Stated differently, the
that attended the inability of the 'mighty' United States to prevail in Vietnam and the ability of the 'weak' Arab states to induce altered postures in theindustrial world regarding their conflict with Israel are but the most recent and dramaticexamples supporting a long-standing conviction that the concept of national 'power'confounds and undermines sound anslyde.
Little is accomplished by explaining thesurprising quality of these events in terms of the changing nature of 'power.' Such anexplanation merely asserts that surprising events occurred because unrecognized changeshad transpired in whatever may have been the sources of the events. Likewise, to strew thatmilitary 'power' has given way to economic 'power' is not to enlarge comprehension of
American policies in Vietnam and the Arab oil embargo had such contradictory outcomes.Had the conventional usage of the concept of 'power been more precise, with its empiricalreferents more accurately identified, there would have been no surprise with respect toVietnam and the embargo. Indeed, conceivably neither the war in the former nor the crisissurrounding the latter would have occurred if officials had more clearly grasped the 'power'concept and disaggregated it into its component parts at the time policies toward thesesituations were evolving.The two examples clearly highlight the central problem with the concept because they bothsuggest that the success or failure of foreign policy efforts is dependent on the possessionof appropriate resources in sufficient abundance to prevail in conflict situations. So viewed,the United States 'failed' in Vietnam because it lacked the requisite military resources andMiddle East countries 'succeeded' because they had sufficient economic resources. Nothingcould be more misleading. Such an interpretation overlooks the equally crucial facts thatwhile ____________________
My convictions in this regard were first developed in my essay,
Calculated Control as aUnifying Concept in the Study of International Politics and Foreign Policy
( Princeton:Center of International Studies, Princeton University, 1963), reprinted in James N.Rosenau,
The Scientific Study of Foreign Policy
( London: Frances Pinter, New York: Nichols, 1980) Chap. X.the North Vietnamese were not overly impressed by American military resources, theWestern industrial nations were impressed by the oil which Middle East states could or could not make available.Possessed resources, in other words, are only one aspect of 'power'; actions and reactionsthrough which actors relate to each other are another aspect, and neither aspect is alonesufficient. Put even more pointedly, whatever else it may connote, national 'power' involvesrelational phenomena. Whether it be considered in the bipolar period when militaryconsiderations predominated, or whether it be assessed in the present era when economicand transnational factors are more salient, national 'power' can only be understood in thecontext of how the actors involved relate to and perceive each other. The resources each'possesses' may well be relevant to the way in which they perceive each other, but theoutcome of the way in which they exercise 'power' toward each other is primarily aconsequence of how they assess, accept, resist, or modify each other's efforts.