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The paradigm that lost its way

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For those who call for a change in our approach to international relations ecause they doubt the capacity of the existing system to handle the problems hat lie ahead, the ‘paradigm’ they are seeking to ‘shift’ is usually some image of realism, that dates from Westphalia and beyond. Fortunately, the paradigm that actually shaped Western foreign policy behaviour in the last 50 years or so was a product of circumstances and personalities in the 1945–53 period that generated attitudes and behaviour patterns that became entrenched during the Cold War. In relation to the complex problems that face the international community, this national security paradigm is increasingly dysfunctional. However, because it comprises ‘attitudes’ rather than rules for action, and is non-deterministic, we should find it easier to devise an alternative, more functional paradigm and to engineer the necessary shift. The historical review that comprises the bulk of this article describes the genesis of the paradigm and how the patterns of behaviour and underlying beliefs and attitudes became entrenched in Western foreign policy. Fleshing out the characteristics of the existing paradigm suggests an alternative approach to international relations, but the importance and feasibility of engineering the necessary shift will be argued in a subsequent article in the January 2002 issue of International Affairs
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution

Publication date: October 1, 2001

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