interfere w/ Tibet? Shouldn’t the Dalai lama be able to practice the religion that he believes in? As is fairly often in Morrison’s discussion, I was unarmed, not prepared for how to answer such a loaded question. These issues are so complicated, it is not easy to come up w/ an answer to them on the spot let alone at all. But after some reflection, I stick w/ my initial gut reaction. People are suffering all over the world at the hands of domestic oppressive regimes in a great number of differing capacities. The United States cannot help everyone at the same time. Perhaps they should take a stance, but certainly not a strong one. I confess I do not know very much about the situation, I read up a little bit this week out of pure curiosity after the discussion and the fate of the Tibetans is obviously unfortunate, no one likes to see people anywhere stripped of what we Americans view as personal freedoms. But taking a stand here takes one down a very slippery slope. Do we interfere in the Middle East over their treatment of women? No we don’t. We don’t like certain things about other cultures and about how other governments run their countries, giving preference to certain groups but that does not mean we act on everything we do not like. We should only act on blatant violations of International human rights. There will always be questions as to where you draw the line. And that’s exactly what’s frustrating about it–there are no universal formulas for all cases. Each case has to be looked at on its own. Some are clearer than others and some are destined to be manipulated. The way we cut down on that sort of manipulation would have to be multilateral action and supervision from international regimes.

  21. Charlie Roberts says:

    Sovereignty and imperialism, to me, are, unfortunately, manipulated ideas used to serve interests. In the west, we define things to be “imperialistic” when we gauge them to be unjust. Of course, the US’s actions in Iraq would never be characterized as imperialistic by those in power. Yet, invading Iraq IS imperialism and an infringement on sovereignty.
    Accepting the working definitions of imperialism and sovereignty force us to look at politics and history from a different perspective–almost all international aid, war and dealings are in some way imperialistic. That does NOT, however, make these actions unjust.
    We need to be careful to not associate imperialism with subjugation and unjust actions, though cognizant of how often imperialism can lead to unjust actions.

  22. Tina Williamson says:

    I have been mulling over or discussion last week; one which is very important and will forever remain pertinent to the discussion of international politics, regarding the differences and relationship between sovereignty and imperialism (broadly). This topic is nuanced, to say the least, yet in response to post 74, this nuanced nature is what fuels this debate. In response, intent is part of what makes distinguishing civil war from genocide so difficult. Intent is interpreted differently by both the perceived perpetrators and victims, which is then re-interpreted through the eyes of actors outside the conflict. A conflict of interest between actors could said to be the basis for all political strife, including both genocide and civil war. Both also involve control; they just seek to attain it through different means.

  23. Matthew George says:

    Like Greg, I was particularly intrigued by last weeks discussion section and have mulled it over since then. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the moral integrity of the Western “war on terrorism” in the Middle East. First, lets state outright that I view the current “war on terrorism” as imperialism.

    With that said, the question then becomes: When is imperialism justified? I believe that there is an important distinction between unilateral and multilateral imperialism. For instance, the United States currently occupies Iraq and Afghanistan essentially as a unilateral force. With other nations not contributing at a “decision making” level, the United States runs unopposed. This, of course, smacks of invasion and conquer.

    Like I said in discussion, imperialism is in the eyes of the beholder. If Afghanistan had been invaded and then subsequently occupied by a more multinational force, checks and balances could have been more prudently issued to counteract questionable United States decision making. Secondly, the international force would have much more domestic credibility (in Afghanistan) than the United States unilateral action. I would argue that if the United States had brought more nations into the meaningful governing process, incidences of terrorism would be lower and the nation would be more stable today.

  24. Mehdi Prevot says:

    I, too, feel skeptical about Nick’s solution to the problem of violence within a State. It sounds like a form of anarchy to me since, after one act of violence, individuals would be given the right to infringe other States’ migration laws, which comes to infringe their sovereignty. It is not conceivable to have a politically, economically and socially stable society if migration flows are out of control. And I’m talking about a situation in which those migrants would be welcomed by the local populations.
    However, I think Oksana has a very good point when she assumes that it won’t necessarily be the case. I can think of two examples to back up her point:
    1) In 1962, when Algeria became independent, the so called “pied-noirs”, or French people born and raised in Algeria, were forced to leave the country to return to the Metropole. It had already been very traumatic for them to give up their life and their motherland, but at least they had somewhere to go. Except that when they arrived in France, people there saw them as Algerians, as enemies, and rejected them. They had been abandoned by both sides, even by their legal compatriots. How, then, can one reasonably imagine that foreign individuals would easily get integrated?
    2) The second example is more or less true throughout Europe, but the most recent illustration took place in Italy. A village mayor initiated what was then called operation “White Christmas”, that aimed at taking a census of all illegals and report them to the local authorities with the clear intention of having them expelled. Needless to say that in such context, Nick’s idea seems for sure ideal, but not grounded in the reality of our world; a reality in which there is a North and a South, and a very disparate repartition of wealth.

  25. Kathryn DeSutter says:

    I’d like to title this post “Whoa There, Charlie.”

    When Charlie boldly declared that “THIS IS NOT SOVEREIGNTY,” I think he meant to say more specifically this is not COMPLETE sovereignty. I agree that forcing states to “follow internationally accepted norms and externally imposed values” certainly does not constitute complete state sovereignty, but I disagree with the need for an all-or-nothing scale. Some degree of state sovereignty is necessary for maintaining world order and preventing the strong from doing what they can, but it’s also necessary at times to violate this in order to protect individuals. Finding a middle ground for everyone to agree on may not be easy, but that doesn’t mean the international community shouldn’t try. We can’t expect perfection – only for things to be a little better than before – and varying degrees of sovereignty enables this. Charlie, please feel free to use one of your later posts to argue against me – in all caps, please.

  26. Greg Dier says:

    In our discussion section we debated the definition and morality of imperialism. Political analysis would be more consistent and practical if political scientists viewed all attempts to extend political influence over another political entity or institution as imperialism. In this manner, sovereignty would be an insignificant variable. NGO’s and multinational corporations would fall under the same definition as established and emerging political institutions. It is reasonable to suggest (and John Mearsheimer would attest), that imperialism is always “self-serving.” This self-serving nature of groups and political institutions strengthens the legitimacy of the broad definition of imperialism. To refine the definition: imperialism is when any group or political institution attempts to influence and control another group with self-serving interests. This definition would include any current entity or organization that is questionably imperialistic. After establishing this definition of imperialism, the morality and justification of imperialism can be considered on a case-to-case basis. Therefore, imperialism is not an example of morality in itself but rather a vehicle to create good or bad changes.

  27. Zoe Hamilton says:

    In discussion we began talking about genocide. How it is defined, what obligation we have to intervene when it occurs, and how we can differentiate it from civil war. The question was posed about why we must intervene in a state’s internal affairs when one group is attempting the extermination of another group based on race, religion, etc. (genocide) but not just when two groups are fighting based on a conflict of interest (civil war).
    I think the idea relates back to the basic principle of intent. When someone is tried for murder in the United States, intent is a very important element. Without it, charges are reduced. If the death occurred during an act of self defense, it can even be taken as a legal justification. Civil war can almost be thought of as self defense because the intent is not to destroy the other party involved but rather to gain control. Genocide is like murder because the intent is to destroy the other party completely, not just gain control over them.

  28. Hannah Postel says:

    I was fascinated by the topic of Thursday’s discussion. Last year I did a presentation about Rwanda at my high school, focusing on how world-wide apathy greatly contributed to the continuation of the atrocities. Therefore, I am definitely a proponent of the “never again” mindset. At the same time, though, I have always been extremely opposed to United States intervention in Latin American (for example) domestic politics, believing that it is not our duty to impose our own morals on others. I think our imperialism has been terrible for the most part. I never realized, however, how similar these two issues really are. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be so supportive of one type of intervention and so opposed to another. It’s definitely a contradiction and I haven’t yet been able to work out the conditions under which intervention should be allowed. A few stipulations could be made, though, to ensure that international aid is truly to aid victims of human rights breaches and not to further the agenda of a certain country:

    1) Organizations undertaking such actions should be truly multipartisan and should reflect the ideas of many. In Samantha Power’s article, I was horrified to see the amount of influence one country (the U.S.) had on the U.N. Though it would be hard to reach a decision under such a condition, intervention needs to be agreed upon by many. Thus, the actions taken would not be the result of a single nation seeking to extend its influence.

    2) The people in charge of making such decisions should be well qualified. During discussion, I ranted a little bit (sorry) about how many of the people involved in U.S. foreign affairs know nothing about the subject and have no experience “on the ground”, as it were. It is imperative in order to solve complicated world problems to have an understanding of the culture where the atrocities are occurring. Otherwise, it is entirely probable an intervention could in fact complicate and exacerbate the problems it tried to solve.

    3) I’m unsure about the following topic, but I think it needs to be considered in an attempt to make human rights intervention less imperialistic. Intergovernmental organizations should not only support the people “on their own side”, but anyone suffering. It is extremely difficult to remain apolitical in such a situation (I myself cringe at the idea of giving food and support to the Taliban, for example), but when organizations apart from the states already involved insert their own biases, it only complicates the situation. If human rights groups are really trying to improve the state of living of any repressed people, they should help everyone, regardless of their political/social/religious beliefs. While perhaps this would foil the political plans of some nations, the well-being of the world as a whole would be improved.

  29. Isabella Tudisco-Sadacca says:

    Luttwack in “Give War a Chance” makes an interesting point when he says that humanitarian relief is detrimental in that it halts the natural process which leads to peace. Luttwack states that in minor wars it is best to let the war take its course and that intervention either gives troops time to recoup and come back stronger, or it keeps conflicting parties in their conflicting states, and leads to a false sense of peace. This slightly pessimistic view on peace has some legitimacy. The question I ask though is why is this natural process the slaughtering of human beings? Why is it that we resolve conflict by eliminating the opposing party? In the 21st century we still resort to barbaric behavior when we find conflict. It is possible that certain intervention in conflict does not lead to resolution but rather temporary relief, but if so how can we let conflict be resolved with out standing witness to mass-murder. In the case of the genocide in Rwanda, did America do the right thing for the wrong reason? As was discussed in class, is it our duty to let self-determination of countries determine itself even if that means watching “unjust” killings of hundreds of thousands of people? Perhaps I am naive but I want to believe that at some level there should be universal acceptance of some human rights, and that in general people believe in protecting the right to life. This has been shown to be very circumstantial, even in the United States, as depending on action one may be seen to have or not have the right to live. But in the case of genocide, when innocent people are being annihilated, as a means to avoid interpersonal conflict resolution, does that not count as a human rights violation? Humanitarian aid and action is something I feel is very difficult to place as beneficial or detrimental. Universally it seems that there will never be Human Rights acknowledged and acted upon. With the difference in cultures and morals, even within the west, it is hard to decide at what level human rights can be enforced. From my point of view, it is hard for me to say that absence of intervention and aid is the best policy. The concept that aid can cause long-term strife is one hard to grasp, and I am drawn to the idea of helping the world although perhaps it is important to realize the feasibility of creating a truly universal set of human rights and the actual outcomes of humanitarian action today. This topic is one I feel will be debated for quite some time, and I am continuously trying to determine where I stand.

  30. Momo Sae-Lee says:

    I recently had a chance to watch the documentary called “No end in sight” (Winner, Special Jury Prize (Sundance Film Festival)). The documentary illustrates a various facets of a failing post-war reconstruction in Iraq. I conclude them briefly into 2 main points. First, there wasn’t enough preparation for the post-war reconstruction. According to the documentary, ORHA (Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance), the main bureau which was responsible for the mission got only 50 days for the preparation while the similar mission executed in Germany after WWII, had been planned ahead for 2 years. Second, the decision-makers in the government lack of knowledge in Iraqi culture and governmental structure, and most of them haven’t served in the military before. The following examples are mistakes presented in the documentary. For example, Iraqi first welcomed the US troops, but because there weren’t enough troops and the order from Washington DC, telling the army not to act like a police, the looting occurred all over, basically destroying the physical structure of the city and foreboding the incoming chaos. All the list of important places needed protection (Proposed by ORHA), which have significant historical values from the beginning of human history such as the Iraqi National Museum, and National Archives and Library, was ignored from the government. All of them were looted while, interestingly enough, the only governmental building that was guarded by the US troops is the Oil Ministry. The consequences of the widespread looting were exacerbated by the following decisions made by CPA (replaced ORHA) under the command of L. Paul Bremer III: the De-Ba’athification and the disbanding of the Iraqi army. The De-Ba’athification is essentially the dissolution of the Ba’ath Party members whom Suddam used to rule Iraqi, causing many people to lose their jobs and coagulating the ability to work of the new constructed Iraqi government. The disbanding of the Iraqi army, which was supposed to be the great resources for restoring Iraqi from chaos, multiplied the number of unemployment. There is no doubt that these unemployed Iraqis join the insurgency. Moreover, the 70 large weapons storages, mostly known by the disbanded Iraqi troops, around Bagdad were unguarded because of the insufficiency of military troops. All these problems render the chaos in Iraq that we have seen today.

    In the third discussion class last Thursday, we talked about how a state should engage in foreign matters: unilaterally or multilaterally.From this example of post-Iraqi reconstruction, multilateral interference seems more favorable because the power of different opinions might prevent one-sidedly wrong decisions to be executed. Also, a state should be more concerned with the information it has in the reconstruction of the interfered society. It seems to me that the issue of human rights might not be the only incumbent reason for a state/states to decide to interfere in foreign matters but also the ability to do so successfully.

  31. Charlie Arnowitz says:

    The problem with Nick’s solution to the sticky problem of suffering vs. sovereignty is that you need to define sovereignty. I think the quote below shows why this is a problem.

    “All states that are considered sovereign continue to be so, with the given rights that are in place. At the same time, all humans have individual sovereignty including the liberty to move and reside where they desire. Any such state that denies this sovereignty will face international prosecution and the predetermined consequences”

    That’s not a compromise at all—saying that states have sovereignty, but saying that the sovereignty is only valid so long as the states follow internationally accepted norms and externally imposed values… THIS IS NOT SOVEREIGNTY. This is saying that if you follow what is dictated from the outside, then you can maintain your sovereignty. The whole point of sovereignty is that external notions of justice, truth, etc. are not factors in internal governance. The idea of “human sovereignty,” freedom of movement, etc. is lovely but just not compatible with state sovereignty. So if we’re going to say that interventions are OK in some contexts, then essentially we’re not respecting any sovereignty at all in any context. This sounds black and white, but look at how this paradigm (realistically, the current one), effects the actions of state leaders. From cultural, economic, and political perspectives, knowing that refusing to conform to dominant Western values means you are putting your state (and your leadership) at risk from outside forces.

    I feel like drawing an arbitrary line between where sovereignty stops and human imperatives take over is dangerous to the concept of state sovereignty, and also dangerous to the concept of individual liberty. Arbitrary lines can be arbitrarily moved. Either we accept the notion of state sovereignty, totally and completely, or we stop pretending and recognize that in an increasingly globalizing world, sovereignty is no longer an effective stand-in for justice.

  32. While Nicholas’ idea at first might seem like a brilliant one, there are a lot of problems of migration that it does not into account. To begin, the concept of a political asylum already exists (there is even a Refugee Resettlement agency in Vermont: http://uscri.refugees.org/site/PageNavigator/Vermont/vermonthome ); however since the very concept of breaching individual sovereignty is broad, it will be (and is) hard to determine the exact criteria for granting the right of asylum. For example, the apartheid system, which we touched upon today, would not exactly fit under the classic definition of genocide, however it clearly discriminated against a significant proportion of South African population. Would all those people who consider themselves as being mistreated by the system eligible for migration? And what about the “good old” dictatorship states that restrict the freedom of thought and speech? Would all those whose right to express themselves was curtailed be considered under the category of “eligible for resettlement”?
    Secondly, I do not understand exactly where is the boundary of breaching one’s sovereignty. Will a person have to experience an open confrontation with its state for its personal sovereignty to be considered as “curtailed”, or is a mere possibility of repercussions as a result of one’s attempt to exercise sovereignty will be enough?
    Thirdly, even living away from genocide is better than living with its horrors, adjustment to a new place might not be as easy as it may seem (I am talking from a personal experience). And certainly, there is always a moral question of why one’s only option of escaping persecution should be an exile? Doesn’t that equal neglecting the problem rather than tackling it? For example, assuming all the Kosovar population was allowed to migrate away from the Serbian aggression, would that have solved the problem of Serbia’s violent nationalism? Wouldn’t deserting the territories by voluntary (or not-so-voluntary) methods serve the exact interests of the aggressor? It is a well-known fact that with time the immigrant community tends to either integrate into the receptor society, or at least acquire some of its values. So in the end, the cultural/language/etc identity of the people who left will sooner or later dissolve in the state that welcomed them or acquire a new synthetic identity (e.g. American Italian, American Chinese etc). Now, doesn’t the loss of authenticity mean the loss of one’s original identity? And hence if a discriminated or targeted minority leaves its original land, and with some success integrates into the life of the new state, won’t it just make the life of their aggressors much easier? At the end of the day, they would have successfully got rid of the people they don’t like in a relatively humane way (hence, won’t be facing too much blame from anyone) AND there is a chance that those people who left will eventually lose their political power by joining the new state. Isn’t that the same genocide, but in a fluffy bright packaging?
    And of course, we should not dismiss the consequences of accepting such migrants for the receptor nation. There are a lot of dimensions of the consequences, I will just consider one. I hope it’s a no secret that migrants will need substantial financial support upon arrival (it is especially true for those who don’t speak the language of the country they came to). Now will it be fair for the taxpayers of the receiving country to finance their needs? Or to put it in other words, would it be fair to use their taxes to solve other countries’ internal problems? Will it not provoke hostility towards the immigrants? Today when the international laws for migration are still very strict, the issue is already on the policy agenda for many countries.
    I hope this post will provoke some reactions or comments, as refuge asylum is a very relevant issue nowadays.

  33. Nicholas Libbey says:

    Today in discussion class we considered what the term sovereignty implies and how it affects the international and domestic relations. Although we agreed on its importance in the assurance of personal safety and protecting the state level of sovereignty from constant warfare, we could not find a solution for certain problems and obstacles that sovereignty may pose. One of such is that of a state that endangers the sovereignty of its polity and yet faces no repercussions as there are no official international laws concerning human rights. Upon further thought, I have come to what may be a rough idea for improvement, so here it is. All states that are considered sovereign continue to be so, with the given rights that are in place. At the same time, all humans have individual sovereignty including the liberty to move and reside where they desire. Any such state that denies this sovereignty will face international prosecution and the predetermined consequences. The goal of this being that in the case of a genocide or any state action that endangers the individual, anyone has the right to leave the country and live wherever they so choose. Therefore, if a genocide occurred, the targeted group could decide as sovereign individuals whether to stay and take their chances or travel where they will not be hunted. If a nation does not permit their escape, then they will face those international consequences. Within this system, the idea of establishing human rights is no longer up to the international community to dispute but up to the individual sovereign. Hopefully leading to states that must be more accountable to the desires of the majority or face the exodus of large parts of their populace. And while deserting one’s home is very undesirable, it is better than the horrors of genocide. Meanwhile for those who disagree, they have the sovereign right to stay and take their chances with the genocidal government.

  34. Robert LaMoy says:

    Before I follow up on today’s discussion, I’d like to offer a few (negative) quotes about Lenin’s model of imperialism. Peter Zarrow has this to say: “Today, few economists, if any, agree with Lenin’s analysis. It may be doubted that creditor states remain unproductive instead of switching to higher technologies as the global division of labor evolves, though the ‘problem’ of excess capital was widely noticed in the early twentieth century.” (From “China in War and Revolution,” 190). Leo Ching follows, “In fact, Lenin’s theory of imperialism does not even hold up within the Western model of imperialism. There was actually little correspondence between the pattern of Western capital investment and export abroad and the ‘new imperialism.’ For example, by 1911 the British had invested the largest percentage of its capital not in colonial Africa but in the United States and the ‘white’ dominions, and only an insignificant share of German capital went to the German colonies.” (From “Becoming ‘Japanese'”, 21). Given these perspectives, can we really say with any accuracy that Lenin’s theory was more applicable during the time in which he wrote it?

    Prof. Morrison put forth the idea in discussion today that sovereignty might hinder the protection of human rights, the frequency of international cooperation, and the efficacy state development. Let’s look at this briefly.

    1) Human rights. The concept of sovereignty often allows a state that is oppressing its citizens to remain in power. Without the concept of sovereignty, other states would not need as much of a justification to intervene and end these abuses. However, as Patrick pointed out, sovereignty also helps a state to protect its citizens’ rights by remaining autonomous in the face of potential aggression.

    2) Cooperation. Even though we violate sovereignty all the time in more mundane ways, sovereignty seems to make going to war difficult. However, the prevention of war might not be a good thing, as Luttwak suggests in one of our readings (“Give War a Chance.”) Sovereign states also are less likely to negotiate with nonstate actors because of their perceived illegitimacy, which alienates splinter groups and can lead to terrorism.

    3) Development. Without sovereignty, it would be hard to find the political clout to integrate disparate economic systems into a cohesive international economy. That being said, development in the so-called ‘developing world’ has not been particularly impressive, and these states have argued that they know how to best develop their own economies without the help of Western economists or international regulatory regimes. At the same time, would trade and commerce simply devolve into piracy/looting without states being able to play the sovereignty card to protect what is theirs?

    I agree that the idea of sovereignty is problematic, especially with the rise of universalism. What is its alternative, however? Or, to offer a different question: are the articulation of universal ideals and the concept of sovereignty fundamentally incompatible? How can this circle be squared?

  35. Sylvana Chan says:

    Did anyone else find Samantha Power’s chapter “Bystanders to Genocide” wrong on so many levels?! The issue of genocide is not as simple as Powers presents it to be. It makes me angry how her article attempts to sway readers’ opinions using “emotional” tactics — she describes Dallaire as “a broad-shouldered French-Canadian with deep-set sky blue eyes” (M&S et al, 293). Ugh!

    I am currently taking Professor Stroup’s class “Politics of International Humanitarian Action.” I know a few other people, including Nejla, are also taking that class. Based on some fundamental concepts extracted from that class, here is why Power got it all wrong:

    Genocide is in the interest of states because it involves the mass killing of human beings. Although genocide may occur due to political conflicts (in the case of Rwanda and Somalia), PREVENTING genocide is a universal responsibility that transcends the issue of any ONE state’s political actions. Therefore, Power cannot solely blame the United States for being “bystanders to genocide” when the issue of genocide is the responsibility of every state. We will also get nowhere if all we do is point fingers — how do we create a global collaborative action that can prevent future disasters from occurring?

  36. Otis Pitney says:

    I think Oksana and Nick make a very good point about Lenin’s article and how imperialism is not necessarily as Lenin puts it, decaying capitalism. A monopoly and use of force abroad does not mean the end of the free market and competition at home. In fact, one could even go so far as to say that imperialism provides for a free market by delivering and making available all the raw materials that competitors need. Without ready access to the essentials of production in any field such as shipping and Britain’s access to timber for ship masts as we discussed in class today, there is a greatly reduced market that is far easier for the powerful companies to dominate. The richest are more able to control the market and pay high costs for production goods because their products are in high demand. Thus it seems to follow that monopolies over domestic economies and the death of capitalism are in fact easier to achieve without Imperialism.

  37. Tina Williamson says:

    Following Robert’s comments, a few outliers do not disqualify a theory. As we talked about in one of our earlier discussions, in IP the stakes are too high not to try to theorize and prepare for coming events and behavior, even if only a few (or a single) cases are the basis of that theory.
    Regarding the Imperialism/Capitalism reading by Lenin, capitalism is compared to imperialism in that in its “higher stage” it is manifest as a monopoly. This is a fundamental change in the characteristic of capitalism that Lenin identifies: from that of a market that shares, to one dominated by an “oligarchic” combine. This change to a monopoly is what he calls “decaying capitalism.” While Lenin may have thought many things about Capitalists, I think that this critique of that system centers on that monopolized capitalism, that which “strives for domination…and exploitation,” instead of for liberty or a free market.

  38. Nicole Glaser says:

    One of the most interesting parts of Anthony Pagden’s article, “Imperialism, Liberalism, and the Quest for Perpetual Peace,” for me was his consideration of whether or not the United States can be classified as an empire today. Prior to this discussion, he defines an empire as an “extensive state in which one ethnic or tribal group, by one means or another, rules over several others” (166), and additionally describes the Roman and British empires of the previous centuries. I agree with his conclusion that the United States cannot be considered an empire solely because it has the military capability to be one, as earlier empires were actually “fragile structures, always dependent on their subject peoples for survival” (169). While America does believe democracy is the highest form of government in the world, and tries to export its political values on other nations (evident in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan), it nevertheless needs a different political system to become a true imperial power in the vein of Britain or Rome. As a federation, America shares power between the fifty states and the national government; however, this division of sovereignty would not translate nearly as well when sharing power between separate nations. Puerto Rico, which is considered a commonwealth, is the closest thing the United States has to a colony, even though it currently self-governing and has its own constitution. Pagden’s discussion of the United States supports his claim that a global empire with universal citizenship is too difficult to exist in today’s society because there are so many factors working against it, including the military and economic strategies of counties like America and its peers.

  39. Nicholas Libbey says:

    In the assigned reading material, Lenin describes imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism. In his opinion, it is the completely the result of economic evolution within capitalism with the end goal of domination as opposed to liberty. In order to improve domestic economies and support the large portion of the polity that suffers due to the bourgeoisie’s dominance, imperialist nations must settle and colonize new land. In doing so, as Cecil Rhodes describes, new markets are provided for goods as well as space for excess population to settle. As imperialism proliferated, the world was slowly divided up by a few imperialist powers for the economic benefits that result. I found the comparison between imperialism and monopoly very interesting in which imperialism is the pursuit of global monopoly. However, I disagree that imperialism is “decaying capitalism”. I personally believe imperialism is the continuation of capitalism into the international level. While Lenin argues the resulting exploitation of weak nations by the richest decays capitalism, I see much similarity between the domestic interaction of rich and poor within capitalistic economies.

  40. Julia Deutsch says:

    As Oksana stated above, Lenin carefully describes how imperialism has damaged capitalism and has lead to the formation of monopolies, eliminating truly free markets. Lenin clearly dislikes the effects of imperialism, and the creation of “capitalist monopolies.” Lenin’s support for the colonized country is clear. This belief in the “under-dog” or the working class can later be seen in his socialist theory of government, later termed Leninism. Interestingly though, in this selection he condemns the colonizers for allowing the deterioration of capitalism, yet later advocates non-capitalist policies in his own country. I have not read Lenin’s later writings, but this decay of capitalism could be used to support Leninism, or later communism. Some could argue that if Lenin is correct and true capitalism has been destroyed, then countries need to find a way in which to support and care for the people. Leninism offers an alternative to capitalism in which to do so.

  41. Robert Hutton says:

    In our assigned reading material, the argument has recently been made that a theory (eg. The Democratic Peace Theory) can only be invalidated by the introduction of a more viable theory. Data that does not fit the model, it is argued, cannot solely be used for the purposes of invalidation. While I agree that outliers must occasionally be discarded, such a notion seems entirely at odds with the “science” in “political science”. To be plain, I am not suggesting that a single counter-example be used as justification for an entire theory; I call for the use of such instances to perhaps revise our understanding (should such a revision be warranted). In 1981, for instance, Peru and Ecuador fought a short but bloody border war. Both were Democracies at the time, but had not been so for very long and had not instituted military reform. I propose that a country must have democratic for a certain amount of time in order for the Democratic Peace Theory to hold true.

  42. The assigned extract of Vladimir Lenin’s essay “Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism” considers the economic (or the capitalist) motivation for territory expansion. In his vision imperialism implies the necessary decay of capitalism, since colonialism paves the way towards monopoly. Since the latter is incompatible with free competition, the capitalist economic system will eventually wither.
    If considered within the context of Lenin’s time, the argument provides a plausible critique and a subtle warning to the colonial regimes. The essay also provides a set of valuable insights into the motivations behind the international economic policies of advanced capitalist economies. However, Lenin’s theories about the relationship between capitalism and imperialism fail to distinguish between domestic and foreign economic policy. A state may exercise monopoly through political domination over a weaker nation without necessarily eliminating free competition in its own domestic markets.

  43. Mehdi Prevot says:

    I have to disagree with Zoe on the Padgen article. Although I think States will all be part of a unique international regime, I cannot imagine a moment the subsistence of what Zoe called a “global empire” for, as stated by Pagden’s definition, “an empire is an extensive state in which one ethnic or tribal group, by one means or another, rules over several others” (166). It is very unlikely that any minority will peacefully accept to be eternally ruled by a stronger power. The post-colonization world gives many examples of insurgency and desire for independence. What Pagden called “the process of absorption” implies nothing positive to me since, as stated by the author, “Universal citizenship was not created out of generosity [but] out of need” (169). So we should be careful when using the word “empire” because it is not, to my understanding, a way to establish peace and stability worldwide or, if it is, it should be perceived as the manifestation of a Great Power’s desire to extend its own influence on the international sphere.

  44. Hannah Postel says:

    I found the Pagden essay very interesting because of his varied examples and angles of analysis. One part that especially stuck out to me was when he commented on the change of public opinion regarding empires after Napoleon. “[P]ostrevolutionary politics were to be conducted not in the name of ‘conquest and usurpation,’ but in accordance of public opinion.” This to me was the first clearly constructivist view asserted in an article apart from the constructivist theories we read. He is suggesting that the changing beliefs of the public formed a feedback loop which led to a decrease in imperialistic goals of countries.

  45. Zoe Hamilton says:

    In Anthony Pagden’s Imperialism, Liberalism, and the Quest for Perpetual Peace, I found his description of the positive effects imperialist states very interesting. He offered the example of Rome offering citizenship and new technology to its conquered populations. He went on to discuss the idea of a global empire with universal citizenship. In this empire a global society would emerge that swapped technologies and ideas. This reminded me of a Leviathan. Though Pagden suggests that this would not be successful because empires have never been purely a means to economic ends, I tend to disagree. I think a global empire, one that encouraged the exchange of goods and ideas to maximize prosperity for all, is possible on the same Hobbesian principles that make government on a national scale possible.

  46. Emily Wagman says:

    I also agree, to some extent, with Farber and Gowa. The idea that the democratic peace theory is viable can be contested with the statistics they use, and the idea that the democratic peace theory only works under a bipolar international system (like during the Cold War) is logical. However, I’d like to think that some version of the democratic peace theory is possible, especially when considering that countries with common interests tend not to go to war with one another. While it just so happens that countries with common interests could be countries with similar politics, I think the focus of the theory should be more on the common interests than the similar politics. Perhaps if the name of the theory was the “common interest theory,” theorists and analysts would be more inclined to see it as a viable theory.

  47. Jonah Merris says:

    The notion of non-violent conflict resolution within liberal democracies may seem to be the norm, however I find it incredibly difficult to accept such a norm as the leading cause of the democratic peace. In this sense I think I must disagree with Mila with respect to Russett’s argument regarding democratic nation’s particular “brand” of cooperation. When observing domestic politics in any democracy, it becomes quite clear that while debate, compromise, and peaceful transitions of power are valued, even idealized, they are not necessarily guaranteed. For instance, the instruments of filibuster or reconciliation in the United States’ Congress subtly indicate our nation’s lack of confidence in the democratic process. Additionally, a key message within the Declaration of Independence is the notion of a social contract existing between government and the people. Locke’s ideas were incredibly influential for the Founding Fathers and also happen to emphasized the role of force in forming and organizing self-government. Overthrowing an illegitimate sovereign is not exactly peaceful conflict resolution, neither is forcing a bill to flounder and die in debate. What these examples suggest is not that non-violent cooperation is impossible in a democracy, but instead that people tend to disagree, often violently, with one another no matter what the regime type. Therefore the assertion that democracies will automatically default to debate and compromise in the international arena is a little too naive for my tastes. I think that democracies are just as bellicose as other regimes, and that Farber and Gowa’s description of the democratic peace as a “Cold War” peace is far superior. The institution of modern democracy is still too new for us to posit grand theories of war and peace stemming from the institution itself.

  48. Robert LaMoy says:

    Farber and Gowa do make a number of salient points, however. A major caveat of the democratic peace theory is that democracies do not fight each other but still engage in conflict with non-democratic states. Expanding the number of liberal democratic regimes will not necessary result in peace, however, since common polities can still have interests that do not align. The authors also note that conduct between states might rest on interests rather than norms, which is an important point due to the empirical difficulty in testing the impact of norms in interstate disputes. Last, the democratic peace theory only holds up with data taken during the Cold War, which is not particularly useful in our current multipolar system for predicting which type of regimes will go to war. Though it is hard to disagree that liberal democratic regimes generally foster a greater emphasis on diplomacy and cooperation, I have to go with Farber and Gowa and agree that there is no causal connection between democratic institutions and international peace.

  49. Mila King-Musza says:

    In Farber and Gowa’s article, the most interesting fact I took away was that while there was no statistically significant relationship between democracy and war before 1949, but only after 1945 and WWII. Their theory that it may be more common interest than common politics was convincing during the reading, but I still feel inclined to side with Russett. Russett’s two models for democratic peace provide compelling reasoning. An especially persuasive case for Russett is his point that the norm of solving disputes among democracies through nonviolent means has set such a pervasive precedent that going against this status quo would cost a state its democratic credibility on the international scene.

  50. Greg Dier says:

    I think Farber and Gowa criticize the democratic peace theory a little too harshly. Russet really covers his bases with his firm definition of war and his exclusion of border incursions, rogue commanders, terrorist attacks. I feel that even if the reasons trying to explain the democratic peace are complex, conflicting and often false that the theory has still proven itself true. It may be that the democratic peace theory is a self-fulfilling phenomenon. The democratic nations in the world are comparable to a gentlemen’s club with the United States as their leading member. No country would like to be ejected from this economically and politically influential group. The democratic peace precedent has been set. It’s possible that in addition to the reasons that Russet cites for democratic nations avoiding military conflicts with each other that countries are just following the precedent that has held true for a good stretch of history. I feel that whatever the cause for the democratic peace, conflict avoidance between states for any reason is a positive outcome of politics.

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