Ulster Logo
Link to facebook  Link to INCOREinfo on twitter  Link to INCORE rss feed    Linkedin link Linkedin link

The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest


The New Great Power Coalition
Richard Rosecrance, Editor

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001
ISBN 0-7425-1009-3, 388 pp

In a series of theoretical analyses and case studies edited by Richard Rosecrance of the University of California at Los Angeles, contributors argue that conditions in the international system are ripe for the emergence of a Great Power Concert similar to the successful Concert of Europe.

The goal of this concert, as identified by Arthur Stein of UCLA, would be to provide a more effective body than the UN Security Council which -- while limited notably by the absence of Japan and Germany as permanent members -- currently undertakes some of the activities of an evolving Great Power Concert.

What stands between the status quo and the creation of a successful concert is the incorporation of Russia and China. This is of course a big hurdle, and it enters into some of the most sensitive areas of great power -- and, importantly, United States -- foreign policy.

The idea of a concert is a solid advance toward the identification of an overreaching description of the post-Cold War international system. The concert envisioned neatly incorporates international organizations as key players that effectuate policies. While continuing to foster interdependence, these transnational organs bring closer together existing members, and can formalize the norms that must be adopted by perspective members.

The four-part study begins with a series of case studies of situations in which sanctions and incentives have been used to differing levels of success. This section provides some good background on the use of sanctions by, mainly, the United States. Yet, some of the cases reveal the alienating impact sanctions can have. One senses here that the authors assign more favor to positive sanctioning; but the argument seems to be merely gleaned from failures of punitive sanctions.

The use of sanctions by the putative concert is a great question; sanctions require significant cooperation among senders to be effective. Are there cases where agreement is sufficient between the great powers to truly follow through on a sanctions regime? And what of enforcement? The final part of the study presents prescriptions for bringing China and Russia into the concert, yet little attempt is made to discuss the use of sanctions as a tool of an expanded concert.

China and Russia are key, of course. Yet, as Jennifer Kibbe, Rosecrance and Stein observe in a concluding piece, the United States must be prepared to sacrifice some of its autonomy if it wishes the same of China (370). As the authors observe, the present U.S. Administration has not shown great willingness to do so. In fact, the White House's 2002 National Security Strategy -- which received far more attention than that document ever had in the past -- seemed to proscribe this. The critical question is, can the ripe conditions, well argued by the authors, persevere until a strategy shift? And, in fact, with an important potential member seemingly uninterested, are conditions really so ripe?

This volume offers a thoughtful consideration of an organizing paradigm for contemporary international relations and ultimately offers convincing theoretical evidence of how this may develop. But, more exploration of roadblocks may be required. In particular, deeper treatment of how the perspective concert might deal with an ethnic conflict would be a welcome addition; such a discussion might even help to make the idea of a concert more appealing to policymakers.

Jon Levy, The John Hopkins University

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Monday, 10-Aug-2015 12:20
contact usgoto the search page
go to the top of this page