Steve Avary Liberal v Realist Essay
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Central Limit Theorem
A Treatise on International Relations Reconcilement
New York University
Professor Richard Levitt
By Steven L. Avary
The purpose of this paper is to gain insight into the theoretical framework tenets of the
two main schools of thought in international relations, Liberals and Realists, and apply
it to the Arab Spring. As such, the writings of Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye in
Power and Interdependence, represent the Liberal Schools Complex Interdependence
model, and John Mearsheimers in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, represent
Offensive Realists model.
A vital objective for deriving a theoretical model is the ability to assess certain historical
events and prospective predictive power of future events, with the adoption of the
model by various players in their respective game theoretic maneuvers to achieve the
desired outcome as the situation warrants.
What is important to note is the time around the books edition publishing and events
that may have shaped the authors psychological profiles. For Mearsheimer, memories
of the 9/11 attacks on Americas homeland were fresh, as well as the incursions of
Afghan and Iraq in response to the broader War on Terror. As such, it is
understandable why he takes a rather aggressive stance; whereas, Keohane and Nye
take a more collaborative approach, replicating the necessity for all actors to work
together to stem such situations as the repercussions from the Eurozone Crisis.
I would like to preface my remarks by offering some general critiques before going into
specific tenets. From my perspective, at times Keohane and Nyes comments were
nebulous, giving too great an allowance for significant fluidity, which made it difficult
to determine the strength of their convictions, contrasted with Mearsheimers, which
provide clear demarcations. Yet, Keohane and Nye suggest that a superior framework
might link the two along the continuum as prescribed per the situation, as some
situations are not analogous, nor transferable. Mearsheimers discussions are
excessively nationalistic as he discounts the potential capabilities of other countries too
much that may eventually position them to challenge to be regional hegemons. His
model appears to have more empirical support, based on historical data points, and he
describes it like a multivariate regression, with factor models based on back tested data,
and goodness of fit. Such an approach arouses concerns about data mining and the
integrity of the model inputs. These concerns are valid as he discards variables that do
not fit a tight correlation, describing them as anomalies or exogenous to the model.
QUIXOTIC QUEST The Tenets of Complex Interdependence
The main theme proposed by Complex Interdependence suggests a soft power
approach that interconnectedness between various actors is critical and a requisite for a
prosperous state. Actors goals vary, depending on the issue. Defining these goals are
difficult for transgovernmental entities, while transnationals are self-interested.
Relationships between and among actors, such as transnational and transgovernmental
entities and political elites, are utilized as conduits for action. A nonexistent subject
hierarchy leads to a dynamic agenda environment with various actors setting priorities.
It has the intent to diminish coercion and militarism in the international relations arena.
The basis of instrument resource allocation is on the most pertinent to an issue, and the
ability to handle various actors. The agenda is shaped by specific issue allocation of
resources, the status of actors, and other connections as a consequence of
interdependences increasing responsiveness. It is suggested that it is futile for strong
states to link subject matters, and that the hierarchy is eroded via weak state
relationships. International organization roles include agenda setting, alliance
encouragement, and forum provision for weak states with the intent of political
My biggest critique about Complex Interdependence is the belief in the better angels
of others by the authors that when actors have asymmetries, whether it be in such areas
as information, negotiating leverage or capability, it will not utilize it to dramatically
improve the actors position relative to anothers. That is not the real world. Various
policies, such as trade barriers, and protecting infant industry, are common. Some may
also review the U.N.s vote allocation relative to funding. The U.S. provides the largest
share of funding, but not allocated a pro rata vote share based on its capital
The authors military focus is on naval power, with the goal of utilizing it at times to
show the flag in certain hot spots or to provide safe shipping lanes in order for
unrestricted trade flows. Playing such a role though leads to free riding by others that
receive the benefit of the safety, but do not bear the cost.
The increasing linkages have led to a dramatic growth in globalization. While certain
aspects have been positive, like the opening up of China, and helping to lift hundreds of
millions out of abject poverty, it has its detriments as well. One of the issues with the
Eurozone Crisis is the common currency, which prevents Greece from having the ability
to devalue its currency and increase exports. Bretton Woodss policies restrained U.S.
monetary power, pressured its balance of payments, which led to the end of the gold
Rights for weaker states are pursued in forums like the International Criminal Court,
where cases against perpetrators of crimes of aggression and against humanity are
Complex Interdependence Theory provides four models as the reason for regime
change: Economic Process, Eroding Hegemony, Issue Structure and International
Economic Process via economic and technological changes render regimes antiquated,
leading to a metamorphosis. In so doing, efficiency may be forgone by governments in
order to promote other values.
Eroding Hegemony states that international regimes change when the power hierarchy
changes, and this phenomena is largely a result of military power dynamics.
Drawbacks in this model are due to uncertainties in domestic politics role, incapacity to
discern the subject matter, and to disregard contacts in the multi-channel system.
Issue Structure provides rules for a particular area generally made by the strongest
country in that issue. Typically, trying to connect different issues to the focal issue will
The International Organization Model states that governments and international
organizations have multi-level linkages as behavior advocates, which may become
entrenched. Power is distributed to them, but given process constraints, limits the
ability to utilize it to full capacity. Procedural constraints determine the power to
derive preferred outcomes, not a states brute power in a specific subject area.
China may be a good example of the Economic Process Model. While feeling residual
effects of Communism, it has made great strides by opening up its markets to trade and
technology adoption. However, in the building of a canal in China, Milton Friedman
noticed that although modern equipment like tractors were available, the workers used
shovels to dig. Asking why the heavy machinery was not used, he was told it is a jobs
program. Friedman replied, well, then you should take away their shovels and give
them all spoons.1
The Eroding Hegemony Model speaks to the deterioration of Russia. With the breakup
of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, a significant amount of territory and
population needed to support a large military evaporated. Instead of engaging many
actors in the multi-channel system with favorable economic alliances, it has routinely
thwarted existing agreements such as the takings of Royal Dutch/Shells assets in the
Sakhalin Islands, further eroding any goodwill with existing or potential partners.
Addressing the AIDS epidemic in Africa reflects the Issue Structure model. As America
is on the forefront of battling this disease, various global institutions look to American
know how and resources to lead this battle. However, sometimes the most important
actor may not participate, as it may perceive itself vulnerable. Such is the case of the
Kyoto Protocol. The headline issue was emissions reduction; although, ancillary goals
involved wealth redistribution with inequitable country mandates. Thus, the U.S.
abstained from becoming a si