MIS Comprehensive Examinations (Part II, 1 of 3)

Master in International Studies’ Comprehensive Examinations
University of the Philippines-Diliman

August 17, 2009

Required question number ONE:
Should ASEAN intervene in the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi? If yes, how and why? If no, why not? Explain your answer with reference to a specific theoretical perspective in international relations.


The trial of Daw Aung San Suu kyi has sparked widespread criticisms in the international community especially from democratic nations (which are mostly Western states and some ASEAN member states). It was interpreted by some hard-line critics as a ‘Kangaroo court’ because the judicial system of Myanmar (Burma) was heavily controlled by the military regime.
If we will based in a realistically manner – a common understanding of the existence of a reality – then we can easily assume that Realism or even Neorealism can be an appropriate International Relations theory to explain the situation, i.e., answering the question. However, the question also posited other theoretical notion(s) in international relations which may give alternative explanation, in theoretical manner, the hypothetical possibilities of ascertaining a different angle or side of the story of a particular situation.
Liberalism or even Liberal Institutionalism (Neoliberalism in short) can give its perspective to describes, explains, and predicts the overall outcome of the trial. David Baldwin in his work “Neorealism and Neoliberalism Debate in Contemporary World Politics” argued that every authors, writers, or scholars had ‘normative biases’ which were grounded from their upbringing and certain values.
In my own perspective, Realism can best answer the postulated query, from its interpretation of the conception of intervention to the simplistic rational outcome of the issue. This theory emphasized the centrality and autonomy of a state, which concentrates on the pursuit of its interest by means of power (only high politics issue area) as a leverage in an anarchical international system.
Member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have no right to intervene in the domestic affairs of each member as embodied in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) enunciated by the principle of non-interference. According to one of the core principles or epistemological assumptions of Realism, the autonomy and centrality of states is the most significant and important construction of state in the international system. The reason being is that it emphasized its authoritative power through sovereignty (Robert Jervis, Abiding Sovereignty).
Sovereignty is the supreme will of a state for it gives authority to hold a definite juridical territory with a given community of peoples. Other scholars would add the element of recognition to sovereign state by another state. These are the two kinds of sovereignty – the internal and the external sovereignties.
Realists contend that intervening in the domestic affairs of a state is a breach to its sovereignty. And even if ASEAN intervenes, the military regime in Myanmar will rationally maximized its self-centered interest as a form of their national interests by raising a veto in the decision-making system of the ASEAN, which permeates that when one member raised their objection through a veto regarding an issue in the ‘Leaders Summit’, then, that issue will not be decided or resolved. ASEAN follows the principle of consensus as the only decision-making process.
Further, if ASEAN compels to intervene in the trial, Myanmar will not comply to any actions made by the association for it will not be punished.


In sum, the court’s verdict to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was 3 years of imprisonment with heavy public community services but was downgraded to 18 moths of house arrest as ordered by the military regime. This resulted to a public outrage and havoc from the international community, even in the statements delivered by co-ASEAN members. The theory of Realism was the appropriate operational language in explaining this particular situation.

MIS Comprehensive Examinations (Part I, 3 of 3)

Master in International Studies’ Comprehensive Examinations
University of the Philippines-Diliman

August 10, 2009

Question number FIVE:
What is the Hegemonic Stability theory of International Political Economy? Discuss the contending views of the theory of Realism and Liberalism in regard to the role of the Hegemon in constructing international regimes toward its preferred kind of international cooperation? Illustrate the role of the hegemon in the formation of the present international monetary and trade regimes.


The Hegemonic Stability theory originated from the works of Charles Kendleberger, which stipulated that a hegemon will provide for the stability and order in the international system. Robert Gilpin insulated the significance and importance of the United States in leading for the creation of the Bretton Woods System that paved the way for International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) which is now the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). He argued that when a hegemon is weak, its leadership in the regime will decline and will affect a change in the regime. That’s what happened with the disintegration of the Bretton Woods System when the influence and leadership of the U.S. declined because of its commitment in other world affairs or regimes.
Realists contend that international institutions, organizations, and regimes are just extension of state’s power and the reason why states cooperate in an arrangement is because it has interest on it. However, Neorealists argued that regimes can change and alter the behavior of states particularly maintaining the status-quo and the distribution of power in the regimes based on incentives and opportunities. If there was an alteration from the distribution of power based on state’s interest back up by incentives and opportunities, then in retrospect, a change in regime will occur.
Liberals contention on the role of international institutions, organizations, and regimes on states is a necessary one so as to validate the universality of ethical morality and rule of law in an international system. Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points have inspired for the creation of collective security through the League of Nations. Power struggle is evil and bad characterization of a state in international system which is especially based on rational principles of law, morality, and reason.
Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye (Power and Interdependence: World Politics in Transition) have clearly stated the role of a hegemon in the formation of the international monetary and trade regimes. With the floating liquidity in the balance-of-payments, the decline of standard rate of Gold, the unstable foreign exchange rates have led the U.S. to step-up to resolved the problems by leading the establishment of the Bretton Woods System in early 1940s which will regulate foreign exchange rates as the US Dollar, the sole prime indicator of all exchange rates in the world.
From the Bretton Woods System regime, emergence and establishment of IBRD, WB, IMF, GATT were transpired. WB giving loans to poor nations, IMF maintaining a stable foreign exchange rate system, and GATT to monitor (protectionist) policies of states in their economic activity and by reducing trade barriers among states.
The 1952 Geneva Convention on High Seas have restricted states to own the international waters, thereby, granting high seas as international waters (no states can subject it to its jurisdiction) through scientific and navigational purposes. It’s important to know the complex interdependence thesis which gave three significant types in the conduct and process of a regime: 1) multiple channels which connect societies (transnational actors like non-governmental organizations and Multinational Corporations were given importance in International Politics); 2) absence of hierarchy among issues (economics, culture, environmental issues constitute low politics is considered significant, if not, equal to high politics of military, diplomacy, and foreign policy); and 3) the minor role of military (it is not necessary to respond militarily or by force to issues like economics, cultural, environmental or religious crises/conflicts). 

MIS Comprehensive Examinations (Part I, 2 of 3)

Master in International Studies’ Comprehensive Examinations
University of the Philippines-Diliman


August 10, 2009
Question number FOUR:
The theory of Realism, as the dominant theory of International Relations, has been subdivided into different variants/strands. What are these strands of the theory of Realism? Compare them in terms of actors, level of analysis, stable distribution of power, power transition, and the goal of the drive for power.


All realists submit to the premise that Realism is sufficient enough upon itself for purpose of explanations and normative justifications. (Martin Griffiths, Idealism, Realism, and International Politics: A Reinterpretation)
In Classical/Traditional Realism signified the centrality of states (as a unitary and rational actor in International Politics), which is motivated by national interest driven by power for the purpose of survival in a ‘self-help’ international system. (International society is different from international system for it promotes society of nations under the English School of IR as originated from Hedley Bull’s “Anarchical Society.”) 
In Hans Morgenthau’s “Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace” (1948), he expounded on the idea of ‘Balance of Power Realism’ wherein states as the central actors in International Politics distributed with approximated equal power. Power is the basic determinant of state behavior. Before World War I, the Great Britain used to be the arbiter among the six power relations (hegemons) whereby secret diplomacy and alliances are balanced.
In contrast, he believed that a global bipolar is dangerous because of two reasons: 1) the diplomacy is conducted in pseudo-parliamentary forums and 2) the two superpowers were inexperienced to the traditional way of diplomacy.
In the ‘Human Nature Realism’, developed by Carr, Morgenthau, and Waltz; they argued that power is rooted from human nature and in which man is selfish, self-interested, and his life is characterized by brutish, nasty, and short. This is because the conditions of life were unpleasant which force man to try to dominate and oppress others.
In state-level, states are driven by power motivated by national interest in its conduct of foreign policies. While in the international realm, there is the problem of anarchy which is the lack of central government/authority that affect the behavior of its units (states primarily) through agents, which will enforce general laws. Thus, states are forced to behave as they do.
Structural realist Kenneth Waltz in his work “Theory of International Politics” introduced a new variant, ‘Hegemony Realism’ in which there is a need to have a hegemon to affect or influence the international system, even though he reiterated the confluence of structures in the international system which directly affects the behavior of its units. His Neorealism was characterized by a sophisticated analogy in expanding the realist contribution on its roles to ‘cooperation’ which was changing because of the interdependent factors, such as the role of states in maintaining the international economic order.

Defensive/Offensive Realisms by Mearsheimer was a construction of power for states to deter or repel aggressors through operations of First and Second strike capability. Thucydides works are imperative to discuss which most of the influential realist writers refer to his scholarship that dated 2,500 years back. He wrote the story of the Peloponnesian War between the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta and the Melian Dialogue, when the people of Melos appeal for neutrality and morality to the Athenians but had face the iron fist of a stronger city-state which is until now relevant in modern world politics. 

MIS Comprehensive Examinations (Part I, 1 of 3)

Master in International Studies’ Comprehensive Examinations
University of the Philippines-Diliman
August 10, 2009
Required question number ONE:
Scholars have classified theories of International Relations into Mainstream and Alternative theories. What is the basis of this classification? In what fundamental ways (ontological and epistemological) do the philosophies of social sciences of Mainstream theories differ from that of the Alternative theories?
International Relations’ theories have started to dominate the field of World Politics in 1930s when Utopian scholars failed to explain and justify based on their ontological and epistemological study of world events, e.g., the failed League of Nations, the First World War, and the Great Depression. Thus Realism particularly the work of Edward Hallett Carr on “The Twenty Years Crisis” (1946) attacked and criticized the idealist Utopians.
This series of event has marked the advent of Mainstream theories of International Relations (IR), that is, Realism and Liberalism, in World Politics. The classification of IR theories between Mainstream and Alternative theories is based on primarily the dominant criterion on its usage in the literature of International Relations, the quality in which these theories can submit the best explanatory power, and in conversely, which theories manifest a substitutive criterion from the existing ones. A quantitative factor may also be considered on what theories are oftenly or rarely used or referred by scholars from their works.
Mainstream theories can be classified as those which characterized influential and dominance in IR literature regardless of temporal (time) and spatial (space) elements. It also permeates an already established methodological framework and research, whether empirical (emphasized that all knowledge in the world is based on experience), positivist (suggests that there are ‘facts’ about the world whereby the observer is autonomous, independent, or value-free variable) and scientific (facts are objective) in nature.
Alternative theories characterized substitutive criterion, in which, are not encompassing through time and space. It was developed to address specific situations, moments, and instances by which it also considered as a sub-variant of existing mainstream theories. Robert Jervis in his work “Realism in the Study of International Politics” argued the relevance of Realism in contemporary trends of IR and contended that Constructivism still lacks the explanatory power that Liberalism and Realism had.
Mainstream theories lie on the positivist nature of ontology (what is out there?) which precedes epistemology (how do we know?). Liberalism and Realism have met the dual test of reason and science. Morgenthau’s three dimensions of metaphysics: 1) Biology 2) Rationale and 3) Spiritedness have all answered the introspection among the inductive of meaning, objectification of, and the dialectical historizations. Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, and Hugo Grotius conceived Liberal ideas based on the rule of law and of morality. Though the Grotian approach have emphasized power as a combination of force and consent, while Bentham and Kant regarded power as a bad element in the individual liberty of human being.
Alternative theories emphasized empiricism in their research; empirical ontology and epistemology. Vincent Poulliot’s “Sobjectivism: A Constructivist Theory” reify the importance of combination of ‘experience-near’ and ‘experience-distant’. In which the constructivist style of reasoning he used is based on the fundamentalist sphere of social creations in the international system. Empiricism on norms (belief on duties, obligations, rights, etc), principles (belief on ideals – idea all the way down), rules (more specific than norm, which it is proscribed or prescribed), and decision-making procedures are the determinants in the study of constructivism.
Robert Cox on ‘Critical Theory’ had emphasized culture, religion and other social forms that construct all knowledge, in which “facts” are nothing in the world – what is important is how we value and interpret the world. Other scholars need to be recognized; Alexander Wendt’s “The Social Theory of International Politics” and the new contribution of George Shani from Ritsumeikan University, Japan, in his work “Post-IR Westphalian Theory: The Ummah, Shan Phankhti, and Constructivist Theory” has included non-Western political ideas in deciphering a less-Eurocentric Critical IR theory by incorporating the Islamic Ummah (a community of all Muslims) and Shan Pankhti (a Sikhism political community with a new concept of sovereignty as against to Western interpretation).
Even there is a demarcation between Mainstream and Alternative theories, I submit to Cox’s idea that a theory is always for someone and for some purpose.

Nota bene: I used IR that refers to either International Relations (as the academic discipline) or international relations (as the practice of the discipline).

Securitization: Understanding its Process in International Relations

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In its broadest and academic term, “security” has been defined contemporarily by Buzan and Wæver (1998) as being that special type of politics in which specified developments are socially constructed threats, having an existential quality to cover values and/or assets of human collectivities and leading to a call for emergency measures.

However, surveying the old traditional perceptions of security dating back from Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, to Rousseau, Kant, Kautilya, to Hobbes, Machiavelli and to Morgenthau, I found out a linkage of a security study in answering human’s physiological needs that is interpreted in varied disciplines from Philosophy, Political Science to International Relations.

Their arguments were presented in the study done by Solidum et al (1991, p. 13-16), to Plato such path leading to security was presented in his ideal republic. The total security, both spiritual and material, was brought about the creation of a new society and all its institutions based on the right principles of social existence. Plato related these principles to the idea of the universal Good as governing nature.

For Aristotle the quest for security was connected with his idea of fullness of being and ideal nature. This took the form of instinctive striving after perfection as embodied in the species. In the area of man’s social or political life, security arrangements manifested themselves in certain types of social systems said to be harmony with nature or in conformity with man’s striving after full development of himself or the Good’s life. For Confucius security was associated with commitments to certain universal principles of conduct. The ultimate aim was to bring about a condition of universal social harmony and stability. Goodness of human nature was often assumed which, if damaged, could be restored mainly by proper education.

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