Dilemmas of decline, risks of rise : the systemic and military sources of rising state strategy towards declining great powers
Author(s)Itzkowitz Shifrinson, Joshua R
Systemic and military sources of rising state strategy towards declining great powers
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science.
Barry R. Posen.
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What explains variation in relatively rising state strategy towards declining great powers? This project develops and tests a theory of state strategy vis-a-vis declining great powers, termed Realist Decline Theory. Realist Decline Theory argues that states debating the strategies to adopt towards a declining peer are forced to consider the costs and benefits of either preying on the declining state, or supporting the decliner and helping it maintain its place within the great power ranks. As the costs and benefits wax and wane, states adopt different degrees of predation or support for self-interested reasons. Two variables - the polarity of the international system and the declining state's military posture - determine these costs and benefits by shaping the security threats facing relatively rising states. This study uses multiple primary and secondary sources to measure Realist Decline Theory's variables and evaluate its analytic power against competing explanations. The argument is tested using two structured, focused comparisons of rising state strategy in the post- 1945 international system: American policy towards the declining Soviet Union (1989-1990), and American and Soviet strategy towards the declining United Kingdom (1945-1949). These cases were selected because they provide strong tests of the theory vis-a'-vis competing theories. The cases also permit observation and evaluation of substantial variation in the nature of rising state strategy. The overall finding is that Realist Decline Theory indeed explains variation in rising state strategy, although other factors are important. This study makes several contributions. First, it identifies and explains an empirical puzzle that is either overlooked or only loosely explained by existing research. Second, the study attempts to synthesize different streams of international relations theory in the realist tradition into a unified realist theory of state strategy. Third, the research contributes to Cold War historiography. Finally, the study offers insight for policymakers worried about the possible decline of the United States and rise of new great powers to international prominence.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Political Science, 2013.Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 260-284).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology