- Parties matter.
- Independents aren't as independent as one would think.
- Elections are mostly about the economy and other basic stuff, not so much campaigns.
- The will of the people does not exist nor are there really mandates.
I grew up (that is, went to grad school) where the Americanists were particularly imperialistic in attitude--that their theories and approaches should and will be applied everywhere. While their smugness made life uncomfortable at times, it was actually productive, as their tools tended to be quite handy for understanding a variety of comparative and IR questions. I find myself know regretting not taking American Politics at UCSD as I am now applying principal-agency theory to NATO. Ok, not regretting that much, but it could have helped.
Anyway, we could come up with a top ten list for each subfield. Since I do IR, what are ten things that IR types know? Hmmmn. In no special order:
- War is not rational except when it is. That is, war is costly so losers should give in before they lose. So, we need to focus on incentives to misrepresent, the difficulty of credible commitments, and whether the stakes are divisible or not.
- War is about territory. Mostly about the ethnic/linguistic/identity content of such territory, but territorial disputes are at the heart of wars.
- There is no world government. That is really important. We disagree on the implications, but anarchy is key.
- Alliances are far more problematic than people think. Allies are not always so helpful.
- Cooperation is really hard, as temptations to cheat are everywhere. Yet it happens all the time. Is life just one big prisoner's dilemma? Maybe.
- Power matters. Scholars disagree if power determines the national interest, but outcomes are largely shaped by power differentials.
- But war is not always won by the side with the biggest and mostest. Asymmetries in power are often overwhelmed by asymmetries of interest.
- Democracies do not fight much with each other. There is discrimination in IR as democracies tend to resolve their disputes amongst themselves.
- All politics is local--politicians' destinies are mostly determined at home. Domestic politics matters a great deal, and the politics really does not stop at the water's edge.
- IR scholars are easily annoyed by Americanists.