Rethinking Realism in International Relations
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Rethinking Realism in International Relations
Between Tradition and Innovation
A N N E T T E F R E Y B E R G - I N A N
E WA N H A R R I S O N
P AT R I C K J A M E S
The Johns Hopkins University PressBaltimore
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2009 The Johns Hopkins University Press
All rights reserved. Published 2009
Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rethinking realism in international relations : between tradition and innovation /
edited by Annette Freyberg-Inan, Ewan Harrison, Patrick James.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN-13: 978-0-8018-9285-1 (hardcover : alk. paper)
ISBN-10: 0-8018-9285-6 (hardcover : alk. paper)
ISBN-13: 978-0-8018-9286-8 (pbk. : alk. paper)
ISBN-10: 0-8018-9286-4 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. RealismPolitical aspects. 2. International relationsPhilosophy.
I. Freyberg-Inan, Annette. II. Harrison, Ewan, 1973
III. James, Patrick, 1957
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c o n t e n t s
List of Table and Illustrations vii
Introduction: What Way Forward for Contemporary Realism? 1annette freyberg-inan, ewan harrison, and patrick james
part i: Theoretical Developments beyond Classical and Structural Realism
1 Revisiting Realism and the Balance of Power 21richard little
2 Elaborating on Offensive Realism 45patrick james
3 Realist Revisionism 63colin elman
4 The Contradictions of Unipolarity 76ewan harrison
part ii: Making Realist Sense of Contemporary International Relations
5 The Influence of Theory on Grand Strategy: The United States and a Rising China 101
6 Neoclassical Realism and Foreign Policy Crises 136balkan devlen and zgr zdamar
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7 Past versus Present Geopolitics: Cautiously Opening the Realist Door to the Past 164
part iii: Reflections on the Nature and Merits of the Realist Paradigm
8 Forward Is as Forward Does: Assessing Neoclassical Realism from a Traditions Perspective 191
9 Feminism and Realism in International Relations 219jacqui true
10 Paradigm, Tradition, and the Politics of Realism 233stephen j. rosow
Conclusion: Ways Forward 253annette freyberg-inan, ewan harrison, and patrick james
Notes on Contributors 291
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c h a p t e r 6
Neoclassical Realism and Foreign Policy Crises
b a l k a n d e v l e n a n d z g r z d a m a r
This chapter presents a theory of foreign policy decision making during crisis whichdraws on core neoclassical realist insights regarding the centrality of individualagency and domestic constraints on leaders foreign policy choices. We argue thatleaders beliefs about the international system and their concern with political sur-vival and the maintenance of large-group identity are determining factors in shap-ing states foreign policies during international crises. We illustrate this theory by ex-plaining the decision making of Slobodan Milosevic during the 1999 Kosovo crisis.The aim is to show how realist theorizing can systematically incorporate variablesrepresenting characteristics of decision makers as well as contextual constraints ontheir behavior to help develop better understandings, explanations, and predictionsof foreign policy behavior.
The chapter is divided into four sections. First, we identify the theoretical foun-dations of our framework by discussing operational code analysis as well as the con-cepts of large-group identity and political survival. Second, we construct a neoclas-sical realist model of foreign policy crisis behavior to analyze such behavior usingthose three conceptual and methodological pillars. In the third section, we employthe Kosovo crisis of 1999 between NATO and Serbia to illustrate the workings ofour model. A final section explains why we think neoclassical realism is the best wayforward for realist theorizing.
Neoclassical realism provides a fertile ground for developing theories of foreignpolicy behavior by moving beyond structuralist theories that focus only on recur-ring patterns and by incorporating domestic and individual level factors into theanalysis. Furthermore, neoclassical realism is more suitable for developing micro-foundations for realist theorizing (see James, chap. 2), because it explicitly focuseson the individual political leader in analyzing foreign policy choices of states. Lastly,
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we suggest that neoclassical realism provides opportunities for engaging with vari-ous other theoretical approaches and diverse methodologies, as exemplified by ourown use of rational choice and operational code analysis, in the field of interna-tional relations.
Theoretical Foundations of a Neoclassical Realist Model of Crisis Behavior
The framework we develop in this chapter rests on three theoretical and method-ological pillars: operational code analysis as the main methodological tool to analyzethe beliefs of leaders, on the one hand, and large-group identity concerns and thelogic of political survival as the key reference points in analyzing the domestic con-straints on leaders, on the other. Together, they weave a neoclassical realist theory offoreign policy behavior during international crises.1 We first discuss why we believeour model is consistent with neoclassical realist premises and then explain each pil-lar separately in this section.
Gideon Rose, who coined the term neoclassical realism in a World Politics articlein 1998, pinpoints its meaning as follows: Neoclassical realism
explicitly incorporates both external and internal variables, updating and system-
atizing certain insights drawn from classical realist thought. Its adherents argue
that the scope and ambition of a countrys foreign policy is driven first and fore-
most by its place in the international system and specifically by its relative mate-
rial power capabilities. This is why they are realist. They argue further, however,
that the impact of such power capabilities on foreign policy is indirect and com-
plex, because systemic pressures must be translated through intervening variables
at the unit level. This is why they are neoclassical. (Rose 1998, 152)
Neoclassical realists thus aim to analyze the workings of systemic pressures and unitlevel variables such as domestic political structures and decision makers perceptionsas influences on a nations foreign policy.
Works by Randall Schweller (1998, 2004), Fareed Zakaria (1998), Thomas Chris-tensen (1996), Jack Snyder (1991), William Wohlforth (1993), and Aaron Friedberg(1988) all posit that systemic pressures are filtered through intervening domesticvariables to produce foreign policy behavior (Schweller 2004, 164). Thus, neoclas-sical realism provides a comprehensive framework to analyze the foreign policy be-havior of states. However, as a general theoretical framework it is underspecified forpurposes of applied analysis, particularly as to (1) how the beliefs of leaders affecttheir behavior, (2) how we can measure them, and (3) which domestic factors affect
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leaders assessments of foreign policy challenges. In addition, although in the longrun relative power capabilities may determine foreign policy outcomes, foreign pol-icy behavior may not reflect those underlying structural constraints in the shortterm. As a result, relative power may not be a good predictor of foreign policy be-havior during international crises, which are usually characterized by the need tofocus on and react within a relatively short time frame. To address this problem weturn to operational code analysis as a systematic way of analyzing the relevant be-liefs of political leaders. Furthermore, we identify large-group identity concerns andpolitical survival considerations as the main variables functioning as domestic con-strains on foreign policy behavior during international crises.2
Our model is based on neoclassical realist foundations in the following threeways. First, as a theory of foreign policy behavior during international crisis, ourmodel clearly falls without the purview of structuralist theorizing (e.g., Waltzianneorealism, offensive realism), which concerns itself with pattern[s] of outcomes ofstate interactions (Rose 1998, 145). Waltz (1979, 1986) clearly posits that his theoryis not (and inde