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Notes on Chapter Three. Paul Bacon SILS IR201. Definitions 1. System – a set of inter-related units International system – the pattern of relationships among states. The structure of a system refers to its distribution of power.

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notes on chapter three

Notes on Chapter Three

Paul Bacon

SILS

IR201

definitions 1
Definitions 1
  • System – a set of inter-related units
  • International system – the pattern of relationships among states.
  • The structure of a system refers to its distribution of power.
  • The process refers to patterns and types of interactions among states.
definitions 2
Definitions 2
  • The agency-structure debate – neo-realists prefer structural explanations.
  • Counterfactuals – contrary-to-fact conditionals.
  • If… then. But must be plausible to be worthwhile.
  • Proximate cause – how directly was a major event caused by something?
  • Nye distinguishes between primary, secondary and tertiary causes.
kenneth waltz
Kenneth Waltz
  • In the first half of this textbook, Nye follows a method of analysis developed by the leading realist Kenneth Waltz.
  • Waltz developed this approach in two books, Man, the State and War, and Theory of International Politics.
  • Waltz identified three ‘images’ or levels of analysis – the system, the state and the individual.
  • Waltz is a neo-realist, and therefore believes that the ‘third’ image, the system, is the most important, and has the most explanatory power.
nye s additions to waltz s method
Nye’s additions to Waltz’s method
  • Joseph Nye adds three elements to Waltz’s basic framework.
  • At the system level, he makes a further distinction between structure and process.
  • He also introduces two additional concepts, proximate cause and the notion of a counterfactual.
  • Taken together, for the purposes of this class, we can refer to Waltz and Nye’s method of analysis.
  • Nye uses this method to analyze the origins of WWI and WWII, the origins of the Cold War, and the end of the Cold War.
  • It is therefore important for you to understand this way of thinking, and to apply it to your reading of the next three chapters, and your exam preparation.
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
outcomes of wwi
Outcomes of WWI
  • More than 15 million people killed.
  • The Great War, ‘the war to end all wars’.
  • Destroyed three European empires; German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian.
  • Emergence of the US and Japan as Great Powers.
  • Ushered in Russian Revolution.
structural explanations 1
Structural explanations 1
  • Use Waltz/Nye’s method, and respect the idea of parsimony.
  • Start at the system level, then proceed through the other levels.
  • Then use counterfactuals and proximity.
  • Two key structural elements; the rise of German power, and the increased rigidity in the alliance systems.
structural explanations 2
Structural explanations 2
  • German heavy industry surpassed that of the UK in the 1890s.
  • In the 1860s, the UK had 25% of the world’s industrial production.
  • By 1913 Britain’s share had shrunk to 10%, and Germany’s had risen to 15%.
  • Germany announced the Tirpitz Plan in 1911, and the British found German policy vague, confused, and therefore threatening.
structural explanations 3
Structural explanations 3
  • According to the Crowe memorandum, Britain decided that it could not allow one country to dominate the continent of Europe.
  • The British response was necessary, and almost a law of nature.
  • Britain made two significant moves as a result of its perception of German threat.
  • In 1904 Britain allied with France, and in 1907, Britain extended this alliance to include Russia, and form a Triple Entente.
structural explanations 4
Structural explanations 4
  • Germany believed it was encircled, and responded by tightening its relationship with Austria-Hungary.
  • The alliance systems became more rigid, and diplomatic flexibility was lost.
  • The major powers effectively created a bipolar system out of a multipolar system.
  • This tightening made the security dilemma worse.
process 1
Process 1
  • Nye mentions four process-related factors that contributed to the outbreak of war:
    • The rise of nationalism.
    • Increased complacency about peace.
    • The growth of social Darwinism.
    • The lack of clarity in German foreign policy.
process 2
Process 2
  • Pan-Slavism threatened both the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.
  • Both of these empires contained large Slavic populations.
  • Nationalistic hatred of Slavs arose in Germany.
  • Anti-Slavism was a particular theme of Hitler’s writings, and motivated some of his more important foreign policy decisions.
process 3
Process 3
  • Nationalism proved itself to be stronger than socialism, when it came to the identity of working classes.
  • Nationalism also proved itself stronger than the capitalism that bound bankers together.
  • Nationalism also proved itself stronger than family ties, and monarchical or aristocratic solidarity among the royal families of Europe.
process 4
Process 4
  • Complacency – the great powers had not been involved in a war in Europe for 40 years.
  • There had been 5 crises in the previous 10 years, and major war had been avoided in each case.
  • There was also a growing acceptance of the idea of social Darwinism, the survival of the fittest.
  • Perhaps war should be welcomed.
  • It was believed that any war would be short, and that short decisive wars won by the strong would be a welcome change.
  • These two ideas contradict each other to some degree.
process 5
Process 5
  • German foreign policy was vague and confusing.
  • Germany antagonized everybody at the same time, leading to a tightening of the balance of power.
  • A naval race was started with Britain, and Russia and Germany disagreed over issues in the Balkans.
  • The Kaiser clumsily tried to shock and intimidate Britain into a friendship that would keep Britain out of any war.
  • But instead, the British were intimidated into re-focusing on Europe, and allying with the French and the Russians.
second image state society 1
Second image - State/society 1
  • Nye mentions three second image-related factors that contributed to the outbreak of war:
    • The internal crises of the declining Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires.
    • The domestic political situation in Germany.
    • The ‘crisis instability’ of the situation in the summer of 1914.
second image state society 2
Second image - State/society 2
  • Nye REJECTS Lenin’s second-level explanation of the cause of WWI.
  • Lenin argued that the war was caused by financial capitalists, and that WWI was the final stage of capitalist imperialism.
  • The theory was that Great Powers would become involved in wars on their colonial peripheries.
  • However, on numerous occasions countries worked hard to avoid this outcome.
  • Also, when war broke out, bankers and businessmen strongly resisted it.
second image state society 3
Second image - State/society 3
  • Both Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Turkey were multinational empires, and were threatened by the rise of nationalism.
  • The Ottoman government was weak, corrupt, and an easy target for Balkan nationalist groups.
  • The Balkan Wars (1912-13) pushed the Turks out.
  • The Serbs felt that if the Turks could be defeated, then why not the Austrians?
second image state society 4
Second image - State/society 4
  • Serbia took the lead among the Balkan states.
  • Austria ultimately went to war against the Serbs because it feared its own disintegration.
  • Austria wanted to weaken Serbia and prevent it from becoming a magnet for nationalism among Balkan Slavs.
  • The assassination of Franz Ferdinand was a pretext for war, and not the main reason, according to Nye.
second image state society 5
Second image - State/society 5
  • German historian Fritz Fischer argued that Germany’s domestic social problems were a cause of the war.
  • Germany’s aggression was an attempt by German elites to draw attention away from significant inequality within German society. (The so-called ‘Fischer thesis’).
  • Germany was ruled by a Coalition of Rye and Iron.
  • This ruling coalition viewed expansionism as an alternative to social democracy, or preferred circuses to bread.
  • Nye argues that internal economic and social tensions are not sufficient to explain the cause of WWI.
  • However, they do explain some of the pressure that Germany was placing on the international system.
second image state society 6
Second image - State/society 6
  • In 1914, military leaders in all of the countries shared a ‘cult of the offensive’.
  • This means that military leaders believed that existing military technology favoured those who attacked, rather than those who defended.
  • They therefore supported rapid mobilization and deployment, sudden flanking movements, dramatic breakthrough assaults, and freewheeling tactics.
  • This belief in attack lay behind the German Schlieffen Plan, which provided for a two front war against France and Russia.
second image state society 7
Second image - State/society 7
  • Military leaders were very wrong about this, as the long stalemate of WWI proved.
  • One of the problems is that generals expect the next war to look like the last, and the last major European war had been won by attack.
  • As the July 1914 assassination crisis developed, therefore, leaders felt themselves under great power to attack, to strike first.
  • Military leaders also repeated this mistake of preparing for the last war and not the next in the buildup to WWII, as we will see later.
first image individuals
First image – individuals
  • Nye argues that the key players in the buildup to WWI were mediocre leaders. This includes:
    • Franz Joseph (Austria-Hungary)
    • Czar Nicholas II (Russia)
    • Kaiser Wilhelm II (Germany)
  • Franz Ferdinand, had he lived, would have been a restraining liberal influence on events.
  • It is often suggested that if Bismarck had still been alive and in office in Germany, then war could have been avoided.
  • Personality did, it is argued, make a difference.
proximate causes
Proximate causes
  • Deep, intermediate and precipitating causes.
  • Examples: electricity and fire.
  • Main deep causes: the rise of German power, the development of a bipolar alliance system, the rise of nationalism leading to the destruction of two empires, and domestic German politics (Fischer thesis).
  • Main intermediate causes: German foreign policy, the rise in complacency about peace, and the personal weaknesses of leaders.
  • Main precipitating causes: assassination of Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian terrorist, and escalation due to acute crisis instability (a preference for attack).
counterfactuals 1
Counterfactuals 1
  • Importantly, the deep and intermediate causes suggest a high probability of war, but a high probability is not the same as inevitability.
  • In other words, individual choices mattered.
  • This is where it can sometimes be interesting to engage in counterfactual analysis – to ask ‘what if’ questions.
  • For example:
    • What if the assassination had not happened?
    • What if the Social Democrats had won in Germany?
    • What if Britain had been too preoccupied with the crisis in Ireland to become involved in WWI?
counterfactuals 2
Counterfactuals 2
  • If no assassination and crisis had occurred in 1914, and the world had made it to 1916 without war, it is possible that:
    • Germany might have felt deterred from any conflict, unable to risk a two-front war.
    • Germany might not have given Austria so much opportunity to act unilaterally.
    • Germany might have dropped the Schlieffen Plan, and only fought in the east.
    • Germany might have come to terms with Britain.
    • Germany might have changed its view that offense had the advantage in warfare. (Taylor, mastery in Europe).
counterfactuals 3
Counterfactuals 3
  • What kind of war? Nye suggests 4 alternatives.
    • A simple local war, Austria vs. Serbia.
    • A one-front war, Russia vs. Germany.
    • A two-front war without Britain, Germany and Austria vs. France and Russia.
    • A war without the US.
  • Nye’s counterfactual analysis has considered two possibilities:
    • Ways in which war might not have occurred in 1914.
    • Ways in which the war need not have become a 4-year marathon involving everybody.
lessons of history 1
Lessons of history? 1
  • WWI was probable but not inevitable. Individual human choices mattered.
  • WWI was not accidental, as is sometimes claimed.
  • Austria went to war deliberately.
  • If there was to be war, Germany preferred war in 1914, rather than later.
  • Germany gave Austria too much latitude.
  • Russian support for pan-Slavism was unconditional.
  • There were miscalculations over how long the war would last, and how bloody the fighting would become, but this is not the same as accidental.
lessons of history 2
Lessons of history? 2
  • WWI was not directly caused by an arms race. The naval arms race ended in 1912.
  • The process of a balance of power system can be just as important as the distribution of material power.
  • Diplomatic moderation evolves from and belongs to process.
  • We should not be complacent about peace: we must work hard for it.
  • The current crisis may well not be like the last – the 1914 crisis was NOT a re-run of the Bosnian crisis of 1908.
  • WWI was also NOT a re-run of the Franco-Prussian war.
lessons of history 3
Lessons of history? 3
  • It is important to have military forces that are stable in crisis. In 1914, states felt that the state that attacked first would win.
  • States turned railway timetables into a structural condition that pushed them into war.
  • Today’s world is different. Nuclear weapons have made large-scale wars more dangerous. (But nuclear forces have so far been crisis stable).
  • As constructivists point out, the ideology of war, or acceptance of war among the general population is much weaker. There is now a much more widespread norm of anti-militarism.
  • However, this was not the case in 1914. People then felt that war could sort things out and identify a clear winner.
  • People were therefore more prepared to dare and to take risks, believing that the stakes and consequences would be worth it.