Dangerous Times?

Dangerous Times?: The International Politics of Great Power Peace

Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Dangerous Times?
    Book Description:

    What horrors will the twenty-first century bring? For many people, a clash of civilizations and a perilous return to great power rivalries are the dominant visions of things to come. Fueled by daily headlines, overwhelming majorities of people from all walks of life consider the world to be a far more chaotic, frightening, and ultimately more dangerous place than ever before. Christopher J. Fettweis argues that these impressions, however widespread, are wrong. Dangerous Times? is an examination of international politics that reveals both theoretical logic and empirical data that support the vision of a future where wars between great powers are unlikely and transnational threats can be contained. Despite popular perception, today a far greater percentage of the world's population lives in peace than at any time in history, and the number and intensity of all types of warfare have dropped steadily since the early 1990s. Terrorism, though reprehensible, can be combated and can actually increase international cooperation among states fighting a common threat. World wars like those of the twentieth century-the true clash of civilizations-are unlikely to be repeated in the close-knit world of the twenty-first century. In this sharp and insightful book, Fettweis discusses this revolution in human history and its ramifications for international relations theory. He suggests a new vision for a more restrained U.S. grand strategy and foreign policy and reveals how, despite pessimistic perceptions to the contrary, the world is more likely entering a golden age of peace and security.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-686-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction: Anxiety, Danger, and the Ghost of Norman Angell
    (pp. 1-16)

    WHAT HORRORS WILL THE twenty-first century bring? For many people, catastrophic terrorist attacks and prolonged guerrilla quagmires are chilling visions of things to come. Official signals, like omnipresent color-coded threat warnings and mystifying orders to stockpile duct tape and plastic sheeting, add to overall levels of anxiety. Six in ten Americans apparently think that a world war is “likely to occur” in their lifetime; others, including influential politicians and pundits, believe that one has already begun.¹ Little wonder, then, that overwhelming majorities of people from all walks of life harbor the impression that the world is a far more chaotic,...

  6. Part One Theory

    • 1 Explaining Behavioral Change: Why Norms Evolve
      (pp. 19-36)

      NOT LONG AFTER HOMO SAPIENS came down from the trees, archeologists and anthropologists tell us, they organized themselves into political communities and fought one another.¹ Since then, the only societies that have not made war upon their neighbors have been those with no neighbors at all; and even in those cases, cleavages within communities usually developed soon enough to provide fault lines for conflict. Indeed, traditionally war has not been considered to be an aberration or a failure of diplomacy, but rather a rational, necessary, and not altogether unwelcome response to a wide variety of national threats and insults.


    • 2 From Opium to Obsolescence: The Norms of War
      (pp. 37-54)

      IN 1839 GREAT BRITAIN DISPATCHED the Royal Navy to reprimand a manifestly inferior non-European people, which was something it did with some regularity throughout the imperial era. The upstart, who in this case was China, had had the temerity to impose restrictions on the importation of British opium, which London had promoted as a way to off set China’s monopoly on tea. As addiction rates in Chinese coastal cities grew throughout the 1830s, opium became synonymous with the corrupt, debilitating, unwelcome influence of the West. By the end of the decade Chinese leaders had seen enough and ordered the arrest...

  7. Part Two Evidence

    • 3 On Predicting International Affairs
      (pp. 57-82)

      THE END OF THE COLD WAR took practically everyone (including, it deserves to be recalled, the Soviets) by surprise. The essential facts surrounding the collapse of the Soviet Union are well-known and uncontroversial, but their meaning for international relations theory is not. Some scholars have argued that the end of the Cold War poses a number of important epistemological problems for mainstream international relations; others responded initially by minimizing the theoretical importance of the event, and eventually by developing ex ante explanations that retrofit the Soviet collapse into one theoretical framework or another. The topic became the theme of a...

    • 4 Evaluating the Crystal Balls
      (pp. 83-109)

      NOT TOO LONG AGO Daniel Bell warned those who would predict the future that “every seer has a sense that an age is ending.”¹ The scholars who have announced the end of major war surely have such a sense, as do most who have written about the future of international politics since the end of the Cold War. This chapter examines aggregate data from the last two decades to try to determine whether there is reason to believe that an age actually is ending, or if Angell’s successors have merely repeated the mistakes of optimistic seers of the past. Along...

    • 5 Resource Wars? The Three Stages of Petroleum Politics
      (pp. 110-132)

      AT SOME POINT IN THE twenty-first century, the world will begin to run low on oil. Demand around the world is skyrocketing for the nonrenewable resource, far outpacing the growth of supply, and all projections suggest the pace will continue. While oil will not likely ever run out in the literal sense, geologists warn that in the not-so-distant future it may well be a relatively scarce commodity. Pressure on states to secure a stable supply will increase, and instability or even conflict could result. Since the end of the Cold War, a number of scholars have suggested that petroleum geology...

  8. Part Three Implications

    • 6 Theory and Great Power Peace
      (pp. 135-153)

      THE GREAT WAR MOTIVATED E. H. Carr and his colleagues to establish the first independent department for the study of international politics at Aberystwyth in 1919. In large part, the field that has emerged since has been an attempt to understand, explain, and ultimately prevent interstate conflict. War is one of the few quasi-quantifiable topics in international relations, and it has been the direct or indirect subject of the majority of the field’s works; it is probably no exaggeration to say that in one way or another war is what motivated most of its scholars to enter the profession in...

    • 7 Grand Strategy and Great Power Peace
      (pp. 154-182)

      HOW SHOULD THE DECLINE of war affect the decisions of individual states? What is the best grand strategy for an era of great power peace? The next two chapters continue the thought experiment begun in the last and ask the reader to accept the notion, if just for the next few pages, that major war is indeed obsolete and perhaps even the corollary that the incidence of all kinds of warfare is decreasing. If these assertions are true, then the threats states face, and the way they define their interests, will be different than at any time in history. Foreign...

    • 8 Foreign Policy and Great Power Peace: Restraint in Practice
      (pp. 183-214)

      NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to give an address on September 11, 2001, at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. The speech, which of course was never delivered, was to have been a broad discussion of the threats posed by rogue states and of the need for missile defense.¹ “Why put deadbolt locks on your doors and stock up on cans of mace and then decide to leave your windows open?” Dr. Rice was to have said. “At the end of the day, do we really want to choose a course of action that gambles with...

  9. Conclusion: Angell, Honor, and the Proliferation of Peace
    (pp. 215-224)

    IN A 1904 ESSAY TITLED “The Law of Acceleration,” historian and novelist Henry Adams became one of the first to observe that the pace of societal evolution was substantially increasing as time went on. Borrowing imagery from Newton, Adams explained how the revolutions in science and industrialization were rendering many aspects of traditional life obsolete at ever-increasing speeds. The law is as “definite and constant as any law of mechanics,” Adams argued, and it “cannot be supposed to relax its energy to suit the convenience of man.”¹ The speed at which technology was changing all aspects of society could be...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 225-262)
  11. Index
    (pp. 263-273)