Thursday, May 5, 2011

ISEP Comprehensive Exam - Complete!

Late yesterday afternoon, I turned in my international security comprehensive exam - my last-ever comprehensive exam for my PhD! I put a ton of hours into it, and if I had more time, there are things I know I would have looked into a bit more, but overall, I think it turned out really well!

My essay ended up being about 10,000 words long (17 single-spaced pages), and most of my blog readers probably don't want to know that much about international security policy, but I'll post the question and my executive summary, and if you really want to read the whole thing, I've got a link to the full pdf at the bottom of the page!


In the literature you have reviewed there has been a lengthy discussion of the relative significance of military power and legal regulation in determining the state of international security. Explicitly applying your knowledge of that literature, please assess how these determinants have affected the development of space activity up to this point. Please also discuss how the balance of these and other determinants might change in the future and identify what the principal causes of change might be.

This paper has been broken into three parts. In Part I, I provide an overview of the theories relevant to understanding the relative significance of military power and legal regulation in determining the state of international security. I begin with an overview of realist theory, which assumes a rational, unitary actor in an anarchic system, with material resources and military power of states as the determinant characteristics for the state of international security. I also review institutionalist-legalist theory, which also assumes a rational, unitary actor in an anarchic system, but focuses on the importance of legal regulation in constraining state behavior and determining the state of international security. In Part II, I begin by providing a brief summary of space activity up to this point, focusing on five main aspects: the space race, the development of reconnaissance satellites, the negotiation of the outer space treaties, the increasing crowdedness of space, and the recent attempts at international cooperation on the issue of space security. I then apply realist theory to each of these areas, examining the significance of military power for the development of space activity. Next, institutionalist theory is applied to each area, examining the extent to which legal regulation constrained state behavior and thus affect these developments in space activity. I find that both military power and legal regulation were important determinants in the development of space activity up to this point, but argue that legal regulation provides more insight and explanatory power, particularly in more recent times. In Part III, I provide a brief description of the likely future conditions of the space environment and an overview of one of the chief issues for the future – space security. I then provide realist options for ensuring continued access to and use of space, which rely primarily on threats and coercion, and institutionalist options, which are based on particular forms of international agreements, primarily favoring hard law. I argue that as we look to the future of space activity, military power has a very limited role in determining future developments, primarily due to the inherent need for all space actors to adjust their behavior combined with the physical limitations of the space environment, which make military protection of space assets nearly impossible and offensive or retaliatory space attacks self-defeating. Instead, I argue that international legal regulation will be the most important determinant in the future of sustainable space activity, while other determinants, such as interdependence, may also make contributions.

Read the Full Paper!

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