Traditional Alliance Theory

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Traditional alliance theory, based on aggregation of power to face an external threat, explains certain alliances well but falls short in describing many historical alliances. In particular, heterogeneous alliances, in which the allies have different goals and reasons for entering into the alliance, are often poorly explained by aggregation of power theory. As these alliances are not focused on a single external enemy, the power aggregation aspect of the alliance may give little or no benefit to one or both of the allies. Because the goals of the states in the alliance are not aligned, the nations may view each other as potential threats and the alliance can exist as a means of control over the ally as much as an aggregation of power against…show more content…
Specifically, Austria and Spain were both still formidable powers and traditional alliance theory would predict some emergence of balancing alliances in the new system. However, a careful look at the details of the alliance formation and actions taken by the allies shows that this balance of power explanation is insufficient. The terms of the creation of the alliance were focused largely on the internal policies of the two nations, and included a stipulation that France destroy one of its ports which had been in use by factions trying to overthrow the British crown. These stipulations do not make sense in an alliance oriented toward an external threat. Additionally, over the course of the alliance, the two nations were constantly at odds with each other, and experienced very different outcomes, with Britain accomplishing its (mostly diplomatic) goals and France loosing much of its influence on the continent. An aggregation of power framework would not be able to explain divergent outcomes for the two allies, seeing the alliance as a single unit that succeeds or fails based on external conflict outcomes. Traditional alliance theory thus fails to fully explain either the creation or the actions of the…show more content…
After the 7 Years War, the alliance did not make much sense as an aggregation of power given the disparate objectives of the two nations. France’s primary concern was its rivalry with the British, which played out on the sea and in their colonial empires, both arenas in which the Austrians were little help. On the other hand, Austria was primarily concerned with a rising Prussian power and gaining territory in Bavaria, yet the French were continuously unwilling to intervene against Prussia to help Austria achieve its aims, and refused to help Austria take Bavaria, even in exchange for new French territory in the Netherlands. (Hardman and Price 113) With Schroeder’s insight, it is clear that this alliance functioned as a tool for the allies to block each other as potential threats more than it served as a tool to build a military coalition. France benefited from the alliance because with Austria as an ally, they could focus on their goals overseas, by both reducing Austrian support of the British in the colonies and allowing Austria to balance Prussian power on the continent, creating a stable domestic environment for France. Indeed, this internal dimension explains France’s refusal to help Austria take Bavaria in exchange for territory in the Netherlands. France feared a powerful Austria that would end the balance of power in Europe, thus a deal such as this that gave absolute
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