Buck passing

Last updated
The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1854) William Holman Hunt - The Scapegoat.jpg
The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt (1854)

Buck passing, or passing the buck, or sometimes (playing) the blame game, is the act of attributing to another person or group one's own responsibility. It is often used to refer to a strategy in power politics whereby a state tries to get another state to deter or fight an aggressor state while it remains on the sidelines. [1]

Power politics is a theory in international relations, which contains the idea that distributions of power and interests, or changes to those distributions, are fundamental causes of war and of system stability.

Contents

Etymology

The expression is said to have originated from poker in which a marker or counter (such as a knife with a buckhorn handle during the American Frontier era) was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal. If the player did not wish to deal he could pass the responsibility by passing the "buck," as the counter came to be called, to the next player. [2]

Poker family of card games

Poker is a family of card games that combines gambling, strategy, and skill. All poker variants involve betting as an intrinsic part of play, and determine the winner of each hand according to the combinations of players' cards, at least some of which remain hidden until the end of the hand. Poker games vary in the number of cards dealt, the number of shared or "community" cards, the number of cards that remain hidden, and the betting procedures.

A poker dealer distributes cards to players and manages the action at a poker table.

Button (poker) marker in poker

In poker, the buck or dealer button is a marker used to indicate the player who is dealing or, in casino games with a house dealer, the player who acts last on that deal. The term button is also used for a variety of plastic discs, or lammers, used by casinos to mark the status of players.

In international relations

Passing the buck in international relations theory involves the tendency of nation-states to refuse to confront a growing threat in the hopes that another state will. The most notable example was the refusal of the United Kingdom, United States, France, or the Soviet Union to confront Nazi Germany effectively in the 1930s. With the Munich Agreement, France and the United Kingdom successfully avoided armed confrontation with Germany, passing the buck to the Soviet Union, which then passed the buck back to the western powers by signing the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact. [3]

Soviet Union 1922–1991 country in Europe and Asia

The Soviet Union, officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was a socialist state in Eurasia that existed from 30 December 1922 to 26 December 1991. Nominally a union of multiple national Soviet republics, its government and economy were highly centralized. The country was a one-party state, governed by the Communist Party with Moscow as its capital in its largest republic, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. Other major urban centres were Leningrad, Kiev, Minsk, Alma-Ata, and Novosibirsk. It spanned over 10,000 kilometres east to west across 11 time zones, and over 7,200 kilometres north to south. It had five climate zones: tundra, taiga, steppes, desert and mountains.

Nazi Germany The German state from 1933 to 1945, under the dictatorship of Adolf Hitler

Nazi Germany is the common English name for Germany between 1933 and 1945, when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party (NSDAP) controlled the country through a dictatorship. Under Hitler's rule, Germany was transformed into a totalitarian state that controlled nearly all aspects of life via the Gleichschaltung legal process. The official name of the state was Deutsches Reich until 1943 and Großdeutsches Reich from 1943 to 1945. Nazi Germany is also known as the Third Reich, meaning "Third Realm" or "Third Empire", the first two being the Holy Roman Empire (800–1806) and the German Empire (1871–1918). The Nazi regime ended after the Allies defeated Germany in May 1945, ending World War II in Europe.

Munich Agreement 1938 cession of German-speaking Czechoslovakia to the Nazis

The Munich Agreement or Munich Betrayal was an agreement concluded at Munich, September 29, 1938, by Germany, Great Britain, France and Italy. It provided "cession to Germany of the Sudeten German territory" of Czechoslovakia. Most of Europe celebrated because it prevented the war threatened by Adolf Hitler by allowing Nazi Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland, a region of western Czechoslovakia inhabited by 800,000 people, mainly German speakers. Hitler announced it was his last territorial claim in Europe, and the choice seemed to be between war and appeasement.

Similarly, John Mearsheimer argues that the delay of the Normandy Invasion shows that a buck passing state can shift the balance of power in its favor: "There is no question that the United States benefited greatly from delaying the Normandy invasion until late in the war, when both the German and the Soviet armies were battered and worn down. Not surprisingly, Joseph Stalin believed that the United Kingdom and the United States were purposely allowing Germany and the Soviet Union to bleed each other white, so that those offshore balancers [the United States and the United Kingdom] could dominate postwar Europe." [4]

John Mearsheimer American political scientist

John Joseph Mearsheimer is an American political scientist and international relations scholar, who belongs to the realist school of thought. He is the R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago.

Joseph Stalin Soviet leader

Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was a Soviet revolutionary and politician of Georgian ethnicity. He led the Soviet Union from the mid–1920s until 1953 as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1922–1952) and Premier (1941–1953). While initially presiding over a collective leadership as first among equals, he ultimately consolidated enough power to become the country's de facto dictator by the 1930s. A communist ideologically committed to the Leninist interpretation of Marxism, Stalin helped to formalise these ideas as Marxism–Leninism, while his own policies became known as Stalinism.

"The buck stops here"

At the recreation of the Truman Oval Office at the Truman Library in 1959, the former President Truman poses by his old desk which has the famous "The Buck Stops Here" sign. Truman pass-the-buck.jpg
At the recreation of the Truman Oval Office at the Truman Library in 1959, the former President Truman poses by his old desk which has the famous "The Buck Stops Here" sign.

"The buck stops here" is a phrase that was popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman, who kept a sign with that phrase on his desk in the Oval Office. [5] The phrase refers to the notion that the President has to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions. Truman received the sign as a gift from a prison warden who was also an avid poker player. It is also the motto of the U.S. Naval Aircraft Carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75). [6]

Harry S. Truman 33rd president of the United States

Harry S. Truman was the 33rd president of the United States from 1945 to 1953, succeeding upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt after serving as vice president. He implemented the Marshall Plan to rebuild the economy of Western Europe, and established the Truman Doctrine and NATO.

Oval Office office of the U.S. President

The Oval Office is, since 1909, the working office space of the President of the United States, located in the West Wing of the White House, Washington, D.C.

President Jimmy Carter arranged to borrow the sign from the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. [7] Footage from Carter's "Address to the Nation on Energy" [8] shows the sign on the desk during his administration.

Jimmy Carter 39th president of the United States

James Earl Carter Jr. is an American politician and philanthropist who served as the 39th president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. A Democrat, he previously served as a Georgia State senator from 1963 to 1967 and as the 76th governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975. Carter has remained active in public life during his post-presidency, and in 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in co-founding the Carter Center.

Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum Presidential library and museum for U.S. President Harry S. Truman, located in Independence, Missouri

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum is the presidential library and resting place of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States (1945–1953), located on U.S. Highway 24 in Independence, Missouri. It was the first presidential library to be created under the provisions of the 1955 Presidential Libraries Act, and is one of thirteen presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

The reverse of the sign reads, "I'm from Missouri." [5] This is a reference to Truman's home state as well as Willard Duncan Vandiver's statement: "I'm from Missouri. You've got to show me."

See also

Related Research Articles

Potsdam Conference

The Potsdam Conference was held at Cecilienhof, the home of Crown Prince Wilhelm in Potsdam, occupied Germany, from 17 July to 2 August 1945. The participants were the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, represented respectively by Communist Party General Secretary Joseph Stalin, Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, and President Harry S. Truman.

Carter Doctrine United States presidential doctrine on the use of military force in the Persian Gulf

The Carter Doctrine was a policy proclaimed by President of the United States Jimmy Carter in his State of the Union Address on January 23, 1980, which stated that the United States would use military force, if necessary, to defend its national interests in the Persian Gulf.

Containment American political strategy against spread of communism

Containment is a geopolitical strategy to stop the expansion of an enemy. It is best known as a Cold War foreign policy of the United States and its allies to prevent the spread of communism. As a component of the Cold War, this policy was a response to a series of moves by the Soviet Union to increase communist influence in Eastern Europe, China, Korea, Africa, Vietnam, and Latin America. Containment represented a middle-ground position between detente and rollback.

A United States Presidential doctrine comprises the key goals, attitudes, or stances for United States foreign affairs outlined by a President. Most presidential doctrines are related to the Cold War. Though many U.S. Presidents had themes related to their handling of foreign policy, the term doctrine generally applies to Presidents such as James Monroe, Harry S. Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, all of whom had doctrines which more completely characterized their foreign policy.

Bandwagoning in international relations occurs when a state aligns with a stronger, adversarial power and concedes that the stronger adversary-turned-partner disproportionately gains in the spoils they conquer together. Bandwagoning, therefore, is a strategy employed by weak states. The logic stipulates that an outgunned, weaker state should align itself with a stronger adversary because the latter can take what it wants by force anyway. Thucydides' famous dictum that "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" captures the essence of bandwagoning.

Timeline of events in the Cold War

This is a timeline of the main events of the Cold War, a state of political and military tension after World War II between powers in the Western Bloc and powers in the Eastern Bloc.

Offensive realism is a structural theory belonging to the neorealist school of thought first postulated by John Mearsheimer that holds that the anarchic nature of the international system is responsible for aggressive state behavior in international politics. It fundamentally differs from defensive realism by depicting great powers as power-maximizing revisionists privileging buck-passing over balancing strategies in their ultimate aim to dominate the international system. The theory brings important alternative contributions for the study and understanding of international relations but remains nonetheless the subject of criticism.

Balance of power (international relations) idea that national security is enhanced when military capabilities are distributed so no state is strong enough to dominate

The balance of power theory in international relations suggests that national security is enhanced when military capability is distributed so that no one state is strong enough to dominate all others. If one state becomes much stronger than others, the theory predicts that it will take advantage of its strength and attack weaker neighbors, thereby providing an incentive for those threatened to unite in a defensive coalition. Some realists maintain that this would be more stable as aggression would appear unattractive and would be averted if there was equilibrium of power between the rival coalitions.

Harry S. Truman Little White House historic site in Key West, Florida, USA

The Harry S Truman Little White House in Key West, Florida was the winter White House for President Harry S Truman for 175 days during 11 visits. The house is located in the Truman Annex neighborhood of Old Town, Key West.

Loy W. Henderson American diplomat

Loy Wesley Henderson was a United States Foreign Service Officer and diplomat.

United Nations Conference on International Organization Founding conference of the United Nations

The United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), commonly known as the San Francisco Conference, was a convention of delegates from 50 Allied nations that took place from 25 April 1945 to 26 June 1945 in San Francisco, California, United States of America. At this convention, the delegates reviewed and rewrote the Dumbarton Oaks agreements of the previous year. The convention resulted in the creation of the United Nations Charter, which was opened for signature on 26 June, the last day of the conference. The conference was held at various locations, primarily the War Memorial Opera House, with the Charter being signed on 26 June at the Herbst Theatre in Civic Center. A square adjacent to the city's Civic Center, called "UN Plaza," commemorates the conference.

Presidency of Harry S. Truman 1945-1953 U.S. government administration

The presidency of Harry S. Truman began on April 12, 1945, when Harry S. Truman became President of the United States upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and ended on January 20, 1953. He had been Vice President of the United States for only 82 days when he succeeded to the presidency. As a Democrat, he ran for and won a full four–year term in the 1948 election. His victory in that election, over Republican Thomas E. Dewey, was one of the greatest upsets in presidential electoral history. Following the 1952 election, Truman was succeeded in office by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Bait and bleed is a military strategy described by international relations theorist John J. Mearsheimer in his book on offensive realism, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. The aim is to induce rival states to engage in a protracted war of attrition against each other "so that they bleed each other white" while the baiter who encouraged the conflict remains on the sidelines and maintains its military strength.

<i>The Tragedy of Great Power Politics</i> 2001 book by John Mearsheimer

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics is a book by the American scholar John Mearsheimer on the subject of international relations theory published by W.W. Norton & Company in 2001. Mearsheimer explains and argues for his theory of "offensive realism" by stating its key assumptions, evolution from early realist theory, and its predictive capability. He readily acknowledges the inherent pessimism of offensive realism and its predictions because his world is one in which conflict between great powers will never see an end.

Truman Day

Truman Day is a commemorative holiday to celebrate the birth of Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States. It is celebrated May 8 in Missouri as a state holiday, according to Missouri Revised Statutes Section 9-035 Public Holidays and nationally by the United States Democratic Party. Since Truman was the only president to come from Missouri, this day is special for this state. However, after the financial crisis of 2008-2010, there were unsuccessful moves by the state government to abolish the holiday. For Missouri state employees, this is a paid holiday.

The following events occurred in October 1945:

References

  1. John, Mearsheimer (2001). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 157–58. ISBN   9780393076240.
  2. Mitford M. Mathews, ed., A Dictionary of Americanisms on Historical Principles (Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1951), I, pp. 198–99.
  3. Christensen, Thomas; Jack Snyder (1990). "Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity" (PDF). International Organization. 44 (2): 137–68. doi:10.1017/S0020818300035232. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 7, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2017.
  4. John, Mearsheimer (2001). The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. p. 160. ISBN   9780393076240.
  5. 1 2 "Truman: The Buck Stops Here". trumanlibrary.org.
  6. Jan R. Van Meter, Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History.
  7. "'Buck Stops Here' To Be Sign of Carter". The New York Times. 6 February 1977. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  8. President Jimmy Carter – Address to the Nation on Energy. YouTube. 28 March 2008.