“A classical liberal view of the Iran crisis?”

Some initial thoughts:

Classical liberals will not be surprised by the repeated occurrence of violence and war in the Middle East and will understand the realities of the unstable region where Iran is an important player. Their analysis will view the regional balance of power in the context of the global balance of power. They will also take account of the history of US-Iranian relations […]

This is from fellow Notewriter Edwin, writing for the Institute for Economic Affairs in London. It was part of a nightcap a few days ago, but I thought I’d give it some more love with a post of its own.

Edwin likes to use the “balance of power” strategy to explain the classical liberal position (check out his now classic article in the Independent Review), but I don’t know how true this is. Traditionally, hasn’t the balance of power method been favored by conservatives like Metternich and Kissinger?

I know he’ll respond by telling me that I have a socially liberal view of IR because I favor more federation, but I don’t know how true this is either. Shouldn’t trade-offs and cooperation in the context of power take precedence in classical liberal theories of IR? What sounds more liberal to you, then: a strategy of balancing power between separate actors, or a strategy of finding trade-offs and binding actors together in a manner (federal) that maximizes those trade-offs?

5 thoughts on ““A classical liberal view of the Iran crisis?”

  1. I argue that classical liberals embrace both the balance of power and federation, yet the latter only in cases where tthe existence of the nation state is no viable option (Europe after three German-French wars, with the latter two turning into World Wars).

  2. “A Classical Liberal View of the Iran Crisis”: Do not both approaches resemble trying to maximize the status quo, rather than starting from common human behavior toward improving it?

    • Yes, but is this a bad thing? If you think the status quo (at least in the West) isn’t that bad, then the answer would be “no.” But if you think the status quo is just totally out of whack the you’re going to answer “yes.” I think the burden of proof, though, is on those who think the status quo is totally unacceptable and not worth building on.

  3. Keeping a balance of power is very dynamic, as indeed are the different coalitions underpinning it. International order is needed for individual improvement. It is hard to improve international order itself, and that also follows from the realistic view of human nature of classical liberals.

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