Monday, May 21, 2007

Balance of Power in the Third World

Balance of Power Theory in the Third World

Most of the wars in the world since 1945 have occurred in the Third World[1], a mixture of both intrastate and interstate conflicts have dominated foreign discourse in Third World politics and in deed the International System[2]. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union many a foreign policy discussions have revolved around third world nations, in deed, the conflicts that have occurred in this relatively short time period have had at least one third world state involved[3]. The major foreign policy discussions in contemporary American politics, do revolve around primarily third world nations[4] why do Third World nations seem to be predisposed to conflict? And can realist theories effectively describe, explain and predict Third World foreign policy?
These are the primary questions that this paper is concerned with, in particular the application of Balance of Power Theory in the Third World. This analysis shall be done through the lens of a Balance of Power critique: Omnibalancing[5]. By assessing the arguments put forth by Omnibalancing theorists, I hope to come to a conclusion about the applicability of Balance of Power in the Third World context.

“Third World”, “The Periphery”, “Global South”. “Developing Nations” These are all terms applied to a rather large group of nations that make up the plurality of all the nations on the earth. There seems to be no agreed upon definition of the term “Third World” and there exist a number of ways to conceptualize the group, David ascribes to the most expansive conception of the term arguing that the third world are all the nations in the world except: “The United States, the Soviet Union, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the European States and the People’s Republic of China”[6] Bobrow and Chan further classify these nations in to: “Goliaths”, “Achievers” and “David’s” based on their population size, economic development and military capabilities[7] Buzan[8] on the other hand, divides the world in to “Post-modern”, “Modern” and “pre-modern” with most Third world nations occupying the latter category.

Whereas there is no agreed upon description of the “Third World”, it is widely acknowledged that the term refers to the underdeveloped, poor, weak states of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. There is a greatly deal of diversity in the “Third World”, but there are some shared characteristics: “The prototypical Third world state can be seen to possess certain basic characteristics. The most important of these are a lack of internal cohesion, in terms of both economic and social disparities and major ethnic and regional fissures; lack of unconditional legitimacy of state boundaries, state institutions, and governing elites; easy susceptibility to internal and interstate conflict; distorted and dependent development, both economically and socially; marginalization, especially in relations to the dominant international security and economic concerns; and easy permeability by external actors, be they more developed states, international institutions, or transnational corporations.”[9] In essence, Third world nations tend to be weak, vulnerable and insecure, and share a common history of colonization, artificiality of borders[10]

It is argued that these unique internal characteristics and history lead Third World states to act differently in the International System than all other states would. Thus, meriting special consideration of Third World States in International Relations Theory.[11]

Balance of power theory is one of the most dominant “sub theories” in international relations[12] The theory holds that states will take measure to protect themselves against the power or threats from another state. These measures can either be internal (increasing size of military) or external (making alliances)[13] The theory assumes that the international system is populated by states, states driven by a will to survive in an anarchic environment. And this instinct to “survive” is the driving force behind state behavior: “This Theory argues that states align to protect themselves against the power of or threats from other states….Balance of Power theory emphasizes that the determinants of alignment come overwhelmingly from the structure of the international system, particularly the actual and potential external threats that states face.”[14]

There are many arguments between those who adhere to the Balance of Power Theory, primarily on “System outcomes” versus “Unit foreign policies”[15] However, one particular critique, that bears on Balance of Power application is of particular interest.

Omnibalancing shares some common precepts with realism and Balance of Power Theory (existence of anarchy in the international system, survival most important factor in foreign policy decisions, use of force always an alternative to conflict resolution) However, omnibalancing aims to “correct”[16] some of the flaws in realism (and Balance of Power theory in particular) by clarifying some issues that make the Third World unique and thus, weaken the explanatory and predictive abilities of the Balance of Power theory.

Omnibalancing was first proposed as a theory in Steven R. David’s 1991 article “Explaining Third World Alignments”[17] it was refined and expanded upon in the book “Choosing Sides: Alignment and Realignment in the Third World”[18] In both David argues that the uniqueness of the characteristics and history of third world states, bring forth some additional dimensions/issues that need to be taken into account when analyzing Third World foreign relations. He points out that Third World states are not only faced by external threats, but INTERNAL ones to, with the internals were often being the most pressing[19] It is not – as Balance of Power theorists argue – a situation of anarchy in the international system and order at home, but anarchy in both realms.[20] Therefore, third world states have to balance against a multitude of threats, both internal and external, thus, the need for a theory that takes in to account all “omni” balances that Third World leaders consider.

David also questions the Balance of Power theorists’ emphasis on the state as the primary unit of analysis.[21] He argues that most Third World leaders come to power illegitimately, and are more concerned with their own “survival” than the survival of the state: “[T]hey will sometimes protect themselves at the expense of promoting the long-term security of the state and the general welfare of its inhabitants.”[22] Thus, the appropriate unit of analysis would be the “leadership” and not the “State.” In addition, David questions the wisdom of applying Eurocentric conceptions – developed and applicable to 19th century Europe – on the Third World. This argument again refers to the uniqueness of Third World societies and experiences under colonialism and later.

David argues that, by introducing the internal dimension, as well as, regime type, provides a more accurate way to describe, explain and predict Third World behavior. He argues that third world leaders will align[23] with the superpower they believe will enable them resist all the threats (internal and external) to their regimes. The leaders may go as far as to appease the opposing superpower in order to undermine their primary threats.[24] He uses the example of Ethiopia[25] under Mengistu Haile Miriam as one of his case studies to illustrate his point. In particular he focuses on Mengistu’s dealignment with the U.S. and simultaneous realignment with the Soviet Union. When Mengistu took over the country in 1974, Ethiopia had been a long time ally of the U.S. and continued to be so until the realignment in 1977. Mengistu faced a number of serious (primary) challenges to his rule; one was an external threat from an irredentist neighbor (Somalia) and secessionist province (Eritrea). The Soviets were the primary backers of both threats and were – according to David – thus, a secondary threat. David argues that the U.S. provided only enough arms to deal with the Somalian threat, but not enough to deal with the Eritrean threat. Thus, Mengistu decided to appease his secondary threat (Soviets) by aligning himself with them, and therefore, undermining his two primary threats.[26] It worked and Mengistu was able to eliminate both threats.[27] David argues that though this may look like bandwagoning, it is not. He rests his case on the fact that Mengistu never tried to appease his primary threats. But he did appease one threat in order to balance against other threats. Thus confirming his theory.

The Ethiopian example does raise some interesting questions about Omnibalancing. David focus is primarily on alignments between the third world and superpowers, and here his theory would seem to be correct and Balance of Power wanting. However, he fails (or gives only cursory treatment) to potential regional/ third world-third world alignments. It would be worth knowing what aid other regional powers gave to Mengistu, especially in light of Somalia irredentist claims, which also targeted Kenya and Djibouti. In his discussion of Egypt[28] under Sadat, he does hint at a potential regional alignment (Syria and Egypt against Israel) but seems to ignore the possibility that this alliance confirms Balance of Power. As Ayoob points out: “There is undeniably an autonomous regional dynamic that also affects the security of developing states and regions and is related to the regional balance of power…”[29]

On the matter of external threats (Soviets) support for internal threats (Eritrea), it is not clear whether the latter would be sustainable – thus a credible threat – without the assistance of the former. This calls in to question which of the two is the primary threat. As David notes, Ethiopia was able to eliminate the Somalian and Eritrean threats with little trouble. It is possible that due to the immense assistance that the Soviets gave to Somalia and the Eritrean forces, that the Soviets were actually Mengistu’s principal threat, therefore, when he aligned with the soviets he was indeed bandwagoning with his primary threat. Again Ayoob provides a cautionary note: “In many conflicts that have originated as intrastate conflicts, the relationship between internal and external factors is symbiotic in character, in the sense that one set of factors cannot thrive without the presence of the other and vice versa.”[30]

Moreover, the Ethiopian case also calls in to question the wisdom of the “leadership” level of analysis. He argues that the leader do not fear the loss of the State[31], bit fear the loss of their power, however, in certain parts of the third world internal threats can threaten the very existence of the state. As Krause[32] notes, in South America the threat is to the leadership, while in most of Africa the threat is to the existence of the State. The Ethiopian experience is again illustrative of this point. The primary threats to Mengistu[33] were not Eritrea or Somalia; these threats wanted to take land away from the state of Ethiopia and were not necessarily concerned with who was in power in Addis Ababa. Therefore, Somalia and the Eritrean threats were to the State (state breaking) and not Mengistu.

There are fundamental disagreements about the applicability of IR theories in the Third World[34] and in particular the neorealism emphasis on “systemic outcomes” versus “Unit foreign policies.” The utility of considering the Third World as having an impact on the International System is also arguable. On the matter of Balance of Power we see that there are some problems with applying the theory as currently conceived, especially without taking into account the internal characteristics of a Third World State. The quest for simplicity would seem to hinder Balance of Power’s ability to explain and predict and explain third world behavior.[35] Omnibalancing, on the other hand, provides us with a wider and deeper understanding of how and why third world states act as they do. Notwithstanding its potential pitdalls, the theory does provide us with a tool to better analyze the third world, especially the “multiple threats” that states face. Whether the theory continues to be of much use is in question, as Third World states slowly move toward more democratic, and equitable societies[36] David admits as much (though half heatedly): “Only the virtual elimination of internal threats to third world leaders as a factor in alignment would make omnibalancing irrelevant….”[37]

[1] Ayoob, M (a) “Subaltern Realism: International Relations Theory Meets the Third World” in International Relations Theory and the Third World” Ed. Stephanie G. Neuman, (New York, St.Martin’s press, 1998) 38
[2] It is worth bearing in mind that most of the “conflicts” between the superpowers during the cold war, occurred in the Third world.
[3] Consider the Persian Gulf War, Balkan Crisis, Second Persian Gulf war etc.
[4] Here I am primarily thinking of Iran, North Korea, Iraq and the threat of terrorism.
[5] Steven R. David (a) “Explaining Third World Alignment” World Politics, vol. 43, No.2. (Jan,1991) pp.233
[6] Steven R David (b) Choosing Sides: Alignment and Realignment in the Third World. (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991) 11
[7] Bobrow Davis, Chan, Steven “Simple Labels and Complex Realities: National Security for the Third World” in National Security in the Third World. Eds. Azar, Edward, Moon, Chung-in (Aldershot, England: Edward Elgar, 1988) 60-64
[8] Buzan, Barry, “Systems Versus Units in Theorizing about the Third World” In Neuman (fn1) [9] Ayoob, M (b) The Third World Security Predicament: State Making, Regional Conflict and the International System. (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1995) 15
[10] David, 13 (fn4)
[11] Ibid
[12] David, 234 (fn5)
[13] Elman, Colin “Appraising Balance of Power Theory” in Vasques, John and Elman, Colin eds. Realism and the Balancing of Power: A New Debate” (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall) 13
[14] David, 4 (fn6)
[15] For further discussion see Elman, 8
[16] David. 233 (fn5)
[17] fn5
[18] fn6
[19] Thus as Ayoob notes (fn1) most wars have not only occurred in the third world, but have predominantly been intrastate conflicts.
[20] Steven R David “The Primacy of Internal War” in Neuman (fn1)
[21] David, 7 (fn6)
[22] Ibid. This is partly based on his assertion that third world states are not threatened with external domination due to international norms, such as the inviolability of country borders
[23] Focus of his argument is on Alignments with the superpowers. Do to need for military equipment and other factor implements, third world leaders are forced to rely on External balancing, as opposed to internal balancing.
[24] David, 88 (fn6)
[25] He also considers Somalia under Siad Barre, Egypt under Anwar Sadat and Sudan under Nimeiri. This paper shall only look at Ethiopia. For a discussion on why David chose these four cases see. Pp. 26 (fn.6)
[26] David,88 (fn6)
[27] David, 129-140 (fn6)
[28] David, 82 (fn6)
[29] Ayoob, 50 (fn9)
[30] Ayoob, 51 (fn9)
[31] David, 14 (fn6)
[32] Krause, Keith “Theorizing Security, State Formation and the ‘Third World’ in the Post-Cold War Period” Review of International Studies (1998), 24, 129
[33] The primary threats to Mengistu the man, would have been his military and the communist party, David, 111 (fn6)
[34] Neuman, Stephanie “International Relations Theory and the Third World: An Oxymoron?” In Neuman (fn1)
[35] David, 253 (fn6)
[36] Ayoob, 44 (fn1)
[37] David, 193 (fn6)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tag: Why I Blog

A tip of the Hat to Whispers for including me in this wonderful game of Tag: Why do I blog.

I was introduced to blogging in the spring of 2004 by a fellow mashadite, Trafalgar, who in a post invited all Mashadites to join him in the brave new world of the blogosphere. He also pointed out that it was easy to join the blogosphere via In 2004, I joined this brave new frontier.

The allure of blogging was two-fold:

- Allowed me to escape the often cantankerous world of moderated forums (Mashada, Mambogani, History channel etc) where – though I learned a lot – I had begun to be disenchanted by the debates that would often degenerate into chaos and ad hominem attacks.

- Blogging also gave me the opportunity to write longer expositions of my views on a variety of subject; without the restrictions on language, length etc. Moreover, I could use my blog to post old papers/opinions I had written, that would not elicit much debate on a forum due to the lack of salience.

Blogging has been great, and joining KBW (though by accident) has been a blessing. It is not often that one can find a community of individuals with the same background (Kenyan), but have such diverse interests and views. Joining this community and the blogosphere in general has been very educational and fulfilling. Despite the occasional bloggers block.

Since I have been away for a while, I am not sure who has or hasn’t been tagged, so I shall not venture into tagging.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Posthumous vilification of Jerry Fallwell

The Posthumous vilification of Jerry Fallwell

The world learned today of the demise of Reverend Jerry Falwell; a man who had been very influential in religious and political matters since the late 70’s. The media coverage of his death, though, has been rather disappointing. In this time when his family and followers are trying to come to terms with his death, some is in the media are focused on creating a negative picture of this man of God. The news coverage has given some lip service to his biography (son of an atheist father, and devout mother, first among the televangelists, Thomas Road Baptist church, Moral Majority and Liberty University); but the bulk of the news has been focused on his views on homosexuality and some unfortunate remarks that he made on this topic. The most strident attack seen so far was courtesy of Christopher Hitchens, who appearing on CNN’s Anderson 360, belittled this giant, terming him a puissant and equating his religious beliefs to a: “get rich quick scheme.” His diatribe was distasteful and utterly disappointing: "The empty life of this ugly little charlatan proves only one thing, that you can get away with the most extraordinary offenses to morality and to truth in this country if you will just get yourself called reverend. Who would, even at your network, have invited on such a little toad to tell us that the attacks of September the 11th were the result of our sinfulness and were God's punishment if they hadn't got some kind of clerical qualification?"

It is interesting that the focus has been on just the “homosexual agenda” and area where Falwell may have been on the minority of societal opinion. Little has been said of his anti-abortion, pro-school prayer positions, positions that many Americans would agree with. A caricature of Falwell as a “right wing nut” seems to be on the cards.

Disagreeing with Farwell’s views is one thing, but launching ad hominem attacks and developing caricatures to vilify this great man of God is unfortunate and detracts from the good that he achieved on earth.

Rest in Peace Rev. Falwell.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Civil Liberties v. Security

The quest for a balance between the competing interests of public security and civil liberties is as old as the nation itself. Ever since the passage of the bill of rights, there has been a tension between the constitutions provisions for individual liberty and the quest for a secure nation. On a number of occasions this balance has swung dramatically toward national security: the 1798 Alien and Sedition Act,[1] Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus during the civil war, censorship of newspapers during the First World War, internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War and the opening of mail destined to the USSR during the cold war.[2] The civil liberties versus security debate, is most acute during times of war or national emergency, as the historical examples above show.
It would seem that Americans have no problem with infrequent and fleeting abrogation of their civil liberties if they are curtailed during times of national emergency.[3] And the legal community would seem to be in consensus on the fact that competition between public safety and civil liberties is likely to swing back and forth depending on the time period and specific situation: “They [security interests and liberty interests] are both important, and the relative importance changes from time to time and from situation to situation.”[4] The historical record shows that serious curtailment of civil liberties has been infrequent and usually short lived, and there has actually been an expansion of civil liberties over the years despite the momentary – though at times unfortunate – curtailment of civil liberties: “Despite a succession of wars and emergencies since the civil war, civil liberties in our country have expanded.”[5]
However, we must ask whether the current emergency the nation faces (aftermath of 9/11 and the War on Terror) is indeed the same as the previous wars and emergencies, both in form and duration and whether we need to reassess the balance between security and liberty: “American institutions tend to look for ‘quick fix’ situations to problems. American policymakers must recognize, however, that the danger posed by Al Qaeda is not a short-term crisis but a long-term security dilemma for the United States. If Congress rushes to enact anti-terrorism legislation in the aftermath of every attack, not one can deny that Americans will lose their liberty over the long term.”[6] The threat posed by Al Qaeda is indeed different than any previous emergency; the nation is dealing with and amorphous, stateless and stealthy enemy that can not be dealt with using military means alone. Aggressive police and intelligence techniques are need to deal with this threat, techniques that are likely to be more intrusive and clandestine in nature, and likely to abrogate individual liberties.[7]
Taking into account the nature of the threat and the likely longevity of the current conflict, it is incumbent upon all facets of society to insure that a crucial balance between Civil liberties and security is maintained, such that security is maintained and liberties are not unnecessarily trampled on. The government (all branches and levels), the media, civil society and the public have roles to play in this quest.
The Executive branch has to ensure that the public understands that the nation faces a different threat, and thus new methods to deal with the threat. The government needs to convince the people that there is a premium to pay for protecting them, a premium that may require some curtailment of liberties.[8] It is also incumbent upon the executive (and legislature) to develop programs and techniques that are effective, and narrowly tailored, thus not unnecessarily affecting large segments of society.[9] In addition, these methods need to be reviewed constantly to insure effectiveness and impact.[10] The legislative branch also has to play an active role in the development of programs and laws to deal with the terrorist threat. Moreover, the Congress can play a very critical role in the review of programs, especially through its oversight process: “Americans want programs that aggressively fight terrorism and protect liberties. Congress and the administration have a responsibility to meet these demands. Congress’s intelligence committees should continue to exercise oversight over the NSA’s activities and undertake what investigations they feel is necessary to ensure that the program is carried out in a way that efficiently and effectively protects Americans while safeguarding their liberties.”[11] The Courts also have a critical role to play in this balancing act, as the protectors of the constitution, judicial review of government programs is crucial to ensure that civil liberties are not unnecessarily affected.[12]
However, the government can not be left to shoulder this enormous challenge of balancing. The media, civil society and the public have a role to play in the balance. It is incumbent upon the media to investigate the programs that government has enacted and ensure “sunshine” is shown on those methods that may not live up to the nations high ideals[13]. It is also the media that can provide the necessary information and context to inform the public about the threat and the government’s effort to deal with the threat. It will take the efforts of the media and a knowledgeable public to protect civil liberties in a time of emergency: “The watchful eye of the courts, Congress, the press and the public ensures this trend [limited government encroachment on liberties, and avoidance of overreaches like the internment of Japanese Americans] will continue.”[14]
The current war on terror is different and requires novel intrusion into the liberties of Americans. It is incumbent upon all segments of society to ensure that a health balance is struck between civil liberties and public security.
[1] Rosenzweig, Paul: “Balancing Liberty and Security” The Heritage Foundation, May 14, 2003 retrieved 3/7/2007
[2] Gould, Jon B. “Playing with fire: The Civil Liberties implications of September 11th” Public Administration Review (2002), p. 3
[3] Gould,4: Provides a catalog of recent (2001-2002) opinion polls that show Americans were willing to accept curtailment of their rights after 9/11
[4] Posner, Richard A “The Law: Security versus civil liberties” The Atlantic Monthly online, retrieved 3/7/2007. The Late Chief Justice William Rehnquist came to a similar conclusion about the swing toward order during emergencies (Gould, 2). See also Yoo, John and Posner, Eric: “The Patriot Act under Fire” American Enterprise Institute:,filter./pub_detail.asp retrieved, 3/7/2007
[5] Yoo and Posner, 2
[6] Lynch, Timothy: “Threats to Civil Liberties: The Patriot Act” The Cato Institute, pp. 204
[7] Lynch (199-202) and Gould (1) provide a list of the new techniques and laws that have been articulated in the patriot act. Such as, a lower threshold for issuance of wiretapping warrants, sharing of information between domestic law enforcement and the intelligence services, and increased scrutiny of financial records.
[8] Gould (3) Points out that this needs to be an ongoing process, because the public is likely to be less willing to accept curtailment of liberties as the memory of 9/11 slowly fades.
[9] Gould (4) argues that Americans are likely to be more supportive of methods that do not discriminate, however as Carafano et al point out, the utility of certain methods is likely to be most effective when tailored to a particular segment of society that would be deemed a threat. Carafano James, Gaziano Todd and Kochems Alance: “Domestic Surveillance: Dual Priorities, National Security and Civil Liberties, Must Be Met” The Heritage Foundation: Web Memo. retrieved 03/07/2007 retrieved 03/07/2007
[10] The Warrant less NSA wiretap program is a good example of a narrowly tailored (only external communications with known terrorists) and reviewable (every 45days) program. For more details on the program see Carafano et al (fn9)
[11] Carafano et al, pp.2. The Sunset clause that was placed on the original Patriot Act which made the law reviewable every five years is also a good example of Congress ensuring programs are narrowly tailored and reviewable (Lynch, 201)
[12] The 2006 strike down of the Administration detainee tribunals is a good example of Judicial Review. For more on the case, see “High Court Rejects Detainee Tribunals” The Washington Post. retrieved 03/07/2007
[13] Whereas Carafano et al. (3) have a problem with the media’s exposure of the NSA surveillance system, it would seem that any program that is seen as legitimate by Americans (as this one was) would survive public scrutiny. However, there needs to be some care taken by the media to insure that exposure is done with care and does not unnecessarily hinder the governments ability to deal with the threat.
[14] Rosenzweig, 2 (fn1)

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Third Party in America? Not Likely

From time to time over the history of America, there has been a significant third party or independent candidate that shakes up the political establishment and leads many to yearn for a third party. However, not since the Republican Party replaced the Whigs in the mid 1800’s has there been a significant third force in the political discourse, one that has been able to dislodge the predominant two-party system.[1] However, there has continued to be a strain through the American psyche that yearns for more choice in the political system.
There are a number of ways that the thirst for a third party can be illustrated. The increasing number of voters who would rather be registered/identified as independents as opposed to Republican or Democrat.[2] This trend can also be identified through polling, which has consistently show the electorate as supportive of the idea of a third party: “[polls] underscore the public’s interest, in particular, in having more candidates to choose from during election time…they may be asking for more alternatives across the board.”[3] Finally, the electoral success of independent/ third – party candidates over the past thirty years. From 1964 – 1996, there were five occasions where a third candidate received more than five percent of the popular vote in the presidential election.[4] Only five candidates had achieved the same fit in the hundred years preceding the 1960’s.[5] The past thirty years have shown an increase – through polling, voter identification and electoral results – in the voters’ thirst for more electoral choice.
A third party would help slake this thirst, by proving more choice and possibly reducing non-voting and strategic voting, both major problems with the current system: “But what are voters to do if they have concluded that both major candidates are worst? Vote for the least worst [strategic voting]? Such voters, recognizing the absurdity, tend to become non-voters.”[6] Moreover, a multi party system would lead to more focused party agendas, agendas focused on specific voters, this would remedy the motley conglomeration and unfocused agendas that are typically produced by the two parties, where they try to satisfy numerous party interests and fail to provide clear policy alternatives: “Parties could present real choice, especially once everyone recognizes that compromises would take place after the election in the legislature.”[7] Finally, by providing for policy specialization, a multi-party system would allow for a better understanding of and functioning of the federal bureaucracy. If governing coalitions are formed (as is likely the case in a multi-party system), the various constituent parties would focus on their comparative advantages (environment, energy, transportation, and so on), this would provide greater focus on a multitude of issues, enabling the government to better serve the people: “A two-party system simply cannot grapple with the complex alternatives facing big, programmatic governments in a manner that is meaningful to large electorates.”[8] A multi-part system would, therefore, provide for a more representative system, as well as, a better governed polity.
However, the prospects for the development of a multi-party system in America are bleak. There exist structural and psychological barriers to a multi-party system that are virtually insurmountable. To begin with, the mode of electing presidents – electoral college – would seem to be rigged in favor of a two-party system. It is virtually impossible for a third party to gain the requisite 271 electoral votes needed to win an election: “The majority – win election rule, then appears to have promoted stability in presidential elections by encouraging the formation of two major parties to prevent the potentially harmful consequences arising from the election of a president unable to claim a mandate from the majority of the electorate.”[9] It is possible to receive a share of the popular vote (as did Wallace, Anderson and Perot), but it is very difficult to receive any electoral votes, let alone the majority.[10] Moreover, the rules that most states use to pick electors, are also a simple – majority, winner take all. This combined with the difficulty of getting on to state ballots, without an established party, further compounds the difficulty faced by third party candidates who wish to challenge the prevailing system.[11] It is also very difficult and expensive to develop from scratch the necessary top to bottom organization that is needed for a party to be mount challenges in all the states.[12] This compounds the difficulty third parties would have in trying to attract attractive candidates who have a legitimate chance of winning: “It seems likely that most candidates actually attractive enough to win the presidency will seek the office by attempting to capture a major-party presidential nomination.”[13]
From the voters’ point of view, it would be very difficult to convince them that a third party would have a realistic chance of not only winning, but being able to govern effectively in a system dominated by the two-parties: “The public is skeptical about a new party’s ability to solve the problems that afflict Washington and to govern a country dominated by the major parties and make a lasting difference.”[14] There is also the overwhelming “myth” to overcome. According to Lowi, the “two-party mythology” has dominated the political discourse in America, and is taken as a given, some would even argue that it is an essential and necessary part of American democracy, without it, the argument goes, the American system would not survive.[15] Overcoming this belief in the two-party system would be very difficult.
In spite of Americans desire for more choice and increasing popularity for independent/third party candidates.[16] There is little chance that a new third party shall emerge in the near future, unless, one of the dominant party’s fails to effectively address a significant public policy issue – much like the Republicans replaced the Whigs over the slavery issue[17] – but even then, there is not guarantee that a multi-party system shall be forthcoming.

[1] Lowi, Theordore: “Toward a More Responsible Three-Party System: The Mythology of the Two-Party System and the Prospects for Reform” PS, Vol. 16, No. 4, (Autumn, 1983), p 700. It should be noted that Republicans replaced the Whigs, no multi-party system developed. Lowi, also points out those third-party platforms have typically absorbed by the predominant parties e.g. The populist agenda being co-opted by the Democrats. (703)
[2] Abramson, Paul; Aldrich, John; Paolino, Philip; Rohde, David: “Challenges to the American Two-Party System: Evidence from the 1968, 1980, 1992, and 1996 Presidential Elections” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 53, No. 3, (Sep., 2000), p 516.
[3] Collet, Christian: “Trends: Third Parties and the Two-Party System” Political Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 3, (Autumn, 1996), p. 435
[4] George Wallace, 1968; John Anderson, 1980; Ross Perot, 1992 & 1996.
[5] Abramson, Paul; Aldrich, John; Paolino, Phil; Rohde, David: “Third-Party and Independent Candidates in America Politics: Wallace, Anderson and Perot” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 110, No. 30, (Autumn, 1995), p. 496
[6] Lowi, 703
[7] Lowi, 705
[8] Lowi, 705
[9] Abramson et al (fn5), 352
[10] Note, out of Wallace, Anderson and Perot, only Wallace received any electoral votes, and an insignificant number at that. Ibid.
[11] Ibid, 353
[12] Collet, 435
[13] Abramson et al. (fn2), 519
[14] Collet, 436-437
[15] Lowi, 701. Lowi identifies nine myths about the two-party system, myths that are not only accepted in the populace, but academia as well.
[16] Abramson et al, (Fn2). Come to a very interesting conclusion about the occasional emergence of third party candidates: “The results presented in this article show that voters’ evaluations of independent candidates are affected more by defective candidates than defective candidates.” 518. This may partially explain why there has never been any sustained third party surge, only election dependent surges, when the voters are not impressed by the two-major party candidates.
[17] Abramson et al. (fn2) 351

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Nuclear Powers not created equally

All nuclear powers are not created equal, there exist vast differences in the capabilities and regime types of those states that currently have nuclear arsenals and those suspected to be pursuing them.[1] Of the states that have nuclear weapons, all but three are signatories to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)[2] a treaty aimed at limiting nuclear weapons proliferation. Of the states with nuclear weapons, not all are considered to be threats to international security, and this may have something to do with their regime types and capabilities.
Carolyn James[3]provides us with a useful topology of nuclear states, a ranking of states based on their nuclear capabilities and the likely policy preferences these states would have in the event of a crisis: “The size and potential damage an arsenal poses, set in relation to an enemy state’s second-strike capability, determines actor preferences within a crisis situation, preferences which include the option of launching a first strike and risking retaliation in kind.”[4] She develops for levels of nuclear states[5]:
Level I: Super Arsenals. The U.S and Russia. States that have catastrophic nuclear capabilities, any nuclear attack would be followed by a second strike capable of affecting the whole world. Mutual Assured Destruction. States have thousands of weapons.
Level II: This includes China, France, and the United Kingdom. These states can respond with catastrophic strikes, but the strikes are not likely to result in world destruction. They have hundreds of weapons.
Level III: This includes Pakistan, India, and Israel. These states have the capability to destroy the State (government, military), but not the whole society. They have dozens of weapons.

Level IV: Mini Arsenals: This includes North Korea, Iran, Iraq (Under Saddam Hussein), and Libya (prior to its giving up its nuclear program in 2003)[6] these states have the capability to neither destroy the government, nor society. They are likely to have only two or three, “Hiroshima like” bombs. James argues that in a mini arsenal conflict dyad (Iran versus Iraq) the use of nuclear weapons may be a choice, unlike the other levels, where nuclear damage is likely to be more costly to state, society and even the world.[7]

Though the James focuses on hypothetical conflict dyads at the mini-arsenal level, the analyses does provide some insight into the potential policy preferences of the two states: Iran and North Korea, under scrutiny in the world today. In particular, these states’ propensity for conflict and likely use of nuclear weapons in a crisis.
Aside from the potential complication raised by James, there are other potential concerns that weigh on the minds of policy makers as they struggle to identify the best policies to deter Iran and North Korea from accruing nuclear weapons. Principal among these is the likely destabilizing impact this development would augur for the states’ respective regions. In the Iranian case, the threat of a Persian, Shiite hegemony over the strategic Gulf and Arabian peninsulas is not likely to sit well with the Gulf states (Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq), nor the Sunni Arab states (Saudi Arabia, Egypt). These states are likely to increase spending on defense and even consider nuclear pursuing nuclear weapons,[8] further destabilizing this fragile region. Moreover, a nuclear Iran is likely to be a grave threat to America’s principal ally in the middle east: Israel and with its continued support of terrorist groups, and avowed hatred for the Jewish state, it is not clear how Iran having nuclear weapons would help calm down tensions in the region. A nuclear North Korea is likely to lead to an arms race in the North East Asia region: “Such an outcome [Nuclear North Korea] could prompt Japan to move from merely developing missile defense capabilities to acquiring ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons. And Taiwan may also cross the nuclear threshold if the country’s leaders see North Korea successfully guaranteeing its security in this way.”[9]
Aside from the potential regional reactions to Iran and North Korea (DPRK) going nuclear, there is the potential behavior of these states once they become nuclear to consider. The DPRK and Iran are currently led by individuals (Kim Jong IL and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) who are known for making jingoistic statements and likely to cause further trouble in the region. Ahmadinejad in particular has penchant for very aggressive rhetoric, especially directed at Israel and his foreign policy goals are considered with great trepidation: “Concerns about Iran’s nuclear intentions have been heightened by Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has deemed the Holocaust a myth and called for the destruction of Israel.”[10] There is also a concern that these leaders would use any nuclear weapons as bargaining chips in there relations with neighbors, and the wider international community.[11]Worse still is the potential that these states would transfer nuclear weapons and technology to third parties, in particular terrorist groups: “The only nuclear threat to the United State from North Korea is indirect, in the potential transfer of such capabilities to third parties. Pyongyang has shown no aversion to selling weapons to anyone with the hard currency or barter to pay for them.”[12]
With the short term and long term dangers posed by the Iranian and North Korean possession of nuclear weapons, it is incumbent upon the world community to insure that this does not happen. These two states sit in very militarily strategic and economically vital regions of the world, the potential destabilizing effect of nukes in these regions will gravely affect world peace and the world economy. Moreover, these two states were signatories of the NPT; allowing them to unilaterally ignore the rules of the NPT does not augur well for the future of this and other nonproliferation treaties. For the sanctity of the international nonproliferation regime, united action in required.

[1] USA; Russia, Britain, China, France, Israel (suspected to have), India, Pakistan, North Korea and Iran (latter two suspected to be actively pursuing nuclear weapons).
[2] Israel, India and Pakistan. North Korea signed, and ratified the agreement but later withdrew: “Statement of DPRK Government on its withdrawal from NPT” Korean News Service, Tokyo , 10th January 2003
[3] James, Carolyn: “Nuclear Arsenal Games: Coping with Proliferation in a World of Changing Rivalries” Canadian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 33, No. 4, (Dec., 2000), pp. 723-746
[4] James, 723
[5] James, 725
[6] “Bush, Blair: Libya to dismantle WMD programs” CNN, December 20th 2004

[7] James, 725
[8] Perkovich, George: “Can Iran and the United States Bridge the Gulf? Foreign Policy, No. 137 (Jul. – Aug., 2003), p. 65
[9] Cha, Victor and Kang, David: “The Korea Crisis” Foreign Policy. No. 136. (May – Jun., 2003), pp.23; See also, Ahn, Yinhay: “North Korea in 2002: A Survival Game” Asian Survey, Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan – Feb., 2003) pp. 57 and Carney, James: “How Dangerous is North Korea” Time Magazine, March 2003, p. 27
[10] “Ongoing U.S. Efforts to Curb Iran’s Nuclear Program” The American Journal of International Law, vol. 100, No. 2. (Apr., 2006), p. 485. For a profile of Kim Jong IL see Carney p. 28
[11]See: Carney, 27, Chan and Kang, 21 and Yihay, 58
[12] Chan and Kang, p22. see also Carney, 26 and Perkovich, 65 (for Iranian threat)