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System level analysis

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Gulbahor Saraeva

on 23 January 2018

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Transcript of System level analysis

System level theories
Realist theories
What is the Realist Tradition?

shared view of realist theories:
- anarchy
- focus primarily on states
- states seek to survive
- states pursue their ends in rational manner
- states compete with each other for power or security
- power is at the center of political life
- main issue of political actors (states) acquisition and management of power
- pessimistic view of human condition -> recurring elements of tragedy

Explanatory power of realist theories about causes of war?
Varieties of contemporary realist theory and causes of war

Scholars should test how leader's assessment of power shape their choices about war?
Classical Realism
Structural Realism:
Waltzian Neorealism
Defensive Realism
Offensive Realism
Neoclassical realism
Balance of power Theory
Hegemonic Theories
Power Transition theory
Long Cycle theory
5 Assumptions
possess offensive military capability
no certainty about other states' intentions (states do not know each others intentions with 100 percent confidence)
survival (primary goal), security (primary objective)
states are rational actors (aware of external environment+ think strategically how to survive in it)
fear + self-help = power maximization
reason: it pays to be selfish in self-help world. relative power matters, zero-sum game

pursuit of power stops when hegemony is achieved
balancing vs. buck-passing
defensive - balancing discourages power maximization vs. offensive - the system encourages power maximization for survival
great powers are opportunistic aggressor

Reconciling offensive and defensive realism
source of insecurity in the system
distribution of power
critiques of Waltz
unable to explain international change
provides only general predictions about state behavior
historically inacurate
Waltz helps to legitimate the dangerous discourse of power politics
polarity is difficult for states to manipulate --> does not provide policy-guidance
theory is underspecified - if all seek security no need for conflict, there should be one state that wants to alter the status quo
analysis of the preferences of states and structure of their interactions is absent
too parsimonous
prone to incorrect predictions
Anarchy forces states to worry about security
States balance against each other

--> Waltz - gross distribution of power
--> Defensive realists - fine-grained structure of power (geography and technology)

offense- defense balance (relative ease of difficulty of conquest) determines the intensity of security competition between states
technology, geography make conquest easy, cooperation difficult, states more insecure

-> frequent, intense, extensive competition and war
enhance security through defense posture (signal peaceful inclination)
states are strongly inclined to balance aggressive powers, expansion is difficult and rarely profitable


power is misunderstood
perception of power by decision makers -> cause of aggression
distribution of power -> domestic politics -> foreign policy behavior

State - central apparatus or institutions of government facilitates the ability
-> to assess international threats and opportunities
-> to undertake grand strategic adjustments
-> to implement specific military, diplomatic, and foreign economic policies

Which theory best fits historical record?
there are multiple sources of state behavior and causes of war

absence of central authority in international system (Hobbes and Rousseau - state of nature)

human nature as a source of addressive behavior and war
wars, foreign policy, grand strategies, art of statecraft

No perfect transmission belt linking material capabilities to foreign policy behavior
BOP - i) distribution of power in int. sys, ii) favorable to one's own state, iii) any DoP

Two strategies to prevent hegemonies :
external balancing
(formation of counterbalancing alliances-> block expansion of aggressor, deter potential aggressor from initiating aggressive policies)
internal balancing
(internal mobilization of military power, build up of ec and industrial foundations of military strength)

Strategies and polarity
multipolar system - external balancing , states alliances cheaper
bipolar system - internal balancing , no other states to serve as potential allies
BOP predictions
1. if any state threatens to gain a position of hegemony over the system that would enable it to dominate over others, a balancing coalition of other states will form against it
2. hegemonies rarely if ever form in world politics

counter-hegemonic balancing.
what about balancing against other threats? BOP theorist divided
counterbalancing against an aspiring hegemon or state that already achieved hegemonic position?
BOP works in past int systems, but not contemporary system
Hierarchy and hegemony is more observed in real world
Strong concentrations of power in the hands of a single power in the int system are historically common and stabilizing

Share realist assumptions about the primacy of rational and unitary states and their primary concern with power, but de-emphasize importance of anarchy and emphasize the leading state's management of the system within the hierarchical order

States pay close attention to how power is distributed among them and make special effort to maximize their share of power

States care about relative power

Difficulty in determining how much power is enough for today and tomorrow -> great powers recognize that the best way to ensure their security is to achieve hegemony now -> eliminate any possibility of a challenge by another great power
Modelski: to explain infrequent but intensive global wars recurrence
in an orderly manner
war cycles <-> economic supremacy <-> political aspects of world leadership

1494-1516 (Portugal), 1588-1608 (Netherlands), 1688-1713 and 1792-1815 (Great Britain), 1914-1945 (USA)

Regional-global dissynchronization
- deconcentration of resources and leadership in the global system encourages concentration of power in the regional system and vice versa
twin peaks
- long term economic growth is discontinuous
Three key conditions:
- power shifts
- approximate equality of power
- dissatisfaction with status quo

Power transition theory
- Holds that the largest wars result from challenges to the top position in the status hierarchy, when a rising power is surpassing or threatening to surpass the most powerful state
- Challengers that feel locked out by the old rules may try to change them.
- If a challenger does not start a war to displace the top power, the latter may provoke a “preventive” war to stop the rise of the challenger before it becomes too great a threat.
Are the U.S. and China headed toward a power transition?

Rise and fall of states-> if rising state is dissatisfied with status quo
-> begins to approach the strength of leading
state and threatens to surpass it in the power
One cycle =80-120 years

Anarchy is irrelevant as wars are products of global system cycles

Wars punctuate the movement of the system in regular intervals, part of living process of global polity and social order
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