JJ Rousseau – “The public person, so formed by the union of all other persons, now takes the name of …….. Power when compared with others like itself.” Courtesy of Teri Hillmann.
Throughout our discussions, I have often used the term “power”, however this is a very elusive concept - what does one mean by the term power? Papp offers a couple of related definitions to the term:
The ability of any actor to persuade, influence, force or otherwise induce another actor to undertake an action or change an objective that the latter would otherwise prefer not to do. It is also the the ability of one actor to persuade, influence, force or otherwise induce an actor to refrain from an action it would prefer to undertake.
What this means in essence is that power is one state’s ability to shape
the actions of another. This may be as simple as forcing a state to import more
automobile parts (the US-Japan trade dispute of several years ago) or it may
be as complex as deterring a state from invading its neighbor. We have seen
examples of the exercise of power throughout history, the ability of a state
to influence the actions of another is an essential part of international relations.
While we will largely be dealing with the physical aspects of coercive power,
it is useful to note that moral authority also plays a role in international
relations. For example, one of the objectives of Mahatma Gandhi was to essentially
embarrass the British into ceding control of India by pointing out the basic
immorality of the rule of the Raj over the sub-continent. This is not to assert
that moral authority is always an adequate means of coercion, were that true
we would be looking at a very peaceful world, with little need for armed forces
- “If humans were angels we would have no need for government” -
but it is important to remember that it does work on occasion.
The concept of power is an essential one in the thinking of the realist school of international relations. Hans Morgenthau, the patriarch of realism asserted that the maximization of power was in the essence of the national interest of the state. This presumes that the fundamental objective of the state is to maximize its own power, so that it is better suited to influence the actions of others and is therefore better able to bring about outcomes that are to its advantage. Morgenthau and the realists see power as both a means and an end.
2. Realism and Power in I. R.
However, Morgenthau felt compelled to draw 4 major distinctions about the use of power in international relations:
1. Power and influence are not the same thing. The former decides outcomes, while the latter shapes decision making. The example he uses is the distinction between a president and a secretary of state. The latter shapes the decisions of the former, but only holds influence as long as the former listens to his/her advice, while the former holds power regardless. Another example might be the roles of the Soviet Union and Canada in the decision making process of the United States during the cold war.
2. Power and Force. The former is more of a psychological concept. Those with power merely need to threaten to use force to have their wishes granted. Resorting to the use of force reveals a perception of a lack of power. IE - US threatens to respond with force if Libya sponsors terrorist acts. Actually having to use force reveals that Libya did not take the threat seriously and was not deterred.
3. There is a distinction between usable and unusable power. For example, it is quite clear that the United States possesses more power than Canada, yet this does not always mean that the United States will get its way in the trade disputes that seem to continually crop up. While the United States has the ability to turn Canada into a glowing parking lot, it would hardly be appropriate to vaporize Toronto or Montreal over the export of softwood timber. The point here is that power does not always yield desired outcomes, there are clear limits to what is acceptable and what is not. To use military power to settle a trade dispute is clearly unacceptable. Another example would be the non-use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear country in the event of war - this has become accepted as an international norm. UK-Argentina, Israel-Arabs. The important point here is that power is contextual.
4. Moral and Immoral power. In this Morgenthau asserted that the former has actions justified by ideology (Communism, Liberalism, Democracy, Fascism, etc.). Morgenthau was rather cynical about the use of ideology, he considered it to be a disguise for the simple struggle for power. He believed that the fundamental purpose of ideology is to win hearts and minds and to simply acknowledge the quest for power would be to abandon any moral superiority. This gets to a truly subjective sense of the analysis of power - what determines what is immoral and what is moral. Many of the i.r. theorists have asserted that it is a clash over ideology between true believers that makes wars truly savage and total.
3. The Measurement of Power
We have discussed the uses of power and the various ways in which the term is employed, and one thing that should become abundantly clear is that the measurement of power is an imprecise science at best. In fact, it is a good question of whether or not power can be adeqautely measured at all. Some have tried, Ray Cline former DDI for the CIA developed a formula that measures perceived power.
P = (C + E + M) x (S + W)
In this formula P represents perceived power. How another state perceives the power of a given states. C represents the critical mass of a state, its population and territory (important to remember that this is not just sheer population, but also depends on their skills and education). E represents its economic capability. M its military capability. S its strategic purpose, and W the will to pursue it national strategy. Now it has been assumed that the first three varibles (C, E, M) are quantifiable, however even this presents some problems. Estimates may certainly vary concerning the economic capabilities of a state, and military that is constructed to fight a land war in Western Europe may not be suited for a guerilla war in South East Asia.
- Discuss each of the 5 in some detail
These measurements may also be subject to serious fluctuations in short periods of time. In Papp, three tables analyzing the power of the United States, China and the Soviet Union are presented. The first two deal with the three countries based on analyses made in 1980 and 1990 while the third is also intended to denote 1990, yet it was made a couple of years later and reflects the problems the Soviet Union dealt with in 1990, the severity of which were underestimated by the West.
- Examine the tables and point out the problems in the analysis and how they are subject to variance according to the analyst.
4. Power and Influence
It is assumed that power is all about being able to influence the actions of another - the attempt by humans to control the actions of humans, to paraphrase Morgenthau. Yet, this does not always yield results, countries that are superior in power may not always be able to affect the actions of their inferiors. To use Papp’s description, let us assume that there are three countries A, B and C and that A>B>C. From this, base purely on pwer measurments, we would assume that A would be able to control the actions of B and that both would be able to control the actions of C. However, this is not always the case.
1. In certain contexts C may be able to resist the power of both B and A.
2. C may be able to use its influence to shape the policies of B or A.
3. B may be better able to influence C than B
4. A may, in some contexts, not be able to influence either B or C.
- he uses the example of the US, China, and Vietnam
Based on the above, we can see that power is not always the sole determinant of policy. While in and of itself, power is not such a bad thing, it is not sufficient to guarentee outcomes.
5. Inputs of Power
(I) Population - not purely numbers but training and education also factor into the equation.
(II) Geography - size, terrain and location
(III) Natural Resources - possession, exploitation, control, and use
(IV) Industrial Capabilities - both peacetime economic health and warfighting capability
(V) Military Capabilities
(VII) Leadership - Useful not only in determining outcomes in war, but strategies in peace.
- Give them a tub thumping quote from Churchill
- Others - Napoleon, Mao, FDR
(VIII) Diplomacy - Skill augments power - Kissinger, Nixon, de Gaulle
(IX) Internal Cohesion - United population. Failures include Vietnam, Russia in WWI,
(X) Strategy - established of goals and means to achieve these goals.
(XI) Perception - Ex Perceptions of USSR, China
(XII) Role in International Organizations
- How do they see the dispersal of power in the world today?