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Ir Theory Notes

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IR Theory Notes
- We should understand the different theories available as being like tools in a toolbox, we can use them when asking different questions
- Commonalities amongst all variants of realism:
o International system is anarchic: no actors exists above states capable of regulating their interactions. International system exists in a state of constant antagonism

Primacy of the state such that the state is the primary actor and sovereignty is the primary trait. Billiard ball states

All states are unitary, rational actors - tend to pursue self interest

Concern for state survival: security above all else, power is the means to achieve this
 States build up military to survive = possible security dilemma
 Security dilemma (Herz 1951): actions by a state intended to heighten its security , such as increasing military strength, making alliances, can lead other states to respond with similar measures = tensions which create conflict even though no side actually desires it eg. WWI - major European powers felt forced to go to war by feelings of insecurity over alliances of their neighbours despite not actually wanting war

Self-help: states must fend for themselves

States uncertain about what others will do

All states potentially dangerous - possess some military capability

Based on the above, 3 main patterns of behaviour:

1. States fear each other, no mechanism to punish an aggressor

2. States seek to guarantee their survival = alliance are temporary marriages of convenience

3. States aim to maximise their relative power
- Types of realism:
o Human/Classical realism (Morgenthau/Hobbes)
 Based on human nature - behaviour of states governed by human drive for power and the will to dominate
 Since conflict occurs due to human nature, order can be maintained by skilled statesman - absolute power corrupts absolutely

Structural/Neorealism (Waltz, Mearsheimer)
 Emphasis on rationality rather than human nature. This was preferable because more scientific, also, human nature doesn't change, so how do we explain war and peace
 Neorealists argue structural constraints, noy strategy or egoism, will determine state behaviour in international relations
 Based on micro theory of firms in market - states maximize security
 States want survival, prompting considerations about relative power.
Relative abilities to balance power shape international relations
 Internal balancing: states grow their own capabilities
 External balancing: states enter into alliances
 Suggests bipolar system is more stable, because balancing can only be internal - no great power through which to form alliances so less chance for miscalculation. Maps the Cold War world well.
 Failure to balance not a refute - nothing Waltz says implies states get it right all the time
 Neorealists conclude war is an effect of the anarchic structure of the international system - long lasting peace not likely

Defensive realism (Waltz, Jervis (moderate realist), Fearon) Anarchical nature of international system means states maintain moderate and reserved policies to attain security
 Offensive realism assumes states seek to maximize power to achieve security through domination and hegemony - defensive realists say this is undermined by balance of power through = military capabilities become distributed such that no one state is strong enough to dominate all others
 Rational to keep status quo, if one is too powerful others balance against it.
Snyder argues "international anarchy punished aggressors - it does not reward them'
 Defensive capabilities out-trump offensive ones eg. Trench warfare
 Does not deny aggression - sometimes keeping status quo requires aggression
 Criticism: states cannot assess offensive/defensive balance, so naturally assume worst case scenario. Hard to distinguish between what might be offensive and defensive

Offensive Realism (Mearsheimer)
 Both neorealist branches argue states primarily concerned with maximising power, they disagree over amount of power required in the process:
 Defensive = states seek to preserve the status quo
 Offensive = states are power maximising revisionists, so even more pessimistic
 States don't just want security, they want to maximise their security
 Ultimate goal = hegemony
 Offensive realism may answer the question why there is so much conflict among states in the international system
 Security often maximised through aggressive channels - 60% of aggressors win
 Criticisms: Snyder = assuming all states are revisionists undoes one of the main tenets of the security dilemma, that states cannot be sure of other states intensions

Neoclassical Realism (Zakaria, Scweller)
 3rd wave of realism
 primary motivation: neorealism only useful in explaining outcomes, had little to offer on state behaviour
 they wanted to explain behaviour of specific states, not a general theory
 foreign policy is the result of international structure, domestic influences,
and the complex relations between the two
 zakaria: elite perception matters - behaviour of US and Soviet Union in the cold war undoubtedly influenced by the leader's interpretation of their capabilities
 unit level factors matter - Truman needed to fight Korean war even though he didn't want to to get congressional support so he could do what he wanted in Europe
 is it still liberalism? Borrows heavily from liberal tradition
Relative gains dictated by power politics: state conducts foreign policy on the basis of calculated power gains
The anarchic system threatens security, all states must fend for themselves and power is essential to survival
Although war is very rare, its effects are constant - security, budgets, defense, deployment,
-Concept of 'self-help' is crucial: drive to improve own security through expanding military/weapons etc. but this creates insecurity for others = security dilemma
No possibility of progress, peace is a temporary lull
Realism is about material pursuits
Operates on power and security - realists identify these variables which are almost always present, but they can't see anything else
Realists argue that international institutions benefitting everyone do not improve the prospect for cooperation or solve the security dilemma
Classical realism: human is destined to wage war due to evil nature and lust for power. But classical realism cannot explain the behaviour that drives the struggle for power
Structural realism: Walz argues struggle for power is due to structure of international system, not states/actors themselves

Organizing principle: hierarchy and anarchy

Differentiation of units: all sovereign states are similar so unit level variation is irrelevant = we can predict behaviour

Distribution of capabilities: key variable for understanding outcomes is how much power states have to determine the structure of the system

Multi-polarity = WWI; Bipolarity = Cold War; Unipolarity - Today, where US is the only superpower
Neorealism: security is at the root, security is the highest end and only when survival has been ensured to states consider any secondary concerns (Waltz).
Neoclassical realism argues that distributions of power lead us to explain state behaviour,
but this is through a process of domestic politics nad decision making
o Could not predict the end of the Cold War

Could not explain the persistence of NATO after WARSAW pact went away

Cannot explain the European Union and how it has got to where it is

Cannot explain humanitarian intervention, pursuit of democratization, rise of nonstate actors

Security certainly mattered during Soviet period, but over time we have built confidence and trust

Cannot explain why stronger sides are often losing: from 1950-1998, stronger actors lost more than they won

It can explain broad trends but not triggers or timings of war

Will the state continue to be as central as realism suggests?
o Does military power still = influence in the same way?

Liberalism vs. Realism
- Both share starting point of anarchy
- Relevant actor: realism posits it is the state, liberalism argues state represents some sub-set of the citizenry. Institutions not relevant in realims because they are just instruments of state power
- Aims of the state: neorealism says state only concerned with survival due to anarchy;
liberalism accepts anarchy but denies survival as the sole aim. For realists, state interests are exogenous, unvaried and unchanging, liberals see interests determined by domestic sociopolitical contestation. State goals for liberals can be ad widely varied as for individuals
- Possibility of cooperation:
o Realism: sustained cooperation is impossible because of concern over relative gains

Liberalism: sustained cooperation possible, they accept possibility of absolute gains

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