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Article

Kurds are considered to be one of the largest ethnic groups in the world—with a population of more than 30 million people—who do not have their own independent state. In the Middle East, they are the fourth largest ethnic group after Arabs, Persians, and Turks. The statelessness of such a major group with an increasing ethnic and national consciousness in the post-Ottoman world led to their traumatic insecurities in the hands of majority-led nation-states that used modern technologies of social engineering including displacement, dehumanization, assimilation, and genocidal acts throughout the 20th century. With the memory of such traumatic insecurities, the driving force of contemporary Kurdish nationalism in the Middle East has primarily been the question of state or state-like entities. Yet, Kurds are not a homogeneous group with a collective understanding of security and self-government. Rather, there are political-organizational rivalries within Kurds across Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. Thus, it is important to understand the multifaceted Kurdish politics in the Middle East within a global-historical perspective where global power rivalries, regional geopolitics, and intra-Kurdish organizational competition are interwoven together. While the opportunities for Kurdish self-determination were missed in the early 20th century, resilient Kurdish political organizations emerged within the bipolar international context of the Cold War. The American hegemony in the post–Cold War era transformed the Kurdish political status in the geopolitics of the Middle East, where the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 Iraq War, and the broader war on terror provided the Kurds with many political opportunities. Finally, the shifting regional and global alliances in the post–Arab Spring era—where the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become the global nemesis—created new political opportunities as well as significant threats for the Kurds.

Article

Wesley B. O'Dell

The notion that Great Powers fulfill a leadership role in international politics is old, influential, and contested. As the actors in the international system with the greatest capacity for taking action, Great Powers are assumed to think both further ahead and in broader, more systemic terms than other states; they then use their preeminent positions to organize others to promote public goods, reaping benefits along the way thanks to their direction of events. At the core of this understanding is the assumption that Great Power actions are, or ought to be, inspired by something more than simple self-interest and the pursuit of short-term gains. As an organic creation of international practice, Great Power leadership was traditionally the domain of historians and international legists; early students of the topic utilized inductive reasoning to derive general precepts of Great Power sociology from the landmark settlements of the 18th and 19th centuries. The framing of Great Powers as a leadership caste originated in the struggle against Louis XIV, was given tentative institutional form through settlements such as the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), and deepened considerably in both institutionalization and sophistication in the 19th century Concert of Europe. The return of France to full Great Power status, the Congress (1878) and Conference (1884) of Berlin, and the suppression of the Boxer Rebellion (1899–1901) all demonstrated the willingness and ability of the Powers to cooperate in the management of international change. In the early 20th century, the leadership of the Great Powers was both challenged as an unjust agent of catastrophe as well as increasingly formalized through recognition in new international institutions such as the League of Nations and the United Nations. Theorists of international relations began to formulate theories based on Great Power management at the time of the discipline’s beginnings in the early 20th century. Realists and liberals frequently utilize Great Power concepts to explain processes of equilibrium, hegemonic competition, and institution building, while approaches influenced by constructivism focus on the role of ideas, statuses, and roles in the formulation of Great Power identities and policies. The doctrine of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a 21st-century manifestation of the application of Great Power leadership to international problems; though hailed by some as the future of Great Power management, it provokes controversy among both theorists and practitioners. Similarly, extensive scholarly attention has been devoted to the management and accommodation of “rising powers.” These are states that appear likely to obtain the status of Great Power, and there is extensive debate over their orientation toward and potential management of international order. Finally, the position of Russia and China within this literature has provoked deep reflection on the nature of Great Power, the responsibilities of rising and established powers, and the place of Great Power management amidst the globalized challenges of the 21st century.

Article

The argument can be made, and has in fact been made, that the English School is primarily concerned with the study of institutions. The institutions of international society are social in a fundamental sense. That is, they are something above and beyond what one usually associates with an international institution. There are three dominant perspectives on what the primary institutions of international society are: functional, historical/descriptive, and typological. Hedley Bull was the major proponent of the functional perspective, and he identified five primary institutions of international society: the balance of power, international law, diplomacy, war, and the great powers. However, the historical/descriptive perspective appears to be the prevailing one. Nevertheless, various authors have started to think about the institutions of international society typologically. This has certain implications for how one views the cognitive objectives of the English School. The adherence to functional, historical/descriptive, or typological perspectives involves a positioning in relation to where international relations (IR), as a discipline, and the English School, as an approach to it, should locate itself in wider academia.

Article

Jonathan M. DiCicco and Tudor A. Onea

Great-power competition (GPC) is a touchstone for strategists and policymakers. Its popularity stems from perceptions of China’s rise, Russia’s resurgence, and the United States’ relative decline. The term’s notoriety in policy circles is related to its use in U.S. national defense and strategy guidance documents. Sometimes GPC is dismissed as a buzzword, but it is a distinctive phenomenon that deserves scholarly investigation. GPC is a classic feature of modern international relations grounded in a traditional power politics approach. Specifically, GPC is a permanent, compulsory, comprehensive, and exclusive contest for supremacy in a region or domain among those states considered to be the major players in the international system. The contest varies in intensity over time and space but remains a persistent aspect of the international system of sovereign states. Great powers field uncommonly large, sophisticated, and diversified capabilities and compete for high stakes; their competitive behavior is endemic to a stratified system in which select states are recognized as having special status. That status imparts to members of the great-power club privileges and responsibilities, including collective action to address system-wide problems. However, the competition over power, security, and status among the great powers is always present. GPC is often parsed into analytically separable dimensions (military, economic, scientific–technological, and so on), but in practice such dimensions are interrelated. Together with the great powers’ extraordinary capabilities and interests, the interdependence of these dimensions of competition tends to push GPC to be comprehensive. GPC is sometimes treated as something other than war, but when GPC intensifies, the possibility of major war looms. Patterns of GPC are identified through the lens of competing schools of thought on power politics: balance of power and hegemonic–power transition. Each provides a general framework in which GPC may be located. Scholars, however, should not confine their investigations to such frameworks; novel scholarship is warranted to further develop the concept of GPC, to characterize it and theorize about its dynamics, to further study it empirically, and to scrutinize it through critical lenses.