The Performance of International Security Organisation during the first Decade of the 21st Century. A brief analysis

Essay, 2011

22 Pages, Grade: 1.0

Ron Böhler (Author)


`Many international organizations [IO] have clearly succeeded in formulating, and
sometimes implementing, policies that cannot be described as the simple product of
interstate bargaining' (Reinalda and Verbeek 1998, p.5). A closer look at international
relations (IR) theories will quickly give indication that this statement is at odds with
both neorealism and neoliberalism. In fact, these theories have for a long time
neglected IO policy-making as well as the potential that IOs take purposive action as
autonomous actors. Barnett and Finnemore hold that view and suggest a sociological
perspective to treat IOs first and foremost as bureaucracies with independent agency.
The International Criminal Police Organisation (ICPO), better known as
INTERPOL, is such a case. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the World
Trade Centre in New York, so will be argued below, INTERPOL remarkably
improved institutional structures and strengthened its political scope of duties towards
international terrorism. Its counter-terrorism strategies comprised technological
innovation and bureaucratic efficiency with the objective of accelerating efficient
crime fighting, on the one hand, as well as tightened cooperation with other
(inter)national partner organisations with the aim of fostering a world-spanning anti-
terrorist network, on the other. Both means go for the overall idea- and knowledge-
based realignment that INTERPOL underwent in recent years under Secretary
General Ronald K. Noble since his inauguration in 2000.
The essay is structured as follows: Throughout the first section, the
sociological institutionalist approach of Barnett and Finnemore will be presented in
comparative perspective to major IR theories. The approach suggests a number of
assumptions and implications to the behavioural study of international organizations
that will be elaborated further. The shortcomings, which are inherent in neorealist and

neoliberalist concepts, will be seen as the starting point for the theoretical and
empirical gains that the international bureaucracy approach provide. Subsequently,
the concept will be applied to INTERPOL as an important international security
organization in the field of counter-terrorism. Structural, political and technological
adaptations that the organisation deployed in the aftermath of the 9/11 events make it
a remarkable example of the accuracy and applicability of Barnett´s and Finnemore´s
In the eyes of some scholars, Barnett´s and Finnemore´s book `Rules for the World:
International Organizations in Global Politics' (2004) originated a `fledgling
renaissance of interest in international bureaucracies' (Benner et al. 2007, p.4). The
authors of this monography pursue a constructivist reading of international
organizations theory based on sociological institutionalism. They do not necessarily
oppose neorealist or neoliberal perceptions, but found them theoretically and
normatively insufficient (Barnett and Finnemore 2004, p.viii). Likewise, their
approach aims at complementing IR theories rather than replacing them. The
theoretical puzzle accrues from the explanatory lack of IR theories to explain the
independent existence of IOs once they have been established by states, because
`these approaches are better at explaining why organizations exist than what they do
after creation' (ibid.). From then on, Barnett and Finnemore regard IOs first and
foremost as bureaucracies, which may decouple independent structures from their
constituents, develop own goals and accumulate tools to pursue them. To put it in a
nutshell: In contrast to state-centric IR theories, the bureaucracy approach considers
IOs to be more than just the sum of its inputs. The following part shall shed light on

basic theoretical antagonisms between major theories, their meaning for
institutionalised cooperation and the peculiarities of Barnett´s and Finnemore´s
approach. Special attention will be given to the question of the capability of
international organizations to act independently from their member parties.
Neorealism as the most common of realist theories puts states in the centre of
international relations and world politics. Often referred to as structural realism, it
assumes an anarchical system lacking any supranational authority (Baldwin 1993,
pp.4-5). States as rational unitary actors build the key players that seek for relative
power over others in order to maintain national security and economic welfare. Their
state identities as well as foreign policy interests are predetermined by its quest for
structural supremacy; of importance are thus material resources to keep competitors
on the international stage smaller than you are. From a neorealist point of view, this
has wide-ranging implications for the feasibility and significance of international
cooperation through IOs. Kenneth Waltz describes the dilemma as follows:
`If an expected gain is to be divided, say in the ration of two to one, one state may use its
disproportionate gain to implement a policy intended to damage or destroy the other.
Even the prospect of large absolute gains for both parties does not elicit their cooperation
so long as each fears how the other will use its increased capabilities' (1979, p.105).
International organizations are hence, if at all, set in motion to gain structural power
accruals over rivals in the international arena. Above all else, states would
theoretically never give away their national authority in favour of autonomous IO
capacities or even supranational governance. With this in mind, organizations do not
possess any creative leeway for purposive action. They serve nothing but the
structural interests of their individual member parties and are seen as instruments of
state policy. Although neorealists agree that an anarchical system does not exclude

cooperation, they assume it is `harder to achieve, more difficult to maintain, and more
dependent on state power' (Grieco 1993a, p.302).
Neoliberalism, also known as neoliberal institutionalism, in contrast assumes
the occurrence of international cooperation to be more probable. But although they
agree with neorealists on the, in principle, anarchic nature of the international system
hampering collaboration, `states nevertheless can work together and can do so
especially with the assistance of international institutions' (Grieco 1993b, p.117). In
doing so, their overall national interests in state security and prosperity overlap with
neorealist considerations. Yet, the means to pursue these goals differ distinctly.
Because, so argue neoliberals, a state strives after maximising its structural gains, it
concedes increased power even to competitors as long as the own absolute authority
outbalances these of others (Baldwin 1993, p.6). Power aspirations are not necessarily
an obstacle to international institution building. Actors may create an IO to govern a
common good:
`Cooperation is possible after hegemony not only because shared interests can lead to the
creation of regimes, but also because the conditions for maintaining existing international
regimes are less demanding than those required for creating them (Keohane 1984, p.50).
Thus, neoliberalism pays tribute to the growing interdependence between states and
markets, which at the same time elevates dependency on each other and, in
consequence, the necessity to find common solutions to common challenges that
might endanger all actors concerned. With the certainty in mind that today partners
will presumably be the same tomorrow, actors opt to cooperate and build international
organizations to regulate their multilateral relations (Karns and Mingst 2004, p.39).
But once common institutions have been created, states will still retain control over
them and would rather end their support than granting autonomy to the IO.

Both neorealism and neoliberalism neglect in the eyes of Barnett and
Finnemore important theoretical aspects of international organizations, which allow
for conclusions about certain independence of IOs as 'agents' from their member
states as `principals' (1999, p.705). That is to say that IR scholars may be able to
explain the occurrence or non-occurrence of international organisations and regimes
as a result of interstate bargaining, but then miss out to further look at internal
decision-making procedures once the IO is established. In other words: `What
happens between the creation moment and subsequent outcomes can depend on agent
behaviour and strategies' (Hawkins and Jacoby 2006, p.200). Opposing theories are
above all criticised for treating IOs `as structures of rules, principles, norms, and
decision-making procedures through which others, usually states, act' (Barnett and
Finnemore 2004, p.2). Constructivist counter that argument with the hint that,
occasionally, `[o]rganizations adapt to changing circumstances in unanticipated ways
and adopt new routines and functions without getting approval from their
"stakeholders" (ibid., p.2). In an ordinary constructivist fashion, Barnett and
Finnemore assess IOs in their structural context and emphasise the direct impact of
the environment on organization attitudes. They do not consider principle-agent-
relations to be one-way streets based on delegation from states to IOs. In turn, they
may also result in downloading processes from the organisation to the constituents.
This mechanism is what Gourevitch labelled the `second image reversed' (1978) in
international politics: international factors such as IO policy-making can have an
impact on domestic outcomes based and national policy-taking.
IOs are most of all bureaucracies with own agendas, interests and preferences
or to put it briefly: they are autonomous and strategic actors with agency in
international affairs (Barnett and Finnemore 2004, p.3). This approach ensures

insights into further aspects of IO behaviour. First, international organization
autonomy is a result of their authority, which is in turn given through the `ability of
one actor to use institutional and discursive resources to induce deference from
others' (ibid., p.5). Taking this into account, IOs may develop a life of their own,
define independent and self-serving goals and pursue them beyond the political will
and even regardless of control mechanisms of their member parties. Other scholars
supplement, that IO autonomy impinges on possibly almost every step of the policy-
cycle, may it agenda-setting, decision-making or final policy implementation
(Reinalda and Verbeek 1998, p.3). Second, IOs have power. They do so, because of
financial and material resources as well as information, skills and expertise they have
at their disposal and because `they use their knowledge and authority not only to
regulate what currently exists but also to constitute the world, creating new interests,
actors, and social activities (ibid., p.7). This encompasses the spread of norms, values
and meanings. Third, by exercising power IOs run into danger of harming themselves.
They may become victims of their own bureaucratic authority. Such backlashes are in
most cases the result of excessive specialisation and unresponsiveness resulting in
tunnel views and a lack of flexibility (ibid., p.8). Barnett and Finnemore trace such
weaknesses back to self-referential obsessive behaviour within the bureaucratic
processes and refer to them as dysfunctions or pathologies. Finally, `organizations
often change in ways that states do not ask for or anticipate. IOs continually formulate
new tasks and new procedures for doing their work in response to changing world
situations, changing expertise, and other factors' (ibid., p.9).
All of these assumptions are undergirded by findings in Weber´s work on
sociological institutionalism, to whom Barnett and Finnemore explicitly refer, as well
as Selznick´s organizational psychology. In the early 21
century, Weber set the stage
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The Performance of International Security Organisation during the first Decade of the 21st Century. A brief analysis
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Bitte unter Pseudonym veröffentlichen: Ron Böhler
International security, ICPO, Interpol, Crime, 9/11, IO
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Ron Böhler (Author), 2011, The Performance of International Security Organisation during the first Decade of the 21st Century. A brief analysis, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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