Schweller  2001
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Schweller 2001

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terms of the bad times rather than the good times.”31 The mere coexistence of
binding institutions and hegemonic restraint is not evidence that the former is
causing the latter. To establish this causal connection, Ikenberry must provide

International Security 26:1 176

America’s Future Grand Strategy,” International Security, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Summer 1997), pp. 86–124;
Michael Mastanduno, “Preserving the Unipolar Moment: Realist Theories and U.S. Grand Strategy
after the Cold War,” International Security, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Spring 1997), pp. 49–88; William C.
Wohlforth, “The Stability of a Unipolar World,” International Security, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Summer 1999),
pp. 5–41; and Kupchan, “After Pax Americana.”
31. Betts, “Systems for Peace or Causes of War?” p. 8.

cases in which institutions were effectively used by secondary and weak states
to protect themselves from the arbitrary exercise of hegemonic power, that is,
cases in which the institution prevented the hegemon from doing something it
was determined to do and otherwise would have done.
Contrary to Ikenberry’s claim that the institutional arrangements con-

structed after 1945 worked to check American power, the historical record
shows that these international institutions, when they played any role at all,
have been used by U.S. policymakers to project and enhance the unilateral ex-
ercise of American power. What restrained U.S. power and made its use legiti-
mate in the eyes of its postwar partners was not the creation of a constitutional
order but rather the common Soviet threat and the bipolar structure of the in-
ternational system. The postwar institutions that were created and led by the
United States were used to project American power throughout the globe; they
were the means to implement military containment of the Soviet Union, its
partner in victory. This American postwar strategy and its institutional struc-
tures were clearly incompatible with the interests of the Soviet Union as
deªned by Josef Stalin, and some historians argue that they even accentuated
the Russian problem and caused the Cold War.
Indeed Ikenberry’s own version of the settlement of 1945 essentially con-

forms to the predictions of balance-of-power theory, as he himself admits
(p. 216, n. 3). He argues, however, that America’s agenda to bind the Europe-
ans together “was driven by the demands of postwar economic renewal and
the need for some solution to the German problem, imperatives that existed in-
dependently of the worsening of relations with the Soviet Union—although
the Cold War did raise the stakes and sped the process” (p. 211). But the Ger-
man problem was not independent of bipolarity and the Cold War. A reluctant
hegemon, the United States sought to create a “third force” in Europe precisely
for the purpose of balancing Soviet power so that Americans could come
home. The problem with this transparent attempt to pass the balancing buck to
the West Europeans is that it required the economic revitalization and military
rearmament of West Germany. A strong West German state, however, might
not be dependent on the Western allies for protection, and that would pose a
serious threat to the security of its neighbors and that of the Soviet Union,
greatly increasing the risk of war. The Truman administration’s preferred solu-
tion to this so-called German problem was to bind West German economic and
military power within a more integrated Europe, such that Germany would
not be free to act independently. With the establishment of a stable balance of
power between this third force and the Soviet Union, America could then

The Problem of International Order Revisited 177

safely abandon the Eurasian continent and assume its natural role as an off-
shore balancer.32 In the absence of a dangerous and immediate Soviet threat to
Western Europe, however, there would have been no need to rearm West Ger-
many and therefore no problem of German power. Under such circumstances,
why would the Europeans have feared American abandonment, and what
would have prevented the United States from disengaging from the Eurasian
More generally, the logic of Ikenberry’s constitutional model asserts that

binding institutions are designed to check concentrated power in the hands of
the leading state. Yet the European industrial democracies and Japan feared
American abandonment, not the unfettered exercise of its preponderant
power. As Ikenberry writes: “The most consistent British and French objective
during and after the war was to bind the United States to Europe. The evolu-
tion in American policy, from the goal of a European ‘third force’ to acceptance
of an ongoing security commitment within NATO, was a story of American
reluctance and European persistence” (p. 206). No doubt, Ikenberry would
counter that he explicitly argues that for secondary great powers, binding in-
stitutions mitigate the twin fears of abandonment and domination by the vic-
torious leading state; thus, there is no inconsistency between the logic of his
model and European fears of American abandonment. But this merely begs the
larger question: Although it is obvious why subordinate and secondary states
would not want to be dominated by the leading state, why in the absence of
some other immediate threat or one looming on the horizon would they fear
its abandonment?33 If Nazi Germany had won World War II, would the United
States have sought to bind German power to the Western hemisphere?
Ikenberry would say no because Nazi Germany was not a liberal democracy. If
liberal democracy is a sufªcient condition for his model to work, however,
why in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars did the United States go to war
with a liberal hegemon, Great Britain, in 1812 and then declare the Monroe
Doctrine in 1823 to keep European powers out of its hemisphere?
Leaving aside the issue of bipolarity and conventional balancing behavior as

direct causes of the institutional structures that emerged after 1945, history
shows that the United States consistently violated the spirit of multilateral co-
operation within its own alliance system. Many of the most momentous deci-
sions to exercise American power or dramatically change the direction of U.S.

International Security 26:1 178

32. The deªnitive account of this historical case is Marc Trachtenberg, A Constructed Peace: The
Making of the European Settlement, 1945–1963 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999).
33. I am grateful to Robert Edwin Kelly for pointing this out.

foreign policy were made unilaterally, without prior consultation among its al-
lies. Indeed one would be hard put to ªnd any solid evidence throughout the
entire Cold War period of institutions restraining the arbitrary use of American
power. At the very outset, the U.S. Senate rejected the International Trade Or-
ganization treaty in 1947, and a less institutionalized arrangement, the General
Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, took its place. The Eisenhower administration
unilaterally ended the imperial careers of Britain and France during the 1956
Suez War. The Kennedy administration adopted the doctrine of ºexible re-
sponse against the wishes of West Europeans, who, for obvious reasons, did
not want to increase the likelihood of tactical, limited nuclear war or conven-
tional defense on their territory. The United States similarly ignored the wishes
of its NATO allies and fought unpopular wars in the Paciªc against North Ko-
rea (which, in Krauthammer’s view, is “still the classic case study in pseudo-
multilateralism”) and North Vietnam.34 Then, in an extraordinarily arrogant
display of unilateralism reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s surprise attack against
Stalinist Russia, the Nixon administration shocked Japan on July 15, 1971,
when it unexpectedly announced that it was normalizing relations with China.
Mere months later, it once again stunned Japan and the other industrial de-
mocracies when it unilaterally and without consultation decided to close the
gold window. The Bretton