Political Science 2231E Lecture Notes - Pax Britannica, Mutual Assured Destruction, Nuclear Umbrella

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Wednesday, 23 January, 2013
Review From Last Week
-Buck-passing: Passing burden of responsibility in a conflict to another nation to accomplish
your nations desires because you may loose on your own. Ex. Germany to Austria-Hungry to
go to war with Serbia
-Principle of National Self-Determination: Principle put fourth byWilson in his fourteen point
declaration. People form nations and nations have right to be self governing. Collapse of
multiethnic empires at the end of WWI.
-Triple Entente: France, Britain, Russia (Italy prior to 1915)
-Weltpolitik: Goal of establishing German Empire, aggressive foreign policy.
- Is the Cult of the Offensive a constructivist explanation? Does it accurately account for the
outcome of WWI?
- Realist explanation; attacking before you are attacking. War is inevitable.
-How did the economic downturn of the 1930s contribute to WWII?
-The Great Depression, related to WWI cost (war loans taken out from European nations
to US), led to extremist, Germans believed the blame fell solely on them.
-What were the long term implications of World War II for the international system?
-Emergence of US & Soviet Union as World super powers; arms race between
-Creation of United Nations & Israel
-Nature of warfare has become so dramatic no one wants to see another war
-Dismantling of empires (British Empire),
-Reconfiguration of European alliance system under NATO
-Division of Germany
-US-Japan alliance and the nuclear umbrella
-End of Chinese civil war
-Expansion of international law and establishment of the United Nations
The Cold War & Bipolarity
Causes of Cold War
- Bipolarity
- Misperception (nations do not know other nations thoughts)
- Soviet expansion
- U.S. decision to use the atomic bomb (nuclear rivalry)
- Ideological conflict (Communism vs. Capitalism)
- Individual:
- The personalities of Stalin and Truman
Characteristics of the Cold War:
- Dominance of two states
- Nuclear weapons lead to a “Cold War” between the United States & Soviet Union
- Superpower competition through proxy wars
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- Competing ideological and economic systems (Communism vs. Capitalism- not clear at time
which was better)
Polarity in the International System
Unipolar systems:
- One dominant power
- External balancing coalitions
- Ex. Pax Britannica (Britain), post 1990 U.S.?
Bipolar systems:
- Only one great power dyad
- Internal balancing through arms build-ups
- Ex. 1945-1990 U.S. vs. Soviet Union
Multipolar systems:
- External balancing through alliances
- Generates uncertainty due to potential for buck-passing and free-riding
- Ex. The Concert of Europe (Alliance system to prevent one power from becoming dominant)
The Nuclear Revolution
- Total military victory is now impossible
- Second-strike capability makes the cost of conflict unacceptably high
-First-strike: Use of force to eradicate the opponent’s weapons
-Second-strike: Ability to retaliate following a first strike
- The threat of force no longer carries the same weight in international politics
- Conflict is characterized by mutual vulnerability (both offensive and defensive needed in
nuclear world)
- Deterrence requires nuclear balance (Triggered arms race between U.S and Soviet Union)
Consequences of the Nuclear Revolution
- Preservation of the status quo
- Crises should be infrequent (Due to nuclear stabilities)
- Nuclear threats do not need to be highly credible to be effective
- Military balance of power no longer fully determines political outcomes
- Challenges prior views about the offense/defense balance
- When offense is dominant, wars are more likely to occur but can be expected to be
shorter and less costly
- When defense is dominant, wars are less likely but tend to be protracted wars of
attrition with high casualties (World War trenches example; defend territory at high
-Generates concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD)
- Vulnerability creates a situation in which total war could result even though neither side
wants it
- Protecting the status quo is, as a result, easier than changing it
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