Which Approach to the Study of Security Realism or Critical Essay

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International Security

With the end of the Cold War and bipolar global order, an "international community," as portrayed by increased transnational cooperation and globalization has evolved. However, the integrity of this community depends on the actions of each individual member. Prior to 1989, the two great powers of the world, the United States and Soviet Union, countered each other creating a balance of power. This, in turn, polarized other states that fell under each respective power's umbrella of security and economic stability. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, the power of the United States led to hegemonic stability. During the Cold War, the United States used "national security" as justification for its actions in the international arena. National security was used by internationalists to advocate increased American involvement in international affairs. National security was also, however, the reason isolationists promoted self-reliance and separation from global issues. If there are no restrictions on states' military capabilities, the state with military superiority will dominate all facets of global affairs; both political and economic. The economic stage is a zero-sum game, and without cooperative regulation the disadvantaged developing world would suffer at the hands of developed nations (Viotti and Kauppi 2006).

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In the contemporary world, States' international agendas are no longer dominated by military security. Policies that are considered domestic now affect matters on a global basis. For example, despite U.S.-based multi-national corporations' independence of American laws through international operations, any restrictions imposed upon them by the U.S. government could adversely affect that particular corporation's interest in another country. This may lead to economic suffering even though the policy is applied domestically within the U.S. This change is germane when viewing the world through a theoretical basis of international relations, and the paradigm of the theories of realism, neo-realism, and critical security (Nye 2006).

TOPIC: Essay on Which Approach to the Study of Security Realism or Critical Security Assignment

Since the end of World War II, Realism has dominated the field of international relations. As a distinct school of thought Realism places its emphasis on the state as the primary actor in world politics. Realists generally have a pessimistic view of human nature, and a conviction that international relations are necessarily conflictual and that international conflicts are ultimately resolved by war. Realists operate with the core assumption that world politics unfolds in a system of international anarchy, that is a system with no overriding authority, no world government. As a result international relations can be defined as a struggle between power maximizing states in an anarchical environment (Morgenthau 2005, pp.2-8). For this reason realism is sometimes refereed to as the power politics school of thought.

The ideas of realism date as far back as Thucydides whose "History of the Peloponneasian War" is recognized as the first attempt to explore conflict in terms of the dynamics of power politics. Within this structure, the rubric of the prioritization of national interests rather than ideals, or ethics, seemed somewhat contradictory to the emerging Athenian philosophy (Rose 1998). However "Modern Realism "is usually distinguished between the classical realism of E. H Carr and Hans Morgenthau, and the Neo-Realism of Kenneth Waltz.

For the realist, based upon the views of Carr and Morgenthau, the following key assumptions are made:

The international system as we know it is anarchic. There is really no authority above States that is capable of regulating or curbing their actions and interactions. States must relate with other states on their own, rather than having rubric dictated to them by some higher entity.

Sovereign states are the main actors in the international system. Global institutions, non-governmental organizations, multinational corporations, individuals or sub- and trans-state actors are independent and have little long-term effect on state to state relationships.

States naturally strive to amass needed resources in order to pursue national security.

Each state has an overriding interest in its own national security, which is, in effect, the interest in preserving itself.

Levels of power, typically economic and military, are what characterize the bulk of relations between states.

No universal principals of statecraft exist that are viable and usable for all states. Geography, chronology, and numerous other factors influence statecraft and are independent of maxims.

If morality is inferred into statecraft, reckless commitments, diplomatic arrogance, and the potential for emotional escalation of conflict often result (Carr 2001; Morgenthau; Williams 2008).

This is a rather Hobbsian perspective (the strong-state theory), and focuses on the competitive nature of humanity. Unless conditions are ripe for cooperation, states, as well as individuals, have no real reason to cooperate. States, again like individuals, are inherently aggressive, territorial, and act upon their own motives for self-preservation and the perpetuation of the state itself. Security, then, is a zero-sum game in which only relative losses and gains can be made; and the rise and fall of the security dilemma between states is inevitable.

Since realism is so state-centric, so individualistic, how can ethics never be a part of state relations? Ethics of international relations are very different to those in the public sphere. A political leader does not have the freedom to do the right thing as a private citizen does. This is because a political leader is responsible to the people of his/her country. Thus to follow a prescribed set of ethics would be irresponsible and thus constitute a moral failure because political leaders bare a very heavy responsibility for the security and welfare of their country and its people (Mearsheimer 2008). States should therefore not impose their ideals onto other states; that activity is dangerous and threatens the balance of power and security of both nations. It is this pessimistic knowledge that humans are not as what we might want them to be, but as they always have been, with only technology and expression evolved, that forms the heart of the realists' approach to statecraft. Thus, statecraft is a sober and uninspiring activity that involves profound awareness of human imperfection (Waltz 2008).

Neo-Realism, however, is led by Kenneth Waltz. His leading work, "Theory of International Politics" (1979) is refereed to as "the most far reaching theoretical attempt so far to reestablish, albeit in more rigorous form, the central tenants of realism. The real significance of Waltz's theory, though, lies less in his initiation of a new line theoretical -- a change in the rubric of thinking about politics and statecraft - of translating the methodology so that it is distinct and more useful than the overriding theory itself (Keohane 1986)

Waltz's Neo-Realism maintains many of the basic features of classical realism, such as power as a central concept and independent states existing and operating in a system of international anarchy. However, Waltz departs from that tradition by ignoring its normative concerns and by trying to provide a scientific theory of international relations. However, there is no discussion of human nature, and the focus is on the structure of the system rather than the human beings who create and operate that system. According to Waltz, the realm of international politics never changes but has always been a realm of necessity and violence (Baldwin 1993, p.15. To explain this continuity Waltz directs his attention to the structural characteristics of an international system of states rather than to its component units. Waltz's concept of structure refers to the hierarchical ordering of a system (Waltz 1979).

Classical realism concentrates on the units and their functional attributes, but is unable to account for changes in behavior or in the distribution of power which often occur independently of the fluctuations within humans themselves. Neo-realism, on the other hand, explains how structures affect behavior and outcomes regardless of the characteristics of power and status. States, then, should be treated like units because their goals are similar, and the view becomes more the coordination (psychological, if you will) of the mechanism of interaction (Jervis, 2008).

The approach to international relations, like most human endeavors, requires evolution and self-criticism to remain viable through time. Human security and critical security, for instance, are a post-revisionist review of realist theory, and are somewhat anti-statist in their paradigm. Human security has been the most influential post-Cold War reconceptualization of security, popular not just in academic writing but in policy-making discussions as well. Human security cannot offer a solution to the problem of the state, and may inordinately focus more on a view of humanitarianism and using security as a policy for instituting moral and ethical behaviors into other societies (Jervis 2008).

Critical security is somewhat like geography -- there is really no "one"discipline, but an amalgamation of numerous thoughts and philosophies that taken together, much like a spoke and wheel, make up a more distinct perspective (Krause 1998 ) Critical security theorists often present themselves as radical, critical voices on the margins, critiquing the state-centric pluralist security framework which has dominated our conception of security and, more broadly, political organization for centuries. In place of this, critical security theorists argue that security theory must challenge contemporary power structures and are for the purposes of emancipation. Critical security theorists develop a critique of the state and argue that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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