The balance of power—a notoriously slippery, murky, and protean term, endlessly debated and variously defined—is the core theory of international politics within the realist perspective. A “balance of power” system is one in which the power held and exercised by states within the system is checked and balanced by the power of others. Thus, as a nation’s power grows to the point that it menaces other powerful states, a counter-balancing coalition emerges to restrain the rising power, such that any bid for world hegemony will be self-defeating. The minimum requirements for a balance of power system include the existence of at least two or more actors of roughly equal strength, states seeking to survive and preserve their autonomy, alliance flexibility, and the ability to resort to war if need be. At its essence, balance of power is a type of international order. Theorists disagree, however, about the normal operation of the balance of power. Structural realists describe an “automatic version” of the theory, whereby system balance is a spontaneously generated, self-regulating, and entirely unintended outcome of states pursuing their narrow self-interests. Earlier versions of balance of power were more consistent with a “semi-automatic” version of the theory, which requires a “balancer” state throwing its weight on one side of the scale or the other, depending on which is lighter, to regulate the system. The British School’s discussion of balance of power depicts a “manually operated” system, wherein the process of equilibrium is a function of human contrivance, with emphasis on the skill of diplomats and statesmen, a sense of community of nations, of shared responsibility, and a desire and need to preserve the balance of power system. As one would expect of a theory that made its appearance in the mid-16th century, balance of power is not without its critics. Liberals claim that globalization, democratic peace, and international institutions have fundamentally transformed international relations, moving it out of the realm of power politics. Constructivists claim that balance of power theory’s focus on material forces misses the central role played by ideational factors such as norms and identities in the construction of threats and alliances. Realists, themselves, wonder why no global balance of power has materialized since the end of the Cold War.
The Balance of Power in World Politics
Randall L. Schweller
The Rise of “Peaceocracy” in Africa
The term “peaceocracy” refers to a situation in which an emphasis on peace is used to prioritize stability and order to the detriment of democracy. As such, the term can be used to refer to a short-lived or longer-term strategy whereby an emphasis on peace by an incumbent elite is used to close the political space through the delegitimization and suppression of activity that could arguably foster division or conflict. At the heart of peaceocracy lies an insistence that certain actions—including those that are generally regarded as constituting important political and civil rights, such as freedom of speech and association, freedom of the press, and freedom to engage in peaceful protest and strike action—can spill over into violence and foster division and must therefore be avoided to guard against disorder. Recent history suggests that incumbents can effectively establish a peaceocracy in contexts where many believe that widespread violence is an ever-present possibility; incumbents have, or are widely believed to have, helped to establish an existing peace; and the level of democracy is already low. In such contexts, a fragile peace helps to justify a prioritization of peace; the idea that incumbents have “brought peace” strengthens their self-portrait as the unrivaled guardians of the same; and semi-authoritarianism provides a context in which incumbents are motivated to use every means available to maintain power and are well placed—given, for example, their control over the media and civil society—to manipulate an emphasis on peace to suppress opposition activities. Key characteristics of peaceocracy include: an incumbent’s effective portrait of an existing peace as fragile and themselves as the unrivaled guardians of order and stability; a normative notion of citizenship that requires “good citizens” to actively protect peace and avoid activities that might foster division and conflict; and the use of these narratives of guardianship and disciplined citizenship to justify a range of repressive laws and actions. Peaceocracy is thus a strategy, rather than a discreet regime type, which incumbents can use in hybrid regimes as part of their “menu of manipulation,” and which can be said to be “successful” when counter-narratives are in fact marginalized and the political space is effectively squeezed.
Non-State Policing in Africa
Studies of policing go to the heart of debates over public authority, violence, and order. Across the globe, the state cannot be assumed to be at the center of policing practices or their authorization. Across Africa, a diverse mix of individuals, groups, and corporations are involved in policing people’s everyday lives and the spaces in which they live them. Categorizing the different groups and individuals in this varied landscape is no simple task. Even drawing lines between “state” and “non-state” policing is not as easy as it may first appear. In reality, any constructed boundary is likely to be more porous and fluid than imagined. In some cases, this is because the service providers become entangled with the state. State officials, for example, may moonlight for other policing organizations. Conversely, state institutions might collaborate with, or outsource work to, civilian and corporate actors. In other cases, groups who identify as non-state actors may still mimic the symbols, materials and practices of the state in an attempt to bolster their own claims to public authority. Faced with the difficulty of sustaining any simple divide between categories such as “state” or “non-state” policing scholars have taken a variety of analytical routes: refining their definitions; developing “ideal types” against which messy empirical realities can be juxtaposed, or moving away from bounded typologies in an attempt to understand group and individuals on their own terms. Taking the latter course, this article highlights the variety of putatively non-state policing organizations and formations across the continent. In doing so, it highlights that the presence of private security corporations, rebel groups, neighbourhood watches, or so-called mobs are no simple indicator of the absence or weakness of state institutions and imaginaries. Understanding everyday negotiations over statehood and sovereignty requires a more nuanced approach. When this path is taken, and policing landscapes are studied in all their complexity, we gain crucial insights into the ways in which being and belonging, law and order, power and legitimacy, privilege and oppression function in any given context.
Think Tanks and Foreign Policy
Lars Brozus and Hanns W. Maull
Foreign policy think tanks originated in the context of the Industrial Revolution and world wars in Western industrialized countries and then spread to all parts of the globe. In the process their national orientations toward governments and their attentive national public audiences have evolved toward a global perspective. As a consequence, they also have been drawn into, and have contributed to, the debate about the future of the Western-dominated international order. What exactly makes a think tank remains contested, but there is broad agreement on the variety of functions they fulfill. They bring knowledge to power, but power also uses them to advance its political agenda. As the idealistic notion of expert knowledge as a solution to political problems has fallen by the wayside and advocacy think tanks have flourished, the interaction of think tanks with governments, the media, and the public has become politicized. In liberal-democratic countries, there is a growing trend toward competitive knowledge production by think tanks, whereas in authoritarian systems, think tanks are increasingly being used as instruments of state-controlled public diplomacy. Ultimately, think tanks have to bridge the tension between the needs of decision-makers, on the one hand, and the standards of scientific inquiry and orientation toward the common good, on the other hand. This tension cannot be resolved, but it can be made productive. For this, a strong emphasis on professional integrity will be essential.
Hegemony in Foreign Policy
Richard Ned Lebow and Simon Reich
American realists, liberals, journalists, and policymakers speak of American hegemony as if it were an established role, although a threatened one given the rise of China. They describe hegemony as essential to international political and economic stability, and a role that only America can perform. These claims are highly questionable, as there is no evidence that the United States is a hegemon nor that it has provided the benefits American international relations theorists attribute to a hegemon. To the extent these benefits are provided, it is the result of the collective efforts of numerous states, by no means all of them great powers. American assertions of hegemony are viewed with jaundiced, if not hostile, eyes by other states. Hegemony is a fiction, propagated by Americans to gain special privileges, justify an interventionist foreign policy, support the defense industry, and buttress national self-esteem. In practice, the quest for hegemony is a threat, not a prop, to the global order.
All conservatives have something in common, a particular argument, even if they disagree about the rationale behind this argument. The conservative argument can be stated thus: Some orders ought to be maintained because they are existing and well established. The reason given by conservatives why orders that are existing and well established ought to be maintained is varied. Typically, it has to do with pessimism with regard to the human moral nature or human rationality, or it has to do with pessimism with regard to rational argumentation combined with optimism about what has evolved historically speaking. The reasoning, then, is instrumental and pragmatic. However, there are also conservatives who claim that an existing and well-established order, such as a nation, a Volk, a species, or some cherished institution, has final value.
The World Trade Organization and the European Union
Jens Ladefoged Mortensen
In a time of trade wars, free trade skepticism, tech rivalry, and multipolar disorder, the European Union (EU) cannot evade its responsibilities the last defender of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Yet, it raises the question of whether the EU has power to defend the WTO. The EU is a multilateralist-oriented power of global magnitude. Unlike the United States, the EU is openly defending the WTO in the current crisis created by continued refusal to appointment WTO Appellate Body members. Like the United States, the EU is concerned with the illegitimate trade practices of China. Yet, the EU uses diplomatic pressure on China within the rules of the WTO. The EU is actively trying to rescue the rule-based trade system. Yet, it cannot do so alone. It needs support, not just form other WTO members but also from within Europe itself. The current crisis is in part rooted in the inability of the WTO members to update the WTO rulebook. The focus will be on the potential clash between a more assertive EU on sustainability and the absence of updated WTO rules on sustainable trade issues. This may force the EU to confront a deep-rooted policy dilemma. The question is whether the EU should continue to refrain from using its market power to promote sustainable trade in respect of the WTO. As the EU is about to ratify several bilateral trade agreements of commercial, geo-economic, and indeed geo-political importance, such as the EU–Mercosur or EU–Vietnam agreements, the rule-orientation of the EU faces growing domestic opposition as well as external contestation. Furthermore, the EU is modernizing its trade defense weaponry, the antidumping instrument, and has recently declared its intent to impose unilateral climate-related trade policy measures, the carbon-adjustment tariff, in the future. Thus, an incident such as the burning of the Amazon forest may force the EU to take a tougher stance on sustainability at the risk of bringing the EU on a collision course with the WTO itself, its rules, process, and member states. Consequently, the complex setup of the EU as a trade power could make it difficult to ratify WTO-compatible trade agreements in the future.
Party Politics and Religion in Northern Ireland
Contrary to popular belief, Northern Irish politics is not an entirely religious affair. The widespread and longstanding use of the labels “Catholic” and “Protestant” to denote political allegiance undoubtedly contributes to such an impression. The relationship between religion and politics in Northern Ireland is, however, more complex than these convenient labels suggest. Indeed the question of whether and to what extent religion possesses any political significance in the region has generated considerable academic debate. Organizationally, there is a clear separation of church and party in Northern Ireland. The main political parties have eschewed formal ties with churches, and faith leaders have largely confined themselves to involvement in “small p” politics. The one exception to this general rule has been the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Its close ties with the Free Presbyterian Church has long rendered it a unique case in the British and Irish context. The historical relationship between the main unionist parties and the Orange Order, a quasi-religious organization, further blurs the lines between religion and party politics in Northern Ireland. Since the signing of the Belfast or Good Friday Agreement in 1998, alternative or non-ethnonational political issues have become increasingly salient in Northern Ireland. More specifically, touchstone moral issues have taken center stage on several occasions. Abortion rights and marriage equality, for example, remain high on the contemporary political agenda, with clear party differences observable on each issue. The staunch moral conservatism of the DUP, derived from its commitment to a fundamentalist Protestant doctrine, again sets it apart. The continued exceptionalism of Northern Ireland on these issues, compared with the rest of the United Kingdom and, increasingly, Ireland, serves to reinforce the importance of understanding the role religion plays in shaping party policy programs and party competition in the region.
Referendums in the European Union
Referendums are frequently used to ratify European Union (EU)–related propositions. Since 1972 there have been in total 46 EU-related referendums, excluding third-country referendums on EU-related matters. While referendums are constitutionally mandated in some countries in order to ratify new treaties, other referendums are held for either normative or for political reasons. Referendums deal with topics that are less familiar to voters, where key issues typically do not map onto domestic political cleavages. This means that we should expect that campaigns and the information they provide about the issues and the positions of political actors might matter more in framing issues than in first-order national elections. While there is by no means a scholarly consensus, recent research has shown, for instance, that an issue that dominates media coverage can impact how voters evaluate a proposition. Finally, what do we know about voter behavior? While referendums on EU affairs have been criticized as being decided by “second-order” factors such as government popularity, there is evidence that when a proposition matters for voters, voting behavior is more dominated by issue-voting. Recent research has drawn on advances in cognitive psychology to investigate the impact of attitude strength and personality characteristics for voter behavior.
Power Transition Theory and the Essence of Revisionism
Jonathan M. DiCicco
Power transition theory and Graham Allison’s Thucydides Trap Project are discussed in tandem with two complementary aims: to highlight theoretical and empirical contributions of the power transition research program, and to provide critical perspective on the Thucydides Trap Project. Conventional-wisdom approaches of this sort are distinguished from power transition theory, the empirical international relations theory proposed by A. F. K. Organski and further articulated and tested by generations of scholars. The theory’s central elements—national power, stages of power transition, shifts in the distribution of power, international order and the status quo—are identified and discussed, with a focus on key variables used to explain war and peace among contending states. A comparative, critical examination of the Thucydides Trap Project is used as a lens for spotlighting key empirical contributions of the power transition theory research tradition and the value of adhering to norms of scientific rigor. Opportunities for further growth and development are noted, with special attention afforded to essential features of the power transition theory research program, including the study of (1) the timing and initiation of war; (2) rising powers’ dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a possible distinction between dissatisfaction and revisionism; and (3) reducing the risk of violent, revisionist challenges.
Haiti: Deconstructing Military Entanglements in Politics
Michel S. Laguerre
Since the independence of Haiti in 1804, the military has played a central role in the governance of the republic, often accessing the presidency through the recurrent phenomenon of the coup d’état, which serves as both a principal mechanism for the transmission of power from one government to another and for reinforcing the domination of the military over the civilian population. The 19th-century model of the coup d’état reflected the de facto decentralization of the military as it was carried out through rebellions concocted and headed by army battalions stationed in the rural provinces. The U.S. occupation (1915–1934), by locating or relocating the military elite, the most prominent military bases, the largest contingent of the military officers and rank and file in the capital city, contributed to the reengineering of a new national infrastructure that facilitates a new model of the coup d’état to emerge: One that germinates among the high command of the military; one that takes the form of a corporate intervention; one that is made possible because of the high command’s control over tactical military weapons, including the heavy military equipment located in the capital city; and one that is swift, thereby preventing any provincial military base from mounting a meaningful or successful military counter-coup.
Terrorism as a Global Wave Phenomenon: Anti-Colonial Wave
David C. Rapoport
The Versailles Treaty ending World War I established a new international order by creating the League of Nations and, dividing the defeated empires in Europe into a number of nation-states. The overseas empires of the defeated became League of Nations mandates, which the victorious powers administered until they were sufficiently developed for “self -determination.” Ironically, the first terrorist campaign began in a victorious power’s territory when the Irish Republican Army produced the first success in global terrorist history though it did gain all territory sought. Campaigns emerged then in other mandates and overseas territories of the victorious powers but all failed. But the Atlantic Charter drawn in World War II made the self-determination principle more obligatory by pledging that the imperial territories of the defeated powers would be freed immediately. When the war was over, the victorious powers often dissembled portions of their empires. Elements not freed largely contained conflicting ethnic elements unable to agree on how to be governed. Successful terrorist campaigns materialized in those territories, and the wave ended when the energies of governments not terrorists dissipated! But most successes were incomplete because bloody tensions between ethnic divisions in the new states persisted. Important terrorist decisions helped their causes. The First Wave’s language tactics, strategy, and targets were changed and helped terrorists get less offensive media coverage and significant support from the international world, particularly the United Nations. They now described themselves as “freedom fighters” not terrorists. Assassination occurred rarely, violence was restricted to local territories and efforts to cooperate with group were abandoned. The police were the principal civilian element attacked, and warnings about attacks were often given to other civilians enabling them to seek safety.