I am just about finished with a university degree in Political Science. The guidance gal thought taking a course in International relations would be a good way to fill out a 200 level course I am missing.
But I am getting a bit tired of the academic mentality. It is getting worse at U of T. I did not get a particularrly good amrk for this, and some ridiculous comments. I think in a later blog I will publish the exchange i had with the marker. But for now, here is my view about Inernational relations as relaterd to war and peace. This semester it is about trade.
Based on my reading of the American presidential debate, I do not agree with the idea that the foreign policy of a nation is governed by its national interest, thus showing little variance across political parties, and that electoral outcomes rarely change foreign policy in significant ways. I do not agree that a whole country has a core understanding of international relations which does not change over time, allowing only minor policy changes from one administration to another. I find a common understanding of foreign relations between Obama and Romney, namely neoliberalism, but also some significant differences which foreign governments must take into account. A Romney or a new Obama administration would have foreign policies which are similar in their basic objectives, but different in methods and style. This is because they represent different factions within a narrow but well dug in ruling class, the famous 1%, and both agree that there is an "American empire" but vary about such things as how aggressive or risk averse they will be, and on the emphasis to be placed on their different economic interests.
I take the following as given; that there is no such thing as a "national interest", that every interest group in a polity assumes that their interests as they perceive them are the national interests. If there is an electoral system, the different parties will represent the interests of different factions of the privileged classes. Thus new social movements can capture governmental power, and redefine the "national interest" and change the foreign policy of a country quite drastically, even after a long period of stasis. This is so common in history as to require no example.
What I will show is that the way in which a nation effects other nations depends on the social actors who are in governmental power, and is not inevitable. Toward this, and through readings of the presidential debate, some media readings, and some references to course readings as they relate to differing theories of international relations, I will show that a Romney presidency could alter world events significantly going forward, and that serious internal change in the U.S., with currently marginalized interests gaining influence, would change world events immensely. This can be seen by looking through the lens of two nations who are in real and potential conflict with the U.S.; Iran and Russia, at the election debates between the "third party candidates" in addition to that between Obama/Romney. The first and fourth levels of analysis are the key ones. Level one, to the individual holding power, is more immediate, and level four, to the dominant actors in society, is more long term and more drastic in its potential for change.
As for theory, constructivists might say that what may give an impression of foreign policy rarely changing is that governments do not often make abrupt changes in policy direction, including foreign policy. Prudent managers generally avoid abrupt policy changes, in order to give those effected time to adjust. Watching only U.S. politics may also give an impression that it does not matter who gets elected. Romney and Obama both subscribe to the elite view is that the U.S. should rule the world, and also have a "Liberal" view on how to run it. There is little that is "realist" in their world view; no idea of balance of powers or spheres of influence or even limits to power. But constructivism is only a way of analyzing liberal or realist behaviors, it is not a way of acting.
John Pilger explains my view of liberalism. He writes that it is a myth that conservatives cause wars. He correctly identifies Liberalism as the world's most dangerous "ism"; these are the people who think they are "non ideological" and "rational" and so have "the truth" about everything and the "moral right" to impose it on everybody else "for their own good". When this mentality is applied to foreign policy by "Liberal Imperialists" you have constant crisis. "Liberal Realists" think that Liberalism is the solution for war instead of its cause. Pilger states, and it should be well noted, that these people "...have taken the humanity out of the study of nations..."
As for the nature of the U.S. regime, it is a financial plutocracy. This has different consequences than in an industrial plutocracy, as described in page 191 of the reader, in which conflict has as many down sides as up sides for industrialists. According to Kurth, conflict has much less down side for financiers. Kurth does not believe that any domestic force will be able to challenge the U.S. plutocracy during the decade 2010. However, a decade is not that long in world politics. Financial Plutocracy will self destruct due to being "...ill-suited for effective leadership...", disdainful of "...healthy domestic industrial structure...", attached to "...a global reserve currency, despite the vulnerability...", and to its "...preference for small wars or imperial policing..." A feature of this particular Plutocracy is the use of neoliberalism as a cover for its actions.
Having made clear my own preconceptions and understanding of the question, I get to the "core" of this essay, a review of the debate between President Obama and the republican candidate Romney on foreign policy. Of course, everything the two said was rhetoric and propaganda. They both spoke from within an artificial narrative created by the establishment media and educational institutions; "America" is the indispensable nation, it has the right to intervene with other nations to "help" them to reject extremism and to create a "democracy" and a "civil society", or to do "nation building"; the language of liberalism. Obama even said that Romney sounded as if he thought that doing everything Obama did, but saying it louder, made a difference. As for geostrategy, neither of them had much of that either. Obama criticized Romney's policies as being unfocussed and incoherent, and emphasized his more cautious approach. They kept turning to the state of the U.S. economy for a reason; Admiral Mullen and others had described the deficit as the biggest strategic threat. Obama spoke more about the need to do some "nation building" at home. Romney talked more about "free enterprise" and "investment". Both agreed that Iran is the biggest threat, but only Romney cited Russia as a "geopolitical foe", the only time either talked in realist terms. The evidence of Romney's intellect must concern these two countries. Most glaringly, he seems to think that Iran is a landlocked country and that Iraq is not between it and Syria. His phrasing is often awkward and unclear; "...(the Chinese) look at the fact that we owe them a trillion dollars and owe other people 16 trillion (dollars) in total, including them..." A strong subtext in this debate is an awareness that their country's economic malaise is starting to restrict its ability to "project power".
Russia and Iran will notice that Romney is clearly less intelligent and knowledgeable than Obama and is likely to be more aggressive. This would effect their reactions to a Romney led U.S. Russia has reacted negatively to Romney calling it a "geopolitical foe".
However, Russia has a long standing policy of assurance toward the U.S. and will likely continue it, waiting for a change in American behavior.
Their policy is highly realistic and cautious, based on an understanding of the limits of their own power, and of the internal politics of the U.S. They will give no U.S. president a justification for attack. Iran is also realistic in its foreign policy, although more assertive than Russia. In game theory, Iran's strategy is of deterrence or a "chicken game". The Iranians are confident that their opponents understand that they would cause as much damage to them in a conflict as they would receive, and so the opponents will always back down.
They believe that the U.S. is on the verge of bankruptcy and does not dare start a war with them. Romney cited the Iranian president as saying "...that our debt makes us not a great country..." Nonetheless their media claims that Iran is in peril from the U.S. no matter who is elected.
Iran and Russia thus have good reason to believe they will eventually be dealing with a more agreeable government in Washington. This time the U.S. electorate had a narrow choice. Alternative candidates were ignored by the media. But that could soon change; economic difficulties generally lead to social unrest which tends to bring new social actors into governmental power, with new definitions of the national interest. The alternative candidates debates gave a good indication of the likely shape of an alternative to the "republicrats". The two strongest alternatives, the ones voted back for the second round, were the Libertarian and Green candidates. Both agreed that Iran is no threat to the U.S. Both want a substantial reduction in defense spending. The Libertarian wants armed force used only where "real U.S. interests" are involved. The Green candidate insists that the U.S. must stop "policing the world".
At the first level of analysis, Obama would be less dangerous than Romney, simply because he has more experience and a greater intellect. He is less likely to blunder into a calamity or to be led into one by zealous advisors. He should be a better manager of the Plutocracy's foreign policy. At the fourth level of analysis, The Plutocracy is dangerous but self destructive and will not last long. It will likely be replaced by a less aggressive regime with a different idea of "national interest", which will likely come into power through election. Until then, Russia and Iran will have to deal with the present U.S. regime. The political establishments of those countries have obviously found ways of doing so which make sense to them. Russia will practice assurance and Iran will practice deterrence. How it will work for them is impossible to predict, but there will be many surprises for them. The outcomes of U.S. elections will continue to be very important for them. These outcomes will depend on the internal politics of the U.S., and how changes in the structure of the U.S. economy and society over time throw down old elites and raise up new leadership groups with new approaches to foreign relations. To conclude, like all human relationships, governmental, social, and even world systems are not fixed, but are dynamic processes.