International Politics

It seems there is only one thing wrong with much of systemic theory; people. Classical international theories—Westphalianism, Realism and Liberalism—assume people are rational actors; calculating and acting on our best interests, based on enduring values.
What if it’s not that easy? The theories emphasized in Module Four show people resist Formal Rationality. We’re not crazy, just lazy; we don’t appreciate our predispositions. Formal rationality would force us to change in ways we find painful.
For this assignment, compare the parallel worlds of Formal Rationality and barriers to rationality. Apply those to explain events in one of two classic case studies, from 1914 or 1962. Explain and apply theoretical readings including Lamy and Masker, ch. 4: Allison and Zelikow, Byman and Pollack, Yagoda and others assigned in Module Four. Then apply them to explain the events of either the July 1914 Crisis or the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Specifically:

• Based on the reading, explain the Rational Actor Model, formal rationality, how it works, what it expects to see happening,

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• Based on the reading, explain major barriers to formal rationality, how they work, what they expect to see happening.

• Use concepts from readings assigned in this module to explain decision-making in the July 1914 Crisis, or 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, as described in assigned readings. Explain decision-making in terms of formal rationality and barriers to formal rationality. What did they get right in 1914 or 1962, and why? What did they get wrong, and why?

• What does the theory and example lead you to conclude about international decision-making?

Essays will be marked primarily for explanation and application of assigned readings, and resolution of assigned questions. Write deductively, stressing general themes from each reading, showing how they apply to the assignment.
Your essay needs a descriptive title and summarizing introduction. Your intro should summarize your themes and conclusions. Formally cite all references to readings precisely, always with a page number. Generally, the more citations, the better. Brief quotations from class readings—with proper citations and explanations—are encouraged. Citations can be Chicago or MLA style.

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