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Systemic Level.docx

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 244
Mahesh Shankar

MONDAY, JULY 16, 2012: Levels of Analysis  The broad theories can be fit into one or more levels of analysis- they are a way of organizing theories and foreign policy  Levels of analysis are the vantage point from which we look at the world  What factors matter? Theories usually work at one or more levels  Look into more detailed policy implications  The choice of levels of analysis has a trade off and effects how descriptively accurate the theories are, how useful it is, the value for predictions, and what we study.  The three levels of analysis are:  Systemic (third image), which is where neo-realism fits in, maximum comprehensiveness, generalizable, but it compromises in terms of detail or depth—a broad picture, but it shallow. It is a highly parsimonious model. Not exclusively realist though- there are certain constructivist and liberal theories that fit into the systemic level.  Domestic (second image). This gels with liberal theories (ex. democratic peace theory). The focus is on variables at the domestic level to account for actions of the international stage. It focuses on characteristics of states internationally. In descriptive terms, it is not as comprehensive as the systemic level, but it affords much more depth and detail in the cases to deal with. It allows recognition of difference of actors, which systemic does not.  Individual (first image)- best associated with cognitive, classical realism (human behaviour) theories. Focus is on individuals, personality, cognitive biases, etc. This level has taken a lot of heat for its focus (most criticized) because it doesn’t allow us to generalize anything about international politics, and you can end up with theories of one individual, which is on no use. But it does allow us to go very in depth and emphasizes differentiation of units, and you end up looking at minute differences in humans. Like in domestic level, it allows us to look at decision-making.  Trade offs: scholars made analytical/theories bets in focusing on one or another, and relate those decisions to the type of puzzle they are trying to deal with. Systemic Level:  Alliances: A balance of power is a basic neo-realist expectation of how the world will be defined. For realists, given the anarchic structure and distributions of capabilities and power, there are two ways states can function, particularly when they see a rising power that could reach hegemony—they can balance the power, and the other is bandwagoning.  In a “world where nothing succeeds like success” bandwagoning (states pick allies/friends based on who is more successful at the time or could become such) can occur because there are benefits of joining the stronger party. The more powerful you are, the more people want to ally with you. This is an intuitive way of thinking about world politics because we see this happening in daily life. Bandwagoning is logically expected for a few reasons—bandwagoning allows other states to share in the spoils that come with power (ex. if you’re a small state, aligning with a major power gives you a decent amount of power and resources). Bandwagoning also may promise greater security (the powerful state/patron will protect you), and you’re also ensuring they aren’t a threat to you and will not attack. The importance of reputation also matters (looks better to be on the winning side)  Ex) This occurred during the Cold War—there was a belief in both the USA and the USSR that if they showed weakness in their commitments or weakness in dealing with other, there would be a mad rush of allies and undecided states rushing to become an ally with the other side.  If this expectation is true, it means security is pretty scarce in the international system, because states that are strong attract more allies and support. Rivalries between great powers also become more intense, because the slightest show of weakness matters (ex. in the Cold War example)  Balancing at the Systemic level is the opposite option. This is when states ally against the biggest power or those going towards a position of hegemony. The expectation that states will balance is a direct consequence of the assumption of anarchy and its implications.  According to neo-realists, they balance against powers because: given anarchy and the uncertainty of other states intentions, it makes no sense to realists for states to align with the strongest actor because allies are temporary and interests change. Since survival is at stake, they are putting their survival at risk by being with the strongest power. They argue bandwagoning means placing your trust in the fact that the great power is benign, and realists argue this is not the safest option, and balancing is.  It makes sense for states to join the weaker side because it allows influence they wouldn’t have on the stronger side, which has a lesser need for allies. When they join the weaker side there is less of a chance of being abandoned because they have greater value. Ideally, all states will be inclined towards balancing, but this is not always the case.  Realist suggests some conditions in which they may not happen: extremely weak states may realize that they don’t add much to a balancing alliances, which makes them dispensable, so they are inclined to bandwagon since they cannot really effect the outcome. This isn’t true for stronger states, so they are more likely to balance to ensure their safety.  Such a world is expected to be more stable and safer than bandwagoning because great powers have an incentive to be restrained if they know being a threat will create more states ganging up and creating a balancing alliance against them. In a bandwagoning world, the opposite is true and the more aggressive you are the more states will join you.  There is more credibility in a balanced world because states value their allies because of their own interest and are less likely to abandon them. There is more incentive to stay true to your alliance.  States balance against power. Usually, militarily and economically the strongest state will encourage or provide a balancing alliance against them. They focus on this because anarchy means you assume the worst about everyone’s intentions, and will ally against the great power because even if they seem benign their intentions may change.  This tells us little about specific policies states could provide. Stephen Walt came up with this own theory of balancing to correct this: a “balance of threat” theory. He is sacrificing a little bit of parsimony to get more depth. He argues that states do not balance against power, but rather balance against threat. They ally against the state that poses the greatest threat to them, and the greatest power is not always the greatest threat. Threat involves military capability, an aggregate power, but power alone is not enough. Other variables include geographic proximity (with two equal power states, the closer one is more of a threat), aggressive intentions (if you view the other as hostile intentions based on past behaviour or anything else, you attribute more threat to them), and offensive power (if you view the adversaries capabilities as making offense easier, there is great incentive for fear, but if defense has the advantage, there will be less fear). By adding these elements of threat, he adds more specificity to the theory.  Ex) Why Israel and the Arab States built alliances against each other and how these states aim their alliances not at stronger and more distant power, but at closer states. Pakistan’s biggest threat
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