June 17, 2008Foreign Affairsinternational relationslevitypolicystrategic affairs

Towards a quantum theory of international relations

A metaphor and beyond

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Nikolas Gvosdev is struck by a comment by Commodore C Uday Bhaskar on new ways of thinking about international relations.

He suggested that policymakers take a page from the sciences, specifically quantum computing. Unlike in traditional computing, based on a binary system—something is either a one or a zero, quantum computing works from the model that you can have a one, a zero, or a quantum superposition of the one and zero simultaneously.

Bhaskar argues that in foreign policy governments and analysts have to become more comfortable with balancing competitive and cooperative approaches simultaneously with the same country in terms of the bilateral relationship. It is a further reminder that we are moving away from a system where the assumption that if states cooperate on one set of issues, they will cooperate on everything else is no longer operative. And the fact that a country may have very serious competitive issues with another will not remove the obligation and the need to cooperate on other issues which are of vital interest to both. [The Washington Realist]Now it is quite likely that the good commodore was talking metaphorically. But one commenter on Dr Gvosdev’s blog points a paper by Alexander Wendt, titled Social Theory as Cartesian Science: An auto-critique from a quantum perspective. That surely is some academic mixing of drinks.

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