Realism and Revolution
Why (Some) Revolutionary States Go to War
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Revolutionary Interstate Conflict
- 3 The Iranian Revolution of 1979
- 4 The Turkish Revolution
- 5 The French Revolution of 1848
- 6 The Bolivian Revolution
- 7 The Arab Spring
- 8 Conclusion
- Appendix A Revolutions
- Appendix B Statistical Analysis
- Appendix C Revolutionary Wars
This book is part of the Peter Lang Political Science, Economics, and Law list.
Every volume is peer reviewed and meets
the highest quality standards for content and production.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Ewenstein, Paul, author.
Title: Realism and revolution: why (some) revolutionary states go to war /
Description: New York: Peter Lang, 2020.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2019031135 | ISBN 978-1-4331-7312-7 (hardback: alk. paper)
ISBN 978-1-4331-7309-7 (ebook pdf)
ISBN 978-1-4331-7310-3 (epub) | ISBN 978-1-4331-7311-0 (mobi)
Subjects: LCSH: Revolutions—Philosophy. | Revolutions—Case studies. |
Political realism. | Iran—History—Revolution, 1979. |
Turkey—History—Revolution, 1908. | France—History—February
Revolution, 1848. | Bolivia—History—Revolution, 1946. |
Arab Spring, 2010–
Classification: LCC JC491.E94 | DDC 303.6/4—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019031135
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek.
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the “Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie”; detailed bibliographic data are available
on the Internet at http://dnb.d-nb.de/.
© 2020 Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York
29 Broadway, 18th floor, New York, NY 10006
All rights reserved.
Reprint or reproduction, even partially, in all forms such as microfilm,
xerography, microfiche, microcard, and offset strictly prohibited.
About the author
Paul Ewenstein received his undergraduate degree in political science from Tufts University in 2002 and his Ph.D. in political science and international relations from Boston University in 2011. He is currently a lecturer at the Wentworth Institute of Technology.
About the book
This book argues that revolutionary wars are generally the product not of ideological fervor but of a desire for territorial gain, encouraged either by a perception of the revolutionary state’s weakness or the chaos caused by shifting borders. However, these are short-term problems, manifesting in the first few years after the revolution, if at all. In the longer run, it is the decision of the revolutionaries over whether or not to adopt a revisionist ideology and the reaction of the international system to that ideology that determines if the revolutionary state will remain conflictprone. The truth of this theory is demonstrated both by an analysis of the historical record and through case studies of the Iranian, French, Turkish, and Bolivian Revolutions, as well as an examination of the Arab Spring. Finally, the book considers the theoretical lessons to be gleaned from a study of revolutionary conflict and offers some thoughts regarding its future. This book is a valuable resource both for those interested in revolutions and for students of international conflict and is the only comprehensive work on the subject to take into account recent developments in revolution such as the Arab Spring.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
2 A Theory of Revolutionary Interstate Conflict
3 The Iranian Revolution of 1979
5 The French Revolution of 1848
Appendix B: Statistical Analysis
Appendix C: Revolutionary Wars
Revolution. The very word conjures up images of violence. Whether it’s workers and students erecting barricades in the streets of a great city, peasants burning the manor houses of their feudal landlords, or armed guerillas advancing toward the presidential palace, the two concepts are inextricably linked. History has, for the most part, confirmed Mao Zedong’s famous claim that, “A revolution is not a dinner party.”1 The overthrow and replacement of an entire system of government is a messy process, and one that is seldom completed without violence.
Nor does that violence always remain confined within the borders of the revolutionary state. Often it spills over into neighboring countries, adding the destruction of interstate war to that caused by civil strife. Here, as with so many things related to revolution, the pattern was laid down by the great French Revolution of 1789. As much as the Oath of the Tennis Court and the lines of condemned prisoners being led to the guillotine, it was the levee en mass and the conquering armies of Napoleon that defined the revolution in the world’s imagination. For a quarter of a century, the wars that grew out the French Revolution consumed Europe, first threatening the newly created First Republic with destruction and then elevating France to an international stature beyond anything the ancien régime had achieved. Even after the fall of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbons, the aftermath of those wars shaped European foreign relations for decades, with ←1 | 2→conservatives seeking to suppress any resurgence of the French Revolution’s legacy, and liberals and radicals to recapture its glories.
The subsequent centuries have only reinforced the association between revolution and interstate conflict. From Russia to China, and Ethiopia to Iran, revolutions have been followed time and again by wars and other forms of conflict between the revolutionary state and established powers (those states not undergoing a revolution). The impact of revolution on international politics over the two hundred and thirty years since the fall of the Bastille can scarcely be overstated. In addition to producing some of the most devastating wars in modern history, revolutions have caused the fall of great powers, and at times reshaped the basic configuration of the international system. After all, it was one revolution that brought Lenin’s Bolsheviks to power in Russia and another that toppled their successors seventy years later, first inaugurating and then ending an era of world politics.
Nor are revolutions and the wars that so often follow them a mere historical curiosity. The last major wave of revolutions took place in the Middle East in 2011 during the so-called Arab Spring, and it too produced numerous instances of interstate violence. In Libya, NATO used air power to ensure the success of the revolution against Muammar Gaddafi, Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in an attempt to overthrow the Houthi rebels who had seized power there, and Syria became a chaotic battleground, drawing both regional and non-regional powers into its devastating civil war. In short, revolutionary war is a problem that continues to demand the attention of policymakers and scholars alike.
The Puzzle of Revolutionary War
It a problem that has rarely been solved well. Often, leaders confronted with a revolutionary state have gone to war, only to find themselves in the midst of a far bloodier struggle than they anticipated. Austria and Prussia’s attempt to overthrow the French First Republic and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran stand out for the sheer scale of the carnage they produced, but entanglement with a revolutionary state is often messy for the intervening power. My own country, the United States, has often stumbled in such situations. In such far-flung countries as Cuba, Vietnam, and Nicaragua, the United States has attempted either to overthrow or check revolutionary governments, only to fail, sometimes at great cost. Revolutionary governments face as much, if not greater, peril than their more established counterparts. In addition to the destructive wars just mentioned, revolutionary governments in Spain, Rome, Egypt, and elsewhere have been overthrown by ←2 | 3→outside interventions. Leaders on both sides of such potential conflicts need a strong understanding of why they so often occur in order to avoid them, or at least make smarter decisions about when and how to become involved.
Existing theories of international relations offer little clear guidance. There is a consensus that a connection between revolution and international conflict exists, but the causal mechanisms involved and the relevant factors that predict the occurrence of this violence are not well understood. In part, this is because revolutionary states fit awkwardly into the two leading theoretical frameworks in international relations: realism and liberalism.
According to realism, and especially neorealism, the regime type of a state shouldn’t be important. Under neorealism, the international system can be likened to a collection of billiard balls differentiated only by their size and positions on the table.2 Power and interest, not the ideological beliefs of their leadership, determine why states act as they do. If this was in fact the case, revolutions should be of little relevance. Dramatic though they may be in domestic terms, they don’t alter the hard realities that ultimately limit and shape state behavior. Kenneth Waltz, the father of neorealism, argues that although revolutions may modify the preferences of states, these changes of desire are largely irrelevant.3 In the world of power politics, the stakes are too high for revolutionary leaders to behave unrealistically. They may want to overthrow the existing international order, or erase the borders between states, but once they realize that these are not achievable aims, their policies will come to resemble those of other states. To illustrate their point, realists have focused on the numerous similarities in the pre- and post-revolutionary foreign policies of states. The French revolutionaries attempted to dominate Europe much in the same way the Bourbons had once done, albeit with greater success. The Soviets renewed Russia’s pre-revolutionary competition with Great Britain for influence in Iran.4 Chinese border disputes with Russia survived revolutions in both countries, bringing a pair of ostensibly fraternal communist regimes to the brink of war in the 1960s,5 and so forth. For realists, the more things change domestically, the more they stay the same internationally. To the extent that revolutions matter, it is because they have an effect on the power of the state, a topic to which we will return later on.
- VIII, 228
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- Publication date
- 2020 (August)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2020. VIII, 228 pp., 8 tables