World Politics - Chapter 5

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 244
Jason Scott Ferrell

WP Chapter 5 Alliances are very important in world politics and can greatly affect the bargaining process. Some alliances are defensive while others are offensive, offensive means to join together in attacking a state while defensive means joining together to attack a state. Sometimes alliances have different reaction plans for each state during a crisis or how territories are to be divided, one of the strongest alliances is NATO which make sure that countries back each other up and provide protection for one another. Symmetric vs. Asymmetric: depends on how powerful countries are in the alliance, there is no doubt that the USA is the most powerful in NATO. Usually countries join alliances because there is something in it for them, sometimes state align because they share a common vision or a want for a good and need each other in order to obtain it. Alliances are created to preserve what we call the balance of power that is a situation in which the military capabilities of two states or groups of states are roughly equal. When the balance of power is set, no state or block of state has clear military advantage over the other. In contrast a power imbalance is considered threatening to the weaker side’s interests. Sometimes two weaker states may need to combine to match the power of a larger power. This can be seen as how France and Russia joined forces against Germany, this is known as band-wagoning (A strategy in which states join forces with the stronger side in conflict). Band- wagoning alliances are often offensive which a common gain exists (in this case to eliminate Germany as a power and to split the territory). Sometimes states align themselves with ideology or for religious reasons such as Saudi Arabia aligning itself with Egypt (with its fellow Arab brothers) even though Israel clearly has a much better military. Other features can be geographical proximity and similar cultural identity. Alliances and the likelihood of war: Alliances help influence bargaining because they can deter a country from starting a war with another seeing as though they know by attacking one country they will have to deal with allied troops or can make countries more confident because they know the countries in their alliances will back them up. However credibility also comes into question because that ally might decide to back out and not fight the war with their ally for whatever reason. Alliances are not binding contracts. During World War 2, Germany had no problem breaking their contract with Russia and invaded them in 1941. Establishing Credibility: a) during credibility it must be made clear that allies will fight alongside the country in question, it should be in the best interest of the allied countries to help another out incase one day the tables have turned and they then need the help of the country fighting a war or defending their territory, sates have honored their commitment 75% of the time. Why aren’t alliance commitments ironclad: Ironclad alliance guarantees that effectively deter challenges to the weaker partly also enhance the risk that the weaker party will demand more of the target or become intransigent in negotiations. It is to pursue a policy of strategic ambiguity as in the case with the USA’s promise to help Taiwan but at the same time encourage it not to declare independence as that means a war with China and the USA would then have to get involved. This policy makes its allied intentions purposefully less than fully clear this they hope that China would be deterred from attacking and Taiwan act with constraint. States with the most credible alliances are those who are most likely going to act the most opportunistically while those focused on deterrence less so. The success and failure of alliances in Europe: the success and failure depend on (1) strength of the common interest (2) the ability of the alliance to alter the members preferences (3) the effectiveness in scaring the adversary (4) the ability of partners to risk the ability of entrapment. Collective Security (why cant the UN keep the peace): The Un and
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