In politics, the theory of Realism holds that man is by nature a selfish creature, which compels states to seek self-interests in international relations. Consequently, it leads to conflicts since states seek the same interests such as security and natural resources. However, different versions of realism advance different perspectives of the nature of international relations. For instance, Classical Realism and Neo Realism posit that the desire to guarantee national security and maximize relative power is the major goal for states’ engagement in international relations. This essay discusses the role of realism in influencing the behavior of states in international relations.
The theory of realism was advanced Hans Morgenthau in 1948. Classical realism argues that states’ behavior is by and large influenced by the “human nature,” the desire to own or control more resources and military power than others. Its tenets rest on the assumption that “the political order and the way states act on international arena are predicated by human factors, i.e., human ambitions and aspiration that determine the direction of international politics” (Aliyev 112). Accordingly, Morgenthau argues, “the struggle for power at the international level is largely the result of animus dominandi, the ‘political man’s urge to dominate others, a concept influenced by Nietzsche’s metaphysics on the ‘will to power’ (Peterson 100).
States achieve this by achieve by maximizing their “size of population and territory, resource endowment, economic capability, military strength, political stability and competence” (Waltz 131). Thus, states do not participate in international relations to attain altruistic goals, but to serve their private self- interests. However, rather than lead to more anarchy and war, the involvement of different states in international relations help maintain a balance of power. This is because superpowers and other states having nuclear capabilities “realize the consequences of such a war, and therefore, use nuclear arsenal as a means of deterrence and balance of powers” (Waltz 8). In order to maintain peace and stability, each state struggle to gain or exercise some power, and in the process establish military and political equilibrium.
Nevertheless, one of realism’s major weaknesses is the failure to recognize the role of domestic forces in influencing the behavior of states at the international level. For instance, countries experiencing internal wars may be forced to seek foreign help. In this case, man’s nature or the pursuits of self-interests play little influence in determining the behavior of states. On the contrary, such states are pushed by the desire for survival.
In his 2005 State of the Union Address, President Bush spoke of the Iraqi invasion as a means of helping the Iraqi people establish a democratic regime (The White House 2012). However, this statement masks the realist motive of the United States; an undemocratic Iraqi under Saddam posed a serious challenge to U.S. interests in the Middle East. The U.S. is well known for its insatiable demand for natural resources. In addition, it is under constant pressure to maintain its super power status by suppressing nations that tend to challenge her hegemony. Thus, the Iraqi war was one way of removing a threat to U.S. hegemony as well as gaining access to the Middle East’s oil resources. This outcome further weakens the realist view that the existence of different opposing interests help to maintain a balance of power. As the U.S. demonstrated, superpowers can have their way regardless the position of the smaller states, or even of those with significant military power to challenge the super power. It is not surprising, therefore, that the U.S. can still bully other countries regardless the position taken by emerging superpowers like China, Japan, or even Russia.