After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars

By G. John Ikenberry | Go to book overview

Chapter Three
AN INSTITUTIONAL THEORY OF
ORDER FORMATION

THE AFTERMATH of major war presents the winning state with choices. The destruction caused by war and the breakdown of the old order provide opportunities to establish new basic rules and organizing arrangements that are likely to persist well into the future; the stakes are high.

At such postwar junctures, the leading state has three broad choices. One is to use its power to dominate the weaker and defeated states. It won the war and it has acquired the power to do so. Domination can be pursued in the settlement itself, by imposing severe penalties and extracting oversized reparations from the defeated states.1 Domination can also be pursued well into the future, using superior power capabilities to bully other states over the entire range of economic and political relations. To the extent that this type of strategy gives shape to postwar order, it is a hegemonic or imperial order.

A second choice for the winning state is to abandon the other states and simply go home. In this case, the leading state would neither attempt to exploit its favorable power position for postwar gains nor try to use that power to achieve agreement with other states over new postwar rules and arrangements. The other states are left to their own devices. This choice by the leading state may not lead to a specific type of postwar order. But left to themselves, weaker and secondary states—faced with an uncertain, unpredictable, and disengaged powerful state—are likely to pursue some sort of balancing response.

A third choice is for the leading state to use its commanding power posi/ tion to gain acquiescence and participation in a mutually acceptable post/ war order. The goal would be to establish a set of rules and arrangements that are durable and legitimate, but rules and arrangements that also serve the long-term interests of the leading state. To seek agreement on postwar

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1
Domination can take many forms. An extreme version of this strategy was the imposition of Soviet rule in Eastern Europe after World War II. As part of this strategy, the Soviets stripped its parts of occupied Germany of factories, vehicles, and industrial goods and sent them back to Russia. As Stalin told Tito and Djilas: “This war is not as in the past; whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach. It cannot be otherwise.” Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin (New York: Harcourt, Brace, & World, 1962), p. 81.

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