Skip to main content

Security regimes

  • Robert Jervis (a1)

Regimes are harder to establish in the security area than they are in the economic realm because of the inherently competitive cast of many security concerns, the unforgiving nature of the problems, and the difficulty in determining how much security the state has or needs. Nevertheless, there is at least one example of a functioning security regime—the Concert of Europe. Under the Concert the great powers sharply moderated their individualistic and competitive policies and exercised restraint in the expectation that others would reciprocate. The self-interest that they followed was broader and longer-run than usual. The Balance of Power, however, is a regime only if the restraints are internal, as Kaplan implies, as contrasted with Waltz's formulation in which states restrain each other. Current superpower relations should not be considered a regime because the principles, rules, and norms have little autonomy but instead can be best understood as quite direct reflections of the states' power and interests.

Hide All

1 Viotti, Paul and Murray, Douglas, “International Security Regimes: On the Applicability of a Concept,” paper delivered at the 08 1980 meeting of the American Political Science Association. For other attempts to apply the concept of security regimes, see Rydell, Randy and Platias, Athanassios, “International Security Regimes: The Case of a Balkan Nuclear Weapon Free Zone,” paper delivered at the 03 1981 meeting of the International Studies Association, and Caldwell, Dan, “Inter-State Security Regimes: The Soviet-American Case,” paper presented at the 09 1981 meeting of the American Political Science Association.

2 Herz, John, “Idealist Internationalism and the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 2 (01 1950): 157–80; Butterfield, Herbert, History and Human Relations (London: Collins, 1950), pp. 1920. For elaboration see Jervis, Robert, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976), pp. 6283, and Jervis, , “Cooperation under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30 (01 1978): 167214.

3 This line of argument suggests that the crucial variable is the degree of conflict of interest, not the content of the issue. Some security issues engender less conflict than some economic issues, and an examination of such cases might prove fruitful. When we study security, however, our attention is usually drawn to areas of high conflict.

4 Nuclear weapons have changed this.

5 Jervis, , Perception and Misperception, pp. 6972, 88–89, 95–96, 352–55.

6 Ibid., pp. 73–75, 218–20, 340–41, 350–51.

7 Quoted in Ulam, Adam, Expansion and Coexistence (New York: Praeger, 1968), p. 5.

8 Remini, Robert, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire 1767–1821 (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 166. See ibid., p. 389, for a similar justification for pushing the Spanish out of Florida.

9 Jervis, “Cooperation under the Security Dilemma.”

10 Elrod, Richard, “The Concert of Europe,” World Politics 28 (01 1976), p. 168. Elrod attributes this to the damage that lack of restraint would have done to the states' “moral position.” I think this is too narrow a focus. Paul Schroeder argues that while most statesmen of this period, even Czar Alexander, were willing to eschew policies of narrow national interest in favor of maintaining the Concert, Metternich generally manipulated the latter to serve the former. See his Metternich's Diplomacy at Its Zenith (New York: Greenwood Press, 1968), pp. 238, 251–52, 256, 265.

11 Quoted in Holbrad, Carsten, The Concert of Europe (London: Longman, 1970), p. 37.

12 Quoted in Webster, Charles, The Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 1812–1822 (London: G. Bell, 1963), 2: 510–11.

13 Quoted in Phillips, Walter Alison, The Confederation of Europe (New York: Fertig, 1966), p. 183.

14 For a good discussion of the mutual reinforcing relationships between cooperative processes and cooperation as a substantive outcome, see Deutsch, Morton, “Fifty Years of Conflict,” in Retrospections on Social Psychology, ed. by Festinger, Leon (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

15 Webster, , Foreign Policy of Castlereagh, 2: 294 and 301.

16 Quoted in Holbrad, , Concert of Europe, p. 119.

17 Schroeder, , Metternich's Diplomacy at Its Zenith, p. 174.

18 Webster, Charles, The Art and Practice of Diplomacy (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1962), p. 67.

19 Quoted in ibid.

20 For a different approach to this question, see Ashley, Richard, “Balance of Power as a Political-Economic Regime,” paper presented at the 08 1980 meeting of the American Political Science Association.

21 Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1979). This corresponds to Claude's, “automatic” version of the balance of power (Claude, Inis L. Jr, Power and International Relations [New York: Random House, 1962], pp. 4347). Kaplan, also expresses this view in one paragraph of his “Balance of Power, Bipolarity, and Other Models of International Systems” (American Political Science Review 51 [09 1957], p. 690), but this paragraph is not repeated in System and Process in International Politics (New York: Wiley, 1957) and, as we shall discuss below, is inconsistent with his analysis there.

22 Reinken, Donald, “Computer Explorations of the ‘Balance of Power,'” in New Approaches to International Relations, ed. by Kaplan, Morton (New York: St. Martin's, 1968), p. 469. This corresponds to Claude's “manually operated” balance of power (Claude, , Power and International Relations, pp. 4850).

23 Kaplan, Morton, Towards Professionalism in International Theory (New York: Free Press, 1979), p. 136.

24 Kaplan, , System and Process, p. 23.

25 Kaplan, , Towards Professionalism, pp. 39, 73, 86. Since states rarely fight wars to the finish and eliminate defeated actors, Kaplan's arguments seem plausible. But this is to confuse result with intent. The desire to maximize power can limit wars and save fallen states. As long as each state views all the others as potential rivals, each will have to be concerned about the power of it current allies. And as long as each views current enemies as potentially acceptable alliance partners in a future war, each will have incentives to court and safeguard the power of states on the other side. To destroy another state may be to deprive oneself of an ally in the future; to carve up a defeated power is to risk adding more strength to potential adversaries than to oneself. Of the Ottoman Empire in the early nineteenth century, a Russian diplomat said: “If the cake could not be saved, it must be fairly divided” (quoted in Gulick, Edward, Europe's Classical Balance of Power [New York: Norton, 1967], p. 72). This has it backwards: it was because the cake could not be divided evenly that it had to be preserved. Also see Kaplan, , System and Process, p. 28.

26 Kaplan, , Towards Professionalism, p. 139; see also pp. 67, 135.

27 This is partly true because Kaplan excludes some of the main problems when he says that his system assumes that none of the major powers seeks to dominate the system (ibid., p. 136).

28 Schelling, Thomas, Micromolives and Macrobehavior (New York: Norton, 1978), pp. 120–21.

29 This would seem to contradict Kaplan's argument that the international system is subsystem dominant—i.e., that the environment is not so compelling as to foreclose meaningful national choice (Kaplan, , System and Process, p. 17).

30 Historic Documents, 1972 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1973), pp. 442–48.

31 It is not enough that both sides want to prevent all-out war. Because this outcome can be avoided by the cooperation of only one side, this common interest opens the door to unilateral exploitation as well as to mutual cooperation.

32 Kennan, George, Russia and the West Under Lenin and Stalin (New York: Mentor, 1962), p. 181.

33 This is what Glenn Snyder calls the “stability-instability paradox.” Snyder, , “The Balance of Power and the Balance of Terror,” in The Balance of Power, ed. by Seabury, Paul (San Francisco: Chandler, 1965).

34 Rosenberg, David, “American Atomic Strategy and the Hydrogen Bomb Decision,” Journal of American History 66 (06 1979): 6287; Friedberg, Aaron, “A History of the U.S. Strategic ‘Doctrine’—1945 to 1960,” Journal of Strategic Studies 3 (12 1980): 37–71; Herken, Gregg, The Winning Weapon (New York: Knopf, 1980); Desmond Ball, “The Role of Strategic Concepts and Doctrine in U.S. Strategic Nuclear Force Development,” in National Security and International Stability, ed. by Michael Intriligator and Roman Kolkowicz (forthcoming).

35 Quoted in Herken, , The Winning Weapon, p. 317.

36 For a good discussion, see Heuer, Richards Jr, “Analyzing the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan,” Studies in Comparative Communism 13 (Winter 1980): 347–55.

37 Kahn, Herman, Thinking About the Unthinkable (New York: Horizon Press, 1962), pp. 148–49.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 352 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 1898 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 21st March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.