Political Science Faculty Publications


Choosing to Go It Alone: Irish Neutrality in Theoretical and Comparative Perspective

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Realist and liberal paradigms of foreign policy analysis offer different views of the important policy stance of neutrality. Realism explains a neutral stance as the rational calculation of a small state’s interests in the state-centered, unfriendly, self-help environment. Liberalism argues that international norms and internal dynamics lead nations to seek and maintain neutrality. This article explores the neutral foreign policy stance of the Republic of Ireland from 1938 to the present in comparison to Austria, Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland. The Irish policy of neutrality differs from the other European neutrals in two important ways: it is unarmed neutrality and it is not impartial neutrality. I argue that domestic actors, public opinion, and governmental decisionmaking institutions provide an explanation for the continuing stance of neutrality. Thus, liberalism provides a better explanation for Irish neutrality than realism. The value of this study is that it illustrates in a comparative perspective the varying sources of neutrality in Europe and points to the continued usefulness of varied perspectives in understanding historical and contemporary foreign policy

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International Political Science Review

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