Neutrality as a Policy Choice for Small/Weak Democracies

Learning from the Belgian Experience

Author: Michael F. Palo
In Neutrality as a Policy Choice for Small/Weak Democracies: Learning from the Belgian Experience, Michael F. Palo has three main objectives. First, he employs a counterfactual approach to examine the hypothesis that had permanent neutrality not been imposed on Belgium in 1839, it would have pursued neutrality anyway until war broke out in 1914. Secondly, he analyses why, after abandoning obligatory neutrality during World War I, the Belgians adopted voluntary neutrality in October 1936. Finally, he seeks to use the historical Belgian case study to test specific International Relations’ Theories and to contribute to Small State Studies, especially the behaviour of small/weak democracies in the international system.

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Michael F. Palo, Ph.D., (1978), University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana), was an Associate Professor of History at Vesalius College (Brussels) between 1990 and 2012, now retired. His fields of interest are Belgian history and international relations since the late 18th century.
“In a detailed and well-written synthesis, the author combines old and new insights, and international and national scholarship on Belgian foreign policy during the 19th and 20th century… The two chapters on Belgian foreign and security policies between 1914 and 1940 are the heart of this work, and should be mandatory reading for all students of European international relations in the era of the Two World Wars… [The book] is impressive, and should be a fixture in the libraries of both political scientists and historians interested in how small democracies operate, survive, and thrive in a big and volatile world.” – Nel de Mûelenaere, in: Review in Journal of Belgian History 50/3-4 (2020)

"[Palo] is geslaagd vanuit een historische methodologie een wezenlijke bijdrage te leveren aan politiek-wetenschappelijke debatten. In combinatie met de doorgedreven denkoefening die hij in deze doorwrochte studie te berde brengt, klinkt zijn afsluitende pleidooi voor een interdisciplinaire benadering van de internationale betrekkingen, dan ook heel overtuigend." – Michael Auwers [Full review]
[English translation of the above text] “… Palo has succeeded in making an essential contribution to political-scientific debates from a historical methodology. His final plea for an interdisciplinary approach to international relations, in combination with the thorough thinking he brings up in this elaborate study, sounds very convincing.” [Full review]
This book will appeal to scholars, students, and laymen interested in Belgian diplomatic history, neutrality, and the behaviour of small/weak (democratic) states in the international system.