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Alliance in International Relations
Alliance in IR
Importanceof Alliance in InternationalRelationsImportantelement ofstatecraftAlliance politics has been a common practice in IRWeakstates enter intoalliance,when they need protection against strongstates.Strongstates form alliances to counter other strongstates (tomaintainproperbalanceofpower).
Therefore, alliance has been a veryimportantsubject of research inIR
Alliance in IR
Defining Alliance
Coalition– “a set of members acting in concert at x time regarding 1to n issues”(Fedder1968: 80);Alliancesareformedin peace time andcoalitionsare often found duringtimes of war or crises(Snyder1990: 106).e.g., Coalition of the Gulf War in 1993, Coalition of the Willing in 2003Alignment–occurswhen states bring their policies into close cooperation with other states in order to achieve mutual security goals.Formalalliances strengthen existing alignments or create newones.Alliancesare subsets of the broader phenomena known as alignments (Snyder 1990: 105).
Defining Alliance
Entente– more flexible association between states (Kann1976:611)Nofirm commitments exist betweenpartnersSimplerecognition of the fact thatcooperationbetween them will make sense… cf. Triple Entente before WWICoalition< Alliance < Alignmentcf. EntenteSome do use them interchangeably
Theory of Alliance (Formation)
REALIST THEORY OF ALLIANCEBalance of Power Theory(Waltz1976)States balance againstpower– “power” is the most important variableStatestend to balance against strongerstatesThis is toensure that no one states will dominate theintlsystemmaintenance ofbalance of power
Theory of Alliance (Formation)
Two types ofbalancingInternal balancingExternalbalancing – alliance!Internal balancing is more reliable…;Allianceis the product of compromise betweenstatesWhynot balancing against the US? (Although Waltzclaimedthat the US would be eventuallybalancedby one or morestates… )
Theory of Alliance (Formation)
BipolarStability vs. Danger ofMultipolarity(K. Waltz)Alliancepattern is unstable under themultipolarityBuck-passingand Chain-ganging
Balance of Threat Theory(Walt 1987)RefinementofWaltzianBOP TheoryStatestend to balance againstthreatsrather than againstpower.WaltadoptsWaltzianneorealist framework and agrees that Waltz’s theory is sound, but notsufficient…
Levelof external threats is a function of fourfactorsDistributionofcapabilitiesGeographic proximityOffensive capabilitiesPerceivedaggression intentions(Walt 1987: 22)Whenstates don’t feel threatened, they do bandwagon with the strongest state rather than balance against it… e.g.,Bandwagoningwith the US in the post Cold War eraNonetheless, balancing is far more common thanbandwagoning…
Scheweller(1994) – Balance ofInterestsBalancingandbandwagoningare not opposite strategies; states choose them for differentreasons!Balancingis for self-preservation, whilebandwagoningis for self-extension (balancing is driven by the desire to avoid losses, whilebandwagoningis driven by theopportunityforgains (interests))
States bandwagonwith the stronger side because it represents the “wave of the future.”Thepresence of a significant external threat is not necessary for states to bandwagon; alliance choices are oftenmotivated by opportunities for gain as well as danger!Themost important determination of alliance decisions is the compatibility of politicalgoals (in IR),not imbalances of power or threat.
Status-quo countries vs. revisionist countriesSatisfiedpowers will join the status-quocoalition(alliance),even when it is the strongersideDissatisfiedpowers, motivated byopportunitiesmore than security, will bandwagon with an ascending revisionist state!
Two types ofbandwagooningJackalbandwagoning– ascent of powerful revisionist states or coalition attracts opportunistic revisionist states…Piling-onbandwagoning– status-quo countries bandwagon with the strongest status-quo state or coalitionBottom Line – “interests” is an important element of alliance behavior
Glenn Snyder (1984) – Alliance SecurityDilemmaSecuritydilemma functions withinalliances2 risksof alliance security dilemmaRiskof abandonment– danger that an ally does not come inhelpRiskof entrapment– danger of being dragged into a conflict that alliance partner gets involved in (though that conflict is not in the interests of your country)
Dilemma!ifa state tries to reduce a risk of abandonment by increasing its alliance commitments, it ends up increasing a risk of entrapment;ifa state tries to reduce a risk of entrapment by decreasing its commitments, it ends up increasing a risk ofabandonment.Alliance security dilemma is more severe in a multipolar than in a bipolar system (because there are a number of plausible realignment options)
Morrow (1993) – Autonomy-securitytrade-offmodelMinorstates get security benefits from their major alliance partners at the cost of sacrificing autonomy;Majoralliance partnersgetautonomy benefits at the cost of providingsecurity.
Source: Morrow (1991:914)
Alliance Transformationin the post-Cold War Era
Realism– ifcommon threatscease to exist, so will the alliance!Predictedthat the Cold War alliances would fall apartNonetheless, most of the US Cold War alliances survived the collapse of Cold War order
Liberalinstitutionalists– alliance is an institution!Alliancetakes on a life of its own, adapts to a new environment, and adopts new missions!e.g.,NATO developeda host of institutional assets that are not just specific to the Sovietthreatsbut general enough to tackle many post-CW security problems!
Constructivists – identities and values are as much important as threat perceptions!NATOallies grew to acquire similar values and sense of we-feeling that became the source of durability for alliancepartnership.CaseStudy: Why do the US Cold War alliances endure in Asia?





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Gulf War - Sogang