Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is the Moon More Important or the Sun?

I am reading for an op-ed that I have to write for my Comparative Politics class and I came across a paper called “Realism, Liberalism, and Dilemmas of Strategic Choice” by Arthur A. Stein in Why Nations Cooperate. I really liked reading its first few paragraphs and loved the analogy that it uses to introduce the dynamics of international politics. Given my background in literature, I always almost suffer from the dry nature of essays in political science. Also, the initial simplified analogy reminds me of the history of Iran-US relations. So I decided to share an excerpt of it with you:

“In the village of Chelm the people argue. The moon, cry some, is more important than the sun. But others, fierce partisans of the sun disagree. With the town rent by debate, the elders take up the question. After talking through the night, they decided: the moon is more important. It illuminates the otherwise dark hours. The sun, on the other hand, shines only in the day—when it is hardly needed.
Conflict and cooperation both attend the workings of international politics. In academia the scholars argue. They disagree about which predominates, about which constitutes the norm from which deviations must be explained. Some see conflict as the hallmark of international politics and hold cooperation to be rare of little consequences and temporary. Others believe that international politics resembles other political systems in which there develop norms, rules, and a generally cooperative ambiance. To them, conflict appears unusual. Scholars of both persuasions tend to concentrate their work on developing their presumptions about international politics and how these relate to patterns of either cooperation or conflict. Ironically, neither school focuses on explaining departures from the expected pattern. Rather, both schools emphasize what they perceive to be the norm.
Most basically, national choose between cooperation and conflict and such decisions underlie the entire range of international relations from alliances to war: When, how and why they choose between them, and with what consequences, thus constitute the primary foci of the study of international politics”.


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