FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On the Dangers of Half-Hearted IR Policy Implementation

BONUS LINK:  My entire (so far) grad school notes collection can be found here. 

On the Dangers of Half-Hearted IR Policy Implementation- A Historical Example    

   The post-WWI isolationist Congress’ handcuffing of Wilson’s idealism/liberalism and aspirations for a “community of power,” illustrates well the dangers of half-heartedly attempting to implement any sole international relations theory.  From the onset, the absence of crucial members sapped the power of the League of Nations; this weakness was further amplified by the lack of any concrete means to enforce its charter.  Finally, the League’s impotence was fully realized in the flawed policy of appeasement that grew from it.  The most obvious counterfactual to first explore then is: How effective would the League have been with the membership and the U.S., Germany and Japan?  
      Even the full-blown implementation of Wilson’s plan, however, likely would have met defeat (at some level) because liberalism (and realism) assume too much about the nature of man (and require every state to buy into the same interpretation).  Liberalism assumes a common value system shared by every person and state, when in reality many states have very different value systems; and it also assumes (and continues to assume) democracy as the best answer.  It was these different value systems that made the effects of appeasement so egregious in the time period leading up to WWII.  In appeasing Germany the aggressor state, the allies ignored the associated territorial and human losses.  While appeasement can be an effective diplomatic tool,[1] its effects can be devastating when the appeased operate on a different value system from the appeasers.  Had the allies operated under the realist assumption of the selfish, dominant nature of man (and by extension state), they never would have trusted the promises of Hitler.  Unfortunately, Hitler demonstrated the power of an unbridled realist, one who forged public opinion to his foreign policy desires, and not the other way around, as was the case with Wilson. 

Questions for further discussion include:
1.  How has the U. S. presidential election cycle (and the equivalent cycle in other democratic states) correlated to significant foreign policy decisions throughout history?
In other words, is decision-making about conflicts arising closer to an election ‘season’ influenced more by public opinion?  To that end, is the influence of public opinion less pronounced on newly elected leaders?
2.  How has the assumption of democracy as a ‘value system’ shaped and continue to shape foreign policy?  Does this assumption affect both realism and liberalism equally?  How does monarchy fit into state-state interactions today?

[1] Nye, Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History (New York, Pearson Longman, 2009), 111.

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