Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

I continue to grapple with Miranda Willson’s Thursday, Oct. 2 column entitled “The Limited Lens of IR.”

It is perfectly fine to make claims about the flaws and biases of modern international relations theory. But, all due respect to Ms. Willson, challenging a thousand-year old academic tradition is ambitious. Especially when the author, as she herself concedes, is “in Intro to IR,” and has only “read 21 articles.”

In arguing against liberal democratic peace theory, or as she describes it, “the ‘obsolescence’ of war among democracies” she argues that scholars are “discounting bloody civil wars in the Middle East, the death toll in Iraq … and the more than 2,000 Gazans killed this past summer.” When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Iraq was not a democracy. Nor is Gaza today. Scholars are not dismissing these cases, but they simply cannot be applied to the argument, since the liberal democratic peace theory discusses an absence of war only between democracies.

Additionally, Ms. Willson attempts to delegitimize the concept of war by calling it socially-constructed. I’m not someone who roots for body counts, death, devastation and destruction, but many things are socially-constructed. The concept of peace is socially-constructed. Newspaper columns are socially-constructed. Ecofeminism, it could be argued, is socially-constructed.

As I write this letter, I realize that the author and I differ on a paradigmatic level. To put a spin on a phrase from Iggy Azalea, “first things first, I’m a realist.” I hope Ms. Willson finds a paradigm of international relations theory that fits her beliefs.


Zach Shapiro