Development and Underdevelopment–the Commanding Heights

We addressed the topic of development and underdevelopment in POLI 1100 this week. Amongst the many issues covered, we started to explore some of the alleged causes of economic growth and development. Why is there still such disparity in income and economic growth around the world, not only between countries, but within? Why have countries in the global “South” lagged behind, for the most part, their counterparts in the global “North”? There are various answers to this question and we addressed a couple of them in class. I showed clips from a fantastic documentary series put together by PBS, called (and based on the book of the same name) The Commanding Heights. All the information you’ll need is at the PBS website. Fortunately, each of the three 2-hour episodes has also been uploaded (in its entirety) to the Internet. From the narration at the beginning of the first episode, we learn that

This is the story of how the new global economy was born. A century-long battle as to which would control the commanding heights of the world’s economies–governments or markets.

I encourage you to watch all three episodes.


Does the Acquisition of Nuclear Weapons Change States’ Behaviour?

Political scientist James Fearon has an interesting blog post on the political science blog, The Monkey Cage. In it, he asks, and then gives an answer to, the question “How do states act after they get nuclear weapons?” The issue, Fearon notes, is gaining increasing attention in the United States, given the alleged quest by Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The issue also resonates in Canada, with Stephen Harper recently affirming his fear of the Iranian regime acquiring nukes. From this CBC interview with Peter Mansbridge, Harper responds in the affirmative to Mansbridge’s characterization of an interview Harper had given a couple of weeks earlier on the issue of Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons:

…in your view, they [Iran’s regime] want nuclear weapons, and they would not be shy about using them.[see the exchange below]

In opposition to views like Harper’s are the views of what Fearon calls “proliferation optimists” such as the well-known realist Kenneth Waltz, who claims that contrary to our repeated expectations about the behaviour of post-nuclear states, the opposite has turned out to be true much more often than not. What does Fearon find empirically? First, he sets up what it is, specifically, that he is measuring:

The following graph shows, for each of the nine states that acquired nuclear capability at some time between 1945 and 2001, their yearly rate of militarized disputes in years when they didn’t have nukes, and the rate for years when they did.

Here is a graph of Fearon’s finding with his summary below:

China, France, India, Israel, Pakistan, and the UK all saw declines in their total militarized dispute involvement in the years after they got nuclear weapons.  A number of these are big declines.  USSR/Russia and South Africa have higher rates in their nuclear versus non-nuclear periods, though it should be kept in mind that for the USSR we only have four years in the sample with no nukes, just as the Cold War is starting.


New and Old Wars Reading Questions

Here are some questions that we will try to answer in class, based on the Mueller, Kalyvas, Collier & Hoeffler, and Kaldor readings:

Thematic Questions:

  1. How has the nature of warfare changed (or has it) over the course of the last 70 years or so? Provide evidence from at least four sources.
  2. Comparatively assess the arguments of Collier & Hoeffer, Kalyvas, Mueller, and Kaldor. What are some commonalities? Divergence of opinion?
  3. What are the policy implications–from a humanitarian perspective–of taking each of the authors’ arguments seriously? Discuss.

Collier & Hoeffler (2004) “Greed and Grievance in Civil War

  1. De fine `greed’ and `grievance’ in the context of the analysis of rebellion/civil war.
  2. What are the types of causal mechanisms that each term implies?
  3. What do C & L mean by `opportunity’?
  4. Based on the statistical results, what conclusion do C & L draw regarding the causes of the onset of rebellion?
  5. What is the analytical importance of diaspora communities?
  6. How important are ethnic grievances in fomenting rebellion?

. Mueller (2000) The Banality of `Ethnic War’

  1. Why does Mueller put the words ethnic war in scare quotes in the title?
  2. What does Mueller mean when he says that ethnic war is `banal?’
  3. What evidence does Mueller use to support his main argument(s)?
  4. According to Mueller, what are the stages of ethnic war and ethnic cleansing?
  5. What is `ethnic cleansing’?
  6. Did ethnicity play any role in the inter-ethnic violence in Yugoslavia and Rwanda? Continue reading

40th Anniversary of the Prague Spring and Soviet Invasion of Czechoslovakia

 This Spring marks the 40th anniversary of the Prague Spring–a domestic, Czech-led liberalization and democratization movement in the former Czechoslovakia–and the subsequent Soviet military invasion of that former communist state.  As Czechs sang and wrote their way towards a regime Czechs would describe as “Communism with a human face”, Leonid Brezhnev–the leader of the Soviet Union–rolled Soviet tanks onto the streets of Prague to put an end to Alexander Dubcek’s reforms.  This was the first concrete foreign policy manifestation of the “combating of anti-socialist forces,” which came to be known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.

Euronews has an interesting report on the commemoration of the Prague Spring, which has been uploaded to youtube.  I encourage you to take a look.

“Truman lost China” and the effect of “the stuff of politics” on IR

In our discussion of the international (or system) level-of-analysis in IR, we noted some of the strengths and weaknesses of focusing explanation and description at that level. While system-level explanations are helpful in that they are comprehensive and holistic, a major disadvantage of that level is that it misses, or neglects, the “stuff of politics.” What does that mean?

ping_pong_diplomacy.jpgHere’s an explanation by way of example. The image below is of Richard Nixon and Mao ZeDong engaging in “ping pong diplomacy”* with Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai looking on approvingly [why is Mao using a “Western” grip?]. Those of you who know a little bit about US-China diplomatic history understand the importance of the “Nixon goes to China” moment. The most significant point, for our purposes, is that this meeting signaled the re-establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and “Red China”, after they had been cut off due to the 1949 victory of Mao’s Communists in the Chinese Civil War. It was not surprising that it was Nixon–a Republican–who was able to make this diplomatic gesture, since it would have been politically impossible for a Democratic president to have done the same. This is because President Harry S. Truman, and the whole of the Democratic party by association, had been vilified for having “lost China” to Communism. This is the kind of “stuff of politics” that is ignored when looking at IR from only an international (or system-level) perspective. Here is a clip from a documentary analyzing Nixon’s visit to China:

*Nixon and Mao never did play ping-pong (as far as I know), but their meeting was given the name “ping-pong diplomacy” since the first post-1949 diplomatic US visitors to China were table tennis players.

The History of Warfare since World War II–via Foods Fighting

We spent much of last Friday’s session understanding various realist approaches to international relations and the importance therein of concepts like anarchy, survival, power and war. Here’s a clear–and highly original–attempt to demonstrate the history of world warfare since WWII. For a menu of the foods and which countries they are meant to represent, click here. Before doing so, which foods do you think represent Great Britain, Germany, France, China, and the United States, respectively?  You can view the film here.

The Cold War as a Series of Confrontations–Cuban Missile Crisis

The two dominant great powers (US and USSR) during the Cold War differed in terms of national interests, ideology, and mutual mis-perceptions.  From the Berlin Blockade, through Afghanistan, these two powers confronted each other in a series of confrontations, none of which escalated to all-out war.  Many believe that the world has never been closer to nuclear power war than during the Cuban Missile Crisis.