Recall that the commentary on this topic, broached on Friday, divides into four parts: 1) the divisions within the EU and NATO, and how the Franco-German duo has led to its isolation; 2) a theoretical analysis of the deeper background causes of the divergent views in the EU and NATO over shared security threats and how to deal with them --- especially the role of the US here; 3) the future of the US-European relationship, given these divisions . . . which require bringing in domestic politics, including shared elite mind-sets, national styles in foreign policy, and the impact of public opinion trends; and 4) secondary or phony explanations of the divisions: Bush's personality and style, oil politics, German and French economic interests in Iraq, the UN's role.
We are now just beginning a plunge into Part 2 --- which requires some knowledge of the underlying dynamics of international relations, especially the enduring nature of power politics with a built-in prospect of war. Be patient here. Even those of you who have studied international relations theory might just profit from some reminders. Visiting scholars, by contrast, could just practice some rapid eye movement down the page, maybe while doing some Zen "uummmmh" meditating sounds . . . nothing else. Thanks to this theoretical background, Part 3 --- a more concretely uncoiled argument again --- will enable us to dig deeper about US-European relations, and the growing divisions in Europe themselves over the US global and European roles, with a few predictions thrown in for the future.
SOME IR THEORY: THE STRUCTURAL CAUSES OF THESE CONFLICTING VIEWS OF SECURITY
Realist Views of International Relations
IR Basics: Why Power Politics and War Exist
There are different variants of political realism, but all have a common theoretical core: power politics and the prospect of war between organized territorial groups --- usually, not always, territorial states that we now call nation-states (fairly new in history, only two or three hundred years old, as opposed to monarchical, imperial, or city states . . . occasionally too decentralized feudalism) --- are built into the nature of international life, and for a terse, concrete reason: the leaders, elites, and populations of the world's diverse states and other organized conflict group --- armed ethnic groups, terrorist movements, at time sub-national regions in or near to civil war --- refuse to submit voluntarily to world government.
The result? International relations is politically anarchic: unlike all other political life, it takes place in the absence of legitimate, full institutionalized government that could disarm the existing states and heavily armed conflict groups, maintaining law and order in the ways that stable and effective governments ordinarily
do inside existing territorial states . . . mainly because of largely spontaneous and habitual compliance by the national population with its laws and regulations --- themselves regarded as authoritative, something to be obeyed. Agreed: some key terms here like legitimate and effective and disarm, never mind anarchy, need to be clarified. Be patient. It's a task we'll attend to in a moment or two.
International Anarchy Explained
Right now, focus instead on what ensues from international anarchy, a concept we will clarify right now.
Keep in mind, above all else, that anarchy has a technical meaning: the absence of effective, legitimate, fully institutionalized world government that could maintain law and order and hence general peace among the 6 billion people of the world the way that existing territorial nation-states currently do for tens and hundreds of millions of their citizens --- thanks to their political, administrative, and legal-coercive institutions, the latter meaning the courts and police and compulsory adjudication for criminal behavior. That's the key. What international anarchy does not necessarily mean is that international politics is shot through with disorder and chaos, and a constant warfare between the strong and the strong and over the weak therefore ensues . . . a Hobbesian state-of-nature without institutionalized government, where life is "solitary, lonely, nasty, brutish, and short". Usually, though, --- thanks to empire building historically (itself violent and prolonged at times), and more recently in the Westphalian system of sovereign independent states now enshrined in the UN as the fundamental principle of international order (itself a testimony to the triumphs of Britain and the US, the two great liberal powers, destroying in total war all ideological rivals: Napoleon, militarist Germany in WWI, Nazi Germany and militarist Japan in WWII, and later the cold war involving the Soviet Union and its communist allies and client states) --- usually various degrees of international order, with explicit and implict rules-of-the-game for both cooperation and competition in power politics that limit warfare and promote economic trade, investment, and finance across borders for mutual benefit, exist . . . as it does since 1945 in the non-Communist world, and more or less globally save for parts of the Middle East and the war on terrorism, since 1990.
True, at times historically --- even now and then for centuries --- rife disorder and all-pervading warfare, both international and civil, will surge up and persist. . . first and foremost when long-standing empires break down.
Think here of the uncoiled turmoil and rampant insecurities in the Mediterranean and European worlds, after the collapse of the western Roman Empire in the 5th century, that lasted for hundreds of years until a stable feudal system and its various institutions centered on local baronial rule and serfdom emerged, with centralizing monarchies and the Catholic Church eventually co-existing uneasily with such baronial rule.
Turmoil and rampant, no-holds-barred warfare has also repeatedly emerged historically when great powers are squaring off and fight one another while simultaneously embracing sharply discordant ideologies or religions . . . such as happened between 1525 and 1649 in Europe, the age of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, which plunged the peoples of Europe into more than a century of constant warfare between Catholics and Protestants and constant great power conflicts that only ended with the Treaty of Westphalia that subordinated all questions of religion to the exisitng monarchical states, creating the modern system of sovereign independence.
Similarly, as another instance of much more recent ideological warfare, erupted all over the globe in World War II, entailing racial Holocausts, massive urban bombing, total warfare, and the use of nuclear weapons to end the war with Japan, with the international economy fully broken down by 1945, civil war erupting in much of Asia, tens of millions of refugees wandered the globe, the remaining European empires collapsed, and the cold war quickly emerging as a new ideological square-off.
Clashes of civilizations, it should be added, have been no less brutally chaotic and violent, as with the rapid sweep of Islam out of the Arabian desert, the conquest of the Christian Middle East and North Africa and Iberia within a few decades, and to the East of the Persian empire, until the Arabs established new law and order, resulting subsequently to centuries of subsequent off-and-on struggle between Western and Central Europe and the Arabs and later the Ottoman Empire, and further to the East in Russia, struggles between the Orthodox Russians and Islamic Tatars (Mongols) who conquered and ruled them for two and a half centuries, roughly 1240 - 1480, when Ivan the Terrible created the modern Russian state and destroyed the Mongolian hold. Some think we are at the start of such a civilization-wide struggle now, between Islam and the rest. More likely, as we can see in the line-up of the Arab states supporting the US against Iraq, never mind their and our common interests in defeating Islamo-fascist fundamentalisms and terrorism, the religious-ideological conflict is working itself out at the heart of Islam itself.
Clarification of Key Terms Used Here:
Recall that a clarification of some key terms was promised earlier. Which ones? Consider the key paragraph that started off this Part II of our commentary on the divisions within the EU and NATO regarding the US and current policies toward Iraq:
"International relations is anarchic: it takes place in the absence of fully legitimate and effective government
that could disarm
the existing states and armed conflict groups and maintain law and order
in the ways that stable and effective governments do inside states . . . mainly through largely spontaneous and habitual compliance with its laws and regulations, regarded as authoritative
." Anarchy we've explained. Consider now the other terms in italics here.
means that citizens regard the government and its administrative and coercive arms (courts, police, military) as organized and behaving in conformity with constitutional requirements, explicit as in the US and modified by the courts over time since 1789, or traditional and largely unwritten as in Britain. In such stable states, the constitutional order and the procedures of government are further underpinned by a widespread sense that both of these, in turn, reflect ordinary moral standards within the national community, so that only in exceptional cases – as with Prohibition in the US during the 1920s --- is the citizenry in large number likely to regard laws as illegitimate and treat them with scorn. The upshot? Overwhelmingly, the citizenry are follow laws and regulations with unreflective, voluntary compliance . . . a result, if you want to dig further, of both reinforced socialization processes into a national culture and the belief that such compliance is mutually beneficial (a matter of self-interest) and morally binding.
means that the state authorities --- thanks to such legitimacy, underpinned by socialization into a national culture and subsequent internalized norms and beliefs about the mutual benefits and moral obligations to respect the constitutional order and its legal representatives --- can actually maintain law and order without widespread use of coercion or the threat of it, reserving coercion for criminal actions. Civil war isn't a likely prospect, nor revolution; and criminality is sufficiently contained and limited to outliers that citizens feel their basic personal security, property, and other rights are protected by the existing legal and constitutional order.
Disarming sub-state populations
--- or in a hypothetical world state, the former independent territorial states? That has to be qualified. The individual territorial states, now about 190 in number --- though no longer sovereign or independent --- would still have their own police forces and maybe militias, the way say California or Virginia does, or for that matter cities like LA or New York . . . but not large armies, navies, or air forces. For that matter, disarming and maintaining habitual law and order through spontaneous compliance Nor would it mean that the citizenry would be deprived of the right to bear arms: in America, this is a constitutional guarantee; in Britain, where it was once pervasive, it is now virtually impossible to get a rifle, never mind handgun, and the use of it even in cases of self-defense can lead to severe penalties. (Banning guns this way hasn't maintained law and order in Britain, by the way: you are 6 times more likely to be mugged in London these days than in New York city, and the murder rate in that country has leapt ahead in the last twenty years to about half the US level . . . this, even though restrictions on the sale and use of guns have become ever tougher).
Further Clarification, Especially the Role of Legitimacy
and Spontaneous Compliance in Maintaining States Control and Rule over Their Population:
A question prompts itself: aren't there states, now or in the past, that maintain themselves in existence largely by means of coercion and terror?
Yes: all the Arab states, for instance --- some 22 in number --- are despotic and rely on the secret police rule for their survival. All are thoroughly corrupt, moreover, governed and controlled by small tribal-clan or Mafioso-like groups of elites; corruption, bribery, and cynicism among the citizen are similarly pervasive, with it taken for granted that the only effective way to advance socially and economically is to get into the ruling cliques through mutual clientele services or, alternatively, to plot and overthrow them by a coup. As despotic states, all the Arab leaders serve until they either die off and are succeeded by a son, or are overthrown in a coup. The states do vary in the degree of terror and the use of force --- widespread arbitrary imprisonment, torture, political assassination --- with Iraq and Syria and the Sudan and probably Saudi Arabia far worse here than Jordan or the small Gulf States or Tunisia and Morocco, with Egypt somewhere in between. And some states, like Saudi Arabia, seek to gain legitimacy through the use of a religious ideology, in this case Cahaba fundamentalism of a regressive, xenophobic, and anti-western form of Islam. Similarly, in Iran --- a non-Arab state of 65 million --- the dominant clerical-fascists who came to power in the Shiite revolution of 1979 and have increased their repression of the more moderate elected politicians --- thanks to their dominance of the courts, the police, the Revolutionary Guard, the Guardian Council (it has a right to reject any law or regulation passed by Parliament) and the institution of the Nazi Fuerher Prinzip in the person of the supreme Ayatollah Khomeini and now Khatami , his successor, whose word on any topic whatsoever is automatically supposed to be legally and morally binding.
Note, however, that such states find it hard to institutionalize full authority and survive long periods of time.
Consider. Whereas Americans live under the same Constitution essentially since 1789, with a breakdown in the civil war of the 1860s, and the British under their unwritten constitution for essentially two centuries or so too (really, since the mid-1830s when the middle class got the vote and Cabinets had to be accountable to the House of Commons), Nazi Germany lasted 12 years, Mussolini's fascist regime 20 years, the Communist Soviet Union 72 years, Maoist China about 30 years (despite the continued monopoly of power in the hands of the Chinese CP), the East European communist regimes about 30 years, Pol Pot's Cambodia only a handful of years, and so on. Terror, torture, slave-labor camps, extermination tend, over time, to backfire and either drive the states into futile war that will lead to their destruction or, alternatively, bankrupt them economically compared to their geopolitical or ideological rivals, or alternatively be overthrown or just break down. In the past, it's true, certain empires persisted for centuries – the Roman about 7 centuries, the Ottoman 6 centuries --- but that's rare in the past, and even rarer in recent times. Specifically, in a global system of marked interdependence and the enshrinement of individual state sovereignty in the UN order --- a principle of liberal nationalism that goes back to the US and French revolutions only, institutionalized thanks exclusively to the triumph of the British and Americans since the end of the 18th century in destroying all major challengers: Napoleonic France, militarist Germany, militarist Japan, Nazi Germany, fascist Italy, the Soviet Union --- territorial empires seem doomed, a relic of the past.
And so the prospect of a world government that comes to power through imperial conquest over all other states and peoples in the world --- banishing power politics and war by means of its superior coercion and the use of collaborating elites (the Roman and Ottoman and British recipe for their empires) --- seems an atavism to.
What Ensues from Anarchy: Power Politics, the Prospect of War
Specifically, to put this in plain, down-to-earth language, whereas in stable states the political and
administrative decisions of the government and the courts are supposed to be authoritative and are ordinarily seen this way --- above all, only state agents have the legal right to coerce and use force against others (as with the police and courts dealing with criminals) --- the core actors in international life, the territorial states themselves, are all heavily armed and have armies and air forces and usually navies, and they continue to approach foreign policy in self-centered, ethnocentric ways. Meaning? Meaning that their leaders and other policymaking elites --- those in the US or the UK or Russia or Chile or Iraq --- are responsible for defining their state's national interests and choosing the proper instruments to defend or assert them against others.
To that end, depending on the GDP, levels of technology and per capita income, the size of the population and its levels of literacy and support for the government --- all of which create potential power capabilities that a state's leaders can draw on --- a variety of instruments can be made available to state leaders, thanks to public policies like taxation or defense spending and conscription or creating intelligence agencies, for trying to overcome any resistance by the targeted state or states --- or at times terrorist groups or international organizations or multinational corporations --- and getting them to do what you want. Of course, the other state's leaders may immediately acquiesce to what you want them to do (or not do, such as threaten to invade an ally). They may not want to comply, but they regard resistance as futile. Most of the time, however --- even with friendly states --- power-laden instruments need to be used.
Why, To Clarify More, Does War Occur: Anarchy and Its Deeper Causes:
Why does war occur? Because, essentially, if a state's leaders decide for whatever reasons to use force --- they're aggressive and greedy, they hate or fear religious or ideological rivals, they fear being attacked if they don't pre-empt (or launch preventive war: preemption refers to the belief, genuinely held that the leaders of a state, not a pretext, that war is imminent; preventive involves a much more distant prospect of inevitable war), they fear allies will be attacked, and so on --- there's nothing that will prevent them except the level of human and economic costs that a war might entail for their population, and the probability of losing if the other side is more powerful or has retaliatory weapons like nuclear ones that could destroy them even if that other side loses.
Occasionally, too, wars might occur through miscalculation or accident, though if they have in the past they don't show up in the historical record, closely examined by British, American, and Australian specialists over the last several hundred years of the modern era. Simply said, these studies can't find any example of a war that didn't erupt where at least one of the warring adversaries didn't hope to gain something from it . . . including, in some instances, pre-emptive or preventive war to stop a future attack. On the other hand, in an age of ICBM's and theater missiles armed with nuclear war, the time for careful deliberation in a crisis is enormously compressed . . . no longer months or weeks for the adversaries to mobilize and move troops to their frontiers, nor even days. Rather, minutes. Miscalcuation and security dilemmas are big challenges. In a crisis, worries that the other side will strike imminently can lead to rapid psychological spiral of mutually reinforcing fears if both sides have such missiles: roughly, to be more concrete, of a action-reaction sort in which the leaders of each side think --- I'm not going to strike first, but he thinks I will, so I better strike after all rather than absorb the first nuclear blow.
This is a doubly worrisome prospect if nuclear proliferation occurs, with regional enemies --- say, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Israel, and Arab states friendly to the US --- deploy missiles with nuclear (or chemical or biological) warheads. That's because, with the exception of Israel, none of them have the technical capacity to build invulnerable retaliatory forces with effective C4I: communications, computers, control, command, and information systems, with retaliatory forces hardened, hidden under oceans in submarines, or always in the air (on planes with air-to-air refueling capabilities). Instead, their missile forces will be small, exposed, and vulnerable --- almost certainly on a launch-on-warning posture ("use them or lose them"), creating what is called in arms control jargon "tempting targets" that invite pre-emption. Crisis stability will be virtually nil. For that matter, with poor C4I, so will arms racing stability. And since none of the three rogue states pursuing WMD programs --- clerical-fascist Iran, secular fascist Iraq ruled by a megalomaniac, and semi-fascist Mafioso thuggish Syria --- or for that matter many of the existing Arab states --- are politically stable, there is another danger: a coup or a terrorist attack or a civil war that leads to a fear that one of these conflicting parties will seize a state's WMD and use them. That too reinforces any urges to pre-emption.
Those who blithely think that such states can be contained and deterred -- the preference of certain "managerial realists" in this country and elsewhere, all supported oddly by the radical left and peace appeasers who are desperate to find arguments anywhere to prevent a war to destroy Saddam's cruel regime --- not only ignore such dangers, but ignore 30 years of careful study of what the conditions of stable mutual nuclear deterrence happen to be. And doubly odd, even the best argument to that effect --- by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (both good scholars) --- fails on both these counts, among others. It is in truth, despite being the best defense to date of containment and deterrence of Saddam (and presumably Saddam's successor son, and his son, and his son ad infinitum), a shallow, question-begging argument that we have dissected earlier here, exposing its numerous weaknesses.
This danger existed during the cold war, but was closely circumscribed after the Cuban missile crisis by the creation of invulnerable second-strike retaliatory forces, arms control, hot-lines, and crisis-control centers (by the late 1980s). In effect, there was no advantage in striking first: in a condition of MAD, mutual assured destruction, created by invulnerable retaliatory forces, a first strike would still set off a nuclear riposte that could destroy the initiating side's urban and industrial complex.
Deeper Causes of War: An Evolutionary Perspective
There are, I add immediately, deeper causes
of war, in particular those that explain the persistent attachment of state leaders and their populations to independence . . . at any rate, far short of voluntarily acquiescing in world government.
These, as it happens, require a probe of human evolution over 6 million years, when the first humanoid species broke off from the other higher primates, following which these proto-humans lived in small clans of 10-50 people, all genetically related through inbreeding, which very likely has created a hard-wired tendency in human brains for sharp them-us distinctions . . . which underpins existing nationalisms and preferences for independence, with strong ethnocentric preferences. Modern nation-states, of course, have tens or hundreds of millions of people: China even 1.3 billion; and in no way, despite the myths of ethnic nationalism --- we're all one people, descendant from the same ancestors, with a common destiny and future (the US isn't an ethnic national country) --- are the citizens of such large political units related to one another as kinfolk. Such nationalism and national-identities are learned behavior, inculcated and internalized by a variety of complex socialization processes, starting with the family, pre-schools, schools, universities, citizen-training, military training, national holidays, national sports and sports competition with other countries, and a host of symbolic identifications.
The anthropological record, observe, is revealing here. Once you get beyond clans --- the social system in which our humanoid ancestors lived for 99.9% of our evolution, 10 to 50 members that were genetically related kinship groups (and that is true for homo sapiens the last 100,000 - 200,000 years) --- ideological systems have to be built for holding societies together above and beyond threats of force by the leaders. Religions were the initial and longest-lasting of such ideologies. They are found in large tribal federations with a top-guy ruler and a division of labor, including chiefdoms found in much of Africa and parts of Asia and Pacific island areas thousands of years ago. These generally ranged from 1000 to 50,000. They have a clear division of labor --- the chief (king), who is said to be divine; his political advisers; administrators and tax overseers; military leaders; and religious authorities --- all of whom, unlike either in clans (10-50) or tribes (50-500 or so), find a surplus of wealth they can extract and enjoy, which has to be legitimized somehow. City states too --- roughly 50,000 - 200,000 --- quickly developed religious systems that stressed the divinity of the city or its rulers and the economic status quo, reinforced by written language and extensive symbolic rituals that evolved maybe 3000 years ago.
Still, the key point here stands out clearly. Very likely, the ideological systems here --- religion, nationalism --- tap at bottom a hard-wired genetic basis in their population, creating a sharp them/us distinction and ethnocentric biases, that is grounded in 6 million years of human evolution, with the emergence of distinct states --- city states in Mesopotamia about 4-5000 years ago, and elsewhere in river valley areas in subsequent millennia -- creating what many misleadingly call history. This is a fallacy enshrined, for instance, in a theoretical school of international relations theory called constructivism --- pure idealism, which ignores evolutionary facts about human nature that are not 5000 years old (Alexander Wendt: that's when international anarchy begins, but it's a choice as to whether or not states accept its restraints), but rather 6 million years older.
Note, in passing, that these speculations about human evolution, genetic preferences for in-group as opposed to out-group relations, ethnocentrism, and competitive views of others have been essentially verified by a body of social psychological work, Group Identity Theory (and earlier Group-Conflict Theory), now 30 - 40 years old, that seems robust across dozens of cultures in cross-cultural studies. Minimal Group Theory, a component, has found in hundreds of studies -- to illustrate this -- that if you divide a group of strangers even from the same culture into two groups in arbitrary ways, then set up a competitive game between the two groups, very quickly -- astonishingly so -- sharp them-us distinctions come into play, and the competition is taken very seriously, with a general preference for not just winning and defeating the other side, but crushing it.
In the original studies carried out by Mustaf Sharif at Yale (earlier Oklahoma), boys at a summer camp who had no previous relationship with one another were divided into two groups this way. Within days, what started out as fairly innocent competition with the members of each group following the rules Sharif and his fellow social-psychologists laid down, turned into more and more personally felt rivalry and dislike, then animosity, leading to physical violence. Yes, violence . . . so much so that in the initial run Sharif and his colleagues, not anticipating this quick outcome, had to not just call off the competition, something they did without success, but actually shut down the camp and send the boys back to their families.
Power Politics Clarified: Foreign Policy Instruments, Including Military Ones, for Getting Others to Do What You Want:
To illustrate the role of power in international relations --- which may or may not be coercive (as you'll see: we talk, for instance, about the power of persuasion and ideas) --- imagine a spectrum of foreign policy instruments that run from soft power to hard coercion and force as a means of prevailing in conflict with other states and non-state actors:
persuasion / diplomacy / economic or security rewards / economic sanctions of various kinds / withdrawal from an alliance as punishment / threats to use force --- deterrent or compellent / and the use of various levels and kinds of force . . . from limited low-level war through various escalatory steps up to total war, as in WWII.
Power Calculations and International System-Punishment
Nor is that all. If the leaders of a state are even remotely rational, they will condition their ambitions and goals and choice of instruments by comparing their own power capabilities and instruments for mobilizing and using them with those available to other states or groups whose interests or goals may conflict with yours and they don't immediately change their behavior and comply with your interests and goals. By extension, they would try to gauge the likelihood of positive or negative responses from other states (to focus on them) not immediately engaged in the effort to influence one or more targeted states --- adversaries, allies, friendly or unfriendly states, neutrals, and how they might all react. Full rationality is unlikely in any state; it's a matter of degree, with two risks of the opposite sort always possible here. Either one can lead to punitive consequences for the states whose leaders miscalculate the nature of the competition and the relative power their own state and possible allies have compared to the power available to rival states that they may end up in war with. (The most influential of recent realisms, structural realism developed by Kenneth Waltz at UC Berkeley in the 1970s and refined by him and his followers ever since, essentially is a theory of "consequences": either state leaders understand the nature of the competition and their competitors power in effective ways or they don't. If they don't, they will be punished . . . punishment entailing at times not just a loss in war, but loss of independence or even extinction.)
Overreaching: In particular states that have totalitarian or despotic leaders ruling by largely force and the secret police are prone to over-reaching . . .ruled as they are by cynics who shoot their way to power and maintain it that way and who therefore kill, imprison, or censor and at times grandiosely ambitious sociopaths. Other states that are democratic may trip up this way, left-wing critics of the US (and French nationalists of all stripes) claiming that existing US policies exhibit typical hegemonic over-reaching . . . a view that seems wrong to the buggy professor, but that we'll let pass here.
Under-reaching: Oppositely, at times, solidly democratic states may under-reach, even when threatened by other states. Democratic leaders, after all, have to bring along their legislatures and publics in such instances; and frequently, maybe more often than not, their responses to the challenges and serious threats of others ---- almost always in the last century, dangerous and aggressively ambitious non-democratic states --- are frequently inadequate and untimely, leading to appeasement that only delays a war that may be much more destructive when it comes.
- Think here of French and British appeasement of Hitler that backfired, provoking ultimately a horrifically destructive war in Europe that caused tens of millions of deaths. Think too of the efforts of Franklyn Roosevelt after 1936 to rearm the US and work closely with the British and French to persuade them to deter Hitler --- all stymied by US isolationism and public resistance except, fortunately, for naval rearmament. Witness, for that matter --- to jump back to the present --- the delays and repeated failures of the first Bush and even more Clinton administrations here to deal effectively with Saddam Hussein or Islamo-fascist terrorists, the latter at war with the US for 25 years now, including an initial effort to blow up the World Trade Center in the early 1990s, then increasing attacks by Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and others throughout the decade. Or the problems caused here by the reluctance of others, for good or bad reasons, not to take action against Saddam in the UN Security Council to which Bush rightly went with the US-UK case against Iraq.
Realism, to repeat, predicts that overly greedy, aggressive states will likely be punished for irrational policies and ignoring power realities, to the point that they will likely lose major wars and their independence ---the fate of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and Czarist Russia in WWI; and of Fascist Italy, Militarist Japan, and Nazi Germany in WWII; and the Soviet Union in the cold war, the latter disappearing into the dustbin of history. But realism also cautions against under-reaching: downplaying serious security threats until much greater wars will have to be fought to try staving off conquest, loss of independence, or extinction. And of course, though appeasement didn't lead to such colossal losses to the main democratic countries -- the US and the British (and the French, thanks to the US and the British liberators in 1944 and 1945) --- WWII, the unnecessary war in the view of the leading anti-appeaser of the 1930s, Winston Churchill, who urged armed resistance to Nazi Germany from 1935 on, still leading to 50 million deaths and the Soviet conquest of East Europe and the eventual Communist triumph in China with its subsequent 40-50 million victims.
What about International Organizations, Including the UN?
What about the role of international organizations in all this? Hundreds of such organizations, some global like the UN and the WTO and IMF, others regional --- some also very ambitious, like the European Union; others less so like NAFTA, a free-trade region only --- now flourish in international life. They have multiplied steadily since 1900, and especially since the end of WWII, to manage common interdependence for mutual benefit, itself driven in large part by revolution advances in the technologies of communication and transportation, along with the deliberate adoption of liberal, market-oriented policies in economics and finance thanks to the triumph of the British and Americans and their likeminded allies in WWI, WWII, and the cold war. As such, international organizations facilitate ongoing cooperation among states and non-state actors, and generally reinforce world or regional order and mutually beneficial . . . most of these involving trade, investment, foreign aid, transportation, and communication (being revolutionized by one technology after another, from telegraphs to airplanes and the internet); and one of them, the UN Security Council, deals in principle with security matters.
Not that it's been very active or successful in state conflicts.
Since WWII, for instance, there have been almost 30 inter-state wars, and dozens of major civil wars charged with international implications --- to say nothing about state terrorism, the Communist states killing off about a 100 million people since 1930, the Stalinist era. Aside from some limited peace-keeping forces --- which are not intended to overcome the resistance of war-fighting parties, rather to help keep a tenuous armistice or peace --- the Security Council has been involved in only two or three that involve major conflicts drawing in the great powers: the Korean war in 1950, when the Soviets were boycotting the Security Council and the US and its allies prevailed; the Gulf War in 1991; and maybe, it's ambiguous, Bosnia where the US finally prevailed on its NATO allies supplying peace-keeping forces as UN safe-havens were overrun, and US airpower was used to rout the Serbian forces and drive them into a US-mediated Dayton accord. That's it. Since the end of the cold war, leaving aside Bosnia, the UN Security Council did not authorize the use of force in 1999 by NATO to attack Yugoslav forces in Kosovo and targets inside Yugoslavia --- the US, recognizing that China and Russia would veto such action, withdrew its resolution before the Security Council --- and NATO acted on its own. Interestingly --- a key matter --- neither France nor Germany objected, and the existing German Green-Social Democratic government headed by Schroeder and Fischer even sent German troops to participate in the combat for the first time in post-WWII history. Yes, no objections to war then, never mind that it lacked Security Council approval. Leaves you wondering where the existing moral sanctimony and rigidity came from, no? As for the other major war since 1991, the destruction of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, no UN Security Resolution authorized war, only the use of legal and economic sanctions. Period. It was again, as in the Korean war of 1950, the Gulf War in 1991, the Bosnian war of 1995, and the Kosovo war of 1999, the US that took the lead in organizing action and providing the bulk of the military forces, with NATO contributing some limited help.
Otherwise, the state members in the UN Security Council --- the 5 permanent ones with veto powers, the 10 others with rotating membership from various regions of the globe --- are notorious for inaction and essentially limit themselves even if they legitimize military force to rout an outlaw state (remember, only two or three times since 1945) to declarations.
Because, quite simply, state leaders will behave in the UN Security Council and, at times, even in the WTO if major domestic interests are mobilized against implementing a WTO decision --- as is the case of the EU resisting the importation of US hormone-treated beef that two scientific panels of the WTO endorsed as free of any human risks --- depending on their reading of their national interests, domestic support or not, and their own political future. For that matter, for domestic reasons, the French have defied the European Commission for three or four years on the issue of importing British beef, as they did for years over common energy policies (regarding which the government has finally retreated); and in the EU again --- by far the most entangling of regional organizations --- three states have exploited the legal opportunity to opt out of the euro-region. It's an option, by the way, NATO doesn't enjoy. State-members do not have to participate in a war, but they can veto an action, NATO operating by consensus . . . which is why NATO met last week in the military committee that the French, who have withdrawn their national forces from NATO command of any sort, didn't participate in, strictly to overcome a French veto of sending military aid to Turkey. Even the German government went along with this, fearing more and more isolation in NATO and the EU, especially with an opportunistic French government that is likely, in the end, to go to war with the US and UK against Iraq come
The Outcome: International Relations Remains a System of Ethnocentrism and Self-Help at Bottom?
Is it surprising states continue to act this way? Not really, save for head-in-the-cloud idealists and castle-chasing radicals and Marxists who think it's all due to a capitalist swindle.
Whether states, to put this in plain language, are willing to abdicate certain sovereign powers and cooperate with others for mutual benefit --- as in the WTO or the EU or NAFTA --- they remain at their core ethnocentric and inclined toward self-help, to the point that even if they decide, say, to participate in a UN peace-keeping effort in Bosnia from 1992 on (97% of the UN members didn't participate, they didn't want), whether or not they will use force to maintain a non-existent peace or not will hinge on the judgment of their governments . . . exactly the positions of London and Paris, for instance, who provided the bulk of the UN peacekeeping forces there and refused even to authorize resistance by professional British and French forces being manhandled by a handful of Serb irregulars until Clinton was willing to use air power, as one UN safe-haven after another was being overrun by Serb forces in the summer of 1995. Similarly, when the huge Rwanda massacres erupted in 1994 --- far closer to genocide than anything the world has experienced since the Holocaust --- the French and Belgian governments that had peacekeeping professionals on the ground there quickly withdrew them lest they have to start shooting and get involved. (The US role was almost as bad: Clinton, burned over Somalia in 1993 when 21 US Rangers were killed in Mogadishu, ordered our UN Ambassador to stonewall any UN action being contemplated.)
To repeat: power politics and war have always existed and still do exist; and whether states voluntarily cooperate in security matters – either through alliances or in collective security actions --- to honor any commitments they make in principle depends ultimately on how their leaders and policymaking elites, and publics in democratic countries, judge their national interests and their security concerns and ambitions. There is no 911 international to call if you are being invaded or terrorists are attacking or guerrilla forces as in Bosnia are raping or massacring large numbers of your fellow citizens or your own family. States may act; they may not. And even in less politically charged international organizations like the WTO or the EU, state leaders may defy the organization's findings if they are involved . . . depending on how their leaders see their own and the publics' interests.
Democratic Peace Theory
We've noted how shallow and even silly left-wing radicalism and simpleminded Marxism are about the causes and nature of power politics and international anarchy. Postmodernist cultural-idealist views ---embodied in so-called critical theory (strip bare the rationales etc of American hegemony, and the peoples of the world will eventually rally to free themselves of capitalist blather and American power underpinning it) --- are even more fatuous.
More persuasively, however, democratic peace theory --- which claims to have good statistical evidence that democratic countries won't fight one another, however much they engage in power politics and war with non-democratic states --- argues that though rivalries may still divide democratic countries, they will find ways to settle their differences peacefully. Realists dispute this: the statistical outcomes hinge on defining democracy in controversial ways (which is true), the time-periods are questionable from which the dyadic data regarding democratic country A's interactions with democratic B, C, D etc, complex interdependencies exist (A's relation with C may be conditions with its relation with D and non-democratic countries S, T, and U), democratic countries have come close to fighting one another, etc etc.
On the whole, however, realists can accept this claim if it reads: depending on how democracy is defined -- it has to be something clearly more institutionalized than just competitive elections --- democratic countries are not likely to fight one another, finding ways to settle their conflicts short of escalating any of them to a point in the power-spectrum where threats to use force, let alone going to war, seem fairly remote. Note that this does not rule out rivalries --- think simply of what these various Parts I - V of this commentary, published here originally last Friday, are trying to explain: Franco-German efforts to counter-balance American power and influence, by organizing an EU bloc against the US and entangling the US in a series of multilateral organizations like the UN Security Council where the French, as it just happens, have a veto power. Still, it's hard to imagine that the isolated Franco-German duo --- even if it succeeded in rallying the rest of the EU to its position (increasingly remote) --- would end up raising arms in a typical balance-of-power way to counter American freedom of action and policies.
Noting this, for instance, doesn't alter the attachments of people and their leaders to independence at its core, perpetuating in the upshot the system of international anarchy.
To illustrate, take the most promising case of regional cooperation --- the EU, by far the most ambitious of pooled sovereignty for common cooperative purposes among its 15 member-states --- and note how far they are from a politically unified federal state. For that matter, they even profoundly disagree profoundly on any further political progress toward a common foreign and security policy, never mind abdicating the rest of their sovereign prerogatives to form a EU federation . . . and quite simply because of the overriding priority each puts on security, the major deficit in a system of armed sovereign states operating in anarchy, and how to protect it. If anything, thanks to French and German initiatives the last few months, the EU is more divided than ever --- the French and Germans isolating themselves, Chirac erupting in public tantrums to vent his frustration --- and things will get worse, not better, because in addition to the 7 EU member-states that have sided openly with the US, 8 of the 13 East European countries that have done the same, much to Chirac's schoolmasterly dismay --- they're all "badly brought up" you see, and don't know how "to shut up" when they're weak --- will negotiate with the EU next year for membership. Chirac threatens to veto that membership. He might do so. It will only aggravate the divisions within the EU, driving the British, Italians, Dutch, Spaniards, Portuguese, Danes, and Ireland, maybe even some other small countries, to draw closer to the US as a form of resisting feared French and German domination of them.
To repeat, the EU is more seriously divided on key pivotal issues of security and how to protect it --- closely aligning with the US or not --- than it has ever been. All this moreover, despite the fact that the member-states have been entangled in their voluntary cooperation for a half century or so, have common institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg, are closely bound in economic and financial matters, are all democratic and prosperous and share a common civilization and culture to an extent; and even have even a secretariat for a common foreign and security policy --- which amounts to nothing but a declaratory windmill, just as the common EU Rapid Reaction Force remains a phantom force on paper (as opposed to one in NATO involving the US and its European allies) --- and face a future of declining European influence if they don't unite.
PART THREE: THE US AND EUROPEAN DIVISIONS, WITHIN THE EU AND NATO. HOW DEEP DO THEY RUN?
To be continued.