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John Lewis Gaddis, The Long Peace: Elements of Stability in the Post-war International System, International Security, vol.

10, no. 4, 1986, pp. 99-142


The Cold War is not commonly an era that is characterised as peaceful, Gaddis states, however that the form of stability experienced within the international system during this time can be viewed as an abstract form of peace. He looks at what defines an international system- interconnectedness and a difference between the collective behaviour of the system as a whole and the priorities of the individual units that make it up. Gaddis states that the Cold War environment meets both of these pre requisites. Systems theory provides a basis for differentiating between stable and unstable political configurations within the international system. The system must retain all of its essential characteristics for stability to be possible, there cannot be a single dominant state nor can large scale war occur. A characteristic of this system, according to systems theory, is its capacity for self-regulation. Self-regulating mechanisms are most likely to function, in turn, when there exists some fundamental agreement among major states within the system on the objectives they are seeking to uphold by participating in it, when the structure of the system reflects the way in which power is distributed among its respective members, and when agreed-upon procedures exist for resolving differences among them. The Structural Elements of Stability Bipolarity Gaddis acknowledges that bipolarity may seem in theory, like an unstable way to organise world politics. However, there are certain structural elements present in the Cold War that were not in the multipolar international systems that have preceded it. 1) The post war bipolar system realistically reflected where military power resided at the end of World War II and has so for 40 years. A significant difference to the post war settlement of WWI, which did not acknowledge the interests of Russia and Germany. 2) The post-1945 bipolar structure involves incredibly high stakes, which according to Gaddis, induces a sense of caution and restraint in leaders, states therefore do not require sophisticated leadership to maintain it. 3) A bipolar structure allows alliances to be more stable due to simplicity. As the Soviet Union and the United States are each others sole rival and since alliances are borne out of insecurity, there is not a lot of difficulty in maintaining their alliances. 4) A basic alliance system provides stability, this stability means that alliance defections are tolerated. Independence not Interdependence Certain aspects of the Soviet- American relationship enabled stability. Despite being extensively involved with the rest of the world, the relationship between the United States and Russia during the Cold War has been one of mutual independence. Gaddis notes that their geographical remoteness from each other has influenced this. Both states were particularly economically independent, this self-sufficiency being an element of maintaining stability. Gaddis states that the US and Soviet lack of dependency disproves the argument that interconnectedness promotes stability. Domestic Influences The domestic structures of the Soviet Union and the United States has shaped their behaviour toward one another. Gaddis argues that the structure of American capitalism does not involve aggressive expansionist aims, nor is it predicated on the inevitability of war. The United States rather employed the open door policy which attempted to avoid military confrontations yet extend the American system throughout the world without engaging in traditional colonialism. George F. Kennans famous long telegram has influenced the US approach to the USSR, his argument that the Soviets suspicion and paranoia stems from weakness rather than strength encouraged the theory that the Kremlin was unlikely to actually initiate military action. Gaddis notes, that during this period the US recognized a distinction between hostility from the Soviet Union and the probability of going to war. The domestic structure of both states, according to Gaddis reveals that there no inclination from both sides to risk war. Nuclear Weapons The obvious caution from both the United States and the Soviet Union in regards to risking war cannot be explained by their pacific dispositions, nor to any variations in leadership, or hesitancy due to ruin caused by the previous World Wars. Gaddis attributes this restraint to the existence of nuclear weapons. He also highlights the fact that there is direct evidence of what WMDs can do when used against human beings which altered individuals perception of war, the optimism that had historically accompanied war replaced with

pessimism due to the inclusion of the atomic bomb. Nuclear weapons have resulted in Nuclear Deterrence which has had a stabilizing effect on the post war international system. The Reconnaissance Revolution The development of the reconnaissance satellite allowed, according to Gaddis, for stability to occur throughout the Cold War and enabled the prevention of Total War. This revolution in technology has given the United States and Soviet Union the ability to evaluate each others capabilities to an unprecedented degree. Gaddis also highlights the importance of the fact that both competing powers allowed Reconnaissance Satellites to pass over their territories. This implicit mutual agreement enabled the Americans and the Soviets to have a far more accurate view of the others military capabilities and, to some degree, economic capabilities as well. It also altered the possibility of a surprise attack, although not eliminated, unexpected assaults were far less likely. This reduced the Soviet Unions geographical superiority, evening out the difference between them and the US. The reconnaissance revolution most importantly influenced the structural stability of the bipolar system as it minimised deception whilst increasing compliance. Ideological Moderation Gaddis states that although ideology was a determinant of the conflict between the United States and Soviet Union, the moderation of ideology in order to maintain stability overcame this rivalry. This reprioritisation occurred due to the recognition from Soviet leaders that war would not advance the cause of revolution. The reasons for this shift of position can be attributed to the bipolar nature of the post war international system and the fact that it legitimised the Soviet Union as a great global power. This change can also be attributed to the proliferation of nuclear capabilities on both sides as it confirmed that there would be no victors at all, whether capitalist or communist. Without the moderation of ideological objectives, Gaddis notes that the stability that characterized great power relations since the end of World War II could not have been possible. Rules of the superpower game Gaddis uses game theory to explain how order was maintained within the Cold War period without an overarching, superior authority. Game theory argues that order evolves from a mutual agreement on a set of "rules" defining the range of behaviour each side anticipates from the other. The assumption is that the particular "game" being played promises sufficient advantages to each of its "players" to outweigh whatever might be obtained by trying to upset it; rivalries can be pursued within an orderly framework, even in the absence of a referee. These "rules" were implicit within the post war superpower relationship. Gaddis identified several of these rules that both superpowers respected which in turn enabled stability. 1) Respect for spheres of influence. 2) Avoidance of direct military confrontation. 3) Use of nuclear weapons only as an ultimate resort. 4) Preference for predictable anomaly over unpredictable rationality. (An unwillingness on the part of the superpowers to trade familiarity for unpredictability) 5) Do not seek to undermine the other sides leadership.