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Notes on Chapter Five. Paul Bacon SILS IR201. Waltz and Nye’s method of analysis. 3. International System Structure Process 2. State/society 1. Individual Proximate cause(s) Counterfactuals. Containment 1. Important idea developed by George Kennan.

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Notes on Chapter Five

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notes on chapter five

Notes on Chapter Five

Paul Bacon



waltz and nye s method of analysis
Waltz and Nye’s method of analysis
  • 3. International System
    • Structure
    • Process
  • 2. State/society
  • 1. Individual
  • Proximate cause(s)
  • Counterfactuals
containment 1
Containment 1
  • Important idea developed by George Kennan.
  • The Soviet Union (Stalin) would be a cautious opportunist wherever possible.
  • Soviet communism was an expansionist ideology.
  • Traditional Russian nationalism was not expansionist.
  • Therefore, the US had to be firm but not aggressive with the Soviets.
  • Match/passively resist Soviet attempts to expand.
containment 2
Containment 2
  • The US should contain, and wait for communism to collapse from within.
  • Kennan believed that this would happen in around 15 years time.
  • Kennan (and Nye) believed that the US was not firm enough in the early stages of the Cold War, and later became too aggressive.
  • The US became too concerned with a global struggle against the idea of communism.
  • Instead, for Kennan, the US should have acted more like a traditional, conservative Great Power, focusing on capabilities and spheres of influence, rather than on ideological potential.
3 schools
3 Schools
  • There are 3 main schools of thought on the origins of the Cold War, according to Nye:
    • Traditionalists(blame the Soviets)
      • Second image explanation.
    • Revisionists(blame the Americans)
      • First and second image explanations.
    • Post-revisionists (blame the structure of the system)
      • Third image explanation.
3 phases
3 phases
  • There are three phases to the early Cold War, according to Nye.
  • These were:
    • 1945-1947, the prelude and slide into the Cold War.
    • 1947-1949, the onset of the Cold War.
    • 1950-1963, the height of the Cold War.
phase 1
Phase 1
  • Six issues which arose in the first phase contributed to the worsening of conflict between the 2 emerging superpowers.
  • These were:
    • 1. Soviet actions in Poland and Eastern Europe.
    • 2. The May 1945 termination of lend-lease.
    • 3. Disagreements over the future of Germany.
    • 4. East Asia/Japan/Eastern Europe.
    • 5. Possession/use of the atomic bomb.
    • 6. Eastern Mediterranean – Turkey/Greece/Iran.
phase 2
Phase 2
  • Intensification of problems in Greece and Turkey.
  • Truman Doctrine.
  • Truman’s exaggeration and escalation.
  • Marshall Plan/Czechoslovakia.
  • German currency reform.
  • Berlin Blockade/Berlin airlift.
  • Plans for NATO.
phase 3
Phase 3
  • The Soviet bomb.
  • Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War.
  • National Security Council Report 68.
  • Stalin’s permission for North Korean aggression.
  • Huge increase in the American defense budget.
  • Korean Civil War.
third image structure
Third image – structure
  • Was the Cold War inevitable?
  • Post-revisionists say yes – the bipolar structure made it likely that the SU and the SU would be sucked into a power vacuum in Europe, and find it difficult to withdraw.
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, writing a century earlier, famously predicted that the US and SU were bound to become continental giants and rivals.
  • So, third image or structural analysis can predict that some type of conflict was highly probable.
  • However, there were various different phases in the Cold War, and neo-realist or structural explanations can not explain these different phases or the varying depth of the hostility.
  • This is why process (3rd image), domestic politics (2nd image) and individuals (1st image) matter.
third image process
Third image - process
  • Immoderate process.
  • Intense ideological hostility and competition.
  • Reduced communication.
  • Many opportunities for misunderstanding.
  • Mixed messages from US create Soviet uncertainty.
  • Containment and NSC-68 both imagine SU to be potentially aggressive.
  • Truman worried that the US will be isolationist again.
  • Stalin paranoid about possibility of encirclement/attack.
  • Exaggerated rhetoric of Truman and Stalin.
second image state society
Second image – state/society
  • Second level revisionists, such as the Kolkos, blame the US for the onset of the Cold War.
  • They argue that as the major capitalist power, the US is driven to act aggressively.
  • Nye does not support this economic determinism, but does agree that we have to look at the second level more closely.
  • Ideology and exaggeration were important in relation to domestic politics.
  • Truman believed that he needed to exaggerate the threat of the SU in order to gain support for his policy of engagement, rather than isolationism.
  • Stalin needed to portray the US as the enemy in order to create mistrust of foreigners and consolidate his domestic control within the SU.
second image su
Second image – SU
  • Soviet political culture:
    • Influenced by Russian and communist ideas (which was most important?)
    • Emphasis on absolutism rather than democracy.
    • Desire for strong leader.
    • Fear of anarchy and dissent.
    • Fear of invasion.
    • Shame about backwardness.
    • Culture of secrecy.
    • Emphasis on class rather than the individual as the basis for justice.
second image us
Second image – US
  • American political culture:
    • Debate about engagement or isolationism.
    • Emphasis on democracy rather than absolutism.
    • Belief in separation of powers.
    • Support for pluralism and dissent.
    • No real fear of invasion.
    • Pride in its technology and expanding economy.
    • Culture of open government.
    • Emphasis on individual rather than class as the basis for justice.
first image roosevelt
First image – Roosevelt
  • First image revisionists argue that individuals mattered, and argued that Roosevelt’s death in April 1945 was very important.
  • They argue that US policy towards the SU became harsher after Truman became President of the US.
  • Roosevelt is criticized for:
    • placing too much faith in the United Nations
    • overestimating the possibility that the US would become isolationist, and
    • underestimating Stalin.
first image truman
First image – Truman
  • Truman had tried to intimidate Stalin by referring to the atomic bomb at Potsdam in July 1945.
  • Some historians argue that the main reason why Truman approved the use of the atomic bomb was to intimidate the Soviet Union, rather than to end the war with Japan with fewer US casualties.
  • Truman also removed staff that supported better relations with the Soviets, and replaced them with staff who were strong anti-communists.
  • Nye argues that if the US had adopted different strategies, at different times, then the Cold War might not have developed in such a hostile way.
  • Arguably, the US was not tough enough under Roosevelt, and then too tough under Truman. Instead, Nye argues that the US should have been tougher in the early stages, as Kennan had suggested, and then been more prepared to negotiate and communicate in the second phase.
first image stalin
First image – Stalin
  • Stalin’s immediate postwar plans were to tighten domestic control.
  • He preferred some co-operation, especially if it helped him to pursue some domestic goals.
  • Stalin believed (compare Kennan) that capitalism would have another major crisis in around 15 years time. He wanted the SU to recover by then, and to be in a position to be able to benefit.
  • Stalin wanted to protect himself at home, and maintain his gains in Eastern Europe.
  • It was felt that Stalin would probe soft spots, and try to expand whenever he had the opportunity.
  • Nye refers to Stalin as tough, ruthless, and pragmatic. But also a cautious opportunist rather than a reckless or inherently aggressive risk taker/adventurer.
end of the cold war
End of the Cold War
  • Nye initially suggests three reasons for the end of the Cold War:
    • 1. Containment worked.
    • 2. ‘Imperial overstretch’ – the Paul Kennedy thesis.
    • 3. The US military build-up in the 1980s forced the Soviets to surrender.
    • Nye believes that each of these suggestions is partly correct, but that none of them adequately explain why the Cold War ended at this particular time.
precipitating cause
Precipitating cause
  • Nye believes that the idea of proximate cause helps us to understand the end of the Cold War.
  • Precipitating cause: the most important precipitating cause of the end of the Cold War was an individual, Mikhail Gorbachev.
  • Gorbachev wanted reform not revolution, but lost control of events.
  • Gorbachev launched a number of initiatives in domestic and foreign policy that quickened the end of the Cold War.
  • Perestroika, glasnost, new thinking in foreign policy.
  • Nuclear sufficiency/expansionism and empire too costly.
  • Gorbachev was himself an ‘accident of history’.
intermediate cause 1
Intermediate cause 1
  • Intermediate causes:
    • Kennan, the soft power of liberal ideas, as constructivists would suggest.
    • US hard power contained and deterred Soviet expansionism.
    • US soft power ate away at the belief in communism in the Soviet Union.
    • When the SU lost the Cold War, it didn’t lose a single tank. The SU lost legitimacy (Fukuyama).
intermediate cause 2
Intermediate cause 2
  • The enormous Soviet defense budget spending began to affect other parts of Soviet society.
  • The US budget spend on defense was 6% compared to 25%+ for the SU.
  • Health care declined and the mortality rate increased.
  • The SU’s infrastructure began to crumble.
  • Some people realized that the SU needed a better civilian economic base, and access to Western trade and technology.
  • But in the early 1980s the older Soviet leadership was not ready to accept this message.
deep cause 1
Deep cause 1
  • Deep causes: there were two deep causes of the end of the Cold War.
  • These were the decline of communist ideology (a constructivist explanation), and the failure of the Soviet economy (a realist explanation).
  • Soviet communism had a great deal of soft power in 1945.
  • However, this soft power was squandered through specific acts of repression in Soviet satellites in 1956, 1968 and 1981.
  • And at home, Soviet soft power was wasted as a result of reform camps, gulags, censorship, informants, underground protests, and dissent by human rights activists.
deep cause 2
Deep cause 2
  • The decline of the Soviet economy showed that centrally planned systems could not respond adequately to change in the world economy.
  • The Soviet system was very inflexible, and tended to stockpile labor rather than transfer it efficiently.
  • The most important issue was the role that information played in the third industrial revolution.
  • The secretive Soviet system was not good at handling information and transmitting it quickly and effectively.
  • It seems that centrally planned systems can be competitive in the first and second industrial revolutions.
  • However, they are unable to make the transition to, or compete against information or knowledge-based economies.
  • The SU fell behind in personal computer production, and only 8% of Soviet industry was competitive at world standards by the late 1980s – not good enough if you want to remain a military superpower.
final deep cause nuclear deterrence
Final deep cause – nuclear deterrence?
  • Deterrence
  • Mutually Assured Destruction
  • Crisis stability (compare WWI)
  • First-strike survivability (how?)
  • Shared rationality
  • Deterrence prevents cold war from turning hot?
  • Question of proof