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Lecture 4

GOV 312L Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Superpower 2, Isolationism, Global Commons

7 pages57 viewsFall 2018

Course Code
GOV 312L

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Module 4: Videos notes
Selective engagement (can also be called offshore balancing): To intervene in regions of the
world only if they directly affect our security and prosperity. Overarching goal is to prevent great
power war. It shares key elements with isolationism in that it is quite mindful of the limits of
American power. However, selective engagement possesses at least 3 important differences
with isolationism:
1. Those advocates selective engagement acknowledge and even embrace America’s
global position as a superpower
2. Those advocating selective engagement are also more comfortable with diplomacy
(international relations). The give and take or balance of power politics and the need for credible
commitments between friendly countries with common enemies and common interests.
Commitments to NATO and Japan are seen as strategic engagement and as central offshore
balancing technique
3. The overriding interest of selective engagement is focused 1st on the prevention of great
power war → these wars often lead to domestic changes and are very costly
So, selective engagement is focused on great power relations. It strives to preserve a stable
balance of power among the great powers → hesitant to enter in conflicts between smaller
power unless it expands, and great powers join → it wants stability and peace in great power
Balancing behavior: foreign policy efforts to prevent the concentration of power, defined to
include political, military and economic means in any one state or aligned group of states. This
is threatening to American interest because this concentration of powers could match or exceed
the power of the US. Therefore, balancing efforts by the US refer to its efforts to block the
growth of power of other states in the international system.
Offshore balancing: a strategy in which a great power uses favored regional powers to check
the rise of potentially-hostile powers
Historical example of selective engagement:
• Eisenhower: push more responsibility for defense of Europe on Europeans to make Cold
War sustainable at home
• Pull back ground troops, rely on allies
• Increase reliance on nuclear weapons
• Worried about isolationists at home, thought could increase risk of war with Soviets
Historical example of offshore balancing:
• President H.W. Bush
• Cautious with impending collapse, did not hasten or expand US influence in E. Europe
• Relied on NATO to reassure USSR and manage German unification
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• Contrast with Clinton and NATO expansion
· They think that the US should pursue a grand strategy of offshore balancing
· They critique liberal hegemony because it expands too many economic resources → it
risks trapping the US in nationalist or sectarian conflicts that could actually increase the risks of
a terrorist strike against the US à they say it hasn’t worked during the cold war period
· They say, offshore balancing: preserves American hegemony in Western hemisphere;
block regional hegemons in Europe, East Asia and Persian Gulf
· They say the US need to lose concerns with promoting peace around the world →
therefore no local wars
· They say the US need to cut back on the economic and military resources deployed to
achieve these strategic objectives
· Allies need to assume more responsibility when countering threats (burden sharing)
The authors thought the decision to go to war against Iraq was unnecessary, and provoked
growing political and military opposition to the US around the world. They think Saddam
Hussein was already contained and not a threat to the US. The effort to reshape the Middle
East backfired, and has affected our ability to shape events elsewhere, like Asia. We should pull
back now.
Realism: their version of it focuses on balance of power and prudence
Need to anticipate balancing efforts (or opposition) of others to concentration of power
(like that of US)
Offshore balancing and selective engagement: both draw on realism, focus on great
power politics (similar grand strategy family)
Disagree over extended troop deployments
Liberal internationalism: use military power and international institutions (see great value in orgz
such as UN and NATO → alliance) to pursue a liberal international order:
· Use of multilateralism is the best strategy to enhance the security and the interests of the
· It sees American national interest and its major security threats as global and expansive
rather than narrower or confined to North America
· Emphasizes liberal values like democracy, human rights and free trade
· Critique: Liberal internationalism often calls for extensive American military and economic
intervention in countries around the world and so is often an activist foreign policy than can
entail quite a bit of projection of American power and even military conflict → can be seen as
Woodrow Wilson and Liberal Internationalism:
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