Understanding the viability of military alliances. How the perspectives of interests and identity can explain why NATO survived and SEATO failed
Are we able to explain why some alliances are stronger than others? Much has been written on alliances between states, how they are formed, how they evolve and why they continue or dissolve. Most of the current studies within International Relations literature are dominated by traditional theories such as Realism and Liberalism. But are they both able to answer all the questions as to why alliances form, evolve or dissolve completely? In this study, a comparison between two specific cases is made. Both NATO and SEATO were founded in the same era, in the same context and with the same purpose. How is it then that NATO is still going strong today while SEATO dissolved? To find an answer to this question, Liberalism and Constructivism both shed light on the two alliances. Liberalism has been one of the most influential theories in international organizations when it comes to describing the behavior for international organizations and focuses mostly on the common interests of states. Constructivism on the other hand, is a school of thought that has gained more attention in recent years and shifts the focus more towards more interpretative reasons such as common norms and identity as to why states should cooperate. Empirical results of this study show that the liberal hypotheses are confirmed while constructivist hypotheses cannot, for the most part at least, be confirmed with the presented literature. This means that the fate of alliances seems to be based on interest calculations of its members and that identity only plays a marginal role.
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