Daniel W. Drezner

Fred Savage and international relations

Here’s a tip to readers interested in world politics — be very, very wary of what I like to label Wonder Years approaches to international relations.  A Wonder Years approach to IR looks at an event and concludes that the world will never be the same ever again.  Which is true in a literal sense ...

Here's a tip to readers interested in world politics -- be very, very wary of what I like to label Wonder Years approaches to international relations.  A Wonder Years approach to IR looks at an event and concludes that the world will never be the same ever again.  Which is true in a literal sense but not of much use in interpreting events.  Need an example of a Wonder Years argument?  I give you Stratfor's George Friedman:  The post-Cold War world, the New World Order, ended with authority on Aug. 8, 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. Certainly, this war was not in itself of major significance, and a very good case can be made that the New World Order actually started coming apart on Sept. 11, 2001. But it was on Aug. 8 that a nation-state, Russia, attacked another nation-state, Georgia, out of fear of the intentions of a third nation-state, the United States. This causes us to begin thinking about the Real World Order. Why, yes, I can't think of another post-Cold War conflict involving breakway provinces.  Oh, wait.... Look, as significant events go in world politics go, a great power's invasion of its small, fragmented neighbor does not rank that high.*  Even from a American-centric perspective, North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons -- and the Bush administration's policy reversal on said weapons -- ranks as more significant.  The rise of China and India are way more important.  Things do change in international relations -- but Fred Savage/Daniel Stern epiphanies are pretty damn rare.  One caveat:  the event does move up the importance scale if Russia decides to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Expect to hear lots of "Alsace-Loraine" language then.  *NOT TO BE READ AS AN ENDORSEMENT OF RUSSIA'S BEHAVIOR. 

Here’s a tip to readers interested in world politics — be very, very wary of what I like to label Wonder Years approaches to international relations.  A Wonder Years approach to IR looks at an event and concludes that the world will never be the same ever again.  Which is true in a literal sense but not of much use in interpreting events.  Need an example of a Wonder Years argument?  I give you Stratfor’s George Friedman

The post-Cold War world, the New World Order, ended with authority on Aug. 8, 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. Certainly, this war was not in itself of major significance, and a very good case can be made that the New World Order actually started coming apart on Sept. 11, 2001. But it was on Aug. 8 that a nation-state, Russia, attacked another nation-state, Georgia, out of fear of the intentions of a third nation-state, the United States. This causes us to begin thinking about the Real World Order.

Why, yes, I can’t think of another post-Cold War conflict involving breakway provinces.  Oh, wait…. Look, as significant events go in world politics go, a great power’s invasion of its small, fragmented neighbor does not rank that high.*  Even from a American-centric perspective, North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons — and the Bush administration’s policy reversal on said weapons — ranks as more significant.  The rise of China and India are way more important.  Things do change in international relations — but Fred Savage/Daniel Stern epiphanies are pretty damn rare.  One caveat:  the event does move up the importance scale if Russia decides to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Expect to hear lots of “Alsace-Loraine” language then.  *NOT TO BE READ AS AN ENDORSEMENT OF RUSSIA’S BEHAVIOR. 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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