U.S. President Obama’s visit this week to the DMZ seems to me a reasonably good example for demonstrating the notion covered in our readings that liberal states, though peace loving with other liberal states, are still happy to treat non-liberal states in the world as outsiders and not in the club. When it’s convenient for a state to be liberalist in it’s approaches to IR it will, and when someone (DPRK) doesn’t want to play ball a realist approach is taken.
When big brother (U.S.) says, “Bad behavior will not be rewarded,” it simultaneously infantilizes North Korea and establishes the balance of power as being firmly on the side of the the U.S. if not Western Powers in general. Further inflaming the situation is Japan’s consideration of shooting down a planned rocket launch by North Korea delegitimizing North Korea’s sovereignty.
This makes me think more and more that IR theories work well to describe situations, or periods of time, i.e. U.S./DPRK interaction or the Cold War era, better than they work at describing and predicting state action in all circumstances. Liberalist approaches when it’s convenient and serves to grow ties between states and realist approaches when those ties don’t exist or are resisted.
When liberal states look at North Korea i think they see a state unwilling to participate in a western notion of interdependence. This is threatening to the system, there’s no buy-in, no mutual understanding or assurance of security as a ‘club member.’
I’m curious to get to our constructivist readings to see what light they shed on IR theory and if they help me believe there’s any one theory that encompasses how states act today.