Lecture Four Power in International Politics

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Power in International Politics: 

Power in International Politics State Power/Power Politics Balance of Power International Systems

Key Concepts: 

Key Concepts Anarchy and self-help. The security dilemma. Security dilemma within a society of states. Power Politics: whereas power is unequally distributed, each state must provide its own security, and whereas one state’s security is another’s threat, states continually vie for power to be secure. PP includes diplomacy, alliance, BoP, War, Peace, even IL and IO. Primacy is Power.

Types of State Power: 

Types of State Power The form of PP changes, but the nature of state relations remains the same. Great Powers have five features. (Roman, Napoleonic, British empires, USA/USSR post 1945). Middle Powers: GPs value its resources, strategic position and military value added. (Regional MPs: France, Indonesia). Small Powers: do not affect BoP (Netherlands), are most insecure, can be flashpoints (Israel).

Nature of GP Power Politics: 

Nature of GP Power Politics Status Quo vs. Revolutionary GP’s. Tools: national power, alliances, diplomacy. (Classical vs. Cold War: Structural Realism {K. Waltz}) GPs may seek concert for world domination. GP may seek universal empire. Former GPs may be submerged in power structure of supplanter: Holland-England, A-H Empire-Germany, UK-US, ?USA-China?

End of Part I: 

End of Part I

Balance of Power: various meanings: 

Balance of Power: various meanings Historical/descriptive assessment of power. BoP not as conscious state policy but as a function of systems equilibrium. Grotian (Liberal) Balance: enlightened self-interest makes near equilibrium a founding principle of the society of states (eg: Concert of Europe), used to limit conflict, grant compensation, and avert hegemony, eventually overcome war. Machiavellian Balance: BoP is inevitable. States only have permanent interests: maintaining the scales in their favour. BoP is inherently unstable. Immanuel Kant: reject ‘the power trap’, both as practice and as prescription.

Realist Rules for BoP: 

Realist Rules for BoP Always increase capabilities, but choose diplomacy over war. (Morton Kaplan) War rather than a loss in capabilities. Oppose preponderance by one GP. Avoid uncertainty of eliminating other GPs (Versailles, Gulf 1991) or allowing a new order not based on Power Politics.

Preponderance rather than Balance: 

Preponderance rather than Balance Preponderance of Power school of thought. (balances are unstable, benevolent hegemony is better {Cold War}, war is likely when hegemon declines or challenger closes the gap). Hegemonic stability theory: hegemon underwrites rules of trade and diplomacy which creates stability Declining hegemons/stability causes war or systems change

International Systems: 

International Systems The type of configuration of power in a time and geographical framework. Holsti’s five IS aspects: boundary, units, interaction, norms, structure. Structure: number of GPs, nature of their power, alliances. Neo-realism (K. Waltz) makes int’l structure the key explanation of all international politics.

Types of Structure: 

Types of Structure Unipolar (tether pole). National or bloc power: Roman Empire. Multipolar (merry-go-round). National power and alliances. (1648-1814 Europe), South Asia today. Bipolar (see-saw). National power and alliance blocs. Triple Alliance {Ge, It, A-H, 1882) and Triple Entente {Eng-Fr-Rus. 1907}, and Cold War. Each has its own type of dominant security problem: challenger/assimilation; shifting alliances; escalation/zero-sum conflict

Conflict Potential and Risk calculation: 

Conflict Potential and Risk calculation Deutsch and Singer definition of stability (no dominant, all GPs remain, no large-scale war) Multipolar: potentially many conflicts, but also countervailing alliances and BoP holder. Bipolar: potential zero-sum and high risk of escalation, but more political control.(offset by ideology and MAD) Structure of IS is also contextual: rules of war and diplomacy change.

Today’s International System: 

Today’s International System Boundaries: global strong points Units: democracies vs. the rest Interaction: eco, pol, mil, cult. Structure: unipolar and multipolar mixed.

Complicating Factors: 

Complicating Factors Non-state actors and intrastate wars. Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Trade blocs vs. WTO USA is not a traditional empire. It is a mixture of: primus inter pares, benevolent hegemon, globocop, and traditional GP. ‘Triumph’ of Liberalism and instant communication challenges legitimacy of national interest and possibility of limited war.


Conclusion Does the end of territorial aggrandizement mean the end of GP Power Politics? Does the presence of Nuclear Weapons mean the end of GP Power Politics? Does Globalization? Can regional or global organization (NATO/UN) prevent/overcome GP politics? Each GP has its own power and normative context. Today’s Power Politics: The Role of one Hyper Power.

Future System Watch: 

Future System Watch Will a multipolar MAD be as stable as the Cold War MAD? Will missile defence replace deterrence? Will WMD replace Nuclear Weapons? Will rigid trade blocs emerge from globalization? Will the state system weaken from quasi states and global economics? Will civilization/religion clashes replace inter-state war?

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