Beyond Realism: Values, Interests, Levels, and Spheres in International Relations Theory

Introduction to IJWP, June 2014

From Kant’s influential Perpetual Peace to the social scientific studies of society in the twentieth century many writers argued that cultural values and economic interests needed to be satisfied to achieve a lasting peace. However, Hans Morgenthau, a highly influential professor of international politics disagreed. He wrote in 1948:

The main signpost that helps political realism to find its way through the landscape of international politics is the concept of interest defined in terms of power.1

This issue of IJWP challenges this political realism in several ways, arguing that it fails to hold state actors within the bounds of legitimate and moral use of power, that it fails to integrate economic and cultural “soft power” interests in its simplistic, black and white analyses, and that it fails to address levels of governance other than the state that are integrally tied to subsystems and international systems.

It is more important than ever to advance a more integral understanding of international relations that sees human society in terms of a set of interconnected social systems, beginning at the level of individuals, and moving through family systems and face-to-face community systems to state political economies, and finally to international organization.

There are three major spheres of influence, the political, economic, and cultural. Of these three, the political, which is the sphere of legal power and force, should be the servant of the economic and cultural spheres, rather than their master. But, power corrupts, and elites in any sphere whose powers are unchecked, will abuse that power and, like a cancer, feed off of those they are in a position to serve, creating unhappiness, inequality, and violence. This reversal of dominion is often cited as the difference between a “politician” and a “statesman.” It is what distinguishes a Nelson Mandela from the average power broker.

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Women and Peace, A Bad Treaty, and the Collapse of Complex Societies

Introduction to IJWP, March 2014

IJWP March 2014The first two articles of this issue of IJWP are related to women and non-violent strategies for peace.

The first article, by Komlan Agbedahin, is about an attempt by women in Togo to use a sex strike to end the country’s political impasse. The concept dates back to the ancient Greek comedy Lysistrata by Aristophanes, first presented publicly in 411 b.c. More recently, a sex strike had been used with some success in Liberia that inspired Togolese women to attempt this method of non-violent action. The Togolese experiment, however, ended in failure. This article discusses reasons for the failure, including inadequate preparation and miscommunication and the neglect of the political, economic, and social context of Togo.
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Boko Haram and the State Imposition of Group Values

Introduction to IJWP, December 2013

IJWP, December 2013This issue of IJWP has two articles related to the Boko Haram group in Northern Nigeria and an article on child labor in Uzbekistan. Boko Haram is a northern Nigerian Islamist group that has killed thousands in campaigns of terror against Christians and others. It has sought the implementation of Shari’ah law in Nigeria and it is part of a growing alliance of international Islamist groups, spreading its influence beyond Nigeria and providing safe harbor for others, like Al Queda, in Nigeria.

Our first article, “Nigeria’s Terrorist Threat: Present Contexts and the Future of sub-Saharan Africa,” looks at the reasons for the rise and expansion of Boko Haram in poorly governed states in Northern Nigeria. It explains why military attempts to eliminate such groups often have the reverse effect of stimulating their growth, because they do nothing to eliminate the threat to traditional values and ways of life associated with secular states and the United Nations. These groups, uniting against this generalized common enemy, are in fact disparate groups and often bitterly divided among themselves and do not share common local objectives.
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Conflict Resolution and Virtue

Introduction to IJWP, September 2013

IJWP-3-13-coverThis issue of IJWP has three articles that look at conflict: types of conflict, conflict mediation, and the relation of virtue to conflict.

The first article, “Haig’s ‘Waterloo’: Lessons from a Failure in International Mediation” is a study of why and how Alexander Haig failed to negotiate a resolution to the conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina in the dispute over the Falkland Islands. “Haig’s ‘Waterloo,’” provides a strong challenge to the assumption that the United States or any other powerful nation can broker peace between other nations because of its power. Some readers may remember Henry Kissinger’s famed “shuttle diplomacy” in the Middle East. Since then, many Americans have assumed their Secretary of State was in a unique position to meditate conflicts between other nations.

Professor Frank Leith Jones, author of this article, scoured recently declassified government documents related to Alexander Haig’s shuttle diplomacy during the Falklands/Malvinas islands dispute under the Reagan administration. Continue reading

Rights and Abilities

Introduction to IJWP, June 2013

cover 2-13-72This issue of IJWP has articles on three different topics: Political stability in Chechnya, treatment of women in Pakistan, and bullying in U.S. schools. While these are quite different topics, they all relate to the general issue of rights and abilities.

Our global culture promotes concepts of human rights and democracy through the United Nations, the mass media, and many NGOs. However, human rights and democracy cannot be obtained without the ability to design structures of governance and the abilities of people living in a society to produce the things they want. Many people demand rights without having the necessary abilities to achieve them. The United Nations promotes rights, but cannot provide people with the ability to achieve them.
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