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Review: Neoclassical Realism and Theories of Foreign Policy Author(s): Gideon Rose Reviewed work(s): The Perils of Anarchy:

Contemporary Realism and International Security by Michael E. Brown Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobilization, and Sino-American Conflict, 1947-1958 by Thomas J. Christensen Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitler's Strategy of World Conquest by Randall L. ... Source: World Politics, Vol. 51, No. 1 (Oct., 1998), pp. 144-172 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25054068 Accessed: 14/02/2010 09:20
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Review Article

NEOCLASSICAL THEORIES
Michael Thomas E. Brown

REALISM AND

OF FOREIGN POLICY
By GIDEON ROSE*

International

et al., eds. The Perils of Anarchy: Contemporary Realism and MIT Press, 1995, 519 pp. Security. Cambridge: J. Christensen. Useful Adversaries: Grand Strategy, Domestic Mobiliza

Princeton: Princeton Univer tion, and Sino-American Conflict, 1947-1958. Press, 1996, 319 pp. sity Randall L. Schweller. Deadly Imbalances: Tripolarity and Hitlers Strategy of World Conquest. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998,267 pp. William Curti Wohlforth. The Elusive Balance: Power and Perceptions during the Cold War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1993, 317 pp. Fareed Zakaria. From Wealth to Power: The Unusual Origins ofAmericas World Role. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998,199 pp.

two decades international relations theory has been dominated FOR by the debate of the skirmishing
international comes multipolar
* For

between and

neorealists over its effect

and their various

critics.1 Much

has occurred

such

system as war and peace. Thus more generates system

about the nature of the questions on out of international patterns a scholars have disputed whether conflict than a bipolar one, or

am to and suggestions support, criticisms, grateful regarding earlier versions of this essay I Berts, Michael Desch, Michael Doyle, Aaron Friedberg, Philip Gordon, Ethan Kapstein, Jeff Andrew Moravcsik, Kenneth Pollack, Robert Powell, and especially Sheri Legro, Sean Lynn-Jones, at discussions Berman. I am also grateful for the comments of participants sponsored by the Research at Princeton University, the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic in International Security Program Political Science Asso of the American Studies at Harvard University, and the 1997 annual meeting ciation. xThe seminal neorealist text is Kenneth N. Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Reading, Mass.: over neorealism can be found in Robert O. Keohane, ed., Neorealism 1979). Debates Addison-Wesley, and Its Critics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986); Barry Buzan et al., The Logic ofAnarchy: to Structural Realism (New York: Columbia University Neorealism Press, 1993); and David A. Baldwin, andNeoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate (New York: Columbia University Press, ed., Neorealism Relations 1993). For the current state of the debate, see Robert Powell, "Anarchy in International 48 (Spring 1994); and Brown Debate," International Organization Theory: The Neorealist-Neoliberal et al., an invaluable collection of important recent articles on realism from the journal International Richard Security.

WorldPolitics 51 (October 1998), 144-72

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
whether national of state some international cooperation. interactions, institutions Because can increase the incidence

145 of inter

neorealism

general to but does not purport explain their behavior cases. As Kenneth Waltz has written:

it is a theory of about the motivations assumptions

tries to explain the outcomes it includes international politics; of in great individual detail states or in all

[A] theory of international politics ... can describe the range of likely outcomes
of the actions range of and interactions varies as of states within change. a expectations systems and system given It can tell us what show how the are pressures

exerted and what possibilities are posed by systems of different structure, but it cannot tell us just how, and how effectively, the units of a system will respond to
those pressures and possibilities. . . .To the extent that dynamics of a system

limit the freedom of its units, their behavior and the outcomes of their behavior become predictable . . . [but in general] a theory of international politics bears on the foreign policies of nations while claiming to explain only certain aspects
of them.2

From theories state

such a perspective,

much

of the daily

stuff of international of outcomes states. Theories

re

lations is left to be accounted for by theories of foreign policy. These


take as their dependent variable not the pattern but rather the behavior of individual interactions, of

of foreign nal realm

to states try to achieve in the exter policy seek explain what to achieve at this it. Theory and when they try development little attention. has received comparatively level, however,

Waltz Some, like


complexity. of "autonomous to its

himself, simply rule the subject out of bounds due

he argues, must deal with the coherent Theories, logic is driven by both inter realms." Because foreign policy nal and external it does not constitute such an autonomous factors, and therefore we should not strive for a truly theoretical realm, explana or "ac rest content with mere it. Instead, we must "analyses" include whatever factors appear relevant to a particular counts," which case.3 Others such diffidence, and their recent efforts to have rejected construct a general theory of foreign policy fall into several broad schools. tion of

2 and Jack Sny Waltz (fn. 1), 71-72. See also the discussion of this point inThomas J. Christensen International Or der, "Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns inMultipolarity," 44 (Spring 1990), 38 fn. 3; Fareed Zakaria, "Realism and Domestic Politics," in Brown et ganization it is even useful or al.; and Schweller, Deadly Imbalances, 7-11. Robert Powell has questioned whether must neces to possible speak of theories of international politics in isolation, since systemic theories include nontrivial assumptions about states' preferences and behavior to begin with; see Powell sarily (fn.l). 3 "Much is included in an analysis," he writes; "little is included in a "International Politics Is Not Foreign Policy," Security Studies 6 (Autumn to the suggestion that scholars should devise and test theories sponding see Colin Elman, "Horses for Courses: Why from his neorealist framework; Foreign Policy?" Security Studies 6 (Autumn 1996). theory." Kenneth N. Waltz, 1996), 54-55. Waltz was re of foreign policy emerging of Not Neorealist Theories

146

WORLD POLITICS
stress on foreign the influence realism"

The first and most common school is composed o? Innenpolitik the


ories, which The others international called the influence of domestic factors are all variants system and highlight on state behavior. "Offensive of realism policy. of the

(sometimes ar reverses realism") essentially logic and "aggressive Innenpolitik are that systemic factors dominant. "Defensive realism" gues always in that systemic factors drive some takes a softer line, arguing practice but not others.4 kinds of state behavior set out a fourth The works under review here collectively school, I term "neoclassical both ex which realism." It explicitly incorporates in certain ternal and internal variables, and systematizing updating sights scope drawn from classical realist thought. foreign Its adherents policy is driven and ambition of a country's argue that the first and fore

most by its place in the international system and specifically by its rel
ative material argue further, are realist. is This they They why capabilities. on that the impact of such power capabilities however, must is indirect and complex, because systemic pressures power intervening variables at the unit level. This iswhy

foreign policy be translated through are neoclassical. they Neoclassical

the argue that relative material power establishes a of basic parameters country's foreign policy; they note, inThucydides' can and the weak suffer what that "the strong do what formula, they or must."5 Yet they point out that there is no immediate perfect they realists
4 and defensive realism are not only theories of foreign policy, but both schools commonly Offensive address foreign policy behavior and it is this aspect of them that will be treated here. The distinction and defensive realism was first made by Jack Snyder in between offensive/aggressive Myths ofEmpire: Domestic Politics and International Ambition Press, 1991), 11-12, and (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University and Steven in Brown et al.: Sean M. Lynn-Jones has been widely adopted since then. See the following "The False "Realism and Domestic E. Miller, Politics"; and John Mearsheimer, "Preface"; Zakaria, Re Promise of International Institutions." See also Benjamin Frankel, "The Reading List: Debating alism," Security Studies 5 (Autumn 1995), esp. 185-87; Fareed Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, Randall Status Quo Bias: What L. Schweller, "Neorealism's Security Dilemma?" Security Studies 5 (Spring about the Third World," C. Desch, 1996), esp. 114-15; Michael Security Stud "Why Realists Disagree of Realism and the Expansion ies 5 (Spring 1996), esp. 365; Eric J. Labs, "Beyond Victory: Offensive "International Relations: One Aims," Security Studies 6 (Summer 1997); and Stephen M. Walt, World, Many Theories," Foreign Policy 110 (Spring 1998), 37. Other authors make the same distinc substitutes "pessimistic structural" tion but use idiosyncratic terminology. Thus Robert G. Kaufman for "offensive" and "optimistic structural" for "defensive"; Stephen G. Brooks substitutes "neorealist" " in for "offensive" and "postclassical" for "defensive"; and Charles Glaser calls his variant "contingent Interaction: Structure, Stable Liberal De "A Two-Level stead of "defensive" realism. See Kaufman, War and U.S. Grand 1994), 683ff; Brooks, "Dueling mocracy, Strategy," Security Studies 3 (Summer 51 (Summer 1997); and Glaser, "Realists as Optimists: Realisms," International Organization Cooper in an overview of recent realist theorizing, in Brown et al. Finally, ation as Self-Help," Joseph M. and the "Realist International Theory into the defensive camp; see Grieco, Grieco puts all neorealists and G. John Ikenberry, eds., New Thinking in Interna Michael W. Doyle Politics," in Study ofWorld tional Relations Theory (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1997), esp. 166-67. 5 Robert B. Strassler, ed., The Landmark Thucydides:A Comprehensive Guide to the Peloponnesian War (New York: Free Press, 1996), 5.89.

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM

147

transmission belt linking material capabilities to foreign policy behav ior. Foreign policy choices are made by actual political leaders and
elites, simply means may and so it is their perceptions relative quantities of physical the short to medium track of relative resources term material not that matter, power or forces in This being.

foreign policies trends closely or power necessarily objective those leaders and elites do not always have Furthermore, continuously. resources as to extract and direct national freedom complete they might must wish. Power therefore also examine the strength and analysis structure to their societies, of states relative because these affect the resources to of national that can be allocated proportion foreign policy. not This ferent means that countries state structures are but dif gross capabilities comparable to act likely differently. And finally, systemic the broad contours and general di may shape being strong state behavior. or with

that over

countries'

to de precise enough means This that the influence of systemic factors may often be more from a dis apparent tance than from up close?for in significantly the limiting example, a state s leaders at a par menu of foreign choices considered by policy item ticular time, rather than in forcing the selection of one particular on that menu For all these the over another. reasons, the neoclassical realists believe, understanding of the close examination power and policy requires are formulated contexts within which and imple foreign policies out the schools mented.6 After theoretical briefly sketching competi its major works of this essay will discuss and tors, the remainder links between distinctive characteristics and assess its contribution to the field.7

and incentives pressures rection of foreign policy without termine the specific details of

Four Theories

of Foreign

Policy

and political historians, Statesmen, causes states to what adopt certain


6 neoclassical

have long pondered philosophers kinds of foreign policies. Yet most

In their stress on intervening variables, constrained choice, and historical context, as in other ways, in comparative politics, who realists have much in common with historical institutionalists struc that mediate the effects of macro-level socioeconomic institutions study "intermediate-level ... are or tures." Neoclassical realists would agree that "this focus on how macrostructures magnified struc intermediate-level institutions allows us to explore the effects of such overarching by mitigated . .. tures on political outcomes, but avoid the structural determinism that often characterizes [purely and Sven Steinmo, "Historical Institutionalism in Compara systemic] approaches." Kathleen Thelen in Comparative tive Politics," in Sven Steinmo et al., eds., Structuring Politics: Historical Institutionalism Press, 1992), 11. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Analysis 7 re For reasons of space and coherence this essay will focus on the general features of neoclassical alism as a theory of foreign policy rather than on the empirical contributions the various neoclassical realist authors have made to the literatures on their particular historical subjects.

148 have sought answers it hubris foreign

WORLD in intricate to think policy

POLITICS combinations of factors, case-specific construct parsimonious have much power. explanatory could

considering theories of

that one

that would

Analysts
The

interested in theory building, meanwhile, have tended to fol


common

paths. to assume that approach has been foreign policy sources in domestic has its theories These argue politics. Innenpolitik and economic that internal factors such as political national ideology, most character, countries monadic tion that partisan behave version politics, toward of such or socioeconomic the world structure their determine A how beyond in a liberal vein would is different from borders. pure, be the no

low one of three distinct

the behavior

theorizing of democracies

that of non

democracies.

A modified, be the notion of the dyadic version would is which holds that the behavior of democracies "democratic peace," are many variants different when deal with each other. There of they

the Innenpolitik approach, each favoring a different specific domestic


independent

variable, but they all share a common assumption?that as the is best understood of a country's internal foreign policy product a in a par is behaving To understand country why dynamics. particular ticular way, therefore, one should peer inside the black box and examine the preferences and configurations of key domestic actors.8

The chief problem with Innenpolitik theories is that pure unit-level


states with for why similar do have difficulty accounting explanations act in the foreign policy mestic often systems differently sphere and states in similar situations often act alike. Some scholars dissimilar why

grounded in the neorealist model of international politics have sought to avoid this problem by applying thatmodel to individual state behav
ior as well as to international outcomes. They have generated two the

8 For a brief history of Innenpolitik theorizing about foreign policy, see Zakaria, in Brown et al.; for restatement in modern social science terms, see Andrew of the Innenpolitik tradition powerful of International Politics," International Moravcsik, "Taking Preferences Seriously: A Liberal Theory E. Brown et al., 51 (Autumn 1997). On the concept of the democratic peace, seeMichael Organization theDemocratic Peace (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996). Other notable recent examinations eds., Debating in Robert I. Rotberg and of Innenpolitik variables include Jack S. Levy, "Domestic Politics andWar," K. Rabb, eds., The Origin and Prevention Theodore Major Wars (New York: Cambridge University of and Arthur A. Stein, eds., The Domestic Bases of Grand Strategy Press, 1988); Richard Rosecrance and Valerie M. Hudson, Skidmore eds., The Press, 1993); David (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Limits of State Autonomy: Societal Groups and Foreign Policy Formulation (Boulder, Colo.: Westview, "Domestic Political Systems andWar Proneness," Mershon International Studies 1993); Joe D. Hagan, in the Analysis of Review 38, supplement 2 (October 1994); idem, "Domestic Political Explanations et al., eds., Its Second Foreign Policy," in Laura Neack Foreign Policy Analysis: Continuity and Change in "Domestic Struc Generation (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1995); and Matthew Evangelista, a tures and International Change," inDoyle and Ikenberry (fn. 4).

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM

149

ories of and defensive both start realism, which foreign policy, offensive from the of uni that the international system is composed assumption a desire for theories dif rational states motivated The tary, security. by assume fer over what incentives the international system offers they such states and how to which they by other factors Offensive realism Hobbesian?that assume are as well as over the to they likely respond, degree inherent in anarchy can be modulated the tension such as the state of military technology. assumes

is generally that international anarchy or nuclear deter from situations of bipolarity apart it by maximizing their rence, security is scarce and states try to achieve In the offensive relative advantage.9 realist world rational states pursu

are prone to take actions that can lead to conflict with oth ing security a defensive ers?and but are do: "States begin with motive, usually act because of the structure forced to think and sometimes offensively countries of the international Domestic differences between system."10 are considered international to be relatively unimportant, are assumed to be system from the pressures and straightforward strong states behave of situated alike, regardless ac to this view, foreign policy According because

to make enough similarly their internal characteristics. framework a state should because of a given

tivity is the record of nervous states jockeying for position within


understand

the

To why systemic power configuration. one is behaving in a realists way, offensive suggest, particular examine its relative and its external environment, capabilities into foreign those factors will be translated relatively smoothly

to advance state chooses its interests. policy and shape how the assumes in contrast, Defensive that international realism, anarchy is rather than that security is often plentiful often more benign?that is, states can understand this or learn it over time that normal scarce?and from rational states pursuing realist world to re to be relaxed, themselves bestirring only are rare. Even then, such states gener to external threats, which spond manner to these threats in a against timely by "balancing" ally respond the need for actual the threatener and obviates which deters them, to this rule is when situations certain chief exception conflict. The experience.11 can often security In the defensive afford

9 "Back to the Future: Instability of offensive realist analysis include John Mearsheimer, Examples in Europe after the Cold War," in Brown et al.; idem (fn. 4); and Labs (fn. 4). 10 Mearsheimer (fn. 4), 337 fn. 24. 11 Prominent defensive realist authors include Stephen Van Evera, Stephen M. Walt, Jack Snyder, to works in the defensive realist camp, see Zakaria Barry Posen, and Charles L. Glaser; for citations realists view systemic incentives as less (fn. 2), 476 fn. 34. For some of the reasons why defensive Hobbesian than offensive realists do, see Brooks (fn. 4).

150
lead

WORLD POLITICS

modes

states to fear each other, such as when security-seeking prevailing in this of warfare favor the offensive.12 activity, Foreign policy states to clear is the record of rational view, systemic reacting properly into conflict only in those circumstances when the incentives, coming

security dilemma is heightened to fever pitch. But this dance is repeat


to defensive edly interrupted, according or true misread ignore the security-related environment. dent while variables, both schools though are often the reverse offensive realism realists, by rogue states that incentives offered by their

Innenpolitik theories of foreign policy privilege domestic indepen


privileges are clear, bold, and predictive, and inaccurate. (Pure oversimplified from ones. Al systemic the predictions of

both face

theories systemic states in their Innenpolitik counterparts: anomaly of adherents do not always act alike.) The similar structural positions but in practice realism also view it as a systemic defensive theory, they on both to account variables and domestic systemic independent rely

for different kinds of foreign policy behavior. Defensive


the international conduct, ogy or certain consider count which system includes other as the cause a resort to of what might only aggression clear incentives behavior involving

realists view
"natural" technol

be called if military

factors

the remainder

provide of aggressive hypotheses

to strike first. They to be "unnatural" and ac variables. elements

of all three of important challenges the neoclassical theories are misguided, these perspectives. Innenpolitik if there is any single, dominant factor shaping the realists say, because over time, it is their relative broad pattern of nations' foreign policies so rest of the international the material power vis-?-vis system?and

for it by auxiliary realism Neoclassical

domestic

this iswhere analysis of foreign policy should begin. Defensive


ismisguided sponses partly shaped for a similar because its to threats

realism

re reason, emphasis are one s of threat overlooks the fact that perceptions is further The one's relative material power. theory by

on countries'

s of the security dilemma; offense-defense theory is rooted in Robert Jervis presentation see Jervis, World Politics 30 (January 1978). Recent de under the Security Dilemma," "Cooperation variables are Glaser (fn. 4); Ted Hopf, fensive realist works stressing the importance of offense-defense 85 (June 1991); Balance, andWar," American Political Science Review "Polarity, the Offense-Defense and Its Critics," Security Studies 4 (Summer 1995); "Offense-Defense Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Theory and the Causes ofWar," International Security 22 (Spring Stephen Van Evera, "Offense, Defense, "What Is the Offense-Defense Balance and Can 1998); and Charles L. Glaser and Chaim Kaufmann, see also Jack S. It?" International We Measure Levy, "The Offensive/De Security 22 (Spring 1998); and Historical Analysis," International Studies A Theoretical fensive Balance of Military Technology: balance is sometimes held the offense-defense 28 (1984). In addition to military technology, Quarterly resources are cumulative and therefore offer a tempt to incorporate judgments about whether power see Peter Liberman, Does an Conquest analysis of this question, ing target for potential aggressors; for Press, 1996). Pay? (Princeton: Princeton University

12 Modern

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
flawed much bulk because actual of their its first-order behavior, thus systemic argument its adherents does not account out to contract variables

151
for the

explanatory on an ad hoc basis.13 The neoclassical must

forcing to domestic-level work believe that

introduced

inde preferred Innenpolitikers9 to second be relegated because place analytically pendent variables over the run a state's cannot transcend the limits long foreign policy and opportunities environment. thrown up by the international "A

realists

good theory of foreign policy," one of them writes,


what effect the international has on national the most relations because always fluence

"should first ask

because behavior, system of a state in international characteristic powerful generalizable is its relative in the international system."14 Moreover, position the influence of structural factors such as relative power is not even to political attribute actors themselves, neoclassical realists

obvious

caution that analysts who do not begin by looking carefully for such in
to other factors causal significance in reality are only epiphenomenal. the neo relative power their chief independent variable, By making are forced to choose classical realists sides in the perennial debate about may mistakenly that are more visible but confront the term between out their reasons for re issue directly, setting . . . or resources to refer to "the "power" capabilities this these power resources and a country's foreign policy

just how that concept should be defined and operationalized. They


generally serving tinguish

with which states can influence each other" (Wohlforth, 4).15They dis

13 source of Stephen Van Evera (fn. 12), for example, has recently argued that "a chief insecurity in times has been [the] false belief that security was scarce." In general, he claims, Europe since medieval "States are seldom as insecure as they think they are ... [the] exaggeration of insecurity, and the belli cose conduct it fosters, are causes of national insecurity and war" real prime (pp. 42-43). Neoclassical an elaborate systemic ists question the point of constructing that states theory around the assumption a are driven on states suffer from by quest for security only then to argue that security-related questions realist critique of defensive realism along false consciousness most of the time. The original neoclassical these lines is Zakaria (fn. 2); see also Schweller (fn. 4). 14 Zakaria (fn. 2), 482. 15 Neoclassical realists acknowledge that in contrast to this "material" definition, the "relational" def inition of power?in Robert Dahl s formulation, "As ability to get B to do something itwould not oth erwise do"?has certain strengths, but they find it so fraught with theoretical and empirical difficulties as to be a re to stressing the practically unusable. In addition problems of empirically operationalizing lational definition, such an approach makes it difficult to say much about they argue that employing the causal role of power factors relative to other potential writes: independent variables. As Wohlforth "If one defines power as control [over other actors, outcomes, or the international system as awhole], one must infer the the balance of power from out relationship of power from outcomes_Inferring comes and then a dubious using the balance of power to explain those outcomes appears to be analyt 1-17. For arguments against the use ical exercise." For a clear discussion of these issues, see Wohlforth, of Power," Behavioral Science 2 definitions of power, see Robert Dahl, "The Concept 1989). See also (July 1957); and David A. Baldwin, Paradoxes of Power (New York Basil Blackwell, and the Study ofWorld Waltz Poli (fn. 1), 191-92; and Robert O. Keohane, "Realism, Neorealism (fn. 1), 11. tics," in Keohane of broad material

152
"interests," country's Instead sume

WORLD POLITICS
by which they external behavior. mean the goals or preferences that guide the

of assuming that states seek security, neoclassical realists as states to the uncertainties that of international respond anarchy to control and their external environment. by seeking shape Regardless of the myriad ways that states may define their interests, this school ar gues, they are likely to want more rather than less external influence, and pursue central long such influence to the extent that of neoclassical empirical prediction term the relative amount of material are able to do so.16 The they realism is thus that over the

resources countries power as it the magnitude and ambition?the possess will envelope, shape as their relative power rises states will were?of their foreign policies: seek more influence and as it falls their actions and ambitions abroad,

will be scaled back accordingly. Yet a theory of foreign policy limited to systemic factors alone is
bound which to be inaccurate is why offensive how much realism of the time, the neoclassical realists argue, is also misguided. To understand the to their external

way states one must

environment, they say, are translated systemic pressures through unit analyze and do level intervening variables such as decision-makers' perceptions state structure. mestic In the neoclassical realist world leaders can be interpret and domestic politics. by both international nor is neither Hobbesian benign but anarchy, moreover, constrained International rather murky

and respond

and difficult to read. States existing within

it have a hard time seeing

or scarce and must grope their way security is plentiful clearly whether ac in evidence forward interpreting partial and problematic twilight, to rules of thumb. cording subjective In this respect, therefore, neoclassical realists occupy amiddle ground im The former and constructivists. theorists between pure structural a clear and direct link between constraints and systemic plicitly accept con unit-level the latter deny that any objective behavior; systemic straints exist at all, arguing instead that international reality is socially constructed
16 One member

and that "anarchy

iswhat

states make

of it."17Neoclassical

of the school writes that "classical realists have written carelessly about power-max resources or as a consequence states of mate imization/ leaving unclear whether expand for material the latter assumption; increased resources give rise to rial resources. realism] makes [Neoclassical but influence-maximizers" States are not resource-maximizers (Zakaria, 19). greater ambitions. a broader range of po too limiting and advocates incorporating Schweller considers this assumption see realist theorizing; into neoclassical tential state preferences Deadly Imbalances, 18-26, 217 fn. 37; and idem (fn. 4). 17 What See Alexander Wendt, "Anarchy Is International 1992); and idem, "Constructing States Make of It," International Organization 46 (Spring Politics," International Security 20 (Summer 1995).

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
realists outcomes states assume that there is indeed of relative power, which will, of state interactions. something for example, have like an objective dramatic effects

153
reality on the

do not assume, that however, They that reality accurately on a day-to-day basis. necessarily apprehend one could peer Hans Morgenthau famously argued that with his theory over the statesman's realists believe the same but shoulder; neoclassical feel that in doing so one sees through a glass, darkly. The these authors world states

end up inhabiting, therefore, is indeed partly of their own making.


It might described realists?why lexicon. The already burgeoning no there is classical realism. Rather, fortunately simple, straightforward the term covers a host of authors who differ greatly from one another in to an be asked why, given as "classical" simply their outlook, are not best we must add yet another reason is that un

bit of jargon

and methodologies, and thus is not helpful for objectives, assumptions, as a current sets the authors under discussion What apart purposes.18 nature of distinct school worthy is both the common of recognition an their quest?to and generalizable of foreign develop explicit theory the common threads of their argumentation. Their central policy?and the work of previous students of rel vari the role of domestic-level by elaborating intervening it against contemporary the approach, and testing ables, systematizing theories are sum The differences among the four general competitors. ative power concern is to build on and advance

marized inTable 1.
Because pendent ological neoclassical and intervening realism variables, stresses the role played by both inde it carries with it a distinct method informed analysis, foreign narratives, that trace policies. ideally the ways The neo that the and the

preference?for

supplemented by explicit different factors combine

theoretically counterfactual to yield

particular

classical realist archetype isThucydides' History

of thePeloponnesian

its narrative in the theoretical War, which grounds proposition "real cause" of the war was "the growth of the power of Athens,

alarmwhich this inspired in Sparta," and then describes how systemic


18 three separate theoretical strands within Michael the classical Doyle has recently distinguished realist tradition: Machiavelli's the importance of individual am "fundamentalism," which emphasizes s "structuralism," which the importance of the international bition; Hobbes system; and emphasizes Rousseau's the importance of unit-level factors such as the na which emphasizes "constitutionalism," ture and relations. All three strands, he argues, have their fons et origo in strength of state-society seeMichael Thucydides' incorporates variables from each level of analysis; "complex" realism, which W. Doyle, Ways ofWar and Peace (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997). For analysis of previous modern to "classical" realists, see Michael (Baton Rouge: Joseph Smith, Realist Thought from Weber Kissinger Louisiana State University Press, 1986).

154

WORLD POLITICS
Four Theories View of International System
unimportant

TABLE 1 of Foreign

Policy

Theory
Innenpolitik theories

View ofUnits
highly differentiated

Causal

Logic policy

internal factors ?? foreign

Defensive realism

occasionally anarchy's implications

important; variable

highly differentiated

systemic incentives

or

internal ?? foreign policy factors in

(two sets of independent variables practice, driving "natural" and "unnatural" behavior respectively)

Neoclassical realism

anarchy

important; ismurky

differentiated

systemic incentives

?>

internal ?> foreign policy factors (intervening variables) ?>

(independent variable) Offensive realism undifferentiated

very important; anarchy isHobbesian

systemic

incentives

foreign policy

incentives

were

translated Greek

through

unit-level

variables

into the foreign

policies In keeping

United States; William CurtiWohlforth on the Soviet Union; Thomas J. Christensen on the United States and China; Randall L. Schweller
on tackled mestic American most same authors have also ofWorld War II. These the belligerents to the role of do issues ranging from the formation of alliances politics in war initiation Their to the challenges collective facing policymakers. and substantial output represents on work policy foreign contemporary some of the currently

city-states.19 to realist works this tradition, the major neoclassical or case studies of how great powers have re date have been narratives on the to relative material rise or decline: Fareed Zakaria sponded with

of the various

sophisticated

available.20
19 as an international relations the Strassler (fn. 5), 1.23. For an excellent discussion of Thucydides orist, see Doyle (fn. 18), 49-92; other interesting recent treatments include Mark V. Kauppi, "Thucyd ides: Character and Capabilities," 1995); and Ashley J. Tellis, "Political Security Studies 5 (Winter to Scientific Theory," Security Studies 5 (Winter 1995), 12-25. Realism: The Long March 20 a on Recent statecentric writings, comparably rig foreign economic policy, represent particularly see G.John et al., eds., The State orous and a Ikenberry impressive literature; for sampling of this work, Iken and American Foreign Economic Policy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1988); and G.John 1996). Another berry, ed., American Foreign Policy: Theoretical Essays, 2d ed. (New York: HarperCollins, or as comparative foreign foreign policy analysis, has generally produced little policy approach, known or its recent offerings can be sampled in Charles F. Hermann cumulation of knowledge lasting impact; et al., eds., New Directions in the Study ofForeign Policy (Winchester, Mass.: Unwin Hyman, 1987); and Neacketal.(fn.8).

neoclassical The Rise and Fall

realism of the Great

155 Powers

The primary subject of all the major neoclassical realist works is the
on them the makes impact of relative power foreign policy?which third wave of books on this hardy realist theme in the last two decades.

The firstwave came in the 1980s, as Robert Gilpin, Paul Kennedy, and Michael Mandelbaum all used relative power as the ordering principle
for and wide-ranging impressive several centuries. They argued events lay substantial regularities. curity studies of international the that beneath As Mandelbaum politics chaos apparent over of

recur history throughout policies in states that, whatever their differences, similar posi occupy system . . . tions in the system. The of very strong states are security policies states that are neither from one individual very strong nor very weak."21 When rank to the next, moreover, their foreign policies

se put it, "Similar across the international and

different from those of very weak ones, and both differ from those of
states moved

eventually followed

suit: "The historical record suggests," Kennedy

run between an in the "that there is a very clear connection wrote, long rise and fall and its growth and de individual Great Power's economic reason world cline as an important military The (or power empire)."22 was this pattern, Gilpin that states were continually explained, to try to increase [their] control over the environment.... A "tempted more state ... will select a and more powerful bundle of wealthy larger a less and less powerful state."23 security and welfare goals than wealthy for

second wave consisted of works by Aaron L. Friedberg and P. Leffler that traced precisely how a shift in relative power led Melvyn The
in the foreign policy of a particular country.24 Friedberg began economic his analysis with the relative decline of Britain's and military turn of the twentieth century; his goal was to un strength around the external and how this decline started to affect Britain's derstand when behavior. As he noted: to begin to end "Structural analysis it. Even of considerations international from which place at which point rather than a politics that structures exist acknowledges provide a useful to a shift

if one

21 and Michael Mandelbaum, The Fates ofNations: The Searchfor National Security in theNineteenth Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 4,2. 22 Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Random House, 1987), xxii, em phasis in original. 23 Robert Gilpin, War and Change inWorld Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 94-95,22-23. 24 Aaron L. Friedberg, The Weary Titan: Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1895-1905 P. Leffler, A Preponderance of Power: Na (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988); and Melvyn and the Cold War (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University tional Security, the Truman Administration, 1992).

Press,

156

WORLD

POLITICS of how statesmen grasp they will do

and are important, there is still the question their contours from the inside, so to speak," about them.25

and of what

Friedberg found that in practice British officials reacted to decline


that "simply ignored or papered over se pursuing haphazardly, policies rious underlying in Britain's weaknesses or, in solving certain position created new and perhaps more dangerous is not ones." This problems, one would a actor the response ratio expect from unitary responding to incentives from the international and he argued that to system, nally one had to consider not it properly in relative merely explain changes but also organizational, and domestic intellectual, capabilities political factors. Assessments of relative power by policy-making elites, Fried "are related to but not directly determined berg concluded, by reality" and are, "in turn, related to but not fully determinative of policy."26 examined increasing case in which the opposite situation?a relative power was rather than decreasing. Instead of following the lead of most postwar Soviet he threat or an American

Leffler's study of American foreign policy during the early cold war

traditional or revisionist historians in highlighting the objective nature


of either global cused goals, external Union a dominance, on the dynamic and their relative took his quest for ideological the postrevisionists and fo interaction between the two countries, their Most he demonstrated strength. importantly, stand with

how changing capabilities helped to drive policymakers' perceptions of


Worries about the Soviet interests, and opportunities. ar Leffler the policies of the Truman administration, underlay but those worries were themselves the product of increased partly threats,

gued, American

were not about concerned strength: American policymakers an immediate or threat but rather about some poten primarily military to America's the great tial future challenge broader environment. Only

one est of powers, their point out, have the luxury of viewing might interests so the United States did not do national certainly expansively; were so earlier in its its ideals and institutions the same when history,

but its geopolitical position was different.


The neoclassical realists pick and demonstrate the applicability left off these earlier waves up where of this line of analysis to awide vari

ety of times and places. Thus,


in the late nineteenth policy karia asks: "Why, as states
25 (fn. 24), 8. Friedberg 26 Ibid., 295,290-91.

in his compelling study of U.S. foreign


to Power, do Fareed Za increasingly wealthy, they build

century, From Wealth grow

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
large armies, entangle themselves in politics beyond their borders, the over

157
and

seek international influence?" (p. 3). Echoing

the basic answer of the


of tendency their envi

stems from first wave, he argues that this behavior states to use the tools at their to gain control disposal

ronment. William
Soviet havior

CurtiWohlforth, meanwhile, grounds his analysis of

were driven in the first place by shifting distributions of power in the


international The even is not obliterated power on national policies at least so Randall world-historical L. Schweller leaders?or by in contends his neoclassical realist study of foreign Imbalances, Deadly system. influence of relative

the cold war in the notion that "state be foreign policy during to external constraints conditioned [is an] adaptation by changes in relative in And Thomas Adversaries, J. Christensen, power."27 Useful war and Chinese argues that U.S. foreign policies during the early cold

policy dynamics before and duringWorld War


dom

II. Conventional wis

that explains the onset and course ofthat war largely by reference ar to the character and views of ismisguided, Hitler Schweller Adolph

the structure of the international is, the dis gues, because system?that across the units?had a critical tribution of material power capabilities on alliance the 1930s and and foreign policies patterns impact during 1940s. He documents the existence of a comprehensive international

pecking order dominated by three poles (theUnited States, the Soviet


and Germany) Union, ers of various different ventional neorealist and traces sizes. His its influences on the behavior it clear analysis is between systems bipolar and multipolar and that a much closer look at the dis purposes makes of pow that the con

division

for many inadequate in order to uncover the foreign tribution of power may be necessary structure should be to expected produce. policy effects that system

and Misperception Perception International Politics

in

In stressing the primacy realists part of relative power, the neoclassical from many the themselves with company separate They Innenpolitikers. a further contention that other structural however, theorists, through

the impact of such power on policy is indirect and problematic. The


intervening through variable which they introduce pressures is decision-makers' must be filtered. percep systemic

first tions,

27 in Brown et al., 8. This arti "Realism and the End of the Cold War," William Curti Wohlforth, book The Elusive Balance and should be read as its cle follows through on the argument of Wohlforth's final chapter.

158 Purely accurate systemic

WORLD

POLITICS

a of foreign policy presume explanations reasonably officials of the distribution of power and a apprehension by direct translation of such apprehensions into national reasonably pol most structural realist formulations," "assess noted, icy. "In Friedberg ment a [of relative power] through rational calculation plays the part of

reliable but invisible transmission belt connecting objective [material]


has made the same adaptive behavior."28 Robert O. Keohane that for most theorists "the link between point, arguing sys systemic tem structure and actor behavior is forged by the assump rationality to to enables the theorist that leaders will respond tion, which predict change the incentives and constraints rationality havior to various Neoclassical as a constant imposed by their environments. Taking one to attribute variations in state be permits of the international characteristics system."29 in contrast, argue that the notion of a smoothly transmission belt is inaccurate and misleading. of power can drive countries' behavior to

functioning The international

realists, mechanical

distribution

only by influencing the decisions of flesh and blood officials, they point
no alternative but out, and would-be analysts of foreign policy thus have to in detail how each explore country's policymakers actually understand means their situation.30 What in this is that the translation of practice into national behavior capabilities term. short and medium Friedberg found that in is often rough and capricious Britain "official over the assess

ward

. . . as the result of external went and decisively shocks. for [C]hange as the result of diffuse intellectual that gradual, developments were consolidated and accelerated crises."31 The process of by periodic was and func moreover, assessment, fragmented along bureaucratic over relative tional lines within the British with debates government, on numerical indicators of capability which power centering simple or often held sway because of their familiarity cognitive appeal rather than their substantive As a result, the actual British appropriateness. to relative decline was more incon policy response significantly halting, than a simple structural model would sistent, and "nonstrategic" predict. Every ceptions
28 Friedberg 29 Keohane,

ments did not adjust steadily, but neither did they shift dramatically

turn-of-the-century

neoclassical at the heart

realist makes of their work.

a similar some put per point, and In The Elusive Balance, for example,

(fn. 24), 13. Politics," in Keohane (fn. 1), 167. "Theory ofWorld in International Politics (Princeton: 30Following Robert Jervis's Perception andMisperception ton Princeton first dwelt on the implications of this point Press, 1976), Wohlforth University of Power: Russia in the Pre-1914 Balance," World Politics 39 (April 1987). Perception 31Friedberg (fn. 24), 288.

Prince in "The

NEOCLASSICAL Wohlforth supports the general

REALISM of Leffler's argument

159 while

thrust

World War IImay looking at cold war dynamics from the Soviet side. he points out, but it did little to establish a have eliminated the Axis,
clear hierarchy endless disputes current the victorious allies and thus set the stage for among in the decades afterward. At base, he contends, the re tension from the 1940s to the 1980s were of superpower rooted of it: "Each in the ambiguities of relative of tension] was [cycle power

perceptions shaped a two differently by the by change in the power relationship interpreted own to maximize In the wake of each shift, each side tried its sides.... position. reached Unwilling stalemates to go to war to test the power distribution, they after crises, posturing and signaling until a new per

quite and policymakers'

cycles similar, and all were

ceived shift led to another round" (pp. 301-2).


not as a sta For Wohlforth, therefore, the cold war is best understood in which acted as sensible du ble bipolar arrangement the superpowers as an and USSR the U.S. ongoing dispute between opolists but rather over who had how much over the interna influence power and what tional system they were thus entitled to to exercise. The Soviet Union, spoils? prestige he argues, constantly influence abroad, The United a share of the international institutions, general its perceived

struggled control over

gain international with

and deference?commensurate States, perceiving and more

power

shift in power, publicly "a perceived acknowledged by a new Soviet drive for increased both sides; early feed prestige; positive revealed the contra back on the new policy; sharp crises that eventually of the political dictions between sides' the two interpretations relaxation of tensions of the power shift"; and an eventual implications of a stalemate Wohlforth based on mutual argues acceptance (p. 182). down and the last cold war cycle began to wind that during 1983-85 status would probably have ended with a new mini-d?tente ratifying the reforms altered the quo circa, say, 1970. In 1985, however, Gorbachev's

Periodically familiar pattern:

its own power capabilities to such a global role. diversified, struggled deny the Soviets a the episodes displaying these tensions came to a boil, with

capabilities. to be greater

picture irrevocably, leading (albeit unintentionally) to the shedding of the Soviet empire and then the dissolution of theUSSR itself.
foreign superpowers' to its end, with changing at each key point. perceptions is more and policy, however, Wohlforth says, "rapid shifts war Together the two Leffler and Wohlforth a view of comprehensive provide of the cold from the beginning policies threat relative power ultimately driving between the connections power Tracing as difficult than it might seem?because, in behavior may be related to perceived

160

WORLD POLITICS

shifts in the distribution of power which are not captured by typical


measures the decades U.S. and Soviet perceptions capabilities." Over ... a broad was connected to of power "followed [that] pattern changes . . . a to choose in real it would be impossible [but] capabilities single the precise perceptual pattern without prior knowledge" (pp. 294, of of

indicator or composite index [of power capabilities] thatwould predict

302).32
As them, was a case study of how relative material capabilities, to and other factors combine shape historical perceptions developments,

Wohlforth

offers Soviet policy at the end of the cold war. Gorbachev

to launch his of domestic renewal, he shows, by spurred campaign assessments external internal that Soviet had stalemate, capabilities a conviction and that appropriate reforms could greatly deteriorated, over undo the damage. It was the combination of concern perceived relative decline and confidence that he could reverse it, in other words, to embark on the that led Gorbachev ulti far-reaching changes which

mately extent

brought his entire system crashing down. The full and devastating of Soviet weaknesses became clear only as the reforms progressed, and so by the time the Soviet Union's external and internal col however, loomed they were practically faits accomplis.33 lapses suddenly are a common Such vagaries feature In their books Zakaria and Christensen of neoclassical both note the realist analysis. of importance make decision

events in which "shocks," suddenly single perceptual aware of the cumulative makers effects of gradual power long-term leaders have Christensen trends.34 Elsewhere argues that European

often misread both the distribution of capabilities and the efficacy of


he argues, by a host of other problems: "Power cannot be tested; 32The waters are further muddied, different elements of power possess different utilities at different times; the relation of perceived power resources can be to material states of power are surrounded by uncertainty; capricious; the mechanics ratios and comparative possess different conversion advantages; the perceived prestige hierarchy and the military distribution may not coincide for prolonged periods; states adopt asymmetrical strategies to maximize their positions and undercut rivals; signals get confused among allies, rivals, and domes tic audiences" (pp. 306-7). has teamed 33In addition to his article "Realism and the End of the Cold War" (fn. 27), Wohlforth realist take on this subject; see Randall L. Schweller and up with Schweller for a further neoclassical William to the End of the Cold War," Se in Response C. Wohlforth, "Power Test: Updating Realism in drawing clear theoretical lessons from these events, curity Studies (forthcoming). On the difficulties of International Politics in Re C. Wohlforth, William however, see "Reality Check Revising Theories sponse to the End of the Cold War," World Politics 50 (July 1998). of national power shift[ed] suddenly, rather "statesmen's perceptions 34Zakaria finds that American events like wars than by statisti than incrementally, and [were] shaped more by crises and galvanizing cal measures" argues that itwas only the sudden awareness, in 1947, of the extent (p. 11). Christensen the true distribution of into recognizing of British decline that shocked the Truman administration power and triggered the shift toward active containment (pp. 32ff).

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
offensive and defensive pure in Deadly trary to what nally, argues military strategies, theories would systemic Imbalances that and thus acted in ways

161 con

fi predict.35 And Schweller, a it was actually misperception

of the distribution of power which drove the foreign policy of one of the poles of the international system at the beginning of World War II.
Given the true state of affairs, he writes,

itwould have been far better for the Soviets to have balanced against, rather than bandwagoned with, Germany [in 1939]. In that case Stalin would have
presented the F?hrers takenly Hitler with the and Europe prospect of causing tripolar, a two-front war, strategy perhaps as a its abandonment. not a bipolar, undermining seriously But because he mis system with France and

perceived

Britain as the third pole, Stalin expected awar of attrition in the West. The fall of France abruptly ended Stalins dream of easy conquests in a postwar period when the rest of Europe would be exhausted, (p. 168)

Bringing
The second

the

State Back In

especially

distribution of power are inadequate, they contend, leaders may not have easy access to a total country's resources. Once material that international raised, the notion power must take into account the to ex of governments power analysis ability tract and direct the resources of their societies seems almost obvious, and because national it into international relations the simply involves incorporating variables that are routine in other subfields of political science.36 And ory an in realist and powerful yet this represents important development
35 in Europe, 1865-1940," Thomas J. Christensen, International Organi "Perceptions and Alliances zation 51 (Winter 1997). 36 As Zakaria points out, everyone knows Charles Tilly's mantra that "war made the state and the state made war"; it is just that heretofore the implications of the first clause have received far more at on the tention than those of the second. See Zakaria, From Wealth to Power, 39-40; Tilly, "Reflections of European in Charles Tilly, ed., The Formation States inWestern National History State-Making," of Press, 1975), 42; and Christensen, Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Useful Adversaries, 20ff. A as well, similar stress on the role of state structure is a characteristic of some recent Innenpolitik theories although the two schools differ over the nature and importance of this variable and the interpretation of many cases; for an overview of this work, see Evangelista examinations of the (fn. 8). For pioneering role of the state in the formation and implementation of foreign policy, see Peter J. Katzenstein, ed., Between Power and Plenty (Madison: University ofWisconsin Press, 1978); Stephen Krasner, Defend Interest (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978); Ikenberry et al. (fn. 20); and ing theNational et al., "Toward a Realist Michael Mastanduno Theory of State Action," International Studies Quarterly 33 (December 1989).

apparatus of the international

variable realists? intervening emphasized by neoclassical a state Zakaria and Christensen?is the strength of country's assessments and its relation to the surrounding society. Gross

in fact

162

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POLITICS

for it brings analysis closer to the real world theorizing, significantly core without the paradigm's and assumptions. concepts abandoning note the observes that historians of American Zakaria expansion

foreign policy in the years beforeWorld War I and askwhy it occurred.


Yet for a while, richest country even after the United States had become the perhaps to in the world, most American opportunities expand even when influence abroad were it did become active rejected?and later on, the U.S. its European "For a po counterparts. lagged behind litical scientist," the country's power and expansion therefore, "viewing in

the more puzzling iswhy America comparative perspective, question more and sooner" not did expand (p. 5). Zakaria after testing dozens of opportunities for expan concludes, sion against propositions derived from different that Ameri theories, can external behavior national shape decision intentions depended makers. He thus on the means the at the that disposal of affirms logic capabilities as an to introduce state strength and officials' behav capabilities

but finds

variable intervening ior: ismade not by the nation as awhole but by its gov "Foreign policy ernment. not national is state power, what matters Consequently, is that portion State power of national the government power. power can extract for its purposes and reflects the ease with which central de cisionmakers eign policy emergence can achieve these their ends" years, during of the administrative

it necessary between national

for story of American (p. 9). His a discussion includes of the therefore, state:

The decades after the Civil War


Americas material resources.

saw the beginning of a long period of growth in


But this national power lay dormant beneath a

weak state, one thatwas decentralized, diffuse, and divided. The presidents and
their secretaries abroad, of state but that tried influence they could to convert repeatedly over a federal presided men or money not get the nations state from structure the rising power and a tiny into cen or

tral bureaucracy ern American sures generated executive

state governments the domestic of state

from society at large_The


state, which by branch interests crystallized

1880s and 1890s mark the beginnings of the mod


primarily . . . This to cope with transformation pres structure

emerged industrialization.

complemented
the American ican War

the continuing growth of national power, and by the mid-1890s


was abroad. able to bypass Americas it into expanding in the victory resounding Spanish-Amer . . . of increasing American [and] power Congress or coerce

the perception

America

expanded dramatically in the years that followed, (pp. 10-11) tests drawn from propositions explicitly cases and finds that such a security-based defensive approach realism is only

Zakaria against his

NEOCLASSICAL

REALISM

163

to defensive realism, supported by the evidence. According sporadically are on the international to exert themselves he claims, nations supposed scene "in times of nations with against powerful insecurity, aggressive . . . the United intentions." "when confronted real threats Instead, by secu States usually opted to contract its interests." Conversely, "greater and expansion" rity bred greater activism (pp. 11-12). consensus notes the Christensen, meanwhile, among widespread is best ex from 1972 onward scholars that Sino-American cooperation a shared realist desire to balance against the Soviet Union? plained by and the

tensions are best explained by Innenpolitik variables (such as ideological


or leaders' domestic He differences, pressures, psychology). political sets out to show that the latter is not strictly true and that proposition and Chinese behavior had its real source in the international American

equally

widespread

consensus

that

earlier

Sino-American

system even during the late 1940s and 1950s.


Christensen to mobilize argues in Useful Adversaries that at critical to points to during

these years both the American


pelled shifts national in the international balance

and the Chinese


in order of power?to

leadership felt com


respond

perceived engage, that is, in what as "internal Waltz describes stresses, balancing" (p. 245).37 Christensen to execute such it is for countries difficult however, operations, just how are shifts in national policy. when by major they accompanied especially of "national the concept He introduces therefore political power," their nation's he defines as "the ability of state leaders to mobilize which resources behind initiatives." Like and material human security policy Zakaria's the "state power," by the and Chinese international variable between this acts as "a key intervening the nation and the strategies facing challenges state to meet those challenges" (pp. 11, 13). Because statesmen lacked sufficient "national as Christensen

resources

adopted American

political argues, they had to they pleased, power" arena use in a secondary policies domestically popular but unnecessary but necessary each other) as a cover for unpopular (conflict with poli the Soviet Union): cies in a primary arena (mobilization against to do exactly Viewing basic changes in the international balance of power, Truman in 1947 andMao in 1958 decided to mobilize their nations around long-term strategies re designed to respond to those shifts. In both cases, the strategies adopted sacrifice in peacetime, so the leaders faced difficulties in quired significant public
selling those strategies to their respective publics. The manipulation or exten

37Cf. Waltz

(fn.l),

168.

164

WORLD POLITICS
sion of short-term conflict with the other nation, while not desirable on international or domestic grounds, became useful in gaining public support for the core grand strategy, (p. 6)38 does not driven take a position in the theoretical debate be active foreign their critics over whether by increased threat; his power or increased both. From his tone and choice

straightforward and maintaining Christensen tween policies model defensive are

realists

and

usually

to is general enough incorporate one gets a of cases, however, elites sensitive to the picture of far-sighted to of changing relative power, yoked consequences penny-pinching to obvious, who short-term threats. The military publics respond only conces want in the end but have to make elites tend to get what they sions to their publics neoclassical along realists variables the way?with advocate on the result the that foreign influence policy of addi

is linked to systemic incentives but not wholly determined by them.


Other tional exploring their captures foreign policy. Friedberg are he writes that "neorealists probably right that, are unsta systems equal, multipolar intrinsically ble. In the real world, else is not equal, and non however, everything or to can serve either to exacerbate structural factors the mitigate intervening general attitude when all other things being tendencies the nature degree that are inherent in a system's structure."39 Schweller argues

inDeadly Imbalances that a full theory of foreign policy should include


as the of states' goals or interests, which he operationalizes are status quo or revisionist?satisfied or dissatis to which they and principles of the system" (p. 24) .40 By combining degrees he conjures up an international bes power and revisionism,

fied with the existing distribution of international spoils, "the prestige,


resources, of relative

tiary and shows how each country played to its predicted type before
and during World War II: strongly revisionist great powers such as Nazi such revisionist acted like "wolves," moderately great powers Germany as the Soviet Union acted like "foxes," indifferent such as great powers
such as In some respects Christensen of revisionist historians follows here in the footsteps Richard M. Freeland; see Freeland, The Truman Doctrine and the Origins ofMcCarthyism: Foreign Pol revi (New York: Schocken Books, 1974). Unlike icy,Domestic Politics, and Internal Security, 1946?48 the role of economic sionist analyses of Truman's China policy, however, Christensen downplays as using domestic anticommunism motives inAmerican behavior and sees the Truman administration rather than creating it, and being in control of it rather than being controlled by it. 39 for Peace in aMultipolar Aaron L. Friedberg, Asia," International "Ripe For Rivalry: Prospects 11. See also Randall L. Schweller, "Domestic Structure and Preventive Security 18 (Winter 1993-94), realist analy War: Are Democracies More Pacific?" World Politics 44 (January 1992). For a neoclassical variables can be incorporated into realist theories, see Jennifer Sterling sis of how domestic-level Liberal Process, and Domestic-Level Studies Folker, "Realist Environment, Variables," International Quarterly 47 (1997). 40 see pp. 19-26; of revisionism, For Scwheller's discussion the Revisionist State Back In," in Brown et al. Bringing and idem, "Bandwagoning for Profit: 38

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
the United States acted like "ostriches," of revisionist lesser powers there

165 such as is clearly

Italy and Japan acted like "jackals,"and so forth.


Quite of the apart sources from the vividness and its presentation to

something to this idea, but unfortunately Schweller slights discussion


of revisionism ganically that revisionism variable. Yet ply because into his broader at other changes or the concept integrate Sometimes he argument. systemic implies is a domestic is, a purely unit-level pathology?that can emerge sim times he implies that revisionism in the systemic of (the distribution superstructure so fails

international spoils) do not keep pace with changes in the systemic base (the distribution of power capabilities). This latter revisionism would
not be a unit-level true difference factor in state at all and would not interest, abstractly of the system, rather than following from product of the dynamics state itself. One of the chief contributions character of the revisionist Gilpin, process Kennedy, at work and Mandelbaum, time and again and change, leading in fact, was to illustrate to shifts to show require the positing it would conceived: of a be a the of a

just how much history economic

such

could be accounted for by the simple story of "differentials in growth


rates and technological in the global

balances, which

in turn gradually impinge upon the political and mili


may well cre the practical

tary balances."41 Contra ate more trouble?and realm than

revisionism Schweller, therefore, more accommodation?in require one. in the theoretical

Designing
A distinct methodological argument: power

Social

Inquiry
from neoclassical realism's to understand

perspective analysts wanting

flows

theoretical relative forces

case need to do justice to the full complexity of the causal chain linking
material

any particular

view, is a theoretical hedgehog: it knows one big thing, that systemic


and relative material power

and foreign

policy

outputs.

Realism,

in this who

nore this basic insight will often waste their time looking at variables
that are actually epiphenomenal. Yet people who cannot move beyond

shape

state behavior.

People

ig

the system will have difficulty explaining most of what happens in in ternational relations.Waltz himself captured this dynamic best when he wrote: "The third image describes the framework of world politics,
but without the first and second images there can be no knowledge of

the forces that determine policy; the first and second images describe
Kennedy (fn. 22), xx.

166

WORLD POLITICS
or importance predict their results."42 realists therefore think that neither nor pure

the forces inworld politics, but without the third image it is impossible
to assess their spare game-theo are to for "thick description" good approaches at the favor beginning eign policy analysis. They intellectually systemic level but then taking care to trace precisely how, in actual cases, relative is translated into the behavior and operationalized of state ac power retic modeling that "the de extent, they agree with Robert O. Keohane advocates of parsimony and proponents of contextual of stages, rather than either-or resolves itself into a question subtlety choices. We should seek parsimony first, then add on complexity while the effects this has on the predictive power of our theory: monitoring on the basis of limited its ability to make infor inferences significant bate between mation."44 A major dilemma is their appreciation they confront, however, of the degree to which their central, parsimonious variable independent needs to be studied in conjunction with &variety of messy contextual fac tors in order to say much of interest about their matter. For neo subject classical realism, to tors.43 To some Neoclassical

is foreign policy paraphrase Clausewitz, explaining is difficult. but even the simplest explanation usually very simple, in the field have come to favor a formal, universalist While many ap to realists stubbornly insist neoclassical proach political phenomena, area is critical for an accurate understanding that significant expertise of countries' behavior. The "are foreign policy theory's basic concepts across cultures and political they simple and generalizable systems," re to any but "the application of the approach contend, given country a great deal of in question" about the nation (Chris quires knowledge one for example, how perceptions tensen, 248). To investigate matter, to get inside the heads of state decision makers, that has key something and/or archival research. often requires foreign language capabilities one has to state structure as an And variable, intervening incorporate to know a decent amount about how different insti countries' political tutions work, both in theory and in

Wohlforth by

and Christensen

(like those by Friedberg and Leffler) are

practice.

Accordingly,

the volumes

42 Kenneth N. Waltz, Man, the State and War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959), 238. 43 On the use of "process tracing," see Alexander L. George, "Case Studies and Theory Develop ment: The Method in Paul Gordon Lauren, ed., Diplomacy: New of Structured, Focused Comparison," and and Alexander L. George Approaches inHistory, Theory, and Policy (New York: Free Press, 1979); inAdvances of Organizational "Case Studies and Theories J.McKeown, Decisionmaking," Timothy in Information Processing in Organizations, vol. 2 (]M Press, 1985). For an argument that Innenpolitik seeMoravcsik rather than systemic variables deserve to be the starting point for such amethod, (fn. 8), 541ff. 44 Keohane (fn. 29), 187-88, emphasis in original.

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
based on extensive and ground-breaking archival Schweller and Zakaria work, amounts while

167
both of primary

source material

incorporate nuance and historical whether

Some might question at all. Hard-line policy both

significant into their analyses. the result is truly a theory and historians,

positivists to the lack of point precise predictions so on, and realism, the stress it places on detailed historical analysis, and claim that this should not really be called social science. (Pos approach itivists would this disapprovingly, of course, while historians would say

of foreign for example, might generated by neoclassical

not be correct. "A Still, they would say it approvingly.) theory," Waltz some factors are more reminds us, "indicates that than oth important ers and relations among them_A theory arranges phenom specifies ena so that are seen as it connects otherwise they mutually dependent; neces some of the in facts; it shows how changes disparate phenomena sarily entail changes agree, the neoclassical in others."45 Whether realist theory or not Waltz policy himself would of these of foreign does most

things, linking clearly specified in a direct causal dent variables mestic

independent, chain. "It does

intervening, not simply

and depen state that do

matter in foreign the conditions politics policy, but specifies under which matter" (Christensen, 252). they Thus neoclassical realism predicts that an increase in relative mate

to a rial power will lead eventually in the am expansion corresponding and scope of a country's that a bition foreign activity?and policy to a contrac in such power will lead eventually decrease corresponding tion. It also predicts that the process will not necessarily be gradual or itwill depend not solely on objective mate because uniform, however, rial trends but also on how political decision makers per subjectively ceive them. And to translate it longer or will take a more policy activity It is true nonetheless that neoclassical mechanistic feel. predicts an increase that countries with weak states will take in material into expanded power route there. circuitous realism foreign

in keeping with It recognizes, in the physical social elsewhere and that sciences, velopments can have sometimes and that foreign small choices big consequences and over the behavior may look "clocklike" only from a distance policy long term; "cloudlike" on close activity and over the short inspection the norm.46 Furthermore, may be to medium neoclassical term, real

non has a decidedly recent theoretical de

45 Waltz (fn.l), 8-10. 46 see Gabriel A. Almond with For the cloud/clock distinction and its implications, Stephen Genco, "Clouds, Clocks, and the Study of Politics," inAlmond, A Discipline Divided: Schools and Sects inPolit ical Science (Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage, 1990).

168 ism does not claim

WORLD POLITICS

that power-related factors will drive all aspects of a its broad contours. Crit state's foreign policy, only that they will affect ics might make the theory harder charge that all these qualifications

(though not impossible) to falsify and thus discredit. Adherents would


to concede

have

the point and acknowledge this as a serious weakness; that neoclassical realism has compensat counter, however, they might in the opportunities it offers for building ing advantages, particularly of foreign policy without aban satisfying comprehensive explanations the theory's core assumptions. in other words, Its very looseness, it a useful framework for carrying out the kind of midrange the to achieve. that so often is the best social science can hope

doning makes orizing

Conclusion:
On much the evidence to offer of its works students

The Road Ahead


to date, the neoclassical realist school has

icant abstraction guidelines narratives behavior

it retains signif of foreign policy. Theoretically, in its basic form while and parsimony clear providing in achieving for those interested richness and fit. greater relative material decision makers.

Methodologically,
of actual

it calls for an emphasis on theoretically informed


is translated into the power Its adherents have shown of countries in many re

that trace how

that this approach

political can illuminate

the behavior

gions of the world during many historical periods. By this point, how
in Future work ever, it should be old news that relative power matters. to this vein should therefore in focus on continuing the ways specify can deflect unit-level variables tervening foreign policy from what pure might predict. the best efforts of neoclassical realists, the link despite between and policymakers' power capabilities objective material subjec see the school's tive assessment of them remains murky. Critics might For example, on as a giant fudge factor, useful for explaining emphasis perceptions instances where realities di and material away power foreign policy ex in this area would be helpful, theoretical verge. Precise development and cultural factors ideational, just how various psychological, plicating actors their own and others' capabili affect how political may perceive are translated ties and how such perceptions into foreign policy.47
can recent examples of how psychological insights successfully be brought into foreign pol icy analysis are Yuen Foong Khong, Analogies at War: Korea, Munich, Dien Bien Phu, and the Vietnam Decisions of 1985 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); and Jonathan Mercer, Reputation and International Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996); a useful survey of recent work in this area is James M. Goldgeier, and Security," Security Studies 6 (Summer 1997). "Psychology 47 Two

structural

theories

NEOCLASSICAL REALISM
It should be possible, national

169

to further the notion that moreover, explore on for must be "usable" to have an power capabilities impact state structures could analyze how different eign policy. Future work or facilitate constrain the extraction and deployment of national power "multipliers" or in conjunc or

as power state leaders. And other variables by serving "dividers" might be uncovered, themselves by operating M. have Pollack, for example, have Indian and Arab

tion with those already described. Stephen Peter Rosen and Kenneth
shaped to effectiveness; military into a neoclassical be incorporated realist framework without easily too far from the model's basic power-related straying argument.48 The relative power on other factors could also be impact of changing argued that cultural variables recently in ways detri institutions, respectively, such hybrid theoretical linkages could

mental

an important field of inquiry.Thus


independent could explore Americans or

instead of viewing ideas as either

purely realists

future neoclassical variables, purely dependent in conjunction with relative power, how, they generally should believed agreed take. with that their domestic institu

could play both roles simultaneously. From the Founding onward, for
example, this that world, direct have

tions should be disseminated to others but have disagreed over the form
ideological the nation while with Adams's of monsters to make and activist transmission should role have rest content have believed "Exemplars" an for the setting example the nation should take a more abroad developments most of the nineteenth in ac cen

"crusaders"

cordance

tury the more modest version generally prevailed, typified by John


Quincy search admonition that the country should go not abroad "in to century the ambitious destroy." By the twentieth

in shaping political American ideals.49 During

version had gained the upper hand, as Woodrow Wilson


tion to war the world "safe for democracy."50 From

took the na
a neoclassi

cal realist perspective, the first place to look in explaining such a shift
On Work ideas, see Sheri Berman, "Ideas, Norms, and Culture in Political Analysis" (Paper delivered at on Ideas and Culture in Political Analysis, Princeton University, May 1998). A recent sampler of National cultural analysis is Peter Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of foreign policy-related Security: Norms and Identity inWorld Politics (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). 48 Power: India and Its Armies (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Rosen, Societies andMilitary Press, Effectiveness" (Ph.D. diss., MIT, 1996); and Pollack, "The Influence of Arab Culture on Arab Military shop

can be found in his "Address of in Walter LaFeber, ta., John July 4,1821," Adams and American Continental Empire (Chicago: Times Books, 1965), 45; theWilson quota Quincy of a State ofWar," April 2,1917, tion can be found in his "Address Recommending the Declaration B. Scott (New York: Oxford Uni President Wilsons Foreign Policy: Messages, Addresses, Papers, ed. James versity Press, 1918), 287.

49 See Robert W. Tucker, no. 5 (Fall 1986). 50 The Adams quotation

1996).

"Exemplar

or Crusader?

Reflections

on Americas

Role," National

Interest,

170

WORLD

POLITICS

would not be intellectual history or presidential psychology, but the


massive Adams American increase in relative One power might in order to understand the spe political ideology, however, in either era. cific policy choices officials made Neoclassical realism should also redirect our attention toward critical issues such as what drives the waxing and waning of material power and Wilson. the country still need had experienced between to know the content of

ca

pabilities in the first place. Factors such as differential growth rates, it


can the roles countries argues, will end up dictating play in world poli tics. For this reason if for no other, as Wohlforth says, "Any realist dis must cussion of international the domestic combine and change realist explanation [purely structural] account offer of precisely why a given state's comprehensive in compar domestic institutions decline social, and economic political, ison to those of competing powers."51 cannot a If neoclassical variables from into realists their basic continue to incorporate unit-level intervening they "Per power-oriented For asMatthew argument, Evangelista ironically, has noted, international levels of analysis. A

might find themselves bumping into chastened Innenpolitikers coming


the other direction.

haps the most promising development

in the field is the recognition

scholars inclined toward domestic for foreign pol among explanations are scholars understand that these explanations icy inadequate. Many that they must factors at the level of the international sys incorporate tem into their that they must do so inways moreover, and, explanations mat that are more than the mere assertion that everything systematic
ters."'52

Future work, tinct perspective that the future ridden

neoclassical realism's dis finally, should also develop on issues. Offensive realists generally policy predict its conflict of international relations will resemble realists and Innenpolitikers often disagree, argu to

past. Defensive

ing that great power conflict is likely to emerge if and only ifmilitary
technology favors preemption or domestic pathologies drive countries
51 Wohlforth (fn. 27), 19. This does not mean, of course, that easy answers to such questions are available. Paul Krugman was recently asked, "What are the great puzzles economists are trying to solve are some countries rich and some these days?" He replied, "The biggest question of all is still, Why father of growth theory in economics?said countries poor?' Long ago, Bob Solow?the that when it comes down to the some countries do well over the term and some do question of why long badly, you a a little bit past that, but not much." Wired, always end up in blaze of amateur sociology. We're May 1998,146. 52 and Thomas Risse-Kappen, "From the Outside In (fn. 4), 202; see also Harald M?ller Evangelista Hudson and the Inside Out: International (fn. 8), 29-32. Relations, Domestic Politics, and Foreign Policy," in Skidmore and

NEOCLASSICAL flagrant excess.53 Neoclassical realists,

REALISM in contrast to both, as emphasize particularly

171

the contingency of history and the importance of how foreign policy is


because conducted, actually they for rivalry." "ripe For example, they view China's around as normal one would from see certain recent situations

attempts

to throw the

its weight

expect great power."54 "Fast are almost "if rising powers invariably troublemakers," Friedberg writes, are reluctant to accept institutions, border divisions, only because they were com in place when and hierarchies of political put prestige they some cases to powers seek to change, and in paratively weak. Emerging the status quo and to establish new arrangements that more overthrow, reflect their own conception of their place in the world."55 accurately because often produces social turmoil, because Moreover, rapid growth onto the is tricky, and because is emerging accommodation China ments most environment of the ele lacking multipolar regional that can mitigate the future of East Asian conflict, (as opposed seems to international European) politics especially problematic. Yet whether for neoclassical realists these are tendencies, not inexorable laws; into conflict, will depend they argue, scene in a

and entirely predictable?just "a thoroughly traditional

sort of behavior

the region actually erupts in large part on how the United and other States, China, important to manage The Asian their ambivalent decide powers relationships. is to rec starting point for policy advice, the school's adherents believe, that the United States today is a status quo hegemon, whose ognize fortunate situation is captured are in the

statement of a frank British offi by the to cial in 1934: "We of not wanting remarkable position or with anybody because we have got most of the world already quarrel we have got and pre to the best parts of it and we only want keep what vent others from 24). In this taking it away from us" (cited in Schweller, over the next sev view, one of the main tasks of American policymakers revisionism eral years will be to analyze the nature and extent of Chinese at what is no longer wise. After and determine point accommodation
or pessimism about the future among Innenpolitikers and defensive real degree of optimism ists, therefore, depends in part on how likely they think it is that at least one important power will suc realist views about future For constrasting cumb to a domestic offensive and defensive pathology. (fn. 9); Stephen Van Evera, "Primed for Peace," International Se security, seeMearsheimer, European in the New Europe," International and Jack Snyder, "Averting Anarchy curity 15 (Winter 1990-91); Security 15 (Winter 1990-91). 54 Fareed Zakaria, "Speak Softly, Carry a Veiled Threat," New York Times Magazine, February 18, 1996, 36. 55 Aaron Friedberg, "Warring States: Theoretical 18 (Spring 1996), 13. national Review Models of Asia Pacific Security," Harvard Inter 53 The

172 all, Schweller reminds

WORLD POLITICS
us, the difference between a modestly and a

strongly revisionist power is the difference between Weimar and Nazi Germany, which obviously merited different policy responses (p. 32).
In the end, neoclassical about its ability to realism's relative modesty answers or should perhaps be seen not precise predictions provide tidy as it does from a as a defect but rather as a virtue, stemming judicious

appraisal of its object of inquiry.As Aristotle noted, the "actionswhich


science investigates, admit of much variety and fluctuation_ political ... to indicate in speaking of such subjects We must be content, then, ... for it is the mark of an educated the truth roughly and in outline man to look for in each class of things just so far as the na precision ture of the subject admits."56

56 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Random House, 1941), 936.

1:3, in Richard McKeon,

ed., The Basic Works ofAristotle

(New York: