GAMES NATIONS PLAY: Analyzing International Politics by John W. Spanier

GAMES NATIONS PLAY: Analyzing International Politics

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Spanier discusses foreign relations on three levels: the inter-state system, the nation-state, and the ""psycho-milieu"" of the decision-makers. Under each rubric he offers a cluster of commentaries on post-World War II geopolitics, especially U.S.-Soviet relations. The inter-state system is discussed in terms of the balance of power, the nuclear dimension, and the change ""from bipolarity to bipolycentrism."" He offers neither conceptual innovation nor rigorous treatment of others' ideas; instead he makes discrete points in passing -- e.g. the Viet Cong success throws into question our notion of ""the power of a state."" The section on national systems and decision-making begins with a treatment of ideology which tends to discredit Spanier's subtlety and perseverance as a conceptual analyst. He proceeds to rehash the early Kennan view that the Soviets congenitally oppose compromise, and from this deduces, with no convincing evidence, that they started the Cold War; the book acknowledges that they have now manifest traditional great-power behavior. U.S. decision-making is placed in a context of lovable flaws in our national character: moralism, isolationism, illusions of omnipotence, and other cliches, plus Lippmann's old chestnut about democracies' aversion to military spending! For all his references to democracy, Spanier takes quite a complacent view of the way Vietnam policy was made. In dealing with underdeveloped nations, trade relations and debt burdens are minimized; and Spanier rejects, along with the bogey of economic determinism, any well-informed consideration of the developed countries' material interests. Inaccuracies, question-beggings, and historical amnesia abound: guerrilla war is equated with revolutionary war, the Russians are said to have supported the Greek insurgents, and so forth. As an interpretive essay, the book is flawed; as a study of paradigms it is a flop.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1971
Publisher: Praeger