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Lecture 23

AS.190.209 Lecture Notes - Lecture 23: Security Dilemma, Civic Nationalism, Sigmund Freud

AS Political Science
Course Code
David, Steven R

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Discuss decline of international war
Examine internal conflict, prevalence, causes, and importance
Examine two issues related to internal conflict with special concern to the US
– ethnic conflict and humanitarian intervention
The decline of war between states is the critical but often ignored change in
international relations. Understanding the causes and cures of international war is
at the very heart of realism, but war has increasingly become a subject of less and
less relevance. In the post-Cold War era, there have only been a handful of wars
between countries. There are no great power wars now (last one was WWII) and
few wars are on the horizon. The reasons for international peace are many and
likely to persist. One has to do with nuclear weapons – when countries have NW,
going to war with them is likely to be suicidal. Secondly, territory has become less
important as a focus for conflict – it doesn’t connote the power and wealth it did in
the past; agriculture is not important as a factor in one’s economy and having a
great deal of land does not make you powerful symbolically. Moreover, the costs of
war are high in money and blood and the benefits are few. Wealth stems from
having a free and entrepreneurial people, not by conquering and suppressing
populations. In addition to these realist reasons, there are liberal reasons for the
cause of international peace. The holy trinity of liberalism is trade/globalization,
institutions, and the spread of democracy, all of which produce peace. With more
economic exchanges between countries, going to war will be very costly.
International institutions force the peace by fostering dialogue and compromise
between countries. Furthermore, liberal democracies do not go to war with one
another. Constructivists also argue that peace is at hand – how we think and talk
and write about international politics create the reality we live in. If we talk about a
world of cooperation and peace, that’s the world we’re going to get, and
constructivists argue that we talk about such a world increasingly. Democracy
encourages the peaceful resolution of disputes and the toleration of opposing views.
There are strong international norms against the use of international intervention
and the support of human rights. All of this leads to what political scientists call the
creation of security communities. Security communities are groups of countries
where war has become inconceivable (i.e. Europe and North America). We may be
reaching a point at which war between countries is no longer a major threat. If that
happens, it calls into question the relevance of realism, which is the notion that
countries worry about being attacked by their neighbors.
While interstate war is fading, civil war remains a concern. The prevalence of civil
war over interstate war has grown over time. In the post-Cold War era, roughly 95%
of wars and the casualties of wars have occurred within countries. Moreover, civil
wars are likely to persist; many of the forces of peace that have reduced wars
between countries are not very germane to civil wars. In this context, nuclear
deterrence is irrelevant. Territory is very important in civil conflicts. Democracy
won’t end civil wars and globalization exacerbates problems within countries as
some groups benefit more than others, increasing tensions. Moreover, there are
causes of civil war that especially stand out in the developing world. First, when you
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have a civil war, you typically have an intense grievance against the government due
to brutal policy, corruption, discrimination against ethnic and religious groups.
Secondly, people have to believe they have the right to engage in violence. This has
to do with the legitimacy of the government; in many developing countries, people
identify not with the state, but with their ethnic group. By identifying with their
ethnic group, they don’t feel allegiance to the state, making them more likely to
strike out against the state. Finally, in a civil conflict, people have to believe that they
will gain from violence. Weak governments invite attack, and in many instances, it
only takes a few rebels to challenge governmental authority. So when all three
causes are present, civil war is likely. These three causes are most likely in poor
countries; the most common characteristic associated with civil conflict is poverty.
IR theory tells us that wars occur because in an environment of international
anarchy, there is no international government to stop them. Weak governments
(second image) have created a situation where civil wars occur because there is
nothing to stop them. We’re in a world where civil wars are prevalent and
international wars are disappearing (IR theory may have it backwards). Instead of
world of international anarchy and domestic order, we increasingly have a world of
international order and domestic anarchy.
A second group of questions is why should we care? Why do civil wars matter? Civil
wars matter to America because America has more to fear by what happens when
leaders in countries lose control of what goes on in their borders than in the
deliberate decisions of leaders to harm America. The US can typically deter attacks
against it because of its military primacy (attackers will be retaliated against). Civil
wars hurt America because damage is mostly not intended and thus non-deterrable.
The inadvertent threat from civil wars comes from the chaos and the rise of
extremist groups. The problem with civil wars is that the threats they engender
often spill over their borders. America will have to figure out how to respond to real
and potential dangers that emanate from civil conflicts. Rather than focusing on the
deliberate actions of countries to attack us, there needs to be much more of a focus
on what harm can occur when states fall apart.
Many argue that ethnic conflict is a primary cause of civil wars. There are six criteria
that define ethnicity. First, there needs to be a name. Second, there needs to be a
belief in common ancestry. Thirdly, common historical memories (i.e. myths and
legends past from generation to generation). Fourthly, a shared culture
(combination of language, religion, customs, food, etc.). Fifthly, an attachment to a
specific territory or homeland. Finally, self-awareness or self-identification as part
of a group. Why was so little attention paid to ethnic conflict during the Cold War?
One, many had thought that ethnic problems had been solved at least in developed
world. In Western Europe, it was argued that globalization and political integration
ended nationalism and ethnic conflict. In Eastern Europe, dictatorial rule ended any
sense of awareness or identity; no one thought in ethnic terms after years of
communist domination. Moreover, insofar as ethnic problems emerged, they were
mostly ignored. During the Cold War, in terms of American foreign policy, there was
a fear of Soviet invasion of Europe and superpower nuclear war. There was no time
or space to worry about ethnic conflicts elsewhere. Why focus on ethnic issues now
that the Cold War is over? The fact that ethnic conflicts have erupted after the Cold
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