12 September 2016

Summary Review: Sorry, America, the New World Order is Dead | Eric A. Posner (2014)


This article was originally written in Foreign Policy Magazine, May 6, 2014.

Let's start by describing how the article defines the New World Order:

  • The New World Order, a term coined by George H.W. Bush, formed after the fall of the Soviet Union
  • The New World Order constituted the peaceful settlement of disputes between states that would have otherwise led to war
    • These disputes were settled through international courts, universal human rights, international criminal justice, and free trade and investment
The article starts by addressing President Obama's assertion concerning Russia's president, Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea and behaving as an imperialist is an inappropriate way for a state to behave in the 20th century. The author retorts that Russia's behavior is an effect of America's decreasing influence and deteriorating global hegemony that was in place in 1991.

Why the New World Order is Dead

1. The international courts are not effective
The international courts, including the International Court of Justice (ICJ), World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, are not effective at resolving disputes that might lead to war. International law tends to favor the status quo, and when powerful countries disagree with the courts' judgment, just as the United States did over a 1986 Nicaragua dispute, they disregard the judgment and deny that the court has jurisdiction.

(Remember: international law is technically unenforceable.) 

Russia and China, states that seek to increase their influence over foreign powers, have major conflicts with their neighbors, but have never submited those conflicts to the international courts because the courts favor status quo and sovereignty.

2. Human rights commitments are often ignored and/or violated
The New World Order included the recognition and respect for the human rights of a country's citizens. While it was agreed that interpretation of human rights would differ depending on a country's religious beliefs, traditions, and practices, the New World Order envisioned human rights by the basic terms of liberal democracy -- problematic for states that are not liberal democracies.

Many countries disregard their human rights commitments and most developing countries cannot implement them. Russia is an autocracy, China has not liberalized, and the West faces the problem of having to choose between ignoring human rights violations, thereby violating its commitment by default, or launching a military intervention, a violation of its commitment to peaceful resolutions. Only the UN Security Council has the legal authority to launch war on countries that violate human rights obligations.

The UN as a human rights enforcer has only been effective a handful of times:

  • 1991 military intervention in Iraq for Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait
  • 1999 military intervention in Kosovo
  • 2003 military intervention in Iraq
  • 2011 military intervention in Libya

Russia and China abstained from the resolution regarding military force in Libya and later accused the West of using their authority to overthrow the Libyan government rather than protect the civilians. The article states that now both Russia and China adamantly oppose intervention in Syria.

3. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is not fair and is only feared by "weak African countries."
A few trials have been held to try people accused of committing atrocities such as torture and genocide, but the court almost exclusively focuses on those weak African countries.
"The ICC has come to be seen as a tool of imperialists."
The court depends on strong countries to support it, and will never try Russians, Americans, or Chinese because their governments never ratified the treaty. "It cannot risk offending them," Posner says.

4. The World Trade Organization is still functioning, but countries have started to disregard adverse judgments from arbitration panels.

Why states obey international law

Posner goes on to ponder what would make countries obey international law:

  • Leaders had internalized the law
  • Leaders were bound by cooperative networks of judges an beauraucrats from different countries
  • Domestic and international NGOs put pressure on violators
  • Countries had become interdependent
  • Because it was fair
Posner says the real reason countries obey international law is because the United States and West makes them. Countries feared that if they didn't follow international law, they would be hit with sanctions or refused aid, investments, or trade opportunities, or be threatened with military force.

Why the system functions

Posner explains that international trade is the only exception to the collapse of the New World Order and the system functions because several countries enforce it in fear of mutual retaliation.

The New World Order had states believing all nations were equal, which was false; the US had no equal . Today, a small group of powerful nations determines how they will interact with each other and compete with each other for client relationships" with smaller countries.
The major challenge is to ensure that competition does not lead to full scale war.


Human rights and international justice will only prevail in the West, but trade and investment will flourish. Posner goes on to explain how states are self-interested and their actions reflect their best interests (something tells me Posner is a realist). He challenges theory (America?) to catch up to the times.

What are your thoughts on this article? It's probably one of my favorites. I, personally find it interesting that the author claims Russia and China were adamantly against intervention in Syria (the article was written in 2014), but Russia certainly later intervened. Posner also repeatedly claims that US power has been diminishing for some time but doesn't give any examples. I look forward to researching and finding out what he means by that.
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20 October 2015

What Would You Like to See Summarized?

I generally publish summaries of papers from intro and some upper level classes, but now is your chance to let me know what you have been meaning to get to or would just like to see summarized.

Leave your requests in the comments!
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03 October 2014

Alliances: Balancing and Bandwagoning Summary by Stephen M. Walt

When faced with a security threat, states will join forces with each other to contain the threat (BALANCING) or join forces with the threat, mainly to increase their own power (BANDWAGONING).

Balance of Power Theory- protection against states with superior resources that could pose a threat

Why do states choose to balance?

  1. to contain the threat before it becomes too powerful
  2. to increase the new member's influence within the alliance

It's safer to join with less dominant powers than the dominant powers because the influence will be greater.

Joining the weaker side should be the preferred choice. 

Why do states choose to bandwagon?
  1. balancing is the alliance with the weaker side-- bandwagoning is the alliance with the stronger side. States tend to form an alliance with or against the foreign power that poses the greatest threat.
Historically, states tend to bandwagon more than balance. It is used to justify international involvements or increased military budgets. But balancing is the dominant theory in international politics.

Consequences of Balancing and Bandwagoning

  • In balancing, credibility is less important-- the fear of allies defecting will decline.
  • In balancing, aggression is not common because those who ponder it will expect retaliation.
  • In bandwagoning, there is more of a competitive state. The decline of one side results in the rise of the other.
If leaders balance in a bandwagoning world, their allies may be more inclined to defect because of their perceived weakness.

If leaders bandwagon in a balancing world, they can encourage others to resist and oppose more aggressively.

When should Balancing or Bandwagoning be used?

Balancing should be used for uncertainties-- states mistrust one another and cannot be completely sure what the other will do.

It is safer to balance against potential threats rather than go on thinking that state will remain peaceful with you. 

The weaker the state, the more likely it is to bandwagon because weak states add little strength and strong states can turn a losing state into a winning one. This could be rewarding for the weak state. 

Weak states will likely balance when threatened by states with similar capabilities,

States will bandwagon when there are no allies available to balance with. 

Although strong neighbors of strong states are likely to balance, small and weak neighbors of the great powers may be more inclined to bandwagon.

States are more likely to balance in peacetime or in the early stages of a war. As the outcome becomes certain, allies will be tempted to defect.

During peacetime, the winning side is likely to dismantle.
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08 April 2014

Anarchy and the Struggle for Power by John Mearsheimer

Please note these are excerpts directly from the article

The basis of the paper is to argue that the hegemony is the ultimate goal of great powers.

The logic explaining why states seek to gain as much power as possible over their rivals will be
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08 November 2013

RANDOM: Fix Your Grayed Out WIFI on your iPhone 4S!

Sometimes I hate writing things like this because as soon as I write it or disclose it, things get all wacky again! So I had been having this annoying problem with my iPhone 4S: after doing the latest update (7.0.3) my wireless grayed out and would not even let me have the option of turning it on again. This had happened to me previously with the same phone after updating to iOS 6. However, I was under warranty and when I went to the Apple Store, they just gave me a new phone.

This time was different because Apple Care only lasts one year. I’d say if Apple was smart, they would send out some kind of reminder that the warranty would expire so people would renew. But then, how would they get the $199 for a new (refurbished) phone when something goes wrong with yours (and it inevitable does!)? So perhaps, as businesspeople, they are smart. Getting back on track, I went to the Apple Store maybe a week after I experienced the infamous Gray Wifi Killer. I was told that the antennae was fried (which I knew they would say because I had already been through this one year prior) and I needed to replace my phone. The attendant did try rebooting the network settings, to no avail. But since I was out of warranty, I was told I must pay $199 for a new (working) phone, the same kind, an iPhone 4S. Now, I have Sprint for the wireless carrier and my 2-year contract is up. I WANT the iPhone 5S, but I want it in gold and there is a 2-3 week wait for that, which I was willing to do until my wifi started acting all crazy!

Maybe some of you are thinking, why is that even a big deal? Just use your data! I do have unlimited data with Sprint, but as we all know, it is not as fast as wireless (or at all for that matter) and it SUCKS THE LIFE out of your battery!

I decided I would just deal with the broken wifi because there was no way I was going to pay for another phone that is not the gold 5S… So yesterday, I notice something wrong with my 3G! It kept switching between Sprint 1X and Sprint 3G. I thought to myself, now how convenient is that? I’ve got this fancy ass phone I am paying monthly for, and nothing works! What am I being billed for?! So I started doing my research (googling my ass off) and I came across two pieces of information: (1). Both issues I was having with my phone are known issues with Apple. I did not come across any information that showed BOTH issues back to back, being the Gray Wifi Killer followed by the fluctuating 3G data, so I threw out my conspiracy theory. (2). I found a fix (temporary?) for my immediate problem.

THE FIX: Put your disloyal, disobedient phone in the freezer. I totally winged it. At this point nothing was working so I said hey, can’t get any worse! Actually, it could have, but I took my chances and crossed my fingers. I took off my broken down Otterbox case that probably should be thrown out (I refuse because once I do, I will drop my phone). I turned off the phone and put it in the back of the freezer for approximately 45 minutes. I immediately tried to turn it on, and it asked me for a charge. Which was weird because my battery life was at 91%. I plugged it in anyway and waited three (3) minutes before turning it back on. There was frost on the back and front of the phone, but it went away after the phone got settled back to room temperature.

I went to my settings and VOILA. Wireless activated! I did a happy dance around my office and told everyone the news, which they didn’t care about. So far my wireless is still working (hope I haven’t jinxed it)!! I have read many threads where people say it has only worked for 30 minutes so I took a few steps to try and conserve battery and not let the phone get too hot. For one, I turned down the brightness on my phone. I closed all of the apps in the background (my background app refresh was already off, I hate that thing!), turned off International roaming, and made sure my Bluetooth was off (does anybody even use that??). I am going strong! Even charged the phone overnight and still have wifi!

I know this is totally random and off topic, but I just thought I would share that in case anyone else is having that problem! Two other people in my office have had the same issue! Hope this helps!


Update-- lasted ONE day. Tried it again, and the wifi stayed on for about 90 seconds, less than 2 minutes. So irate!
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03 September 2013

Coming Soon- Wendt’s Anarchy is What States Make of It & Mearshiemer’s Anarchy and the Struggle for Power

Stay tuned!

Coming Soon- Alexander Wendt’s Anarchy is What States Make of It & John Mearshiemer’s Anarchy and the Struggle for Power

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14 August 2013

One World, Rival Theories Summary- Jack Snyder

Good evening,

I have just finished this powerpoint. The article itself is only 12 pages. I have tried my best to condense the most pertinent information in a (roughly) 5-minute powerpoint. Have at it! Actual notes will be posted within the month.

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17 June 2013

One World, Many Theories- Stephen M. Walt Summary


This chart found in the article is a great synopsis of what the article entails. Walt examines each paradigm and explains why we should not take one approach as the almighty approach. There is something to be learned from each.

"Classical" realists such as Hans Morgenthau and Reinhold Niebuhr believed that states, like human beings, had an innate desire to dominate others, which led them to fight wars. Morgenthau also stressed the virtues of the classical, multipolar, balance-of-power system

"Neorealist" theory, advanced by Kenneth Waltz ignored human nature and focused on the effects of the international system; anarchy would lead weaker states to balancing against more powerful rivals. And contrary to Morgenthau, he claimed that bipolarity was more stable than multipolarity.

Offense-defense theory (Jervis, Quester, Van Evera):
War was more likely when states could conquer each other easily
When defense was easier than offense, security was more plentiful ,incentives to expand declined, and cooperation could blossom
If defense had the advantage, and states could distinguish between offensive and defensive weapons, then states could acquire the means to defend themselves without threatening others

One strand of liberal thought argued that economic inter-dependence would discourage states from using force against each other because warfare would not threaten each side's prosperity.

A second strand, often associated with President Woodrow Wilson, saw the spread of democracy as the key to world peace, based on the claim that democratic states were inherently more peaceful than authoritarian states.

A third, more recent theory argued that international institutions such as the International Energy Agency and the Inter-national Monetary Fund could help overcome selfish state behavior, mainly by encouraging states to forego immediate gains for the greater benefits of enduring cooperation.

Marxism offered both a different explanation for international conflict and a blueprint for fundamentally transforming the existing international order
Orthodox Marxist theory saw capitalism as the central cause of international conflict. Neomarxist "dependency" theory focused on relations between advanced capitalist powers and less developed state. Both of these theories were largely discredited before the Cold War even ended.

The "deconstructionist" approach was openly skeptical of the effort to devise general or universal theories such as realism or liberalism. Proponents emphasized the importance of language and discourse in shaping social outcomes.

Democratic peace theory is a refinement of the earlier claim that democracies were inherently more peaceful than autocratic states

Institutions are now said to facilitate cooperation when it is in each state's interest to do so, but it is widely agreed that they cannot force states to behave in ways that are contrary to the states' own selfish interests

 A number o f scholars have recently suggested that the "globalization" of world markets, the rise of transnational networks and nongovernmental organizations, and the rapid spread of global communications technology are undermining the power of states and shifting attention away from military security toward economics and social welfare

Constructivists regard the interests and identities of states as a highly malleable product of specific historical processes; constructivism is especially attentive to the sources of change

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16 June 2013

Think Again, Sovereignty by Stephen D. Krasner

Article Summary

Think Again: Sovereignty
By Stephen D. Krasner

Sovereignty is not Dead
For strong and weak states, sovereignty remains attractive.
National borders and the erosion of national borders are the most concerning consequence of globalization

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04 January 2013

Redefining Security by Jessica Tuchman Mathews (1989) Summary


Please note these are excerpts directly from the article.

The line between foreign and domestic policy is blurred

Economic growth requires more energy, more emissions and wastes, more land converted from its natural state, and more need for the products of natural systems

Individuals and governments are beginning to feel the cost of substituting for the goods and services once freely provided by healthy ecosystems

For the first time in history, man is rapidly and inadvertently altering the basic physiology of the planet
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