After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars.

Author:Talbert, Bart

Ikenberry, G. John, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2001. xiii + 293 pages. Paperback, $45.00.

After Victory explores how winners of major wars since 1648 have sought to restore order and perpetuate their control. John Ikenberry, professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University, finds that, paradoxically, winners in these great historical moments had the most success when limiting their exercise of power through binding international institutions. He believes we must move beyond realist theories of balance-of-power or hegemonic control to understand how institutions help allay fears of domination and abandonment by weaker states. The work focuses on how a super powerful, yet reluctant, U.S. willingly restrained itself after 1945 in a dense web of institutions to gain long-term peace. The strategy has worked because it is applied by mature, accessible, liberal industrial democracies, and thus American policy has sought to spread democracy worldwide.

Ikenberry maintains that the basic problem of order formation is how to cope with "asymmetries of power." When victors have attempted to create a balance-of-power, weaker states attempt to counter-balance against the hegemon, which leads to competing blocs and another war. Where the hegemon attempts to dominate and reap short-term gains, weaker states have nothing to lose by resisting, and the order fails upon the inevitable exhaustion of the dominant state. He argues that orders constructed of mutually dependent institutions tend to be more "sticky" because long-term commitments increase the "costs of exist." Institutional orders also afford the weaker states "voice opportunities" to influence policy, thus they are willing to resolve conflicts by negotiation instead of war (p. 60-63).

By 1945, the U.S. was in a far more favorable position than the victors of 1648, 1713, 1815, and 1919 to establish a liberal hegemony; and the desire for binding security ties from its allies increased after 1950 due to the Korean War and Soviet development of atomic weapons. A Truman Doctrine began to take shape designed to contain the Soviets and guarantee open markets, which he saw as central to preventing future wars. Truman believed that the closed autarkic blocs, created by Germany, Japan, and the British Empire, with their depression causing ideas of spheres of influence and economic...

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