By R. Karbasi
Edited by Nidhi Singh, Junior Editor, The Indian Economist
As a student of political science and international relations, I have been exposed to a seemingly ceaseless sea of literature. While some of the literature claims to be monumental, this is rarely the case – unless one were to consider its derived analysis and postulations as contributing to the monument that already is Machiavelli’s Realism or Onuf’s Constructivism. Other literature acknowledges its derived nature, while rebuking the works of masters such as Locke, Rousseau, Rawls, and Sartre. Some even wholly embrace the concept of derivation by simply reproducing previous works – usually with a brief, five-page introduction explaining why the author was best qualified to do so. Yet, it should not be discounted that the literature shares one noteworthy commonality: its impact upon students within the respective fields.
Perhaps this commonality can best be expressed within the context of a personal experience. Before my consequential decision to devote my life to political science, I knew of no Žižek or Descartes, had not of an inkling of a Kierkegaard or Heidegger, nor was I acquainted with a Mr. Gramsci and Mr. Tocqueville. Their names were as foreign to me as the material in their incredibly impactful works.
But, as the saying goes, “practice makes perfect,” and, as such, the foreign names and concepts became second nature. I could recite Bentham, review Hegel, and relate to Kant. I was no longer an outsider naïvely and incredulously looking in. I was, in the simplest terms, conditioned.
I presume that much of what has been said to this point may conjure up a degree of confusion – the personal experiences of a student have virtually nothing to do with nuclear proliferation. I completely agree.
Aristotle once said that “all human actions [are governed by] one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” I have already demonstrated the causes of nature, habit, passion, and desire. And now, I shall demonstrate reason for my action.
As I had mentioned before, the vast sea of political literature shares a single common theme. This theme in question is the impact that the literature has upon the student. Such an impact not only dictates the path that the student’s academic career will come to follow, but also allows him/her the incredible opportunity to select a cognitive identity. This identity is a product of the amalgamation of the material that the student has been exposed to, and the material that he/she most identifies with.
Generally speaking, Machiavelli’s cognitive identity is that of a Realist, whereas my Economics professor’s cognitive identity is that of a Liberalist. As one delves further into the literature, he/she finds that the identities become far more specific and narrowed. As such, while my close friend’s cognitive identity is that of a reflectivist, I would cite my own cognitive identity as that of a symbiotic realist.
Symbiotic realism may perhaps best be traced to Mr. Nayef Al-Rodhan’s 2007 publication on the subject. In his work he introduced the theory as being based on four inter-locking realms of global relations, which are as follows:
2. Instant Connectivity
3. Global Anarchy
4. Neurobiological Substrates of Human Nature (Basic Needs, Ego, and Fear)
The implications of Al-Rodhan’s theory not only exemplifies the similarity between individual actors in society and states as individual actors in foreign politics, but also supports the inclusion of individual actors within a state, or collective groups of individual actors within a state, to explain the reasoning for state behavior. With respect to nuclear proliferation, the theory becomes resoundingly applicable.
Non-proliferation and disarmament movements fail to recognize the realist undertones of global politics. The world is inherently realist, and policies must reflect such realism. It makes little sense to try so vehemently to eliminate nuclear weaponry when the world would better be served by a reallocation of interests and resources aimed at ushering in a new international paradigm for proliferation.
This policy is much more economically and resourcefully efficient than most alternatives. For instance, it may considerably reduce ‘nuclear umbrella’ obligations that some states have assumed – a breath of relief for the U.S. considering its recent challenges in Ukraine and East Asia. Moreover, it is quite likely that some critics would challenge the practicality and effectiveness of this pro-proliferation argument. But in a world in which international relations are heavily dictated by the interrelated realms of Interdependence, Instant Connectivity, Human Nature, and Global Anarchy, the opposite case can be made just as reasonably. In terms of logic, the following syllogism affirms the veracity of such a contention: If states are inherently predisposed to acting like humans, and human nature is predominately guided by a need and desire to survive at all costs, then states seek out and value their own survival and prosperity above others’ (a basic tenet of Realism).
This need and desire for survival is furthered by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s analysis on Statistical Deterrence. Mesquita’s work, from the Stanford University Hoover Institute, suggests that nuclear proliferation can lead to statistical deterrence. That is to say, once two states possess the same capabilities, they are far less likely to engage in even conventional warfare, let alone nuclear warfare. History, throughout much of the Cold War Era and time thereafter, supports this conclusion. Logic does as well in that a state that possesses a clear advantage in terms of military capabilities will be far more inclined to exercise such an advantage, whereas the reciprocated presence of similar capabilities abroad mitigates such an inclination.
These observations do not utterly disregard non-proliferation and its merits. Instead, they suggest that a path towards proliferation may also be a viable option in terms of security policy and improvement of relations. A coordinated and highly internationally regulated proliferation program may very well lead to better diplomacy and lasting relationships between states that guarantees continuance of prosperity and survival. Of course, such a program is quite far off and, in all honesty, unlikely to ever materialize. Even so, in the realms of international relations and political science it never hurts to have options.
Ramin is currently a Senior Honors student at Southern Methodist University, where he majors in Political Science and Sociology. An avid student of comparative politics and economics, Ramin hopes to one day pursue post-graduate International Development studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science. As such, and acknowledging the works of Mr. Nayef Al-Rodhan, he best describes himself as a symbiotic realist. A self-ascribed Francophile, Ramin also enjoys reading works of French existential literature in his spare time.