Well, it seemed about time that I joined the 20th century (I know, I’m nine years behind schedule; we’ll leave the 21st century for a later time), and create a blog to house my thoughts, concerns, ideas and research in the area of my primary passion, International Relations.
IR is one of those catch-all terms that people like to throw around, either in a misguided attempt to convey a serious which they don’t possess, or because what they’re talking about doesn’t fit into any one convenient box. In the future, I fully intend and expect to be guilty of both here. This is because, although I consider myself a serious student of IR (more on that later) and an experienced researcher and writer on these topics, I’m somewhat unable to be as serious as some of the people in this field would like. A little humor (and I emphasize little, since I’m setting my sights low for this blog) can go a long way to making unpleasant or distasteful subjects slightly more palatable. In the rarefied atmosphere of IR commentary, there is often a surfeit of seriousness and a decided lack of style or humor. I hope to in some small way rectify that imbalance.
On the second point, IR is a broad field and should remain so. Political science (in the traditional sense) has its uses, as does a more focused discussion on military science, macroeconomics and trade or international law. However, all those more focused approaches invariably end up expanding beyond their initial competency and thereby encroaching into IR’s proper domain, that of interstate relations in the modern world. This comes at the inevitable cost of sometimes sounding like they’re talking out of their ass (because they often are). Geopolitics (or geostrategy if you’re French) is a generalist’s field, by necessity. It requires a holistic approach, incorporating elements of traditional politics, economics, military science, law and many other disciplines. Thus, I will attempt to focus here on the larger picture and leave the specific commentary in the sub-disciplines to those who are better suited for it.
That said, one might notice from the sub-title to this blog that security issues will play an important role here. Like IR, the catch-all word “security” (as opposed to defense, military, or any of several others) is purposefully broad, because modern security issues encompass more than just traditional military activities and actors. Astute readers will also have noticed the use of the phrase “post-Westhphalian” in the subtitle, implying a certain view on the nature of the current geopolitical system. I assure you this is fully intentional (more on that later as well). No one, astute or otherwise, will have missed the appearance of Machiavelli’s name in the main title, which implies additional other elements of the aforementioned view. And what exactly does he keep in his closet? Once again, I can only say more on this later.
For those of you who are now dismayed about talk of the big picture and the gratuitous use of Machiavelli’s name, and are now inwardly groaning about the possibility more IR theory, I can assure you that theory (IR or any other) will only rear its ugly head here when absolutely necessary. With apologies to those exceptional theorists under whom I was privileged to study, the world of IR theory is (to me) overly dry and ultimately pointless. Entertaining perhaps for a rhetorical discussion after class (preferably with plentiful cocktails), but of little use to the practical, immediate world of IR policy and geopolitics. So, I promise to do my best to slap down any unscheduled appearances of theory here, and focus particularly on concrete questions and events.