The theory is mainly a tool for the study of International Relations. It allows for the building of a conceptual framework upon which the events of world politics are analyzed. Theory provides with models that help unravel the mechanisms at work in the international system. Each theory is like a lens through which facts are seen. It is necessarily reductive, and relies on a determined set of assumptions. Different theories have different core assumptions, give importance to different facts, and reach different conclusions. Nevertheless, some of them manage to become widespread and influential in the field. Realist theory for instance has become in a few decades "one of the most influential theories" in IR. This theory emerged after WW1, when the failure of liberal principles, like collective security, set up by the League of Nations, failed and led to WW2. In his book The twenty year crisis"(1939), Carr highly criticizes liberalism, that he calls "utopianism", and advocates another way of analyzing and practicing international relations. An approach less normative, rooted in observation and facts.
[...] The international order characterized by the Cold War ended after 40 years.” Now that we have assessed that realist theory still has a say in the way International Relations are studied and practiced, and that we have also identified in which ways it might not be accurate, the theory needs to develop and take into account the new realities of this changing world in order to remain an influent theory, and a dominant paradigm. Bibliography (in order of reference) 1 - BURCHILL, Scott Theories of International Relations, Palgrave, Macmillan, Chp2 “Realism and neo-realism” 2 - CARR, E.H The twenty Years Crisis, 1919-1939, an introduction to the study of IR, Ed Houdmills, Basingstoke. [...]
[...] an anarchic environment states seek to survive as independent actors by amassing military forces capable of defending their independence, preferably by deterring threats.” This constitutes a typical realist thinking applied to foreign policy. However, at least two subsequent shifts happened to American foreign policy. The end of the Cold War seemed to welcome back liberal ideals, as if, once the race won; there was no need to think in terms of security and national interest anymore. For instance, in his famous world Order” speech, given at Congress on March president G.H.Bush said have a vision of a new partnership of nations that transcends the cold war. [...]
[...] Nevertheless, wars between nuclear and non- nuclear states, or between two non-nuclear states still happen, even if the majority of those wars were internal, or civil wars. The last element that seems to challenge the relevance of realist theory in foreign policy is globalization. The fast development of new means of communication, and the growing interdependence allow other means than classical military force to be used as a tool for foreign policy. Joseph Nye coined the term Soft Power in 2004, and advocates that powerful states rely on that rather than on Hard power, which would be military force and coercion. [...]
[...] Guerrillas and terrorism seem to be a big challenge for traditional armies, and defy the statement saying that classical military forces prevail. Past situations also show that the best armed does not necessarily prevail in any case. The Americans in Viet Nam or the Soviets in Afghanistan also did not prevail against a small number of insurgents, compared to their large armies. Modern terrorism appeared in late 19th century in Russia, against the Czar. In the 20th century, many countries experienced terrorism in their fight for independence from colonial rule. [...]
[...] In a second part, we will assess the assumption that the last resort, states with classical military forces prevail” and see if it is verified in facts. The Realist theory first emerged as a criticism of liberalism, that Carr called “utopianism”. For him, the problem of liberalism was that “Wishing prevails over thinking, and [ ] little attempt is made at a critical analysis of existing factors and available means” This illustrates the main focus of realist theory: it is not normative, and does not describe the world as it should be, but realistic, and bases analysis on observed and observable facts. [...]
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