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The long peace, the end of the cold war, and the failure of realism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 May 2009

Richard Ned Lebow
Director of International Affairs in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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Three of the more important international developments of the last half century are the “long peace” between the superpowers, the Soviet Union's renunciation of its empire and leading role as a superpower, and the post-cold war transformation of the international system. Realist theories at the international level address the first and third of these developments, and realist theories at the unit level have made an ex post facto attempt to account for the second. The conceptual and empirical weaknesses of these explanations raise serious problems for existing realist theories. Realists contend that the anarchy of the international system shapes interstate behavior. Postwar international relations indicates that international structure is not determining. Fear of anarchy and its consequences encouraged key international actors to modify their behavior with the avowed goal of changing that structure. The pluralist security community that has developed among the democratic industrial powers is in part the result of this process. This community and the end of the cold war provide evidence that states can escape from the security dilemma.

Symposium: The end of the cold war and theories of international relations
Copyright © The IO Foundation 1994

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19. Ibid., p. 114.

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21. Ibid., pp. 180–81.

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26. Based on interviews with various scholars at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 1–4 September 1993; and personal communication (letter) from Stephen Walt, 20 October 1993.

27. The New York Times, 30 October 1993, p. A1.

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34. This literature is reviewed by Levy, Jack S., “Declining Power and the Preventive Motivation for War,” World Politics 40 (10 1987), pp. 82107CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Lebow, Richard Ned, “Thucydides, Power Transition Theory, and the Causes of War,” in Lebow, Richard Ned and Strauss, Barry S., eds., Hegemonic Rivalry: From Thucydides to the Nuclear Age (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991), pp. 125–68Google Scholar.

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37. Ibid., pp. 192–97.

38. Ibid., pp. 231–4.

39. Personal interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, Anatoliy Dobrynin, Oleg Grinevsky, Georgyi Shakhnazarov, and Vadim Zagladin, Moscow, New York, Stockholm, Toronto, and Vienna, 1989–93. See also Herman, Robert, “Soviet New Thinking: Ideas, Interests, and the Redefinition of Security,” Ph.D. diss., Department of Government, Cornell University, in preparationGoogle Scholar.

40. Ibid.

41. On the analogy, see Lebow, Richard Ned, “Superpower Management of Security Alliances: The Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact,” in Broadhurst, Arlene Idol, ed., The Future of European Alliance Systems (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1982), pp. 185236Google Scholar; and the following three chapters in Lebow and Strauss, Hegemonic Rivalry: Gilpin, Robert, “Peloponnesian War and Cold War” pp. 3152Google Scholar; Lebow, , “Thucydides, Power Transition, and the Causes of War,” pp. 125–68Google Scholar; and Evangelista, Matthew A., “Democracies, Authoritarian States, and International Conflict,” pp. 213–34Google Scholar.

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44. For a description of the several post–cold war schools of foreign policy that have developed in Russia, see Arbatov, Alexei G., “Russia's Foreign Policy Alternatives,” International Security 18 (Fall 1973), pp. 543CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For the views of critics of the Gorbachev–Yeltsin accommodation with the West, see the interviews in Remnick, David, Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire (New York: Random House 1993), passimGoogle Scholar.

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48. Evangelista, “Stalin's Postwar Army Reappraised.”

49. The quotation is from Waltz, , “The Emerging Structure of International Politics,” p. 8Google Scholar.

50. See Oye, “Explaining the End of the Cold War,” for such an argument.

51. The New York Times, 28 August 1980, p. A4.

52. For attempts at such explanations, see Richard Ned Lebow, “When Do Leaders Initiate Conciliatory Policies,” in Lebow and Risse-Kappen, International Relations Theory and the End of the Cold War; and Janice Gross Stein, “Political Learning by Doing: Gorbachev as Uncommitted Thinker and Motivated Learner,” in this issue of International Organization.

53. See, for example, Stuart, Douglas and Tow, William, The Limits of Alliance: NATO Out-of-Area Problems Since 1949 (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990)Google Scholar; Risse-Kappen, Thomas, The Zero Option: INF, West Germany, and Arms Control (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1988)Google Scholar; and Eichenberg, Richard C., “Dual Track and Double Trouble: The Two-Level Politics of INF,” in Evans, Peter B., Jacobson, Harold K., and Putnam, Robert D., Double-edged Diplomacy: International Bargaining and Domestic Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 4576Google Scholar.

54. I include the following countries in this community: Iceland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, United States, Mexico, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand.

55. Deutsch, Karl W. et al. , Political Community and the North Atlantic Area (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957), pp. 56Google Scholar.

56. Lebow, , “Ireland,” p. 264Google Scholar.

57. The Irish Army plan called for a border incident to be staged as the pretext for invasion. A Republic ambulance, requested by a Catholic physician in Londonderry, was to be fired on while crossing the Craigavon Bridge. In response, the Sixth Brigade of the Irish Army was to secure the bridge and march into Londonderry. Meanwhile, an armored column would cross into the southeastern corner of Ulster and strike at Lurgan and Toome Bridge, cutting off Belfast from the rest of Ulster. The two forces were to link up and “liberate” Belfast. The plan assumed noninterference by the British Army. See Lebow, Richard Ned, “Ireland,” in Henderson, Gregory, Lebow, Richard Ned, and Stoessinger, John G., eds., Divided Nations in a Divided World (New York: David McKay, 1974), p. 247Google Scholar.

58. See NATO Heads of Government, Copenhagen Declaration, 7 June 1991; “New Strategic Concept,” Communiqué of NATO Summit, Rome, 8 November 1991; Ministerial Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Athens, Final Communiqué, 10 June 1993; and Statement Issues at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council in Athens, 11 June 1992. For public opinion data, see “Europabarometer 36-Herbst 1991,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 9 December 1991; and Asmus, Ronald D., “National Self-confidence and International Reticence,” document no. N-3522-AF (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corp., 1992)Google Scholar.

59. Personal interviews with various officials in Lisbon, Madrid, Paris, Brussels, the Hague, Bonn, Rome, and Copenhagen, 1991–93.

60. Personal interviews in Wellington, Canberra, and Tokyo.

61. See Palmer, Diego Ruiz, French Strategic Options in the 1990s, Adelphi Paper no. 260 (London: International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1991)Google Scholar. Pond, Elizabeth, in Beyond the Wall: Germany's Road to Unification (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1993), p. 66Google Scholar, quotes interviews with NATO officials. See also Haglund, David G., Alliance Within the Alliance? Franco–German Military Cooperation and the European Pillar of Defense (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991)Google Scholar.

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63. Ibid., pp. 66–67.

64. Havel, Václav, “How Europe Could Fail,” New York Review of Books, 18 11 1993, p. 3Google Scholar.

65. There is considerable research that argues that democratic governments do not fight other democratic governments. See, for example, Chan, Steve, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall … Are Freer Countries More Pacific?Journal of Conflict Resolution 20 (12 1984), pp. 617–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Maoz, Zeev and Abdolai, Nasrin, “Regime Types and International Conflicts, 1816–1976,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 33 (03 1989), pp. 336CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Schweller, Randall L., “Domestic Structures and Preventive War: Are Democracies More Pacific?World Politics 44 (01 1992), pp. 235–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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67. A similar argument has been made by Goldgeier, James M. and McFaul, Michael, “A Tale of Two Worlds: Core and Periphery in the Post–cold War Era,” International Organization 46 (Spring 1992), pp. 467–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

68. For an elaboration, see Ashley, Richard, “The Poverty of Neorealism,” International Organization 38 (Spring 1984), pp. 225–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wendt, Alexander, “The Agent–Structure Problem in International Relations Theory,” International Organization 41 (Summer 1987), pp. 335–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Dessler, David, “What's at Stake in the Agent–structure Debate,” International Organization 43 (Summer 1989), pp. 441–73CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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70. Waltz, , “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” p. 329Google Scholar.

71. See Waltz, , Theory of International Politics, p. 118Google Scholar; and Waltz, , “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” pp. 330–31Google Scholar.

72. Lebow, Richard Ned, “Windows of Opportunity: Do States Jump Through Them?International Security 9 (Summer 1984), pp. 147–86CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

73. See Bundy, McGeorge, Danger and Survival: Choices About the Bomb in the First Fifty Years (New York: Random House, 1988)Google Scholar; John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace; Lebow, Richard Ned and Stein, Janice Gross, We All Lost the Cold War (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994)Google Scholar.

74. Waltz writes that “Rules, institutions, and patterns of cooperation, when they develop in self-help systems, are all limited in extent and modified from what they might otherwise be.” See “Reflections on Theory of International Politics,” p. 336.

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