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Anarchy: all you need to know

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An anarchy is a state of disorder which occurs due to the absence of an overarching power in the international system. It is a world in which there are no laws or rules to dictate state behaviour (Tucker,1897; p.13). The idea of anarchy is regarded differently depending on which international relation theory is used. A political realist believes that an anarchical society leads states to defend themselves as they seek power. Whereas a political liberalist believes that states and non-state actors can unite by setting up rules and institutions to benefit the world.

Realists would argue that anarchy is an unsurmountable obstacle to a peaceful international system because they are concerned with their own security and safety of the state which enables them to act upon their own national interests. A realist believes that states are only substantial in international politics when there is no central authority to control and regulate the nation-states which leads to conflict and war as each state aims to protect their own and survive. A central idea of the realist approach to anarchy is that the rules of the international system has no central authority which means that anarchy is perceived as a “lack of central government to enforce rules” and protect states (Goldstein and Pevehouse: 2007; p.73). The nonexistence of an authority greater than nation-states leads to a self-help system which is perceived as “a brutal arena where states look for opportunities to take advantage of each other”(Lebow: 2007:55). This can be connected to the perception that the state of anarchy will lead to conflict and war. These views demonstrate that realists have a largely pessimistic view of the international system (Grieco:1988) which suggests that because in anarchism there is an absence in international governing body, that states would pursue conflict in order to guarantee their own survival. For example, during world war two (1939-1945) the US invaded Japan by inserting atomic bombs in Hiroshima because their goal was to destroy Japans capability to wage war, to weaken its motivation to fight and to decrease casualties for the US. The US believed that if you terminate the enemy’s aims to wage war then the war is won.

The US invaded Japan only because of survival and the self-help system which are core element of a realist view. The deficiency of an authority greater than nation-states leads to self-help among the states. Therefore, a realist’s view would demonstrate that anarchy would lead to an unsurmountable obstacle to a peaceful international system due to a lack of central authority. A political realist also believes that an anarchical system averts the security predicament from being overcome which also means that peace in the international system is inevitable. The security dilemma refers to a situation in which the actions by a state aims to improve its security, such as increasing the military power, being obliged to use weapons and forming alliances which leads to other states to resort with similar measures which usually tends to surge tensions that generates conflict. States aim to be dominant through gaining power in order to fulfill their interest which is national survival.

As states aim to improve its security this indicates that competition amongst states would occur due to insecurities. Morgenthau would argue that all politics “is a struggle for power” and in the international arena this struggle “cannot so readily be tamed” (Lebow: 2007:55).

This advocates that it is human nature to thrive for survival and power and although there have been restrictions to reduce the possibility of conflict in this struggle, without such limitations at an international level war will continue to be unavoidable. This view of politics that the struggle for power interlinks with the security dilemmas as it is simply explained as “a situation in which states’ actions taken to assure their own security tend to threaten the security of other states” (Goldstein and Pevehouse:2007:74). Realism would suggest that an anarchical international system avoids the security dilemma being overcome, which causes conflicts to rise. The security dilemma has helped display major events such as the first world war, the origins and the end of cold war. The security dilemma occurred at the beginning of world war one as European powers felt that they had to go to war due to insecurities over alliances of their neighbors in spite of not actually wanting war. Also, the US and Soviet Union were competing with military weapons during the cold war in the arms race. Although the Soviet Union and US never fought directly, however the conflict between them indirectly has led to variety local war such as the Korean war, the Vietnam war and the Soviet invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Realism would argue that it is unrealistic to think that anarchy can be defeated as the states will never feel protected enough to cede sovereignty to a greater authority in some form of international government which prepares them to improve their security so that they can survive and feel secure. A core element of a realist is that states will increase their national powers for survival. Overall, a realist would believe that politics is primarily about domination and building security in order to compete with each other which leads to conflict with other states and that is why anarchy is an unsurmountable obstacle to a peaceful international system.

In addition, a political liberalist believes that anarchy will not lead to scepticism andviolence since those in the international system can overcome conflict and war by cooperation and joint ventures. Liberalism can be defined as the “freedom for the individual” as it accepts that humans are moral natured beings. Liberalism’s moral belief stresses, human rights, individualism, freedom from authority, universality, right to be treated equally under the guard of law and duty to respect and treat others as “ethical subjects” as well as freedom for social action. (Doyle, 1983, pp.206-207; Fukuyma,1992, p.42). However, the idea of states pursuing their self-interest by joining cooperation’s adopts to the theory of realism as self-interest is a core element. Mearsheimer (1994) annotates that there is not a consistent war but “relentless security competition with the possibility of war looming in the background” (Mearsheimer,1994, p11; Waltz,1979, p.106). States operates on a zero-sum principle as they are present in a shape which requires them to pursue security which results in the final outcome being competition amongst the states and it creates the likelihood of states cheating their way out of an alliance to gain added power and security. Liberal states recognise that uniting with other states is useful for them as it is mainly valuable economically in the globalised world and the free trade system.

Organisations such as the WTO promote free market and states and they utilise the benefits of that to increase their economic profitability. It is essential to highlight that liberalist agree with realist theory on anarchy, and self-help international system. The major issue with institutions is that states will only cooperate and accept these institutions when it is in their national interest. For example, the UK is not accepting the money conversion of currency to euros as it is not in their national interest. This suggest that states are more powerful than organisations which supports realists as organisations cannot enable cooperation if the state does not have any interest to do so. Secondly, transforming countries into democratic, Liberals states is difficult. For example, the United states tried to get rid of an authoritarian leader in Iraq in order to promote peace in the country, the plan failed and produced nothing but disorder and chaos in Iraq. Overall, liberalists recognise the realist view that the natural human aggression which is consumed by individual states present in an anarchical international system can inspire them to seek power and mistrust other states which will make cooperation challenging to achieve. This is why anarchy is an unsurmountable obstacle to a peaceful international system due to states adapting to their national interest and self-help system which resembles the core elements of a realist.

Overall, a political realist believes anarchy is an unsurmountable obstacle to a peaceful international system because they believe that states are only significant actors in international politics as there are no central authority to govern the nation states and that a state of anarchy occurs where war is an endless threat as each state aims to endure on its own and at the detriment of others, and they also believe that an anarchical system avoids the security predicament being overcome. Whereas a political liberalist believes that with states joining cooperation’s and joint ventures that anarchy would be an unsurmountable obstacle to a peaceful international system as they are largely dedicated to guaranteeing national survival and the pursuit of their national interests. States join cooperative systems out of their own choices due to self-help, survival and statist which are the core element of realism. Therefore, the theory of realism supports that anarchy is an unsurmountable obstacle to a peaceful international system.

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