22 March 2018

William Wohlforth Delivers Lecture at MGIMO

March 21st, the Professor of Government at Dartmouth College (USA) and the Scientific Director of the Laboratory of International Process Analysis at MGIMO, William Wohlforth gave a talk on «Prediction and Theory of International Relations» at the University.

The outstanding American expert is a representative of the neo-realistic paradigm, and specializes in the theory of international relations, the history of the Cold War and American foreign policy. The meeting was moderated by the Associate Professor of the Department of Applied International Analysis, and Director of the Laboratory of International Processes Analysis, Andrey Sushentsov.

Professor Wohlforth spoke about the right and the wrong way of making predictions in International Relations and about the importance of theory in reaching the right prognosis. He noted that it is more important to correctly identify causes and effects, than to actually predict a foreign policy event. Getting out of the «comfort zone» and not using only convenient data enables an expert to get a more accurate picture of reality. The speaker also identified two types of forecasters: hedgehogs and foxes. While the first have an in-depth understanding of a topic, the second have a more superficial knowledge of many questions and usually they make the best forecasters.

William Wohlforth analysed examples of unsuccessful forecasts in three different cases: the unification of Germany, the expansion of NATO eastward and the deployment of troops of an international coalition to Iraq in 2003. The Western experts who opposed the unification of Germany because of fears it would bring about a war or who thought it would be difficult to defeat Saddam Hussein were wrong in the short term. The Professor concluded that while having a theory is essential to any prognosis, forecasters should be ready to change it if it is necessary to do so in the light of new facts. After the lecture, the guest took questions from the audience.

— See the MGIMO web-site for russian version