CIAO DATE: 9/01
From CIAO's Board: Commentary on the Terrorist Attacks against the United States
Dear CIAO team:
I have just plucked a great and highly relevant book entitled Revolution and Waroff my shelf. In it (p. 350), Steve [Walt] says that the phenomenon of religious fundamentalism is generally similar to the revolutionary states and movements that he writes about, and indeed one of the key chapters is on revolutionary Iran. Therefore, the book's policy prescriptions about handling revolutionary states ought to be relevant to the problem at hand. What are those prescriptions?
The first one is a warning: Advocates of intervention will usually argue that the revolutionary state is both extremely dangerous and highly vulnerable, justifying active efforts to overthrow it. But as we have seen, this combination of fear and optimism is usually misplaced... ...intervention will reinforce the revolutionaries' own perceptions of threat and push the regime in a more radical direction. Revolutions are also more difficult to reverse than outside powers generally expect, and because war is so unpredictable, intervention may actually facilitate the spread of revolution... (p. 343) This is backed up by Steve's various arguments about spiraling and by very solid case studies, including the Iranian one.
Steve's own prescription is to pursue a policy of containment...bolstering potential targets and punishing the revolutionary state for overt acts of aggression, but [containment's] practitioners would otherwise eschew the use of force and would not attempt to overthrow the new regime. Even this restrained policy risks spiraling, Steve points out, because revolutionary states usually interpret the behavior of other states in an extremely biased fashion. (p. 343) Iraq would have been far better off if it had refrained from attacking Iran....
doesn't directly answer the question of what to do now. However, it strikes
me as a good set of guidelines to keep in mind when mulling over the various
Kirkpatrick Professor of International Affairs
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Professor of Public Policy, Duke University
Director, Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy
Response by Etel SolingenSteven Weber
Professor of Political Science
University of California, Irvine
Response by Stephan Haggard
Professor, Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies
University of California, San Diego
Response by Stephan HaggardPeter Katzenstein
Response by Robert Keohane