issue indivisibility seems “ empirically implausible ” due W r i t i n g

issue indivisibility seems “ empirically implausible ” due W r i t i n g

300 words each with works cited

Post 1

Issue indivisibility is an issue that something cannot be properly divided and if bargaining cannot be made effectively then there is a probability for war. States also have the ability to make side payments in order to resolve the indivisibility and thus avoid conflict or war. In Fearon’s text, he brings up good points as to why the rationalist arguments for dismissing the causes of war due to issue indivisibility. Arguments that he brings up such as, “(1) anarchy; (2) expected benefits greater than expected costs; (3) rational preventive war; (4) rational miscalculation due to lack of information; and (5) rational miscalculation or disagreement about relative power. I argue that the first three arguments simply do not address the question of what prevents state leaders from bargaining to a settlement that would avoid the costs of fighting. The fourth and fifth arguments do address the question, holding that rational leaders may miss a superior negotiated settlement when lack of information leads them to miscalculate relative power or resolve” (Fearson 1995). In summary Fearson is correct in his thoughts and ideas due to the common sense that there are many steps before wars are declared, a compromise or a method of conducting rational and peaceful engagements with world leaders should prevent war. It is true in his text that people are not rational for the most part and that their ways of thinking neglects the costs of war that affects its people and military personnel. There is always an alternative approach if individuals try to focus towards that option.

Examples like how the cold war began and lasted for decades, it was both sides that are bipolar like systems that did not work rationally together and basically much of each other’s money and time was lost in terms of their potential in becoming better partners. Another example that may be used is are leaders of a nation, like the North Korean President that is constantly rocking the boat in the international community that is cause irrational thinking at a individual level.


Fearon, James D. 1995. “Rationalist Explanations for War.” International Organization 49, no. 3 (1995): 379-414. Accessed December 10, 2017. http:// 2

In his work, Fearon asserts that issue indivisibility seems “empirically implausible” due to the fact that “most issues states negotiate over are quite complex”, meaning they “have many dimensions of concern and allow many possible settlements” (1995, 389). An example he gives of this would be states paying “each other sums of money or goods” or making “linkages with other issues” which would transform any indivisible issue in dispute “perfectly divisible” (389). While in theory, Fearon’s stance makes sense, he does not cover every single reason which a nation might rationally consider indivisible in his explanation.

One example of issue indivisibility overlooked by Fearon is the effects of domestic politics and public opinion on foreign policy. Levy mentions the Spanish-American War and how President William McKinley “led his country unhesitatingly toward a war which he did not want for a cause in which he did not believe” (1988, 664). No, this was not an issue these two nations debated over and found that they could not find a reasonable compromise in order to avoid war. Instead this was more of an indivisible issue for America that became an issue for Spain when it caused a war. President McKinley was forced by the public into taking action because this was an issue the American public found indivisible. A war was demanded by the people and there was no reasonable alternative so President McKinley made the rational decision to go to war in order to do what was demanded by the people he served.

A second example of issue indivisibility would be leadership of a state. Fearon mentions this in passing when discussing which prince would sit on the throne, but this is an indivisible issue we have seen very recently. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was prompted by the indivisible issue of Saddam Hussein as the leader of Iraq. This was unacceptable for the U.S. and not being leader was unacceptable for Saddam Hussein. This was an issue that the two nations were not going to be able to compromise on any other way. Of course, there were other issues and explanations for this conflict like the WMDs, the terror act of 9/11, and previous issues with Saddam, but ultimately the issue that led to the invasion of Iraq was an uncompromising goal of removing Saddam from power.

While Fearon does explain that “[i]ssue indivisibility could in principle make war rational for the obvious reason that if the issue allows only a finite number of resolutions, it might be that none falls within the range that both prefer to fighting”, his alternate explanations prove that this is not a statement he believes to be true (1995, 382).

Fearon, James. 1995. “Rationalist Explanations for War.” International Organization 49, no. 3: 379-414. Accessed December 11, 2017.

what is a rationalist view of war?

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