History of the International System
- Through time the international system has undergone considerable change and evolution. The city states that were characteristic of ancient Greece, the feudal principalities that defined Europe in the Middle Ages, and the empires that have existed throughout recorded history (both Eastern and Western) have largely been replaced by the nation-states as the dominant actors within the international arena.
- Of course, this is a process that has changed over time, as the power relationships between the various states have vacillated over the past several hundred years. The Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Ottoman, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch and French Empires have all gone the way of the dodo.
- The changes that have occurred have not come at an even pace, rather we have seen the evolution of the international system occur in fits and starts, with the pace rapidly accelerating over the past century.
- Origins of the modern state system began to take shape in the 1600s, two trends that have persisted throughout our history became very evident – first of all the trend toward disintegration, where various entities seek independence, which we have seen in the collapse of empires throughout history to the present quests for autonomy. Secondly, the contrary trend toward integration, where the various small states seek to merge together, either for economic or security reasons.
- Anyway, in the 1600’s the Thirty Years War ended with the Treaty of Westphalia, which recognized the independence of Holland and the Various German Principalities, protestant all, from the Holy Roman Empire (mention the fact that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire). Holy Roman Empire was actually divided into two parts at this time – the Hapsburg’s in Central Europe, and the Spanish.
- Movement toward the end of absolutism and the increased secularization of society. Something that began in the Protestant countries and would spread to the catholic states over the next couple of centuries. Division between the church and state. Part and parcel of the Protestant reformation.
- Authority shifted from the church to the nation state, development usually credited to the Treaty (1648). Corresponding developments of Sovereignty and the notion of the world as anarchic. At this time, these notions were largely restricted to Western Europe, but as we shall see, they spread to the remainder of the world during the 19th and 20th centuries.
- During the 18th and 19th centuries, several developments occurred that fundamentally shifted the foundations of power within the states of Europe. Mention the roles of Hobbes and Locke in the development of the social contract. Idea that the government was created by the people (out of either a desire for protection, or to ensure their rights, depending on which of the theorists you accept) rather than through divine intervention.
- Beginnings of the end of feudalism (explain the concept) and the movement toward popular sovereignty). Important elements in this process included the French and American revolutions, the expansion of trade, etc. Beginnings of industrialization. General point is that the rule of the nobles was coming to an end, and this would have enormous relevance for the states of Europe and for the international system as a whole.
- Development of, at least quasi democratic, systems of government, also changed the complexion of the international system – the masses now had a greater stake in society and we saw such things as the introduction of universal conscription in the formation of armies (Napoleon), which would prove to change the course of warfare. Also related to this change was the development of the concept of national self-determination (ability of a people within a given territory to choose their own system of governance). A concept that would be rather sketchy and largely restricted to Western Europe until this century, but one that would set the foundations for future development.
- You might well notice that so far, at least, the discussion has been largely confined to Western Europe. There is a very good reason for this inherent bias, through the scientific advancements made during the time of the enlightenment (15th. 16th and 17th Centuries), the Europeans acquired a technological superiority that would become pronounced during the industrial revolution of the 19th and 20th centuries. This enabled countries such as Spain and Portugal first, and then Britain, Holland, et al to range far afield and establish colonies throughout the Americas, Asia, Africa, OZ, NZ, etc.
- As such the international system which first was confined to Western Europe, and spread to the rest of the globe over the past three centuries was based largely along the lines of the system established through the Treaty of Westphalia and had a profoundly European flavor.
B. The Multipolarity of the !7th , 18th and 19th Centuries
- Existence of the European Empires.
- Continental Powers such as Germany (after the 1870s), Austro-Hungarian Empire, France, potential of Russia, emergence of the United States in the latter half of the 19th Century. Number of world powers, with never ending series of alliances.
- Perfidious Albion, Attitude of the United States toward these never ending series of European squabbles.
- Notion of Balance of Power and the British idea of maintaining such a balance on the European continent. This led them to oppose Spain, France, Hitler, Russia, etc. Explain how this fits into overall alliance theory which assumes that the state will seek to ally itself with the weaker coalition.
C. Rapid Change of the 20th Century
- WWI and the collapse of Ottoman and Austro Hungarian empires, emergence of the US and Russians as external players that would be very influential on the World Stage. Though the US was largely pursuing an isolationist policy and the Soviet Union was initially largely a pariah state. (explain the concept and why Germany deviated from this pattern).
- Also began to see rapid technological change during this time.
- Development of the means of mass killings, through the poison gas of WWI, the air campaigns of WWII, the development of nuclear weapons at the close of this war, and the improvements in delivery systems that have taken place since the end of WWII.
- Rise of the Soviet Union as a continental power, created some of the conditions that allowed Hitler to emerge (military co-operation that allowed the Germans to circumvent the Treaty of Versailles), and the fear that the Europeans had of the Soviet Union (explain the potential that others had historically seen in Russia). Led many to believe that Hitler served the purpose of offsetting the Soviet threat.
- Rise of Japan in Asia. Apart from the United States, this was the first major non-European power to emerge since the industrial revolution. Japanese attempted to play on this during WWII, when they attempted to persuade the lands that they lands that they were seeking to conquer that they were simply freeing them from the yoke of the colonialism and that they were creating an organization under which all could develop, and that this would occur outside of European control (Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere).
- Actually, the Japanese had imperial ambitions at a time when such thoughts were considered impolite, but their efforts, as well as the feelings they elicited are revealing of the period.
- WWII and the end of the European empires. Rise of native nationalism and the general exhaustion of the British and the French.
.D. The Post-War World
- Rise of the Bi-polar world that would characterize the international system until the late 1980s.
- Two Blocs NATO (1949) and Warsaw Treaty Organization (1955)
- Containment (1949 Foreign Affairs Article by George Kennan.
- Perimeter and Strong Point. Explain each
- Role of the Developing World
- Difficulties within the alliances – France and China
- Nixon, Détente, and Triangular Diplomacy
- Earlier Co-Operation and NTBT (1962) and NPT (1967).
- Brushfires of Vietnam and Afghanistan.
- The Carter Doctrine
- The Reagan Doctrine.
E. Collapse of the Soviet Union and a Uni-polar Moment.