Byman, Daniel L. And Kenneth M. Pollack. Essay

Length: 4 pages Subject: Government Type: Essay Paper: #37851514 Related Topics: Adolf Hitler, Rational Choice Theory, Iran, Political Science
Excerpt from Essay :

Byman, Daniel L. And Kenneth M. Pollack. (2001). "Let Us Now Praise Great Men: Bringing the Statesman Back In." International Security. Vol. 25, No. 4. 107-146.

This article works to sow that historically, individuals have made a difference in politics, conflicts, and society. It starts out by making the argument that individuals have indeed affected the outcome of international relations. More specifically, the field of political science does not often acknowledge this, and gives more credit to specific theorists and governments for changing the history of politics and international relations. The article also makes the case that states or governing bodies of states do not always make decisions or act based upon the common principles of international relations as we understand and learn about them today. This is to say that their behavior is often times what a political scientist would refer to as "irrational" and non-conforming to the ideals and theories that many political scientists prescribe to. The article also uses five specific examples of how individuals have changed the course of history, relative to international relations.

The first example the authors of this article use to show how individuals have made a clear impact on the course of historical international relations is Adolf Hitler and his individual influence on Germany and the course of world history. The article states quite clearly, Hitler's personal experiences and idiosyncracies led directly to his behavior in World War Two. Tis behavior, though relatively irrational at the end of the war, was a direct product of his experiences and the influences that were apparent in his past. (115). This means that at the individual level, Hitler's own personality helped to influence the historical path of the German people. His own experiences in World War One as well as his troubled childhood and home life led him to be the person he became. The article concludes this section by stating that World War Two and the outcomes of Hitler's decisions were more of a personal product of Hitler's than the product of the Treaty of Versallies (118).

The next individuals the authors use to help make their case are Otto Von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm II. The authors state show that Von Bismarck's genius was put to use helping to build alliances with Germany's neighbors and in one fell swoop, Wilhelm erased these alliances and destroyed Germany's reputation of diplomacy. (124). More specifically, Wilhelm brought down the alliances and social and political web that Bismarck worked so hard to create before him. Tis led to many f the conditions of Germany's involvement in World War One and beyond. This also illustrates how changing one individual person within a power structure can alter the course of history.

Thirdly, the authors point out that Napoleon Bonaparte determined the intentions and reactions of his own state (France) and helped to seal the country's fate (125). Even in victory, Napoleon had to go on, pushing ever forward in his struggle to consume and assume the throne of France. His ambitions drove him beyond his own means to succeed.

The authors point to Saddam Hussein and Hafiz Al-Asad as having a direct, personal influence on the course of history. Bot of these men rose to power and created a political and social environment where dissent was not encouraged or allowed. The authors write, that each of these men became the central figures in their own states, heading up the decision-making process and allowing very little room for dissent (128). These...


This man personally opposed Saddam Hussein's push to invade Iran in the 1980's and, as the authors argue, is personally responsible for influencing the outcome of this war. The authors write that even after Saddam was pushed out of Iran, the Ayatollah pushed hard to pin him down in his own country, so much so that his armies and society were over extended and began to revolt against him and his interests. (132). To this man, just like Napoleon Bonaparte, victory was not enough. He brought about the collapse of Iran through his own misguided need to succeed beyond his wildest dreams.

The article presents four hypotheses on how individuals shape international relations. They are listed as, Hypothesis 1: individuals set the ultimate and secondary intentions of a state; Hypothesis 2: individuals can be an important component of a state's diplomatic influence and military power; Hypothesis 3: individual leaders shape their state's strategies; and hypothesis 4: individual leaders affect the behavior of opposing states that must react to leaders' idiosyncratic intentions and capabilities. (134-135). The individuals mentioned above fit into these hypotheses in different ways, but the authors use them to help support each one in a different way. They go on to discuss how personal traits, experiences, and expectations within these individuals have shaped history, as specifically as it was previously discussed.

Jones, Bryan D. (1999). "Bounded Rationality." Annul Review of Political Science. Vol. 2. 297-321.

The Brian D. Jones article, "Bounded Rationality" (1999), argues that within international relations, those individuals who make decisions for a state or country are inherently bound by rationality (297). He makes the case that decision-making is influenced by two factors, one internal and one external. The decisions individuals make are bound by these two factors and can often seem irrational. This is not because, as the author state, the decision is actually made irrationally, but because the factors are influenced in a way that make them appear to be so sometimes (298). Jones' primary argument is expressed as the idea that that most behavior in politics is adaptive and intendedly rational but that limits on adaptive behavior, imposed by human cognitive/emotional architecture, may be detected in even the most stable of environments. (298).

The theory of bounded rationality has its roots in the studies of noted psychologist Simon in the 1940's and 1950's (299). Simon argued that organisms (and individuals) look for paths that produce or satisfy as many of their needs as possible. Jones (301) writes,

Simon elaborated on his "satisficing" organism over the years, but its fundamental characteristics did not change. They include the following:

1. Limitation on the organism's ability to plan long behavior sequences, a limitation imposed by the bounded cognitive ability of the organism as well as the complexity of the environment in which it operates.

2. The tendency to set aspiration levels for each of the multiple goals that the organism faces.

3. The tendency to operate on goals sequentially rather than simultaneously because of the "bottleneck of short-term memory."

4. Satisficing rather than optimizing search behavior.

These characteristics help to more clearly define the actions and directions of the individuals discussed in the previous article as well. Jones also writes that the organizations are limited in behavior by those individuals who inhabit them and the limitations of these personalities' ambitions and capabilities. (302). He goes on to show how these characteristics effect policy outcomes and personal budgeting of resources and relationships. Jones continues by writing that the addition of a cost-of search function to the model of rationality, along with the understanding of the role of risk and uncertainty, are the major additions to our understanding of rational choice. (309). So the ways in which individuals identify themselves in a society and the way that this information is perceived and received also serves to illustrate how individuals act as they do, in an international relations environment.

Over-cooperating is one of the most limiting factors of rationality. It can be expressed as…

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