Politics or Principles of Good Governance?

IJWP-cover-1-15-1Introduction to IJWP, March 2015

All three articles in this issue of IJWP are concerned with interest group influence on state policy and the negative effects it creates. In On War, Carl von Clausewitz described war as “politics by other means.” In this assertion, he recognized that “politics” is a contest of power over control of governance and resources and not necessarily “governance” itself. Politics tends to be about who controls power and not about how the political system operates successfully. In a realist world, political science often becomes a study about how an interest group can achieve its own end, not how the system can be prosperous, just, and stable.

A working system of governance should be “non-political” in the sense that it is based on universally accepted principles, the way we accept the principle of gravity. Despite ideology, ethnic background, or desire to achieve a specific end, if you walk off a cliff you will fall to your death. A natural principle trumps political will. Inevitably, failed states are those whose rule of law did not respect principles of good governance. This is why good political science should be focused on the principles of functional political systems, rather than the science of how an interest group can assert itself over others. The science of how a particular group can achieve its ends will always lead to collisions with other groups doing the same, and this makes political science the science of deliberate conflict instead of a science of peace or justice. Continue reading →

One Hundred Years of Global War

Introduction to IJWP, December 2014

cover 4-14-webThe year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I (WWI), the beginning of modern mechanized war at the global level. WWI represented a watershed in which war fought between traditional kings and their armies was transformed into wars among states whose policies are determined by political parties and bureaucrats. It also represented a huge technological shift, beginning with rifles, bayonets, pistols and calvaries, and ending with mustard gas, tanks, submarine torpedoes, and airplane bombs. Modern weapons of mass destruction do not easily distinguish between soldier and civilian, or confine themselves to traditional geographical borders. Traditional armies were decimeated by new weaponry, and the collateral damage on civilians escalated as well. Nearly 20 million people died in WWI; half were civilians.

The article, “Greece and the Road to World War I” by George Kaloudis, focuses on the nature of nation-state alliances and the configuration of great powers vs. smaller powers. It discusses the impact World War I had on a smaller state. Smaller states were lured into alliances with larger powers both for promises of protection and promises of a share of victory spoils. In the case of Greece, the war divided the nation internally as the king sided with the Central Powers while the democratically elected leader sided with the Allied Powers. The goals of modern democratic states are often determined by large institutional interests, rather than the head of state, as described by outgoing U.S. President Eisenhower’s famous warning about the “military-industrial complex.” Continue reading →

Raising Political Consciousness: From Violence to Responsible Actions in a Complex World

Introduction to IJWP, September 2014

front cover 3-14-2This issue of IJWP begins with an article by Norman K. Swazo on the biography of the jihadist Abu Zubaydah, who has spent many years in Guantanamo Bay detention. It is the story of a young man struggling with a conflicted identity rooted in his own upbringing in a rigid Islamic family in Saudi Arabia and his experiences related to more complex and secular Western societies. The meaning this young man came to find in a jihadist movement was only reinforced by the post-9/11 Bush doctrine that advocated the use of preemptive violence against perceived American enemies. The folly of the Bush strategy is discussed by Shah M. Tarzi in our second article.

Violence is an innate biological reaction to frustration that is inherited for self-preservation. We see young babies screaming, kicking, and waving their arms wildly when needs are not met and they know of no other way to get milk or a diaper change. We are also too aware of the fact that most of human history has been about conquest, plunder, and rape—forms of violence employed to achieve personal or state ends. The main focus of this journal, and of the entire field of peace and conflict studies generally, has been to move beyond violence to civil behavior and cooperation. The “Seville Declaration” of 1986 declared that “biology does not condemn humanity to war.… How we act is shaped by how we have been conditioned and socialized.”1 Non-violent modes of interaction can be learned, and can lead to resolving frustrations and achieving human goals.
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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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