Economics & Global Affairs

17 Items

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

The Security Curve and the Structure of International Politics: A Neorealist Synthesis

    Author:
  • Davide Fiammenghi
| Spring 2011

Realist scholars have long debated the question of how much power states need to feel secure. Offensive realists claim that states should constantly seek to increase their power. Defensive realists argue that accumulating too much power can be self-defeating. Proponents of hegemonic stability theory contend that the accumulation of capabilities in one state can exert a stabilizing effect on the system. The three schools describe different points along the power con­tinuum. When a state is weak, accumulating power increases its security. This is approximately the situation described by offensive realists. A state that con­tinues to accumulate capabilities will eventually triggers a balancing reaction that puts its security at risk. This scenario accords with defensive realist as­sumptions. Finally, when the state becomes too powerful to balance, its oppo­nents bandwagon with it, and the state’s security begins to increase again. This is the situation described by hegemonic stability theory. These three stages delineate a modified parabolic relationship between power and secu­rity. As a state moves along the power continuum, its security increases up to a point, then decreases, and finally increases again. This modified parabolic re­lationship allows scholars to synthesize previous realist theories into a single framework.

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Graceful Decline? The Surprising Success of Great Power Retrenchment

| Spring 2011

There is broad scholarly consensus that the relative power of the United States is declining and that this decline will have negative consequences for interna­tional politics. This pessimism is justified by the belief that great powers have few options to deal with acute relative decline. Retrenchment is seen as a haz­ardous policy that demoralizes allies and encourages external predation. Faced with shrinking means, great powers are thought to have few options to stave off decline short of preventive war. Contrary to the conventional wis­dom, however, retrenchment is not a relatively rare and ineffective policy in­strument. A comparison of eighteen cases of acute relative decline since 1870 demonstrates that great powers frequently engage in retrenchment and that re­trenchment is often effective. In addition, we find that prevailing explanations overstate the importance of democracies, bureaucracies, and interest groups in inhibiting retrenchment. In fact, the rate of decline can account for both the ex­tent and form of retrenchment, even over short periods. These arguments have important implications for power transition theories and the rise of China.

John P. Holdren (center left), director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, makes a point to President Barack Obama (center right) at the first meeting of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in August.

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- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Belfer Center Colleagues Impact Policy in D.C.

| Winter 2009-10

Climate and energy policy, economic reforms, and defense planning - these are among the plethora of issues Belfer Center colleagues are currently tackling in Washington, D.C. Following is a sampling of work underway by John P. Holdren, Lawrence Summers, and Michèle Flournoy. For more about Belfer colleagues in Washington, see http://belfercenter.org/governmentappointees.

Magazine Article

Six Years After 9/11

| Sep. 11, 2007

BEIRUT -- This week’s sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States sees the top American military and diplomatic officials in Iraq speaking to the US Congress about American strategy in Iraq. The juxtaposition is noteworthy: Six years ago, a small band of Al-Qaeda militants attacked the United States and killed some 3000 people. Today, an army of over 160,000 American troops wages a war in Iraq that has seen tens of thousands of people killed since 2003. Neither policy makes much sense to anyone in the world, other than to those fanatics on both sides who decided to pursue these actions.

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Book - MIT Press

Countering Terrorism: Dimensions of Preparedness

The United States now knows that it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. In Countering Terrorism, experts from such disparate fields as medicine, law, public policy, and international security discuss institutional changes the country must make to protect against future attacks. In these essays, they argue that terrorism preparedness is not just a federal concern, but one that requires integrated efforts across federal, state, and local governments.