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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
Affiliation:
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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Abstract

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.

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

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References

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38. Ibid., pp. 231–4.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

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