International Politics & State Strength

International Politics & State Strength

International Politics & State Strength

International Politics & State Strength

Excerpt

Although the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union were celebrated in most quarters, they introduced a substantial amount of gloom and doom in the halls of academe, particularly among those scholars—in comparative politics and international relations—who failed to predict these profoundly salient events of the twentieth century. Failure to predict meant to many that their tools of discovery lacked precision and insight into the processes at work within and between nations. Much gnashing of teeth and public introspection were evident in the scholarly journals and books that followed on the heels of these transforming experiences.

In writing this book, we have been motivated by those same events. Yet, we don’t share the gloom and negativity of many of our colleagues. Political science and international relations are “complex sciences.” As such, they build gradually from constant experimentation with and testing of concepts and theories against the rich tide of ongoing historical experience. Failure to us (and especially when such failure is about an extremely low probability event, no matter how grave its consequences) represents additional opportunity to reexamine what is useful in the academic toolshed and to either discard tools no longer valuable or build new tools as well as reapply potentially useful ones in more creative ways.

One path to such reexamination and learning from failure is to listen more closely to what policymakers are saying and doing about events. Their words may be confusing, since we may misunderstand the audience to which they are aimed. At times the words are meant to conceal behaviors. Still again, words may be spoken with the best of inten-

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