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Approaches to



Theory is essential in every discipline for an understanding of phenom­ena, for thinking about their interrelatedness, for guiding research, and­to mention a more immediately useful objective in the social sciences for recommending sound policy action. Biological, chemical, and other scien­tists require adequate theories to provide purposeful direction to their work in seeking cures for diseases such as cancer. No less important are theoretical designs in the much older quest for a solution to what is gener­ally regarded as the central problem of international relations that of preventing war while at the same time enabling societies to preserve their finest and most cherished values. The international relations theorist re­jects the tendency to substitute for careful analysis such superficial bumper sticker slogans as "Make love, not war." A doctrine of universal love, if practiced universally, would indeed probably usher in an era of peace on earth, but such a doctrine does not seem about to be embraced by the bulk of humankind. Those who feel obliged whether as political executives, legislators, economic decision makers, advisers, diplomats, scholars, teachers, journalists, or voters to take a responsible approach to international affairs must go beyond ephemeral opinions and shibboleths to a systematic study of the global system. Anyone who tries to make some sense out of the apparent incoherence of the world scene, so that discrete events, instead of being purely random, can be explained within an or­derly, intelligible pattern, is a theorist at heart.


Efforts at theorizing about the nature of interstate relations are quite old; some in fact go back to ancient times in India, China, and Greece. Although Plato's and Aristotle's reflections on the subject are quite sketchy, the ancient Greek historian Thucydides' History of the Peloponnesian War is a classic treatise that any student of international relations can still read profitably.' Machiavelli's The Prince, a harbinger of modern analysis of power and the state system, emphasized a "value free" science of foreign policymaking and statecraft.2 Dante's De Monarchia became one of the first and most powerful appeals in Western political literature for an international organization capable of enforcing the peace.' Other early proponents of a confederation or league of nation states were Pierre Dubois (French lawyer and political pamphleteer of the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries), Emeric Cruce (French monk of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries), the Due de Sully (minister of France's Henry IV), William Penn, Abbe de Saint Pierre (French publicist and theoretical reformer of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries), Jean Jacques Rousseau, Jeremy Bentham, and Immanuel Kant.

Despite these classical writings, no systematic development comparable to that in internal political theories of the state occurred in international theory before World War I. Martin Wight has noted that if by "international theory" we mean a "tradition of speculation about relations between states, a tradition imagined as the twin of speculation about the State to which the name `political theory' is appropriated," such a tradition does not exists Wight suggests that one explanation for this absence is that since Grotius (1583 1645), the Dutch jurist and statesman, and Pufendorf (1632 1694), the German jurist and historian, nearly all speculation about the international community fell under the heading of international law. He notes that most writing on interstate relations before this century was contained in the political literature of the peace writers cited above, buried in the works of historians, cloistered in the peripheral reflections of philosophers, or harbored in speeches, dispatches, and memoirs of statesmen and diplomats. Wight concludes that in the classical political tradition, "international theory, or what there is of it, is scattered, unsystematic, and mostly inaccessible to the layman," as well as being "largely repellent and intractable in form.  6 The only theory that infused the thinking of the period and it was a theory somewhat dearer to practicing diplomats than to academicians was that of the balance of power. In. deed, it was a collection of what seemed to be commonsense axioms rather than a rigorous theory.

The period of European history from 1648 to 1914 constituted the golden age of diplomacy, the balance of power, alliances, and international law. Nearly all political thought focused on the sovereign nation state The origins, functions, and limitations of governmental powers, the rights of individuals within the state, the requirements of order, and the imperatives of national self determination and independence. The economic order was presumed simplistically to be separate from the political and domestic politics derived from the statecraft of diplomacy. Governments were expected to promote and protect trade, but not to regulate it. Various branches of socialist thinking sought to strike out in new directions, but socialists, despite their professed internationalism, did not really produce a coherent international theory. They advanced a theory of imperialism borrowed largely from John A. Hobson (1858 1940), the British economist, and thus derivative from an economic theory indigenous to the capitalist states.' Until 1914, international theorists almost uniformly assumed that the structure of international society was unalterable, and that the division of the world into sovereign states was necessary and natural." The study of international relations consisted almost entirely of diplomatic history and international law, rather than of investigation into the processes of the international system.


Some impetus to the serious study of international relations in this country came when the United States emerged as a world power, but ambiguities in American foreign policy, combined with the trend toward isolationism during the 1920s and 1930s, hindered the development of international relations as an intellectual discipline. A dichotomy developed between intellectual idealists who shared Woodrow Wilson's vision of the League of Nations and politicians who, feeling pressures for a "return to normalcy," blocked United States entry into the world organization. Americans demanded a moral and peaceful world order, but they were unwilling to pay the price. This dichotomy between noble impulses and tendencies toward isolationism was clearly reflected in the Kellogg Briand Treaty of 1928, which "outlawed" war by moralistic declaration but provided no adequate means of enforcement.

For a decade or more after Versailles, the two most popular approaches to teaching world affairs in American universities included courses in current events and courses in international law and organization. Current events courses were designed more to promote international understanding than to apply social science methodologies to good advantage.'° Courses in international law emphasized discrepancies between the formal obligations of states (especially League members) and their actual conduct in an era of struggle between powers anxious to preserve the international status quo and those determined to overturn it.

Whereas some English and American scholars in the period between the two world wars focused on the study of international law and organization, others looked for more dynamic, comprehensive evaluations of force and events in interstate relations. Leading diplomatic historians searcher for the "causes" or "origins" of the Great War of 1914 1918.'2 Othe historians explored the phenomenon of nationalism, long regarded (up t today) as the most potent political force in the modern world despite th advent of universalist ideologies. 13 Specialized writings appeared in se' eral areas problems of security, war, and disarmament;" imperialism;' diplomacy and negotiation; 16 the balance of power;'' the geographic aspects of world power (which built on the work of Alfred Thayer Mahal and Sir Halford Mackinder, treated in Chapter 2);11 the history of international relations theory;l9 and economic factors in international relations.2 For example, Sir Norman Angell, one of the most prolific British writer of his time and the recipient of the 1933 Nobel Peace Prize, suggested tha war between highly industrialized states was a futile exercise because fre, trade had given rise to unprecedented interdependence, which in turf made international cooperation essential to their individual and collectiv, well being. A number of partial theories were in the process of bein, developed. Several of these later became elements of more comprehen sive efforts toward synthesis after World War 11.
E. H. Carr and the Crisis of World Politics
By the 1930s there was a growing recognition among international relations teachers of the gap between the "utopians" and the "realists." Th( academic climate after World War I made it conducive for utopians ti concern themselves with the means of preventing another war. Consequently, this task spurred the serious study of international relations. No scholars in that period more trenchantly analyzed the philosophical differences between utopians and realists than did Edward Hallett Carr it his celebrated work ,21 which, although published in 1939, did not have it impact in America until after World War 11. Most of the following comparative analysis draws heavily from that work.

Carr saw the utopians, for the most part, as intellectual descendant of eighteenth century Enlightenment optimism, nineteenth century lib eralism, and twentieth century Wilsonian idealism. Utopianism is closely associated with a distinctly Anglo American tendency to assume tha statesmen enjoy broad freedom of choice in the making of foreign policy.22 Marred by a certain self righteousness, the utopians clung to the belief that the United States had entered World War I as a disinterested even reluctant, champion of international morality. Emphasizing how people ought to behave in their international relationships rather that how they actually behave, the American utopians disdained balance of power politics (historically identified with Europe), national armaments the use of force in international affairs, and the secret treaties of alliance that preceded World War 1. Instead, they stressed international legal rights and obligations, the natural harmony of national interests reminis­cent of Adam Smith's "invisible hand” as a regulator for the preserva­tion of international peace, a heavy reliance upon reason in human affairs, and confidence in the peace building function of the "world court of public opinion." (The utopians, of course, might argue that the balance of power itself corresponded to the "unseen hand" that had been discredited in their view.)

Utopianism in international relations theory is based on the assump­tion, drawn from the eighteenth century Enlightenment, that environing circumstances shape human conduct and that such factors can be altered as a basis for transforming human behavior. In sharp contrast to realist theory, to be discussed in Chapter 3, utopianism holds that humankind is perfectible, or at least capable of improvement. At the international level, the political environment can be transformed by the development of new institutions such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. By the establishment of norms of conduct, political behavior can be changed. Once such standards are set forth, it will be possible to create educated electorates and leadership capable of accepting them. It is assumed that enlightened public opinion can be expected to make rational decisions. Central to utopian theory, moreover, was the assumption of a harmony of interest in peace at the level of the collectivity, or nation state, based on the interest of the individual in a peaceful world. The highest interest of the individual coincides with that of the larger community. If states have not embraced peace, it is because the leadership has not been responsive to the will of the people. An international system based on representative governments (a world made safe for democracy, in the words of Woodrow Wilson) would necessarily be a peaceful world. It is for this reason that a principal tenet of utopian theory was national self determination. If peo­ples are free to select the form of government under which they want to live, they will choose representative forms of rule. The result will be to create the necessary framework for the realization of the harmony of interest in a peaceful world.

Utopianism arose at an initial stage in the development of interna­tional relations theory. In E. H. Carr's words, international relations "took its rise from a great and disastrous war; and the overwhelming purpose which dominated and inspired the pioneers of the new science was to obviate a recurrence of this disease of the international body politic. It was the destructiveness of World War I that had led not only to the quest for international norms and institutions in the form of the League of Nations Covenant and the collective security framework established by its founders. In Carr's perspective, the wish is said to be the father of thought in the sense that an abiding desire to abolish war or to reduce its destruc­tiveness shaped the approach to international relations theory. In this initial stage, purpose, or teleology, "precedes and conditions thought." Therefore, Carr contends, at the beginning of the establishment of a new field of inquiry, "the element of wish or purpose is overwhelmingly strong, and the inclination to analyze facts and means weak or nonexistent."25 Such is the perspective that guided the development of international relations in the decades between the two world wars, especially in the United States but also in Britain. The dominant approach was to embrace what was international and to condemn what was national, and to evaluate events of the day by reference to the extent to which they conformed to the standards established by international legal norms and the League of Nations. There arose a substantial literature, highly normative in content, whose purpose was, as stated in the foreword to one such volume by G. Lowes Dickinson, "to disseminate knowledge of the facts of international relations, and to inculcate the international rather than the nationalistic way of regarding them . . . for the world cannot be saved by governments and governing classes. It can be saved only by the creation, among the peoples of the world, of such a public opinion as cannot be duped by misrepresentation nor misled by passion. In addition to Dickinson, the list of contributors to this utopian literature included Nicholas Murray Butler, James T. Shotwell, Alfred Zimmern, Norman Angell, and Gilbert Murray.

As World War II approached, the gap between utopian theory and the events of the day widened. The failures of the League of Nations in the 1930s cast doubt upon the harmony of interest in peace, which appeared to accord more with the interests of satisfied, status quo powers than with the perceived needs of revisionist states seeking boundary changes, en­hanced status and greater power, and, especially in the case of Nazi Ger­many, revenge for the humiliation of the post World War I settlement imposed by the Versailles Treaty. Contrary to the utopian assumption, national self determination did not always produce representative gov­ernments. Instead, the overthrow of the old monarchical order gave rise in many places, including Russia, to a more pervasive totalitarian state. The world consisted not principally of peace loving states based upon the realization of an international harmony of interest in peace. Instead, in­creasingly the major actors embraced

ideologies such as fascism and com­munism joined, for example, in the infamous Molotov Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, which set the stage for the Nazi invasion of Poland, the outbreak of World War II, the partition of Poland, and the absorption of the Baltic states into the Soviet Union, all in contravention of the standards of international con­duct set forth in utopian theory. Those states that most strongly embodied and were the intellectual centers of utopian theory themselves fell far short of its precepts. The United States had rejected the Wilsonian call for internationalism and had refused to join the League of Nations, reverting instead to isolationism. In Britain the carnage of World War I that had resulted in the loss of much of a generation of manhood spawned a paci­fism whose effect was to restrict greatly any ability to bring necessary force to bear within or outside the League of Nations against expansionist states such as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, as well as Imperial Japan, until the onset of World War II. Such was the international setting that marked the decline of the utopian phase and provided fertile intellectual ground for the reassertion and reformulation of a realist theory of international relations, discussed in Chapter 3.

Realists, in contrast to utopians, stressed power and interest, rather than ideals in international relations. Realism is basically conservative, empirical, prudent, suspicious of idealistic principles, and respectful of the lessons of history. It is more likely to produce a pessimistic than an optimistic view of international politics. Realists regard power as the fundamental concept in the social sciences (such as energy is in physics), although they admit that power relationships are often cloaked in moral and legal terms. Moreover, they criticize the utopian for preferring visionary goals to scientific analysis.

To the realist, appeals to reason and to public opinion had proved woefully weak supports for keeping the peace in the 1930s; for example, they did not save Manchuria and Ethiopia from aggression. Thus, although the idealist hoped for change that might permit disarmament, the realist emphasized national security and the need for military force to support diplomacy.

The argument pitting utopianism against realism is classic. Carr's anal­ysis of this dialectic remains timely: "The inner meaning of the modern international crisis," he contended, "is the collapse of the whole structure of utopianism based on the concept of the harmony of interests. In his view, the international morality of the interwar years merely justified the interests of the dominant English speaking status quo powers, of the satis­fied versus the unsatisfied, of the "haves" versus the "have nots." Carr, a pragmatist, took utopians and realists to task. He saw that whereas the utopians ignore the lessons of history, the realists often read history

pessimistically. Whereas the idealist exaggerates freedom of choice, the realist exaggerates fixed causality and slips into determinism. While the idealist may confuse national self interest with universal moral principles, the realist runs the risk of cynicism and "fails to provide any ground for purposive and meaningful action "21 that is, the realist denies that human thought modifies human action. Purpose precedes observation; the vision of a Plato comes before the analysis of an Aristotle. The vision may even seem totally unrealistic. Carr cites the alchemists who tried to turn lead into gold, noting that when their visionary project failed they began exam­ining "facts" more carefully, thus giving birth to modern science. He concludes that sound political theories contain element realism, of power as well as moral values.

Post World War II Realism
Not surprisingly, World War II and its immediate aftermath shifted Western thinking on international relations further away from the idealism of the early League of Nations period toward an older and resurgent realism,

from law and organization to the elements of power. Even idealistically inclined analysts and there were many who had supported the war effort for reasons of the highest moral idealism became skeptical of utopian programs and called instead for a merger of international law and organization, with effective power to ensure international peace, the security of nations, and the equitable settlement of disputes.

Throughout the post World War II period, the onset of the Cold War and the emergence of the United States as a power with global interests and commitments generated within American universities a heightened interest in the study of international relations. War veterans in college showed a keen concern over "foreign affairs." Under the impact of critical international developments, the United States government greatly expanded its operations in the areas of national military security, alliances and other international organizations, and economic development assistance to foreign countries. All of these operations, of course, increased the need for trained personnel. For the first time, many American businesses became aware of international trade and investment possibilities. Scientists, alarmed at the implications of the new nuclear technology that they had just produced, entered politics as crusading novices, warning of dangers confronting humanity. Civic-minded persons zealously organized councils and associations to educate and exhort in order to make citizens aware of international problems.

Academic scholars in Britain and the United States, the two countries in which the universities had shown most progress in the interwar development of international relations, produced analyses suitable to the postwar reality. Several works published in the late 1940s emphasized the power approach to the study of international relations. One of the more frequently quoted English authors was Martin Wight, who noted that
what distinguishes modern history from medieval history is the predominance of the idea of power over the idea of right; the very term "Power" to describe a state in its international aspect is significant; and the view of the man in the street, who is perhaps inclined to take it for granted that foreign politics are, inevitably "power politics," is not without a shrewd insight.
Another English scholar, Georg Schwarzenberger, analyzed power as a prime factor in international politics. In the absence of genuine international community, he asserted, groups within the international system can be expected to do what they are physically able to do rather than what they are morally exhorted to do. Power, in Schwarzenberger's view, is by no means a wanton, destructive thing. It is a combination of persuasive influence and coercive force, but those who wield power, while maintaining and exhibiting an ability to impose their wills on the noncompliant, normally prefer to achieve their ends merely by posing the threat of effective sanctions, without actually resorting to physical force. The textbooks in international relations published during the first two decades after World World 11 generally recognized "power" as a central concept in the field. The text that had the greatest impact on the university teaching of international relations, that of Hans J. Morgenthau, explained nation state behavior on the basis of national interest (defined in terms of power) as the normal objective pursued by governments when possible. The other important textbooks of that period all devoted on the average at least three chapters to the nature of power and the elements or factors of national power. Most contemporary political scientists and students of international relations continue to distinguish between power and influence, and to regard power as a variable of major importance.

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