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April 16, 2012


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I like the "1945 Line" article.

It isn't completely accurate, of course --- Morocco, India --- but the taboo on conquest has been remarkably strong.

I am not a constructivist, because I think you can model taboos in terms of self-interest ... but they do give pause. The real question is whether they depend on the presence of a status-quo hegemon (or hegemons) or can survive without them. I suspect the latter, but I do not know.

I would tend to agree, though I think you can get a pretty stable result sans hegemon. Congress Europe was pretty stable until 1848 set the nationalist impulse going. I don't know if you can take the UK to be hegemonic for that 33 year period.

The constructivists have a point, which is that norms have changed. I was convinced by two thought experiments:

Rewind the tape to 1943, but give Americans access to network TV and Youtube. Do we stop strategic bombing? I seriously doubt it.

Recreate a strategic situation like 1965, but with our modern country. Do we get involved in Vietnam? Absolutely. Do we initiate Operation Rolling Thunder? No way.

Norms have changed, I think. I'm not sure. And even if so, I'm not sure that norms around the use of armed force are relevant for anything other than the operational level of conflict. But norms honestly do seem very different than even the recent past.

For those watching: Bernard and I are not disagreeing.

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