IR Seminar- Christopher La Roche

Author: CASE
Time: 17:00
Location: CASE 127



Name:  Christopher La Roche - University of Toronto

Title: Great Powers, Geopolitics, and the Problem of Legitimacy: re-examining military intervention in the Concert of Europe

Date:  February 13, 2018 –Tuesday

Place: CASE 127

Time: 17:00 -18:30

Abstract: Why do intervening powers sometimes go to great lengths to legitimize their military interventions, and other times do not? I argue that shared geopolitical norms, reflected through geographically-bound spheres of influence, have played a significant but overlooked role in legitimizing great power interventions. By credibly assuring other powers of an intervener’s status quo intentions, spheres of influence mitigate the need for intervening powers to undertake costly legitimation strategies. I examine this dynamic in the Concert of Europe, a locus classicus of multipolar stability. Existing accounts of the Concert focus on the stabilizing role played by either multilateral institutionalism or balance-of-power politics. I show that these accounts insufficiently explain why the great powers' interventions did not result in open conflict between them. The Concert's stability instead rested on an arrangement that demarcated spheres where each power could intervene without alarming the others. This allowed leading powers to intervene in a large number of crises without triggering counterbalancing and destabilizing behaviour. Where the spheres system arrangement was ambiguous or undecided, however, great powers had more difficulty signalling non-revisionist intentions, forcing them to resort to multilateral or balance-of-power mechanisms. I conclude by contrasting the Concert's cooperative spheres system with the much more contentious contemporary revival of spheres-of-influence politics by Russia and China.