Tuesday 09 Aug 2022 | 08:46 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 09 Aug 2022 | 08:46 | SYDNEY

Taking IR theory too far?


Andrew Carr


30 August 2011 16:55

It's far too wonkish for a Friday Funny, but this post from Dan Drezner tickled my funny bone:

..what if Bachmann is right? What if God really is using wrath to coerce humanity into implementing a particular set of policy preferences? A God-fearing person would naturally decide to obey. However, this kind of coercive demand strikes me as a prety massive intrusion into human sovereignty. The point of a democracy is for majorities of citizens and their elected representatives to decide matters of policy. Recent history suggests that neither sovereign governments nor their populations take kindly to coercive threats from other men. If we acquiesce to Divine demands now, don't we just let God win?

Bachmann's response suggests an obvious bandwagoning approach to the awesome power of deities:  when God says jump, you should say, how high?  And, indeed, if the Almighty really is omnipotent, this strategy has much to recommend it. Bandwagoning is generally recommended when the targeted actor is comparatively weak, has few natural allies, and believes that the targeting actor can be appeased with concessions. This seems to fit the Old Testament, monotheistic God to a tee. On the other hand, however, might a balancing approach yield better long-term results? After all, God has a disturbing track record of making demands like this. We know from Genesis the Old Testament that the Almighty has a tendency to, well, you know, smite humans on a semi-regular basis. There's the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, an awful lot of Egyptians, etc. This doesn't even include the number of times God demanded death (the sacrifice of Isaac, Ninevah) only to relent at the last minute. Sure, God has some good reasons in some of these instances, but from a threat assessment perspective, it's veeeeery disturbing.

There's quite a heritage of applying IR theory to unusual areas, including Drezner's own Theories of International Politics and Zombies and Hulsman & Mitchell's The Godfather Doctrine. Solid academic discovery can come from such an approach, as Alexander Wendt demonstrated in Sovereignty and the UFO.