Debating IR

Probing the philosophical underpinnings of the international system and anything else of interest.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reflection: Danish cartoons

Since finding out about the Danish cartoons/burning embassies while a little out of the loop and sincerely believing that my roommate was just joking around, I've been very interested in the goings-on surrounding the controversy.

Someone remarked in class that the reactions illustrate the cooperation favored by liberalism. Regardless of country, offended Muslims are uniting to express their displeasure over the cartoons. However, it would appear that realism has no explanation for the intense protests, which do not appear to be done with the intent of securing power. However, on Deutsche Welle, I came across this article, which calls the protests a "calculated political response" designed to undercut the influence of the West.

Initially, on hearing the class discussions of liberalism and realism, I preferred liberalism, which claims that states have many interests besides seeking power, and avoids the narrow focus inevitably associated with realism. However, I'm increasingly pressed to find examples of state interests that do not, in some way, come back to power. For example, the illustration of public goods liberalism -- i.e. the United States's role in Kosovo -- admitted that the United States wanted to increase its power by building a presence in eastern Europe, which sounds more realist than liberal.

The best conclusion I can arrive at is that some hybrid of the two (liberalism and realism) would be better suited to explaining IR -- something close to public goods liberalism and the theory that states cooperate to secure private goods and can, in the process, create public goods. However, I think my understanding of the two theories is still shaky at best.

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