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International Relations History

Order and Change in Global Politics: Assessing the “Return of Geopolitics”

Hegel with Students. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by e-International Relations on 4 November, 2014.

The unfolding global international predicament, with a crescendo of tensions in recent months, has prompted a more upfront reflection on the kind of international order currently prevalent and what future order appears as desirable.

Contours of the Debate

In a piece published by Foreign Affairs entitled “The Return of Geopolitics: the Revenge of the Revisionist Powers,” Walter R. Mead (Mead, 2014) has articulated the view that, after a long interval following the end of the Cold War, the post-historical condition described by Francis Fukuyama in his famous book The End of History and the Last Man (Fukuyama, 1992) may be over for good. That post-historical condition entailed the dissolution of all major ideological conflicts, and consequently of major geopolitical struggles for the control of the planet, as mankind stepped firmly and irreversibly on the path of liberal representative democracy and free market capitalism. Professor Mead argues that both Russia and China, the two large illiberal powers, are now “pushing back against the political settlement of the Cold War.” Consequently, a new confrontation between great powers is looming, in the pretty familiar fashion of conflict over land, sea lanes, the control of continental masses and possibly the oceans. Russia and China are depicted as revisionist powers, whose march towards the final stage of liberal democracy and capitalistic economy can be long and tortuous, while in the meantime “such figures as Putin still stride the world stage.”

Categories
Conflict Gender CSS Blog

Mediation Perspectives: Fighting ‘Feminist Fatigue’

Photo: Nancy Pelosi/flickr

Despite decades of advocacy, why are women still so poorly represented at the peace table? In 2012, UN Women reported that women accounted for just four per cent of participants in 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011. Why is this number so low despite international mechanisms like United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women?

A partial answer to this question may be found in the shortcomings of certain approaches to promoting women’s rights.  In particular, the effectiveness of some strands of academic and policy literature on women, peace and security (WPS), and related advocacy campaigns that push for greater representation and participation of women at the peace table, can be questioned.

Categories
International Relations

Morgenthau, on Diplomacy

Diplomacy
Photo: Pat Guiney/flickr.

Since late January, I’ve had the privilege of teaching the introductory International Politics class at Haverford College just outside of Philadelphia. One of the benefits of teaching bright undergraduates (mainly freshmen and sophomores) is that they come to the study of international relations from such a different perspective than my own that classroom interactions are often interesting and thought-provoking. The other major benefit is the opportunity that it has provided for me to go back and re-read some international relations classics.

As WOTR [War On The Rocks] is a den of realists, I thought I would go back to the roots of modern realism and examine one aspect of Hans J. Morgenthau’s magnum opus Politics Among Nations: diplomacy.  For many, this book encapsulates and defines many of the core premises of realism. While dismissed as being too normatively prescriptive by some, it is still a useful primer. This is a particularly important topic today while the U.S. is recalibrating its instruments of power (mainly by decreasing them) and global commitments and particularly operating in a world that is teeming with geopoliticians such as Vladimir Putin and Bashar Assad who seem quite willing to push back against America’s global interests.

For Morgenthau, diplomacy must:

Categories
International Relations Security History

1914 Revisited?

Photo: greatwar.nl/Wikimedia Commons

CAMBRIDGE – This year marks the hundredth anniversary of a transformative event of modern history. World War I killed some 20 million people and ground up a generation of Europe’s youth. It also fundamentally changed the international order in Europe and beyond.

Indeed, WWI destroyed not only lives, but also three empires in Europe – those of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia – and, with the collapse of Ottoman rule, a fourth on its fringe. Until the Great War, the global balance of power was centered in Europe; after it, the United States and Japan emerged as great powers. The war also ushered in the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, prepared the way for fascism, and intensified and broadened the ideological battles that wracked the twentieth century.

How could such a catastrophe happen? Shortly after the war broke out, when German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg was asked to explain what happened, he answered, “Oh, if I only knew!” Perhaps in the interest of self-exoneration, he came to regard the war as inevitable. Similarly, the British Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, argued that he had “come to think that no human individual could have prevented it.”

Categories
International Relations Conflict

Interview – James Fearon

Azaz, Syria during the Syrian Civil War
Azaz, Syria during the Syrian Civil War. Photo: Voice of America News: Scott Bob/Wikimedia Commons.

James D. Fearon is Geballe Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences at Stanford University and a Senior Fellow in Stanford’s Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies.  He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a program member of the Institutions, Organizations, and Growth group of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  Fearon’s research has focused on the causes and correlates of interstate war, civil war, and ethnic conflict.  He has also published on positive theories of democracy, the problem of intervention in “failed” states, and on how states signal intentions in militarized interstate disputes.

In this interview, Professor Fearon discusses responses to the civil war in Syria and offers his thoughts on the passing of Ken Waltz and the academic study of civil wars.

Kenneth Waltz sadly passed away recently. What impact did Prof. Waltz’s writings and teaching have on your intellectual development?

I hadn’t majored in Political Science as an undergraduate, and was pretty clueless about the field when I started as a grad student at Berkeley.  There were a couple of things I read in my first year that essentially decided my path of study, and Waltz’s Theory of International Politics was one of them.  I found his writing and style of thinking really compelling.