POLSC101 Study Guide

Unit 6: International Politics

6a. Explain the impact of the Peace of Westphalia on the contemporary international system

The Peace of Westphalia was the peace treaty of 1648 that ended the Thirty Years War fought by a number of nations in the Holy Roman Empire (in what is now Germany and other parts of northern Europe).

  • The Thirty Years War had been fought primarily over religion, and the agreement made to conclude the war was designed to guarantee that the religion of persons living in each territory would follow that of the territory's ruler, with no interference from persons or authorities living in neighboring territories.
  • Because the Peace of Westphalia created boundaries between certain territorial jurisdictions, it is considered to have begun the system of setting boundaries around nation-states and granting the rulers sovereignty over their own people.
  • This differed from the previous situation where no national boundaries were recognized and borders between lands controlled by various monarchs were frequently shifting, depending on the conquests of war.
  • The system of nation-states upon which the United Nations system eventually was built was a key outcome of the Peace of Westphalia.

Review Functions of the State, which discusses the importance of the Peace of Westphalia. Can you see how this agreement, made over 350 years ago, was instrumental in starting the system of nation-states where sovereignty was considered a prime element? In what ways has the international system changed since the beginning of nation-states in the mid-1600s?


6b. Compare and contrast the realist, liberal, and constructivist theories of international relations

The realist theory of international relations maintains that each country is ultimately most interested in itself and that as a result, warfare between countries is inevitable. Read Modern Foreign Policy: Collective Military Force to gain a better understanding of realist thought and why it is so labeled.

The liberal theory of international relations takes as its key point the view that nations interacting with each other through trade relations and peaceful communications and cooperation is the natural outgrowth of the nation-state system and also the most desirable outcome. In what ways does the liberal theory of internationalism reflect idealist aspirations? Again, refer to the above source to clarify your understanding.

The constructivist theory of international relations states that no specific outcome of interactions among nation-states is predetermined or "natural", and that the ways in which nations interact has more to do with the vision of reality and goals for the nations held by the leaders and populations of those nations. In this sense, culture, human-made institutions, and social structures shape the ways that nations interact. Review Theories of International Relations to get a better understanding of the differences between constructivism, realism, and liberalism when it comes to conceptualizing international relations.


6c. Analyze the features of key intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, and NATO

Intergovernmental organizations are organized bodies whose members are individual nation-states. Theories of International Relations delineates a number of international organizations and structures, as well as multinational bodies such as corporations and international civil society organizations or non-governmental organizations, all of which play a part in determining the outcomes of interactions among states and peoples globally.

The United Nations Charter was written in 1944-45, adopted in June 1945 by the five principal warring nations involved in World War II, and came into force in October 1945. The charter formed the basis for the entire United Nations system that developed in the post-World War II period and into the 21st century.

The European Union is the most recent incarnation of an attempt at international cooperation in Europe, which began, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. At that time, Robert Schumann, the German Chancellor, and Jean Monnet, a French diplomat and political economist, formed a peaceful, economically based alliance to encourage peaceful relations and economic development for their two countries after World War II ended and the Nazi regime was defeated. Theories of International Relations goes into more detail about how this organization came about and evolved over time.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, also known as the North Atlantic Alliance, was an outgrowth of the early Cold War period following the end of World War II.

  • Established in 1949 by the United States and its European allies from World War II, coupled with Canada, NATO was set up primarily as an intergovernmental military organization. Its primary purpose was to mutually protect its members, who vowed to take military action to stop any aggression against any one of their member states, at a time when the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union was first developing.
  • In response to NATO, countries of Central and Eastern Europe under the influence of the Soviet Union (USSR) formed the Warsaw Pact. This occurred in 1955 after NATO incorporated West Germany into its alliance.
  • Whereas the agreed-upon mission of NATO at its inception was to protect the other countries belonging to NATO from intrusion or attack by outside forces – specifically the Soviet Union and its allies – the mission of NATO began to change with the First Gulf War in 1991. In that war, NATO airplanes were used to protect the Kurds in northern Iraq from attacks by Saddam Hussein's military. This was the first time NATO aircraft acted outside of the traditional borders of Europe.
  • With the war in Bosnia that occurred in 1995 and the attacks on Sarajevo, the multiethnic-though-predominantly-Muslim, capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, NATO began using military force by bombing Serb targets to stop Serbian aggression. NATO again acted forcefully in 1999 by bombing Serbs from Yugoslavia who were attacking ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, a province of Albania that is now an independent country, during the war in Kosovo that lasted from 1995 to 1999.


6d. Assess the value of diplomacy in international cooperation

Diplomacy involves the engagement of representatives of countries, typically appointed to their positions by the heads of state of their countries, to carry out communications, decision-making, and formal protocols with the representatives of the leaders of other states. Watch Diplomacy Is... to understand more about how diplomats from various countries work together to achieve their objectives in an increasingly complex world of international actors.

The primary challenge for diplomats is to represent their country in positive ways in international settings while still retaining their national perspective and supporting the fundamental interests of the leaders and people of their own nation-state.


6e. Explain the origins and influence of international law

The concept of international law consists of a compilation of international treaties, bilateral agreements between countries, customary practice, and assertions, agreements, and collective aspirations made by international bodies such as the United Nations and other regional treaty systems. The History of Public International Law will give you a sense of the difficulty of trying to establish order and a form of the rule of law in what essentially is an anarchic environment. Additionally, Sources and Practice of International Law will help you better understand where international law comes from.

The question of how influential international law is depends very much on the actors and situations in focus.


6f. Discuss the nature, conduct, and purpose of war

War is essentially the violent expression of conflict between adversarial partners engaged in competition, disagreement, or disharmonious activities.

War may be conducted in limited ways or globally, internally or externally to a nation, and over short or protracted periods of time.

The conduct of war often involves regularly stationed armed combatants known as militaries.

Warfare also can be waged between persons of limited resources and with little formal structure, such as the members of gangs and tribes or the adherents of a terroristic sect.

The purpose of war is to attain the goals of a warring party through the use of force. The use of force also may include threats to use weapons neither side would like to see deployed, such as nuclear arsenals. This relates to the principle of deterrence and lies behind the current worldwide policy concerning nuclear weapons.


6g. Illustrate the defining features of terrorism

The nature of terrorism is to frighten people to such an extent that the people will be obliged to follow the demands of those committing acts of terror or to succumb to their code of behavior and/or rule.

  • In the late-20 th and early-21st centuries, many terrorist attacks around the world have been identified as associated with Islamist movements or with persons inspired by Islamist groups or extreme fundamentalist thought.
  • The use of terrorist tactics, while in existence for millennia, increased significantly in the late-20th century worldwide. Hobbes versus Locke: Redefining the War on Terror takes a military perspective to consider philosophical perspectives on war and how best to address increasing incidences of terrorism in the world.
  • In the 20 th and 21st centuries, some of the prime perpetrators of terroristic violence have been supporters of extreme versions or perversions of Islamist thought. The attacks in September 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, for example, were conducted by Islamist militants who hijacked airliners in a coordinated set of terrorist attacks that killed over 3,000 people in one day.
  • The Islamic State (also known as ISIL, ISIS, or Daesh), for example, is responsible for the execution, kidnapping, sexual enslavement, and torture of many thousands of Yezidis and Christians in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. These attacks escalated with the massacre of Yezidis in Sinjar, a district of Nineveh Governorate in northern Iraq, in August 2014.
  • Boko Haram, another extreme Islamist sect active in Africa, kidnapped hundreds of schoolgirls in northern Nigeria in an attempt to intimidate Christians, stop girls from going to school, and terrorize the population in the African region where this violent sect operates.

Is there something inherently violent in some religious ideologies that leads to terrorist attacks, or is the prevalence of attacks by purported members of certain religious ideologies more closely attributed to other factors such as widespread disenchantment with Western values, disruption of traditional social patterns through globalization, or economic imbalances in the world?

The sources of terrorism and perpetrators of terrorist acts come from a broad range of motives and ideologies. No one religion or ethnic group is solely responsible for committing terrorist attacks.

  • Not all terrorist attacks are conducted by Muslims, although many often unjustly see Muslims as the prime suspects in terrorist attacks when they do occur.
  • Terrorist attacks also include terroristic measures conducted by non-Muslims, such as the attacks by US federal and Texas State law enforcement agents and US military in Waco, Texas against members of the Branch Davidian sect of Seventh-day Adventists in 1993, the attacks carried out in the Oklahoma City bombing of the Federal Building in 1995, the 1985 bombing in Philadelphia by the municipal police of a house occupied by members of an alternative radical group called MOVE, attacks by armed citizens against schools and students, and attacks against black churches in America by white American racists. The motivation for some of these acts is tied to political ideologies or may be considered political in nature. In this sense, at least some of these attacks may be viewed as examples of political terrorism.
  • Terrorism also is a label that may be aptly applied to cases where the government of a country experiences internal insurrections and attacks its own citizens. For example, the Turkish government's attacks on Kurdish citizens throughout Turkey, particularly journalists, political officials and leaders, and organizers of protests against violence by the Turkish government, and against Kurdish villages in southeastern Turkey, as recently as 2016, can be viewed as terroristic.

Methods for dealing effectively with terrorism are very hard to come by since the nature of terrorism is to widely spread terror among people and to disrupt the normal pattern of their lives.

Because the level of terrorist activities in the world appears to be increasing, additional resources by governments, universities, and corporations are now being dedicated to stopping the growth of terrorist movements, preventing the spread and influence of terrorist media and thought, and counteracting the message of terrorists.


6h. Analyze the debate over the "clash of civilizations" and "democratic peace" theories in international politics

The term "clash of civilizations" connotes an inevitability of conflict between cultures that are vastly different from each other.

  • The notion of a "clash of civilizations" was proposed in 1993 in a Foreign Affairs journal article by political scientist Samuel B. Huntington.
  • Although Huntington's article attracted worldwide attention and has often been cited as the origin of the term, "clash of civilizations", Bernard Lewis previously wrote of a very similar notion. In 1990, the Orientalist (East Asian specialist) wrote of "The Roots of Muslim Rage", personifying the West and Islam as though they were two bulwarks of divergent thought heading for a collision, like Edward Said, the famed Orientalist, wrote in "The Clash of Ignorance", an October 2001 article in the liberal journal The Nation. Said himself found both of these debates – Lewis' and Huntington's – to be improperly nuanced caricatures, as they failed to disassemble the complexity of worlds represented by "the West" and "Islam".
  • The Norwegian social scientist Johan Galtung also proposed a similar schema about clashing worldviews and behaviors. In 1992 Galtung published an article, "The Emerging Civilizations", that predicted the coming clash of seven or eight world systems. As Samuel Huntington pointed out in footnote 3 to his own article in 1993, "Quite independently, Johan Galtung developed an analysis that closely parallels mine on the salience to world politics of the seven or eight major civilizations and their core states". Huntington goes on to say that Galtung's "regional-cultural groupings" are "dominated by hegemons: the United States, European Union, Japan, China, Russia, and an 'Islamic Core.'"
  • Read Critique of "Clash of Civilizations" to analyze whether the authors of the above articles on supposedly clashing civilizations actually followed the principles of conducting good social science. In what ways did Huntington, Lewis, and Galtung succeed at making or failed to provide convincing arguments backed up by solid evidence, even if all three essentially were making predictions of future behavior?

Could it be that this "clash of civilizations" article of Samuel Huntington's, published in 1993, itself catalyzed an increase in conflict between nations and cultures? Is it possible that Huntington and all those picking up the train of thought that claimed divergent cultures were on the verge of cataclysmic collision actually accelerated the process of increasing Islamist terrorism and worldwide reactions to this? Are academic articles and theories capable of influencing world events? Do writers have a responsibility to self-censor utterances that potentially could be misinterpreted (or correctly interpreted) in ways that exacerbate problems? Or is it important for all views, no matter how astute, nonsensical, inane, or potentially irresponsible, to be aired in a free society where expression is valued?

The "democratic peace" theory of international politics holds that democracies rarely go to war with each other, and consequently, in order to ensure a more peaceful future for the world, the ideal is for all countries to develop into democracies.

Review The Ethical Dilemmas of the Democratic Peace Theory in Relation to Copenhagen for a discussion of the meaning of "democratic peace" and considerations of whether this theory holds water.


6i. Explain the doctrine and international practice of human rights

The concept of human rights may be considered to have begun to be established several millennia ago in the Middle Eastern/North African (MENA) region of the world. Human rights essentially are rights that all people have, simply by virtue of their being human, which must be protected at all times, even against their rulers and those with political authority over them.

  • Hammurabi's Code, written about 1754 BCE, was a set of laws for Babylonia, where Iraq now exists, providing a complex written set of prescriptions for how particular infractions should be handled. Limitations on punishments for specific crimes were spelled out in great detail, although violent measures also were included which today would be considered abridges of human rights. It represents one of the earliest written attempts to codify law worldwide.
  • Over the following centuries, various documents appeared which stated that the rights of at least certain members of a society should be protected. For example, in 1215 the Magna Carta, or Great Charter, written by English barons stated that the King of England could not arbitrarily take lands away from those with lesser powers than he. The document, signed by King John, also stated that other rights would be protected, such as the rule of law and freedom of the church.
  • By the 19 th century, Europe and America had passed through the feudal stages of development and were fully entrenched in the democratic era, but rights were still insufficiently protected. Charles Dickens, the English novelist, for example, traveled to America in the 1840s and noted with horror in his travelogue, America Notes for General Circulation, written in 1842, the unsanitary conditions of American cities and the dismal conditions of prisons and asylums for the mentally ill. Clearly, many reforms were yet to come.

See Overview of the Human Rights Framework for a clear depiction of the nature of human rights and how they have been protected through increasingly diverse measures over the course of time. As this article states, "human rights are those activities, conditions, and freedoms that all humans are entitled to enjoy, by virtue of their humanity".

With increasingly violent warfare using mechanized weapons of ever-greater deadliness, international agreements were signed to limit the actions of combatants in war, known as the Geneva Conventions, beginning in 1949. These followed earlier agreements regarding the treatment of combatants and civilians in war situations, such as the agreement to establish the International Red Cross during the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870s.

Near the close of World War II, the Allied Powers (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France) proposed that a new structure be established after the war ended to ensure that the world would never again experience such a terrible state of warfare and so much human misery and destruction.

  • Already in August 1941, before much of World War II had yet taken place, the leaders of the two main Allied nations, Winston Churchill of Great Britain and Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, signed an agreement affirming principles for future respect of rights among nations. This Atlantic Charter, as it was known, became the inspiration for the UN system that followed when the war concluded. Although it outlined the aims of the two major powers for the conduct of war against Germany, it also stated eight "common principles" to be followed after the war to ensure that certain rights of the people of the nations at war would be protected.
  • The United Nations system was begun with the agreement adopted in June 1945 known as the UN Charter, which came into force on October 24, 1945. This agreement laid out the framework for an organization of nations whose intention would be to prevent future warfare of the type that had devastated so much of the world in the Second World War.
  • A complex array of organizations and offices, committees and subcommittees, designed to protect, investigate, and promote human rights emerged as the United Nations bodies and agencies developed. International agreements concerning the protection of civil and political rights, and of economic, social, and cultural rights, were included in the work of the various UN bodies.

Refer to Overview of the Human Rights Framework to better understand how the very complex system for protecting human rights currently works in the world.

With the increase in globalization in the late 20th century and early 21st century, the promulgation of a culture of respect for human rights around the world for the first time became a more practical and potentially realizable project.

Why does Human Rights: Past Their Sell-By Date maintain that the era of protecting human rights will soon be over, at least for the type of rights protection emphasized by international organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch? Is the author correct? What evidence does he bring to his argument? And what are the implications for future work by activists eager to further a climate of respect for human rights worldwide?


Unit 6 Vocabulary

  • Peace of Westphalia
  • International system
  • Realist theory of international relations
  • Liberal theory of international relations
  • Constructivist theory of international relations
  • Intergovernmental organization
  • International alliance
  • United Nations (UN) system
  • European Union (EU)
  • North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  • Diplomacy
  • International cooperation
  • International law
  • Conflict
  • War
  • Peace
  • Ethnic conflict
  • "Ethnic cleansing"
  • Internal (civil) war
  • Regional warfare
  • International warfare
  • Proxy war
  • Terrorism
  • "Clash of civilizations"
  • "Democratic peace"
  • International human rights