Thursday, October 29, 2015


The mainstream study of international relations focuses on behaviors of states as a unit of analysis,  often called the realist view.   How should we study states' motivations and goals? I suggest four methods:
1) Research and quote from, official policies. Define US 'geostrategic' objectives in the regions we are examining.  China, Russia and the US make official pronouncements, either as official policies posted on the internet, or at press conferences and in international meetings. Identify key official strategies.
2) Bear in mind there is a gap between what is said, and what is actually done. There is also a potential  gap between what you believe and what you find out. The lens of cognitive dissonance is helpful in understanding both gaps.
3) Do what CIA analysts do. Don't assume you know what 'the other side' is thinking.  View relations from the other side. View for example, how Putin sees the situation in C and S Asia from his perspective, i.e. US planned bases near Russia's borders, in Poland;  Central Asia as Russia's 'backyard', similar to the way the US views Latin America.. China is concerned with a planned build up of US naval power in the Pacific, but its military power hardly rivals that of the US. Instead, it's taking an economic expansionist route through its creation of another "World Bank", the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
 4) Is a state acting under international law. Many believe that the US had United Nations Security Council approval to enter into a war with Afghanistan - but that was not the case. Many believe that Russia's intervention in Syria is illegal but if a state is in a military pact to defend another state, as is Russia with Syria, it is legal under international law.

These methods will allow you to have a more  "360 degree' of the states' relations that you are examining.