Realism is a theory of international relations that claims that states and nations are greatly motivated towards a goal and action more for attaining military as well as economic power instead of being idealistic or taking a strong stance on ethics. Realism in international relations is also termed as power politics where nations establish strategic relations with others in order to have control and power (Berenskoetter & Williams, 2007, p1).
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There exist many forms of realism. Defensive realism provides that anarchy is the main cause for states to indulge in actions for increasing their security, which include defensive realism, liberal realism, neorealism, offensive realism, while liberal realism highlights the presence of a society of states. Neorealism depicts that international structures pose a constraint to the state, while offensive realism states that always exploit any opportunity that is presented to them to build a more sovereign state. Subaltern realism on the other hand focuses on the perception of the third world states, depicting that they are more concerned with short-term benefits instead of strategic long-term gains.
When concerned with international relations between states and nations realism makes four main assumptions. These assumptions consider a state as being one of the most important participating elements in international relations which operate in a rational manner on a unitary basis. The assumptions also depict that the need for conflicting international relations arises due to anarchy and that the main agenda that is targeted by international relations pertain to the issue of security, and high politics. (‘Realism’)
The argument that exists against realism is that realists even when concerned with international relations see issues in black and white. They provide supremacy and importance to power which according to them justifies their behavior. As a result, the economically influential and militarily powerful nations can operate as they wish while the weaker nation is subjected to devastation and control at the end of the more powerful states (Berenskoetter & Williams, 2007, p1).
This is clearly depicted in the stance that the United States along with its alliance countries, waging war against Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 8 years while not taking into regard the devastation that is being caused by their actions on the people of the targeted nations. The ethics of the action are not considered by nations when employing international relations through a realist viewpoint and this does not justify protecting national security, power, and national supremacy over the civil and ethical rights of others.
The employment of realism in international relations strategic decision making depicts how realists can be selective in terms of employing rationale for their decisions. “Although it would be possible to accept (or reject) realism across the board, it is more common for philosophers to be selectively realist or non-realist about various topics: thus it would be perfectly possible to be a realist about the everyday world of macroscopic objects and their properties, but a non-realist about aesthetic and moral value” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005)
On the other hand, some are also of the opinion that “critics of neorealist theory fail to understand that a theory is not a statement about everything important in international-political life, but rather a necessarily slender explanatory construct.” (Waltz, 2005) Waltz a neorealist argues against the concepts brought up by the liberalists. He states that power and security should not be the only rational decision making factor and instead the aspects of national interdependence, and democracy should also be considered by stating that these factors are not significant enough that countries like America should overrule their national security and national interest when it comes to making strategies for international relations.
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Conclusively however it should be considered that realism has not been an effective or efficient approach for international relations as even though its popularity after the Second World War, wars have still been fought against the weaker countries leaving them in a devastating state while the human and constitutional rights of the people along with the rules have the Geneva convention has been broken again and again for personal advantage. Realism in international relations has not been able to bring about peace in the world mainly due to the concepts behind realism and the importance that it assigns to power.
‘Theories of International Relations – Realism’. Web.
2005, ‘Realism’, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web.
Berenskoetter, B., Williams, M.J., 2007, ‘Power in World Politics’, Routledge.
Psillos, S., ‘Thinking About the Ultimate Argument for Realism’, Department of Philosophy and History of Science University of Athens. Web.
Waltz, K., 2000, ‘Globalization and American Power’, National Interest. Web.
Waltz, K., 2000, ‘Structural Realism after the Cold War’, International Security, volume 25, issue 1, pages 5-41. Web.
Waltz, K., 2005, ‘Realist Thought and Neorealist Theory’, Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 44 Issue 1, p21, 17p. Web.
Rynning, S., Ringsmoseb, J., 2008, ‘Why Are Revisionist States Revisionist? Reviving Classical Realism as an Approach to Understanding International Change’, International Politics. Web.