A brief history of political realism by sir17308


									       A brief history of political
• First identified in about 450 BC by Thucydides – History of
  the Peloponnesian War.
• The first modern philosophical articulations of political
  realism were identified by Niccolò Machiavelli in Il
  Principe (The Prince – 1513) and Thomas Hobbes in
  Leviathan (1668).
• In 1948, Hans Morgenthau published Politics Among
  Nations. The Struggle for Power and Peace. Positing
  political realism as an explanation of international relations
  among states, Morgenthau solidifies realism as a viable
  political theory.
         Today’s notable realists
•   John Mearsheimer - The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001)
•   Stephen Van Evera - Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict (1999)
•   Robert Jervis - Perception and Misperception in International Politics (1976
•   Stephen Walt - The Origins of Alliances (1987)
•   Kenneth Waltz - Theory of International Politics (1979).
         What is political realism?
    Political realism is a paradigm that seeks to explain states’
    actions within the international system. Realism’s core
    assumptions are:
1.)       Sovereign states are the principal actors in the
          international system.
2.)       States are rational actors, acting in their national interest.
3.)       The overriding goal of each state is its own security
          and survival.
4.)       State survival is guaranteed best by power, principally
          military in character.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_realism
 Today, political realism is at a cross-road.

• The USSR collapsed in December of 1991 in the wake of
  an economic tail-spin and political turmoil.
• A predictable, bi-polar international system, stabilized by
  US and USSR policies of mutual containment, had
  transformed into an unpredictable multi-polar or uni-polar
  system, depending on one’s point of view.
• Competing theories of international relations, particularly
  those of neo-liberals, posited that the presence of
  transnational organizations, NGOs, IGOs, etc., within the
  international system significantly reduced the viability of
  realism theory.
    As Stephen Krasner has noted:
• “Analytically, realism is most definite when it is
  investigating situations in which constraints imposed by
  the international system threaten minimalist state
  objectives: the protection of territorial and political
  integrity. Realism can offer its most precise explanations
  when states have few options because they are narrowly
  constrained by the international distribution of
  power…Realism is less analytically precise when the
  international system is not tightly constraining.”
•   Krasner, Stephen. “Realism, Imperialism, and Democracy: A Response To Gilbert.” Political
    Theory, 20, no. 1, Feb. 1992. Pg. 40.
   Is realism viable today? Yes.
• Realism still offers viable analytic tools and
  prescriptive capabilities, debatably within a more
  parsimonious context, to scholars and policy
• States remain the primary actors within the
  international system.
• States are still greatly concerned with power and
• States still pursue their own national interests.
• The international system remains anarchic.
 Does the post-Cold War, multi-polar system
   present political realism with significant
          theoretical obstacles? Yes.
• My thesis proposes that political realism
  encounters substantial analytic and
  prescriptive difficulty when…
1.) Ideology
2.) Nationalism
3.) Terrorism &
4.) Religious Extremism
…are introduced as independent variables.
• Heavy emphasis upon theoretical
  reasoning and logic.
• Analysis of relevant case studies.
Potential Design Problems: A question
  exists as to whether or not each of the
  independent variables is operating at
  the same level. They may also
  excessively overlap one another.
          Ideology & Realism
• Mark Haas, in The Ideological Origins of Great
  Power Politics, 1789-1989, has proposed that
  ideological considerations, foreign and domestic,
  can and do cause policy makers to enact foreign
  policies that contradict realist assertions,
  particularly power considerations are concerned.
• Haas theorizes that analysis of the “ideological
  distance” between powers can be utilized to
  analyze and prescient the actions of great powers.
      Ideology & Realism Cont.
• Haas presents a viable, well-supported argument.
• Might Haas’ theory be flawed, however?
      --Ex. France/England v. Austria/Russia/Prussia

• “Backdoor Realism”? … Is Haas still potentially
  examining power? Might his conclusions be the
  result of domestic/international considerations
  rather than solely international considerations as
  tenanted by realism?
            Nationalism & Realism
• Nationalism, most simply stated, “consists of
  organizationally heightened and articulated
  group demands directed toward securing
  control of the distributive system in a society.”
  Groups may be defined by number of human
  social indicators, including ethnicity, culture,
  language, religion, class, etc.
•   Hah, Chong-Do and Jeffrey Martin. “Toward a Synthesis of Conflict and
    Integration of Theories of Nationalism.” 27, no. 3, April 1975.
    Nationalism & Realism Cont.
• “The fact of the matter is that the most powerful political ideology in
  the world today…is nationalism. Nationalism glorifies the state, and
  there are all sorts of people out there fighting for a state of their own.”
  - John Mearsheimer, 2002.
• Does Mearsheimer’s argument, an argument intended to reaffirm the
  primacy of state actors upon the international stage, inadvertently
  undermine realist assumptions of power perceptions?
• Realism holds that a state’s territorial integrity, due to resource
  considerations, is inherently linked to its power. Yet, nationalism,
  generally speaking, dismantles states, thus diminishing the power of
  the state of origin while also weaker derivative states.
• Consider Yugoslavia, for example. Consider Canada should Quebec
  become independent.
       Transnational Terrorism &
• “…the question of what does a Realist theory of international
  politics have to say about terrorists? The answer is not a whole
  heck of a lot.” - John Mearsheimer, 2002
• Realism posits that states are the only actors within the
  international system. Some (but not all) terror organizations are
  transnational actors. They operate within the international
  system, causing states to react to them and visa versa.
• As Mearsheimer noted in 2002, however, “My theory and
  virtually all Realist theories don't have much to say about
  transnational actors.”
• Consequently, because of this deficiency, realism encounters
  substantial normative and theoretical obstacles when terror
  organizations, for example, are factored into the equation.
    Transnational Terrorism and
          Realism Cont.
• Terror organizations are often diffuse, spread
  amongst numerous states. Who gets attacked?
• Terror organizations employ tactics of
  asymmetrical warfare. How do conventional
  powers fight unconventional opponents? What
  about WMDs?
• Terrorism very often carries domestic
  considerations, which realism does not address.
     Religious Extremism and
• Realism is based upon power evaluations
  and security.
• A faith, when practiced in its entirety, is
  absolutist. The faith is right; all else is
• Logically speaking, to a religious extremist,
  realist power considerations most likely do
  not matter. Why?
       Religious Extremism and
            Realism Cont.
• God. A religious extremist, especially those who view
  violence as a means of achieving the sacred, often has little
  fear of death as God will either protect him or reward him
  in the afterlife.
• Consider the case of Iran. Iran may develop a nuclear
  weapon and use it, simply because its president believes,
  absolutely and without question, that God is on his side.
  No conventional power can defeat the power of God. As
  such, he may conclude that Iran cannot be defeated.
• Such rationalizations also transfer to conventional wars.
• Religious extremists *are* rational.
       Realism’s Score Card?
• Ideology – May or may not “short circuit”
• Nationalism – Does “short circuit” realism.
• Transnational Terrorism – Does “short
  circuit” realism.
• Religious Extremism – Does “short circuit”
           Alternatives to realism?
1.) CONSTRUCTIVISM? – Identity, culture and norms important to
    states and their interactions with similar and dissimilar states. The
    process, not structure, is important.
2.) CRITICAL THEORY? – All theories serve some purpose. Human
    knowledge guides decision making. Emphasizes problem solving,
    cooperation, freedom, etc.
3.) LIBERALISM? – States are only one of many actors. System much
    less anarchic, allowing for cooperation between states.
4.) WORLD SYSTEMS THEORY? – Economic focus. Capitalism
    determines the dynamics of world politics.


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