SAASS 632: Strategy and CoercionEdit
Overall 632 Daily SummaryEdit
Day 1: International order and the use of force (Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society, Parts I and II)
Background: A member of the highly influential English School of International Relations, Bull explores three big questions: What is the nature of international order in world poltiics? How is it maintained in the contemporary state system? What alternatives to it are feasible or desirable? We will examine the first two questions today and the third on the last day of class.
Day 2: Structural Realism (Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics)
Background: Waltz set out to do three things with this book: examine theories of international politics and approaches to the subject that make some claim to being theoretically important; construct a theory that remedies the defects of present theories; and, examine some applications of the theory constructed. Waltz's neo-realism cast a long shadow on the study and practice of international politics and remains a force to be reckoned with.
Day 3: Hegemonic stability theory (Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics)
Background: From evolution to chaos and complexity, scholars of all stripes have sought to uncover the underlying and immediate causes of change. Sensing a void left by Waltz, Robert Gilpin set out to write a book that explained the nature of international political change. A key question to consider: Are harmonious international politics contingent upon a dominant single power?
Day 4 – Regimes and Institutions (Robert Keohane, After Hegemony)
Background: Hegemons play an important role in international life, but can international cooperation persist without the dominance of a single power? Robert Keohane examined cooperation among advanced capitalist countries and provides theoretical insights into the workings of international regimes and intitutions. Regimes, argues Keohane, are not weak substitutes for world government but devices for facilitating decentralized cooperation among states, which are the most egoistic of actors.
Day 5: The democratic peace and its critics (Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace (review Part II and reach chapter 11); Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder, Electing to Fight)
Background: Waltz assumes that states are "like units." In other words, states are not differentiated by function but by capability. As neo-realists see it, one does not need to consider the internal compositions, goals or desires of states themselves to construct a useful theory of internaitonal politics. Instead, one must focus on the distribution of power among states in the world and fully comprehend that states--be they democratic, communist, Islamic, or otherwise--will pursue interests they deem best. The democratic peace turns this logic on its head by insisting that the internal characteristics of states matter. A world of democracies, as the evidence seems to suggest, would be more cooperative and far less war-prone than any other. A question to consider: Can there be an international, cosmopolitan society that shares similar norms, values, and outcomes? If so, must it be peaceful?
Day 6: Constructivism (Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International Politics)
Background: The latest turn in international politics theory is called constructivism. It emerged in the 1990's from an approach called critical theory, which was most critical of the dominant modes of thought governing the study of international politics: neo-realism and neo-liberal institutionalism. With a series of articles published during this time, Alexander Wendt assumed the mantle by writing an original and important argument about the philosophy of science and social theory of international poltiics. We will confine ourselves to the theory portion of the book, but his discussion of causal versus constitutive questions is highly informative. Questions to consider: What role do ideas play in international politics? How do constructivists view agency, culture, and structure? How useful is it to think in terms of "cultures and anarchy"?
Day 8: Strategy and deterrence I (Bernard Brodie, Strategy in the Missile Age)
Background: Even after the detonation of the atomic bomb, the essence of high-politics--formulating military strategy--was about fighting and winning the nation's wars. By 1959, tht changed. War among the great powers was though to be something so destructive, so powerful that it ought to be avoided. Did strategy have a future in such a world? Brodie examined that question and others associated with it. His work cannot be ignored.
Day 9 – Strategy and deterrence II (Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy)
Background: Even though Brodie's book covered the waterfront, each American President, as well as the leaders of other nuclear states, continued to refine and alter their nuclear postures. This says something important about the making of strategy and its relationship with politics. A question to consider: Is politics the enemy of strategy or is it the other way around?
Day 10 – Strategy and compellence I (Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence & The Strategy of Conflict)
Background: Tom Schelling once described strategy as "the diplomacy of violence." Shrewd strategists, he went on to say, should not be concerned with the efficient use of force, but with the exploitation of potential force. To study strategy on these terms is to take the view that conflict situations are bargaining situations where the ability of one participant is contingent on the choices or decisions made by other particpants. Formal modeling of this logic is found in game theory, and three games will be addressed in seminar: Prisoner's Dilemma, Chicken, and Stag Hunt. A key question to consider: Must rationality constrain strategy?
Day 11: Strategy and compellance II (Robert Pape, Bombing to Win)
Background: Robert Pape puts Schelling's ideas to the test by examing their fitness during air operations. NOTE: Pape uses the word coercion when referring to compellance.
Day 12: Strategy and cooperation I (Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation; Mancur Olsen, The Logic of Collective Action)
Background: We are aware that compellence--in the form of hegemony or institutions--is essential to achieving cooperation among states acting in anarchy. What we have not yet examined is the null hypothesis: Can cooperation get started, thrive, and protect itself without compellence?
Day 13: Strategy and cooperation II (Peter Feaver, Armed Servants)
Background: With talk today turning to things like "building partnership capacity," the relationship among principals and agents has come to the fore. Peter Feaver's theoretical work on the principal-agent dilemma opens up new ways to think about old problems. A key question to consider: Since all actors have interests, can principals get agents to work rather than shirk?
Day 14 – Reflection (Hedley Bull, The Anarchical Society, Part III)
If we imagine international life as one where actors are deterring, compelling, or cooperating with one another, then we should ask: What role does force play in such a world?
Days 1 & 14: Hedley Bull, The Anarchical SocietyEdit
Hedley Bull's The Anarchical Society has been a classic International Relations text in the United Kingdom since it was first published in 1977. Its name in large part describes Bull's thesis: the current system of states is anarchical in that there is no higher level of authority over states, each state having ultimate sovereignty over its citizens within its borders; and the system forms a society in that there are certain "common rules and institutions" (25) which provides order to the international arena. Neither statement seems very novel to a student of International Relations; indeed, it seems to be an overview of the common neo-realist/neo-liberal position. The Anarchical Society's value seems to be that it was one of the first books to comprehensively present such ideas in a book that most of all helps one to analyze world politics from many angles - albeit always from a neo-realist/neo-liberal perspective.
Part 1: The Nature of Order in World Politics
One doesn't have to go much further than the concept of an "anarchical society" to find the point of Bull's work. Bull first sets out to define each of the terms he is working with. He spends pages discussing exactly what is meant by order, both in general and referring to the international sphere. It is here that he makes an important distinction between a system of states and a society of states. An international system simply means that there are states which have contacts and dealings with each other (9). An international society, on the other hard, while presupposing an international system, share a set of rules an institutions (13). Bull's point then is simple: although the modern system of states are anarchical in that no hierarchical level of sovereignty exists above that of each state, the states do to some extent form a society with common rules and institutions, although this society "is always in competition with the elements of a state of war and of... conflict," and one should not think that "international society were the sole or [even] the dominant element" (49).
Part 2: Examining Order in the Contemporary International System
After some further discussion on exactly how the states system has evolved and an explanation of how rules are formed and used, Bull turns to "Part Two: Examining Order in the Contemporary International System," in which he simply looks closer at certain rules and institutions (the balance of power, international law, diplomacy, war, and the great powers) contribute to modern international order. Having made his point, this section is simply supportive and seems to almost be a distinct discussion.
The Balance of Power and International Order
Bull makes a distinction between general and local balances of power, and dominate and subordinate balances of power (98). A balance in the international system is a recent idea, originating in 15th century Italy (101). The chief function of the balance of power is to preserve the system of states (103, 111). The current balance of power doesn't share a common culture, as did the 18th and 19th century European balances of power (110).
International Law and International Order
"States obey international law in part because of habit or inertia; they are, as it were, programmed to operate within the framework of established principles" (133). That gives credence to the notion that international relations are at least in part socially constructed, and it makes for interesting thoughts about social conditioning in general.
The presence of international law in our current system of states is very much a product of the current system evolving from Western Christendom and its system of laws and values (137).
Diplomacy and International Order
Bull cites Nicolson as holding that the New Diplomacy of "open covenants" is OK, but "openly arrived at" is not always preferable, because it precludes secret or confidential negotiations (169).
War and International Order
Bull notes that we currently see states at war as an alternative to states at peace, but when the power to make war was first confined to states, the alternative to war was "more ubiquitous violence" (179). In other words, when states were first given the sole right to wage war, war was thought to actually reduce the violence present in the previous medieval setting. Interesting.
Bull thinks that if war would have broken out between the US and the USSR, if would have been for security reasons. This is in contrast to Halliday, who thinks it would have been because of ideological reasons (188).
Bull feels that, "The balance of power remains a condition of the continued existence of the system of states...". He also points out the relative rise of civil wars after 1945.
The Great Powers and International Order
Bull states that, "...just as during the Cold War period the general character of any country's foreign policy was determined by its attitude to the first two" (198). Since The Anarchical Society was written in the 1970's during a period of detente, does Bull think the Cold War is over at this point?
Bull describes the various ways in which great powers can contribute to order, but he clarifies (?) that this is not necessarily what great powers actually do, or even what they should do - it is rather what they could do (201).
Bull makes the distinction among dominance (the "habitual use of force by a great power against the lesser states" it has control over without regard to their sovereignty), primacy (clear one-way influence and control without threat of military force or violation of sovereignty, such as the US and the other NATO members), and hegemony (between dominance and primacy, involving control with force or threat of force that isn't habitual, such as the former Soviet Union and the Eastern European states) (207).
Bull notes that the hegemony of the USSR has kept "territorial disputes" - like those between Poland and Russia, Poland and East Germany, Hungary and Rumania, of which the world has heard nothing in the post-1945 era" held in check and has prevented them "from reaching the surface of conscious political activity" (212). With the fall of the Soviet Union, have these territorial disputes have come to the surface? Is hegemony over an area analogous to a state keeping its internal disputes in check through the state's laws?
Although Bull claimed earlier that, "The contribution of the great powers to international order derives from the sheer facts of inequality of power as between the states that make up the international system" (199), he asserts that, "the great powers cannot formalize and make explicit the full extent of their special position." He claims (somewhat contradictorily) that "international society is based on the rejection of a hierarchical ordering of states," so if the great powers are to "make explicit" that they have special rights and duties "would be to engender more antagonism than the international order could support" (221). He seems to be saying that the great powers have inequality of power, which contributes to the international system, but that making these inequalities explicit would undermine international order.
Day 2: Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics Edit
Author Background: Columbia University International Relations Professor, founder of neorealism/structural realism
Thesis: Contrary to classical realism, neo-realism contends international relations take place in an international system of states in which anarchy is a permissive cause of war. Each state arrives at policies and decides on actions according to its own internal processes, but its decisions are shaped by the very presence of other states as well as by interactions with them.
· A general theory of international politics is necessarily based on great powers. - 73
· The International System
o The structure of a system acts as a constraining and disposing force, nd because it does so systems theories explain and predict continuity within a system. – 69
o Actors are influence by the system because structures reward some behaviors and punish others. – 74
o Structure defines the arrangement, or the ordering, of the parts of a system, and the ordering of the system gives defines how the parts of the realm are related to each other. – 81
o The systems is formed by the coactions of self-regarding units. It is a system which requires self-help tendencies for a state to survive. States seek to ensure their survival within the system. It is a prerequisite to achieving any goals the state may have other than the goal of promoting its own disappearance as a political entity. However, states do not always act exclusively to ensure survival. – 92
· War and Balance of Power
o The state of nature is a state of war. Not in the sense that war constantly occurs but in the sense that, with each state deciding for itself whether or not to use force, war may at any time break out. Without an agent to manage conflict (international anarchy) the use of force cannot always be avoided. – 102
o In a self-help system each state spends a portion of its effort, not in forwarding its own good, but in providing the means of protecting itself against others. – 105
o When faced with the possibility of cooperating for mutual gain, states that feel insecure as how the gain will be divided. – 105
o The uncertainty of another state’s future intentions and actions works against cooperation. – 105
o States must do whatever they think is necessary for their own preservation, since no one can be relied upon to do it for them. – 109
o As self-help system is one of high risk. This risk can be avoided or lessened by erecting agencies with effective authority and extending a system of rules. – 111
o Whether or not by force, each state plots the course it thinks will best serve its interests. If force is used by one state or its use is expected, the recourse of other state is to use force or be prepared to use it singly or in combination. – 113
o In international politics force is not only the ultima ratio, but also the first and constant one. – 113
Day 3: Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics Edit
Thesis: Major political changes are consequences of the conjuncture of unique and unpredictable sets of developments. The international system is established for the same reason that any social or political system is created; actor enter social relations and create social structures in order to advance particular sets of political, economic, or other types of interests.
· International relations continue to be a recurring struggle for wealth and power among independent actors in a state of anarchy. – 7
· The conceptualization of international political change is based on a set of assumptions… - 10
o An international system is stable if no state believes it profitable to attempt to change the system.
o A state will attempt to change the system if expected benefits outweigh expected costs.
o A state will seek change through territory, politics, or economics until marginal costs of further change are equal or greater than the marginal benefits.
o Once an equilibrium between the costs and benefits of further change and expansion is reached, the tendency is for the economic costs of maintaining the status quo to rise faster than the economic capacity to support the status quo.
§ It becomes more difficult to generate sufficient revenue to cover protection costs and these costs increase over time. The increasing costs of protection and decreasing benefits of empire or hegemony makes the preservation of the status quo more difficult, and the international system enters a state of disequilibrium. - 157
o If the disequilibrium in the international system is not resolved, then the system will be changed, and a new equilibrium reflecting the redistribution of power will be established.
· International political change is in a large part a matter of state objective for foreign policy. – 23
o A principal objective has been the conquest of territory in order to advance economic, security, and other interests.
o To increase state influence over the behavior of other states.
o To control or at least exercise influence over the world economy, or what may more properly be called the international division of labor.
· Vital interest – the concept of vital interest is imprecise, and the definition of a vital interest may change because of economic, technological, or political change, every state regards the safeguarding of certain interests to be of overriding importance to its security. – 25
· Throughout history, 3 forms of control or types of structure have characterized international systems.
o Imperial or hegemonic – British hegemony
o Bipolar – Cold War
o Balance of Power – Pre-WWII/WWI era
· Prestige is the reputation for power, and military power in particular. It refers primarily to the perceptions of other states with respect to a state’s capacities and its ability and willingness to exercise its power. – 31
o E.H. Carr – Prestige is enormously important because if your strength is recognized, you can generally achieve your aims without having to use it.
· Types of International Change - 39
o Systems Change – the character of the system, the nature of the principal actors or diverse entities composing the system
o Systemic Change – a change in governance of an international system. It entails changes in the international distribution of power, the hierarchy of prestige, and the rules and rights embodied in the system. – 42
o Interaction Change – modifications in the political, economic, and other interactions or processes among the actors in an international system.
· The cycle of empires was broken in the modern world by 3 significant interrelated developments: - 116
o The triumph of the nation-state as the principal actor in IR
o The advent of sustained economic growth based on modern science and technology
o The emergence of a world market economy.
Day 4: Robert Keohane, After HegemonyEdit
(book review by Barry Buzan, Universityof Warwick) The book has two faces, one highly academic, the other rather more political. It is a combination we could do with more of. The academic side comprises an intricate, and long overdue, investigation into the fundamental logic of international cooperation. The case incorporates an impressive array of theory, ranging from traditional political realism and idealism through a variety of economic theories including oligopoly and collective goods, and a variety of behavioural theories including rationality, satisficing and games, to Gramscian notions of hegemony and Marxian ideas on political economy. Keohane's control of this difficult material is admirable, and he takes pains to present it clearly. The essence of his argument is that, where common interests exist, cooperation is a self-interested response to discord. The link between self-interest and cooperation is the key to the book, because Keohane is intent on demolishing both the hard realist conclusion that cooperation is purely a function of hegemony, and the idealist assumption that cooperation rests principally on self-sacrifice.This argument is put very convincingly, and it provides the foundation for the book's political thrust. This thrust is aimed at the dominance of the hard realist perspective in foreign policy-making circles. Keohane fears that this perspective will lead to a disastrous self-fulfilling prophecy. The hard realists assume that cooperation reflects hegemonic power. They reject self-sacrificing idealism as a basis for policy. Since American hegemony is already approaching the middle stages of erosion, the danger is that the hard realist logic will lead to a collapse of cooperation and a period of discord and conflict in the world political economy. Keohane's purpose is to point out to the realists that a strict use of their own logic provides an incontrovertible basis for the maintenance of cooperation, and that the regimes left over from the hegemonic period, even though decayed, provide an important vehicle for the continued pursuit of self-interest. This is vital and powerful stuff. It makes a major contribution towards breaking the destructive polarization between realism and idealism which for too long has obscured intellectual middle ground of real importance to policy-making. In particular, it bears crucially on the fate of the liberal international economy in the coming decades. Keohane does not take up in detail the issue of how a global economy can be managed in the absence of hegemonic leadership. But his argument will bring comfort to those who hope that collective management can provide a stable option short of a 1930s-style collapse into protectionism, albeit an option at a substantially lower level of openness and coordination than in the heyday of hegemony. There are some weaknesses (and also some idiosyncracies, like the aggressively feminist use of she /her, where a neutral pronoun would read more smoothly). No adequate attempt is made to find an objective measure by which the hegemonic level of power can be distinguished from lesser ranks. As a consequence, the decline in American power is measured primarily in terms of its effects (collapsing regimes). This approach not only runs close to the danger of circular argument in relation to the theory of hegemonic cooperation, it also leads to an exaggeration of America's decline, and to an underplaying of the continuities of American influence. What Keohane is determined to,see already as a post-hegemonic environmentlooks objectively more like a phase in which the hegemon has slipped from dominance to pre-eminence, and in which that pre-eminence enables it to sustain a considerable momentum from the period of its peak influence. This interpretation weakens Keohane's use of contemporary case studies, but it does not diminish the force of his theoretical argument. The underestimation of America's continuing power and influence is exacerbated by Keohane's exclusion of military power as relevant to issues of economic cooperation among the Western states. Since American military dominance has held up better than its economic hegemony, Keohane deserves to get the debate he invites on this point (p. 41). There is also some danger of circular argument in the use of the terms 'regime' and 'cooperation'. As the book develops, more and more weight is put on the importance of regimes as an alternative to hegemony in facilitating cooperation. While there is an obvious sense to the logic, one cannot escape the nagging doubt that the idea of regime as defined in the book simply represents the effect of continuous cooperation. If that is so, then the argument is that sustained cooperation tends to reproduce itself. But these criticisms are an invitation to debate, not an attack on the validity of the argument.
Day 5: Michael Doyle, Ways of War and Peace; Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder, Electing to FightEdit
General argument: Democratizing states are more war-prone than autocratic or mature democratic states. Democratizing states are not just mixed regime states – they are state are have undergone an incomplete transition from autocracy to democracy. Specifically, it’s when democratic INSTITUTIONS failed to develop before mass participation. Institutions matter because they help manage power competition among old ELITES and new interest groups and mass groups. When is a democratizing regime dangerous? - Generally, a few years after the transitions begins. In mature democracies, the median voter, wanting to avoid the costs of war, restrains interest groups which might want war. This is possible because institutions are shaped to give voice to the median voter. (RATIONALIST PERSPECTIVE, given war is costly) A lack of institutions permits various irrationalities: - Logrolling, the domination of parochial interests over national ones – elites can control the agenda. What’s on the agenda is often imperialist, militarist, and protectionist interests. (Median voter can’t restrain parochial interests) - Short time horizon – elites don’t want to fall from power in the short term, so they become risk-seekers (Not stated, but PD games will result in defection if not iterated) - Weak states are less able to send costly, credible signals - Rising demands of mass participation can’t be managed, thus inviting ideology to fill the gap. Nationalism is a particularly appealing because it’s about rule for the people, not necessarily by the people, so serves elites’ interests in consolidating power – and it unifies by drawing boundaries between in-group and out-groups. (Diversionary theory of war) This is not an ideological or identity argument – it’s a rationalist argument as applied to domestic politics. Elites interests in the context of challenges from mass claims for legitimacy, when unregulated, lead to exclusionary nationalism (identity merely functional here). The exact mechanisms which lead to war are numerous (failure of signaling, risk-seeking, etc. – it’s a story about the warped preferences of democratizing states, the result of rational competition between elites, given weak institutions. Unit of analysis: - Regime-type – domestic politics. Main hypotheses: Incomplete democratization increases the danger of war when political institutions are especially weak and when elites are especially threatened by it. This gives elites motive and opportunity to employ strategies of exclusionary nationalist in the effort to survive, amongst demands for mass political participation. General:
- Democratizing states -> More involvement in wars
- Democratizing states -> More initiation of wars
Under incomplete democratization:
- When power elites are threatened by the prospect of transition + Institutions are weak -> More involvement in war
- Politics of incomplete transition -> Some, or all of: exclusionary nationalist, pressuregroup politics, logrolling among elite factions, weak bargains by ruling elite, contradictory and unconvincing signaling, aggressive foreign policy posturing, use of media to promote nationalism
Countries transitioning to complete democratization:
- Countries transitioning to complete democracies -> moderately higher involvement in war shortly after transition, but no elevated risk once democracy is consolidated
- States already involved in enduring rivalries with nationalist and militarist ideologies forged in early stages of democratization -> Increased risk of war
Assumptions: The state is not a black box. How preferences get aggregated, whose preferences matter – this is crucial
Empirics: Uses statistical and case studies methods. Statistics: -Examines dyadic and monadic models: Regime Type IVs: How to define a democracy, an autocracy, or a transition state (anocracy)?
- Institutions are measured by: competitiveness of political participation, openness of executive recruitment, and extent of constraints on chief executive. Regime type is classified based on how a state measures on these three dimensions of institutional maturity. Each of the three measures are considered separately and how a state is classified given each measure turns out to be different.
Key Causal variable: Domestic institutions of a state – measured by Gurr’s DomConcentration variable (indexed from 0-10) – measures how concentrated authority is in a state’s central government in year t-1, measuring things like how much participation is regulated, how much executive recruitment or executive election is regulated, level of constraints to executive authority, level of centralization (versus local autonomy), etc. The effects of DomConcentration and interaction effects with the regime type IVs on propensity for war initiation and war involvement are analyzed. Results: transitional democracies tend to be initiators of war, and are more much likely to be involved in wars than transitional autocracies. Predictions hold when controlling for realist variables (Table 6.3, p.165-66) Problem is there’s not much proof – only 10 cases where democratizing state actually did initiate wars, and these 10 are the cases examined. Cases: Used because there was no measure of nationalism in statistical tests. Most cases support their claim, some don’t or do so weakly. Critiques:
- The way the key independent variable – institutions - is used to delineate different types of regimes and as a IV on its own is very suspect. Executive competition, power, and selection – is that what really differentiates the institutions of a democracy from autocracy? Rule of law, liberal civil society – all that stuff is missing.
- The argument is very messy. So many causal mechanisms leading to war, not sure which is salient. Is it that state preferences are NOT preferences for security, or the signaling issue (no ability to generate audience costs), or indivisible issues are created, or what? This could be a bureaucratic politics model (of military hawkish interest, a la Van Evera and Cult of Offensive) or it could be a rationalist model a la Fearon, and so on.
- Case selection suffers from selection bias – they only select outcomes where there was initiation of war!
- Fails to really explain why it’s regime type that matters – after all autocracies may also suffer from lack of institutions, and we often see exclusionary nationalism being promoted in autocracies too- there may be statistical evidence that autocracies are not as war prone as democratizing states but we don’t know WHY. The meat of the causal argument can apply to other regimes.
- Basically, the contribution is: Be wary of promoting democracy. Good advice for the Bush administration, but not particularly insightful beyond that.
Day 6: Alexander Wendt, Social Theory of International PoliticsEdit
(review by Kathleen McNamara, Princeton University) Alexander Wendt's Social Theory of International Politics is one of the most important books of international relations (IR) theory to be published in the past few decades. The influence of constructivism, which Wendt has championed previously in a series of articles, is already clear in IR. This book provides a systematic and extended foundation for constructivism's application to international relations phenomena and marks its maturation as a canonical approach. Equally important, however, Wendt presents a persuasive case for an end to wars over epistemology and a refocusing on more fundamental assumptions about the nature of politics. Wendt's contribution is impressive and deserves consideration by all students of IR, as well as those who seek to understand the role of ideas, norms, and culture in political life.
The two basic tenets of constructivism, according to Wendt, are an emphasis on shared ideas, not material factors, as the basis for most "structures of human association"; and the view that actors' interests and identities are shaped decisively by these shared ideas, not given by nature (1). Constructivism is a sort of "structural idealism," in which ideas, although invisible, have real and tangible effects as they become collectively shared. To elucidate this approach, the first half of the book is a rich and extended discussion of social theory that forms the foundation for Wendt's constructivism; the second half, a more modest outline of a constructivist theory of international politics.
Wendt engages from the start with two important lines of critique, namely, how to study ideas empirically and how to deal with material forces. Wendt argues that constructivists can and should do empirical studies using conventional methods of social science and that epistemology itself is not the critical delineating issue, but rather it is ontological disputes-differences in the underlying philosophies about what constitutes the nature of political life that are key. Also notable is Wendt's level-headed approach to materialist arguments. He directly addresses how "brute material forces," such as the distribution and composition of states' material capabilities and their geography and natural resources, can have independent effects on international life. A related discussion of power and interests leads to his assertion that "the meaning of the distribution of power in international politics is constituted in important part by the distribution of interests, and . . . the content of interests are in turn constituted in important part by ideas" (135). Ideas have constituitive effects, constructing identity and interests, a process which eludes rationalist accounts but is central to constructivism and well developed in Wendt's account.
The second half of the book, which outlines a substantive theory of international politics, is less satisfying than the discussion of social theory. Wendt builds his theory by starting at the level of the actors, developing a relatively conventional definition of state interest augmented by an emphasis on identity. He then outlines his theory of the structure of the international system, arguing that the changing distribution of shared ideas, or culture, of the international system produces critical variations in the rules governing anarchy. Wendt outlines three different ideal-type cultures of anarchy, Hobbesian, Lockean, and Kantian, which vary widely in their propensity for conflict. Finally, he addresses the interaction of actors and structure through the process of international politics, arguing that states have periodically transformed the culture of anarchy through interaction and identity change, and introducing four key variables interdependence, common fate, homogenization, and self-restraintthat contribute to collective identity formation. While suggestive, the level of the empirical discussion does not come close to the meticulous and penetrating philosophical treatments in the first section of the book, so researchers looking for a historically grounded assessment of the cultures of anarchy or a template for doing empirical constructivist work will have to look elsewhere.
Wendt's book systematically tackles a host of devilishly difficult and professionally contested issues with a clear-eyed, eloquent, and original approach. The book's strength is not in offering a substantive or empirically grounded theory of IR, but rather in showing why and how scholars should use a constructivist approach to politics among states. His contention that the world is socially constructed, but that we can indeed study it as social scientists, will not prove popular in either the postmnodernisotr hard-line materialists camps. But with this extraordinarilyt houghtful book, Wendt has made the best analytical case so far for taking seriously the social nature of international politics.
Day 8: Bernard Brodie, Strategy in the Missile AgeEdit
Author Background: Naval and Nuclear theorist, Political science professor at Dartmouth, Yale, RAND, and UCLA
· Deterrence is about making each side believe any advantage of striking first is outweighed by the destruction which it will endure.
· It is appealing to consider a preventative war in hopes of receiving the upper hand, but this is likely to be unacceptable to the American people, and unless every or the preponderance of weapons are destroyed a devastating counterattack is probable.
Implications for Strategy
· In a nuclear exchange casualties will likely be far greater than infrastructure destruction. (158)
o Less warning time.
§ Warning is key to the entire defense problem. With adequate warning (2-3 hrs) we could counterattack with missiles before he struck. (184)
§ A reliable warning measured in hours or minutes is more valuable than an unreliable warning received much earlier. (185)
o Duration of attack at any one place is instantaneous.
o Shelters may not function.
o Radioactivity lingers.
· The minimum destruction and disorganization that one should expect from an unrestricted thermonuclear attack in the future is likely to be too high to permit further meaningful mobilization of war-making capabilities over the short term (167)
· There are two ways to defend against attack: active defense and passive defense (180)
o Active defense is the act of hitting the enemy while he attacks.
o Passive defense is characterized as bomb shelters, dispersion, etc.
§ An inability or unreadiness to defend our retaliatory force will provoke an enemy to destroy it. (185)
· Preventative War: Those opposed to the idea [of preventive war] have considered it too immoral or too utterly infeasible to be worth discussing. … The case for preventive war … has rested primarily on two presumptions: first, that in strategic air war with nuclear weapons, hitting first is certainly a crucial advantage and, with reasonably good planning, almost surely a decisive one; and second, that total war is inevitable. (229)
o 236 – The phrase “preventive war” implies inevitably the unprovoked slaughter of millions of persons, mostly innocent of responsibility, on the inherently unprovable assumption that our safety requires it. However, the moral implications of executing a preventative nuclear war make it unlikely. (236)
· Deterrence – It is not the symmetry or asymmetry of offensive power, but the stability of the balance between them which causes makes each nation believe the strategic advantage of striking first is overshadowed by the tremendous cost of doing so. (303)
o No responsible government will opt for massive retaliation except where it conceives its stake in the matter at issue to be absolutely vital (259)
o It remains unlikely that our government will ever deliberately initiate a total war for the sake of securing to ourselves the military advantage of the first blow (271)
o The large number of wars that have occurred in modern times prove that the threat to use force, even what sometimes looked like superior force, has often failed to deter. (272)
o One of the things wrong with the doctrine of deterrence is that in many instances the enemy may find it hard we mean it. (273)
o The strategy of deterrence ought always to envisage the possibility of deterrence failing. (292)
o Effective operation of deterrence over the long term requires that the other party be willing to live with our possession of the capability upon which it rests. (397)
o We can hardly be too strong for our security, but we can easily be too forward and menacing in our manipulation of that strength (298)
Day 9: Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear StrategyEdit
Author Background: British professor of war studies at King’s College London, foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair
Thesis: The basic axioms of the nuclear age, therefore, were soon identified: the impossibility of defense; the hopeless vulnerability of the world’s major cities; the attraction of a sudden attack; and the necessity of a capability for retaliation - 42
Other Major Propositions.
· The heart of the problem is how to deter attack … requires that a potential aggressor be left in no doubt that he would be certain to suffer damage outweighing any possible gains
o Threat must be credible, but how credible is a threat that would “hurt me as much as it hurts you”
· Limited war reintroduces the political element back into the concept of warfare. It discards the notion that policy ends once war begins or that war can have goals distinct from national policy.
· In order to create a nuclear stalemate under conditions of nuclear plenty it is necessary for both sides to possess invulnerable retaliatory forces.
· ICBM a paradigm change, now one weapon type could be decisive, or could they with two superpowers??
· NSC-68, US relied on nukes to deter USSR. Massive retaliation might be more credible coming from USSR than US, due to history, norms and policies…
· Ambiguity is essential in deterrence, but during Cuban crises 62’, there was possibly too much uncertainty.
· Nukes didn’t deter local wars
· Deterrence of non-state actors is difficult or impossible. What do they have to lose (but they want to be in power, so we need to find something to tgt)
Time line associated with Nukes:
1941-Manhatten project, the Q was;use it, demo it or take mil action with it….? (Roosevelt 33-45)
1945- Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuc used militarily (Truman 45-53)
1947- Spaatz report, “limited use for the bomb”
1949- USSR gets nuc
1950- Korea, NSC-68
1952- H-bomb (US) Magnitude change of power, one plane was enough…Massive Retaliation was now doable
1953- Stalin dies (Permanent Operation Factors is cnl, give more freedom) (Eisenhower 53-61)
Mid 50’s- Limited war ideas w/limited objectives. USSR not interested, saw no “firebreaks” between nuc and conv.
1955- Killian report; The US defense is unprepared
1957- H-bomb USSR
1957- Sputnik, US caught of guard. Distance and oceans no longer a barrier for USSR
1960- FR leave the mil side of NATO, due to US nuc policy
1960- Joint Strategic Planning & SIOP 62 (Large portion of nuc aimed at USSR, had credibility, cap and will for MR)
1962- Cuba (Kennedy 61-63)
60’s- McNamara believed in gradual escalation, USSR saw this differently. Flexible response, Counter-force, city avoidance. End 60’s MAD firmly established. Start to arms control.
1963- Partial test ban (Johnson 63-69)
1964- CH nuc
1967- Flexible response adopted by NATO
1968- Non proliferation
1970- SALT I & II, ABM treaty (Nixon 69-74)
1990 START treaties (Ford 74-77, Carter 77-81, Reagan 81-89, Bush 89-93, Clinton 93-01, Bush 01-09, Obama 09-)
Day 10: Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence &The Strategy of ConflictEdit
Author Background: Born 1921, BA – UC, Berkeley; PhD Harvard. Economist with plenty of work involving arms control, economics, and international relations. This was a very influential book written at the height of the Cold War (1966). Schelling’s purpose is to elaborate on the ‘diplomacy of violence’ which involves bargaining power that comes from the ability of nations to inflict physical harm on each other.
Arms and Influence
Thesis: Notions of deterrence, retaliation, reprisal, terrorism, nuclear blackmail, wars of nerve, armistice, and surrender all relate to the ‘diplomacy of violence’.
- Modern weapons (nukes) mean victory is no longer a prerequisite for hurting the enemy
- Thus, victory is not the ultimate aim for nations with their military; they want bargaining power that comes from the capacity to hurt.
- This changes mil. Strategy to the diplomacy of violence, with an increase in the art of coercion, intimidation, and deterrence.
- Deterrence is trying to stop a foe from taking a certain action; it is passive and cedes initiative to the opponent
- “Commitment” is a key consideration: communicating it, making it credible to your foes, but also controlling it. “Salami Tactic” or pushing the envelope to test another’s commitment are common tactics. Schelling is a firm believer that “face” [commitment and credibility] is worth fighting for (p. 124).
- Compellence is more active, and typically involves administering punishment until the adversary acts, rather than if he acts.
- “Brinksmanship” is manipulating the shared risk of war (p. 99). The game of chicken in some respects, but there is uncertainty that could cause war.
- Lots of detailed descriptions in the book relating to these topics, such as ‘trip wires’ for deterrence, tactical vs. strategic nukes, first/second strike strategies.
- The nuclear paradox (?): Stability requires vulnerability. As invulnerability increases (missile shield, maybe) the likelihood of war increases because it introduces instability into the relationship between states.
Future: force will remain final arbiter, mil power will vitally affect interstate relationships (not all agree), mil power doesn’t guarantee survival/prosperity but is essential for both; without mil power, a states diplomacy generally lacks effectiveness.
Implications for Strategy: For Schelling, nuclear weapons are the primary means of military force, but the current state of American military dominance means that deterrence can be backed up by conventional power. The major implication is understanding 1) the minimum amount of military force needed to achieve the deterrent objective, and 2) how to posture military force to support a credible diplomatic position.
The Strategy of Conflict
Thesis: In a theory of strategy there are common as well as conflicting interests among the participants. Understanding relationship between this mutual dependence and opposition is helpful if on wishes to “win” a conflict, understand how participants conduct themselves, or control or influence the behavior of others in conflict.
Implications for Strategy
· Pure conflict – the interests of the two parties are completely opposed. It is a special case, and its existence would result in a war of complete extermination. The absolute condition that is unlikely to occur. – 4
· “Winning” – gaining relative to one’s own value system. This may be done by bargaining, mutual accommodation, and avoidance of mutually damaging behavior. – 5
· The Strategy of Conflict – it is the employment of threats, or of threats and promises, or more generally of the conditioning of one’s own behavior on the behavior of others, that the theory is about. – 15
o Strategy, in this sense, is not concerned with the efficient application of force but with the exploitation of potential force. – 5
o It is not the division of gains and losses between two claimants as much as the possibility that particular outcomes are worse or better for both claimants than other outcomes. -5
o To study the strategy of conflict is to take the view that most conflict situations are essentially bargaining situations. - 5
o Is concerned with the exploitation of potential force. It is concerned with persuading a potential enemy that he should in his own interest avoid certain courses of activity. It is in effect, a theory of the skillful nonuse of military forces, and for this purpose deterrence requires something broader than military skills. – 9
o In international affairs, deterrence is as relevant to relations between friends as between potential enemies. The concept requires that there be both conflict and common interest between the parties involved. Deterring an ally and deterring an enemy vary only by degrees. – 11
· The assumption of rationality is mitigated by two observations
o Even among certified “irrationals”, there is often an intuitive appreciation of the principles of strategy, or at least of particular applications of them. – 17
o It is not a universal advantage in situations of conflict to be inalienably and manifestly rational in decision and motivation. – 18
o Pure bargaining is a situation in which each party is guided mainly by his expectations of what the other will accept. But the act of being guided by expectations compounds expectations. A bargain is struck with somebody makes a final, sufficient concession. – 21
o Bargaining tactics rest on the paradox that the power to constrain an adversary may depend on the power to bind oneself; that, in bargaining, weakness is often strength, freedom may be freedom to capitulate, and to burn bridges behind one may suffice to undo an opponent. – 22
o Bargaining situations have certain characteristics in common. – 28
§ They clearly depend not only on incurring a commitment but on communicating it persuasively to the other party
§ It is by no means easy to establish the commitment, nor … how strong [it] is
§ Similar activity may be available to the parties on both sides
§ The possibility of commitment … is by no means equally available
§ They all run the risk of establishing an immovable position that … provokes the likelihood of stalemate or breakdown.
· Tacit Agreements - 75
o Tacit agreements or agreements arrived at through partial or haphazard negotiation require terms that are qualitatively distinguishable from the alternatives and cannot simply be a matter of degree.
o When agreement must be reached with incomplete communication, the participants must be ready to allow the situation itself to exercise substantial constraint over the outcome.
Day 11: Robert Pape, Bombing to WinEdit
Context: Assistant professor of gov’t at Dartmouth & founding SAASS faculty member.
Thesis - Two main points:
a. Punishment doesn’t work. Denial is much more effective.
b. Know your mechanism for political effect you’re trying to achieve.
· Coercion: “efforts to change the behavior of a state by manipulating costs and benefits” (4)
o tries to achieve the same goal as fighting a war via brute force but at less cost to both sides
· Deterrence: “maintain the status quo by discouraging an opponent from changing its behavior” (4)
· 2 fundamental types of coercion: punishment & denial (punishment raises costs or risks to civilian populations; denial uses military means to prevent the target from attaining its goal)
· Punishment strategies try to raise costs of continued resistance (18) [but possible Pearl Harbor effect]
· Risk strategies (forms of punishment) try to slowly raise probability of suffering costs (best for nukes)
· Denial strategies (best overall in his opinion) try to reduce prob. that resistance will yield benefits by making enemy’s strategy futile (impossible to manipulate enemy’s val. of continued resistance)
· Decapitation strategies seek punishment & denial effects by destroying crucial leadership/com targets
· Combat vs. strategic effectiveness (efficiently destroying target vs. linkage to attaining political goals)
· Must account for linkages in means-to-ends chain: force 'à' targets 'à' mechanism 'à' political change
· Strategic bombing doesn’t work but still around because (326):
- Serves the bureaucratic reasons of air forces
- Desire for cheap easy solutions
- Ignorance of policy makers by enthusiasm of bombing advocates
- Deliberate obfuscation (confusion) of bombing’s brutality
· Japan: naval & land power/tactical air mattered most. Strat. bombing & nukes not decisive! (136)
o Soviet attack on Manchuria scared Japanese that their homeland could not be protected
o Pape is correct, but he underplays the importance of strategic bombing. All these elements, in concert, caused the defeat. Do not think that the atomic bomb or strategic bombing unilaterally defeated Japan.
· Korea: mixture of conventional & nuclear coercion by pressuring the Chinese to withdraw NK support
o nuclear deterrence worked in ’53, not ’51 because Soviets wouldn’t intervene later
· Vietnam: American leaders incorrectly linked military action with enemy’s goals (coercion infeasible)
o we could never effectively target jungle trails & roads
· Iraq, 1991: decapitation strategy seductive & ineffective (need great intel, small tgt set, linkage issues)
· Germany ’42-45’: blockade from air didn’t bring economic collapse, oil shortages not critical
· Strategic bombing doesn’t work because: 1) punishment doesn’t work—high pain thresholds, 2) risk doesn’t work—see 1 (except nuclear coercion), 3) decapitation doesn’t work—leaders hard to kill/short disruptions, 4) denial can work—very difficult to eliminate production of crucial items (317)
· Strat. bombing only matters in long wars of attrition decided by material superiority
· Theater air power combined with ground power is stronger coercive tool (PGMs better used for this)
· Should focus on destroying enemy armies from air- obviously contradicts Warden.
· Threats to civilians wasteful & immoral
· Ensure mechanisms (popular revolt, coup, social disintegration, strategic paralysis, thwarting enemy military strategy) lead to the desired political change (328)
· Know popular arguments by opponents of strategic airpower (even former SAASS instructors) if you want to logically defend it
Pape provides a great example of how to structure and support an academic argument. The critical failing of Pape is that he analyzes the coercive effect of airpower in a vacuum and it can not be purely isolated from exogenous factors. Punishment, Risk, Denial, and Decapitation are effective subcomponents for defining the different coercion strategies. The best critique of Pape is the following summary.
- Day 12: Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation; Mancur Olsen, The Logic of Collective ActionEdit
Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation' 'Thesis: Today nations interact without central authority. Therefore the requirements for the emergence of cooperation have relevance to many of the central issues of international politics. The most important problem is the security dilemma: nations often seek their own security through means which challenge the security of others. The object of this book is to develop a theory of cooperation that can be used to discover what is necessary for cooperation to emerge.'
'Implications for Strategy'
· A nation may act in part out of regard for the interests of its friends, but this regard does not mean that even friendly countries are always able to cooperate for their mutual benefit. -7
· The evolution of cooperation requires that individuals have a sufficiently large chance to meet again so that they have a stake in their future interaction. Hence, cooperation evolves in 3 stages… – 20
o Cooperation evolves from small clusters of individuals who base their cooperation on reciprocity and have even a small proportion of their interactions with each other.
o Strategy based on reciprocity can thrive in a world where many different kinds of strategies are being tried.
o Once cooperation is established on the basis of reciprocity, it can protect itself from invasion by less cooperative strategies.
· Consequences of social structure:
o Labels - Placing a predetermined label on a given group affects negotiation. If you believe all blue members are mean you will treat them meanly. Yet, you will treat similar members to yourself nice. - 148
§ Consequence 1: Everyone is doing worse than necessary because there is not mutual cooperation between the groups
§ Consequence 2: Minority group will suffer worse.
o Reputation – typically established through observing the action of that player when interacting with other players. - 150
§ Knowing people’s reputations gives you some idea about what strategy they may use before you make your first choice.
§ The best reputation to have is of being a bully. The best bully is the one that squeezes out the most of other players without tolerating any defections at all.
§ The best way to encourage cooperation from the other is to be known as someone who will never cooperate again if the other defects even once.
'§ Once purpose of having a reputation is to enable you to achieve deterrence by means of a credible threat.'
o Regulation – even the most powerful government cannot enforce any rule it chooses. It must elicit compliance from the majority governed by setting and enforcing rules so that it pays for most of the governed to obey most of the time. - 155
o Territoriality – It is at least as easy for a strategy to protect itself from a takeover in a territorial structure as in a nonterritorial structure. – 159
· The evolutionary approach to cooperation is simple: whatever is successful is likely to appear more often in the future. – 169
· For cooperation to prove stable, the future must have a sufficiently large shadow. This means that the importance of the next encounter between the same two individuals must be great enough to make defection an unprofitable strategy when the other player is provocable. – 174
'Olsen, The Logic of Collective Action'
(review by Earl Latham, Amherst College) Olson is dissatisfied with the study of groups by political scientists and proposes an approach of his own. There are, of course, many separate studies of special groups (mainly, but not only by political scientists); there have been studies of bureaucratic organization; and there have been directories of lobbies and other organizations with the names and numbers of all the players in the business of representing special interests. The trouble with preceding works about the behavior of groups is the assumption they make that groups of individuals with common interests will act on behalf of their common interests much as single individuals are expected to act on behalf of their personal interests; and Olson cites Laski and Aristotle (in that order) for the proposition that organizations exist to serve the common purposes of their members. Although these are propositions of the most innocent vacuity, Olson reads the writ against the author as though he were foreclosing a mortgage. There are, he says, "individual" interests which are different from the common interest, and the two are not always the same, a hallowed dictum that has been starting fires since the time of Antigone.
To Olson, the combination of individual interests and common interests suggests an analogy to the competitive market, and his book is an explication of the analogy. In the market, most fundamental services like higher prices-are available to everyone. These common and collective benefits are called "public goods." The structure of the market is perceived in three forms: monopoly, oligopoly, and atomistic competition, and the analogue of monopoly among non-market groups is the single individual outside the market seeking some collective good, some good without external economies or diseconomies. In the size range that correspondsw ith oligopoly in market groups, there are two kinds of nonmarketgroups: the "privileged" and the "intermediate." The privileged group is such that each of its members, or one of them, has an incentive to see that the collective good is provided even if he has to bear the full burden of providing it himself (p. 50). In such a group there is no need for organization or coordination.
An intermediate group is one in which no member gets a share of the benefit sufficient to give him an incentive to provide the good himself, but which does not have so many members that no one member will notice whether any other member is or is not helping to provide the collective good. In such a group, no collective good may ever be attained without some group coordination or organization. The analogue to atomistic competition in the non-market situation is the very large group in which no one member can make a noticeable contribution to any group effort, and no one therefore has any spontaneous or autochthonous reason to contribute. Only a separate and selective incentive will stimulate a rational individual in such a group to act in a group-oriented way. These separate incentives may be negative or positive, coercions that punish or goodies that reward. Since such a group -called "latent"-is, by definition, inert, one which has been led to act in the group interest through carrot or cudgel is called a "mobilized" latent group.
In this exercise in social morphology, these phyla have instrumental properties. Small groups act, or at least most of the members do. Most of the members of large groups do not act without selective incentives. Consider the labor unions. They are large because of the coercion of compulsory membership and job control. How about the Marxian apocalypse? It lacks credibility because class-oriented action will not occur if the members who make up the class act rationally. Self-interest will keep them from investing their energy and other assets in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, the presumed public good, because if it is ever overthrown, they will benefit anyway. What about lobbies? The lobbies of large economic groups are the by-products of organizations that have the capacity to "mobilize" a latent group with "selective incentives," that is, either coercion or the proffer of positive inducements. A theory of "special interests" accounts for the small pressure groups.
What is offered as a general theory of groups does not, as Olson admits, work very well for non-economic groups (p. :6i). In fact, he thinks that psychology or social psychology probably provides better explanations than economics for what goes on in the universe of noneconomic groups. One difficulty in judging the virtue of this disclaimer is that the author never really indicates what a group is. The word is synonymous with organization (p. 5), with associations (p. 6), with the "state" (pp. 7, 12), the firm (pp. 36-37), the family (p. i8), labor unions (p. 66), and so on. All the substantive richness of group relationsfathers and sons, Guelphs and Ghibellines, vassals, lords, and priests, kings and catechumens, sanitation districts and Cosa Nostra, rotten boroughs, the Julians and the Flavians, New Englanders and Little Englanders, the Hanseatic League and the Little League, and a myriad others-all this diversity is leached, bleached, washed, and rinsed out in the simple taxonomy that Olson uses, which is size. But even if one uses this simple variable (p. 43), the residue has a specious specificity, for we never find out what is big and what is small. Logic is assumed to be the governing principle of the categories Olson uses, but it is logically conceivable that some group of, say, fifty thousand is such that any member will know whether any other member is contributing to the collective good, which would make it a small one or one of intermediate size, instead of the large group that common sense says it is. The distinction between logic and experience is not always as carefully observed by Olson as Justice Holmes once thought it ought to be.
There is a wonderful actor in the book, a favorite of Olson's and of workers with game theory-the Rational Man-whose goal is the maximizing of the expected value of some utility function within a set of pre-determinedc onditions. When he is in a small group, he works as hard as though he were alone, if he thinks that he has something personal to gain. When he is a member of an intermediate group, he contributes to the production of collective goods only because everyone else is watching him. When he is a member of a large group, he shirks his contribution to the production of collective goods unless someone pushes him around or he figures that there is something special in it for him.
Surely this is an incomplete psychology, even for economic analysis. If the domestic life of the Rational Man were fully described, it would doubtless be found that he saves the cost of rubbish collections by surreptitiously placing wrapped trash in the refuse cans of the local supermarket. If he ever marries-which he may find it unecomonic to do he deserves to become the subject of a play by Edward Albee.
Space limitations make it impossible to do Olson's interesting book real justice. It has already been indicated that it should not be accepted uncritically, but it takes a whole fire department o get a cat out of a tree and it would take many pages to instruct the reader in the misgivings that a political scientist feels about the work under review. Even with these misgivings, it may be said that the author imparts fresh sense to tired words like "genuine contribution" in his study of groups in the processes of politics and economics, and it should be taken seriously by all who take this study seriously.
Day 13: Peter Feaver, Armed ServantsEdit
(review by James Burk, Texas A&M University) Since it was published in 1957, Samuel P. Huntington's Soldier and the State has been among the most important theories of civil-military relations, influential among academics, military professionals, and government officials in the United States and beyond. Its major claims are still familiar. Democratic societies face a dilemma: they require a strong military to meet external security threats (the functional imperative), and yet a strong military may become an internal threat to the liberal values modern democracies attempt to uphold (the societal imperative). To prevail in the prolonged conflict of the Cold War, Huntington thought the right way to resolve the dilemma was through a system of objective civilian control over the military. Under this system, civilian political leaders would determine what the military was to do, but allow military professionals autonomy to determine how best to do it. To establish this system successfully, however, required that civilians move away from their liberal ideology to adopt a conservative one, more supportive of the military as a social institution.
In recent years, students of civil-military relations have become ever more critical of Huntington's theory, though none has been able to offer a coherent and systematic alternative conceptualization of the problem powerful enough to displace it—that is, until now.
In this work, Feaver offers a compelling critique of Huntington's theory in the context of offering his own "agency theory" to model various possible relations of civilian control over the military. The model assumes that democracy requires civilian control of the military, even when civilians are wrong. Civilians have the right to be wrong, Feaver reminds us repeatedly. Following this assumption, civilians are the "principals" in the model who hire military professionals as their "agents" to prosecute their military security policy. As in any principal/agent relation, civilians face the problem that the military may not faithfully do what they ask, forcing them to consider how intrusively they must monitor the military's activities to ensure they comply with their wishes. For their part, as the agent, military professionals must decide whether they will do what their principal directs (work) or do what they prefer (shirk). Shirking is not to be confused with idleness. It is rather acting in a way to ensure that the agent's policy preferences are implemented instead of the principal's preferences. Of course such activity is liable to be punished by the principal, and a key consideration affecting the likelihood of shirking is how probable the military believe it is that they will be punished if they do it.
Using this basic logic, Feaver identifies six possible logical outcomes based on decisions (by principals) to monitor the military intrusively or not, (by agents) to work or shirk, and then (by principals) to punish the military or not when shirking occurs. What determines whether one outcome or another is reached is the interaction among a limited set of variables whose values are exogenous to the model: (1) the changing costs of monitoring, (2) the extent of the differences in policy preferences between civilians and the military, and (3) the probability that shirking will be punished. The resulting model turns out to provide a surprisingly powerful interpretive tool for explaining changingpatterns of civilian control over the military from the Cold War to the present.
Feaver demonstrates this power in four ways. First, he dissects Huntington's theory of civil-military relations and its prescription that, to prevail in the Cold War, the United States had to adopt objective civilian control based on a conservative ideological turn. In the formal terms of agency theory, Huntington expected a narrow gap between civilian and military policy preferences as civilians changed their preferences to match those of the military. Under these conditions, civilian control could operate with nonintrusive monitoring, confident that the military would work. Feaver documents that this model outcome did not occur as Huntington thought and yet, nonetheless, the United States prevailed in the Cold War.
Second, based on a history of Cold War civil-military relations, Feaver shows that in fact the gap between civilian and military preferences was wide throughout the Cold War, while the costs of monitoring declined and the probability of punishment for shirking was high (exemplified by Truman firing MacArthur). Under these conditions, as agency theory expects, civilian monitoring of the military was intrusive and military compliance with civilian preferences (working) was high. This helps explain why the U.S. prevailed in the Cold War without following Huntington's prescriptions.
Next, Feaver uses the model to explain the "crisis" of civil-military relations that erupted in the U.S. in the decade following the Cold War. During that period, the gap between civilian and military preferences remained wide (and in some respects widened) and the costs of monitoring were still low and declining; but the probability of punishment for military shirking also declined (though punishment did not disappear altogether). The details that explain why expectations of punishment declined cannot be rehearsed here; they include, but also go beyond, Clinton's weaknesses as commander-in-chief. But the effect as expected by agency theory was to push the pattern of civilian control away from intrusive monitoring with working toward a pattern of intrusive monitoring with shirking—a crisis in civil-military control.
Finally, Feaver shows how agency theory helps explain what he calls the "tangled mess" of decisions to use force in the post-Cold War era. The contribution here is to show that the decision to work or shirk is not really an either-or proposition; there is rather substantial variation in the degree and modes of shirking or, perhaps it would be better to say, in the balance between working and shirking.
There are certain to be objections to Feaver's theory. Some will object to his reading of the evidence. As Feaver well knows, evidence to document the values of his variables is not always easy to find or, once found, conclusive. Others will object that civilians and military professionals do not act solely as rational and self-interested or as unitary actors. To this objection, Feaver reasonably responds that the rationalist and unitary assumptions provide a benchmark from which we might measure the influence of normative commitments or effects stemming from multiple-principal or multiple-agent problems. How to do this, he does not say.
Lastly, Feaver does not always make clear that his is a circumscribed theory of control. It fits within, but does not exhaust, the domain of democratic civil-military relations. Surely military obedience to civilian masters is a necessary condition for democracy (as it may be for authoritarian regimes as well). Yet democracy requires more from civilmilitary relations than military obedience. It was, for instance, good for democracy that the military followed President Polk's orders in 1846 to act in a way that provoked war with Mexico. But it was a crisis for democratic civil-military relations that the president aroused the country to war with Mexico on the basis of false information, as Abraham Lincoln (among others) was convinced President Polk had done. The glare of agency theory's effective modeling of relations of control should not blind us to the fact that there remains a great deal else in the field besides.
Nevertheless, none of these objections points to flaws in agency theory. More simply, they indicate a continuing need for theoretical development and empirical research into relations of control and into the connections between effective civilian control and other aspects of civil-military relations. Overall, Feaver's agency theory marks a great advance in the conceptualization of relations of control by civilians over the military. It provides the most sophisticated and best-supported explanation we have of how civilians control or fail to control their militaries. It is certainly broader and more compelling than Huntington's theory, which has at last found a worthy successor.