Examine the advantages and disadvantages of the different means of achieving military security Essay

There are two main theories that dominate International Politics in areas such as military security, these rival theories present different means of answering such questions as: How do we achieve international peace? These theories are Realism and Liberalism.

After World War Two Realism became the dominant theory regarding international politics after the seeming failure of the Liberal theory. Realism is often related to a much older tradition of thought according to Dunne and Schmidt, and is referred to as “Classical Realism” (pp142 01). These so-called classical realists include thinkers such as T Hobbes and J Rousseau.

Liberalism however, according to Dune “…has a strong claim to being the historical alternative” (pp163 01) also denoting great thinkers such as Kant.

This system shows a similarity to political party thinking/ideology and like different Political Party views, the theories offer alternatives that often compete and conflict. This is definitely the case when considering the best way to achieve military security and above all peace. I am going to examine the advantages and disadvantages of the ways of achieving military security using these theories and the use of examples set out through international history.

There are significant similarities between classical and modern Realism, these similarities are seen as the basic elements of Realism and are known as Statism, Survival and Self-help. The veiw of human nature conveyed in Realism is echoed in its core. Realists view human nature as selfish and therefore see states acting in their own interests rather than in the interests of other states, this is Statism. Realism emphasizes the sovereignty of states; this means there is “no actor above the state that can compel it to act in specific ways” (Smith and Baylis pp4 01).

This is fundamental regarding security as each state is responsible for it’s own military, and “Other actors such as multinational corporations and international organizations all have to work within the framework of inter-state relations” (Smith and Baylis pp4 01). Ultimately a constant battle of power exists between states trying to “maximize” their interests. Realists see this as an advantage as this order brings about a system known as the balance of power. Yet the prevailing distrust of others could escalate into confrontational situations e.g. The Cold War.

The Realist theory of the Balance of Power is “a doctrine and an arrangement whereby the power of one state (or group of states) is checked by the countervailing power of other states” (Robert H Jackson pp36 01). This balance acts to prohibit one state controlling the international system; consequently International politics involves alliances and negotiation. Diplomacy is a “key mechanism” (Smith and Baylis pp4 01). Yet diplomacy is not always enough and this system of power often relies on military force, whether in combat or as a deterrence.

Although there are international institutions in place to help with diplomacy, for example the United Nations, the reality of sovereignty means that the states have no international body that holds the authority, or the power to stop conflict, this can be seen in the recent Iraq conflict. This system causes a paradox as it can be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage. The recent events in Iraq convey that the lack of authority held by the United Nations was an advantage for the Americans. They wanted to go to war and where able to do so as there is “no actor above the state that can compel it to act in specific ways” (Smith and Baylis pp4 01). But as for the rest of the international community, that where against the war, they had no power or authority to stop it despite the international bodies in place to prevent disagreements.

“States must rely on their own military resources” and this is therefore known as a self-help system. Although the state aims could be achieved through diplomacy and negotiations there is a continuous threat of military force which causes unease and maybe paranoia.

The emergence of Neo-realism has put emphasis on the structure of the international system. Waltz argued in his work Theory of International Politics, that the structure of International politics is different to domestic politics. An example used to back up this theory is the structure of the international system seen during the Cold War where the threat of nuclear war caused both states to behave in certain ways and follow certain rules. This structure caused a military system based on the theory of deterrence, which often caused “security dilemmas” (Dunne and Schmidt pp153 01).

This conveyed the disadvantages of a Realist dominated theory as it brought about a Balance of Power where two superpowers where trying to protect themselves by advancing their military security because of the distrustful view of other humans/nations. Yet these military advancements did not make either state feel more secure but more threatened. This can be seen in the Cuban Missile crisis of 1962 where the General deterrence of both states caused great distrust and nearly led to a nuclear war. The use of Immediate deterrence deterred both states as the reality of a nuclear war meant “the likely costs of a challenge will more than offset any possible gains” (Lebow and Stein pp74 98).

The extinction of this structure has led to the development of another, some Neo-realists believe that the world of international politics is heading towards a Multi-polarized system, which will mean new rules for the international community, the structure of military powers and hence military security.

The negative view of human nature conveyed in Realism in many ways can be an advantage because the suspicion of other states will often make states act cautiously. Yet in many ways the mistrust could fuse wars and cause conflict rather than preventing it. In the Cold War the mistrust of the two superpowers led to military developments that advanced the technology of the military, but the mistrust led to close calls regarding conflict. This is a disadvantage of this type of security system, as the levels of mistrust caused will always lead to more insecurity and perhaps conflict. But Realism is an example of a way of thinking that often doesn’t regard going to war as a problem if the conflict is fought in order to improve security i.e. Iraq and war on terror.

Liberalism is the alternative theory in International Relations that is often conveyed as the “opposition party” (Dunne pp163 01) in the international system. Liberalism is clearly more optimistic than Realism as its fundamental belief is in the “possibility of progress” (Dunne pp163 01). Therefore optimism is also conveyed in the attitude towards human nature, which is contrasting compared to the realist view. Liberalism’s fundamental beliefs of liberty, equality and security make the attitude towards military security contrasting in comparison to the Realism. Yet Liberals believe “As long as states continue to exist in relation to one another as individuals did in the state of nature, the liberal project of providing peace and progress will forever be undermined” (Dunne pp163 01).

Basically Liberals believe that if the International system stays as it is, progress can not be made, this could account for many unfruitful attempts to use their methods of obtaining military security. This is conveyed in the so-called Liberal phase of Idealism. The advantage of this positive view of human’s produces a willingness to co-operate and many see this as away to avoid military conflict and increase security. The disadvantage of this is if human nature is bad (like the Realists believe) that trust would then be a weakness, the chilling example of Hitler in World War Two emphasizes the argument for Realist caution to trust in order to produce military security. The failure of the League of Nations conveys this.

After The Great War a new form of Liberalism known as idealism was conveyed. In January 1918 Woodrow Wilson addressed congress and made his famous “Fourteen points” speech where he claimed that in order to conserve peace “a general association of nations must be formed,” (Wilson pp167 01) hence, The League of Nations. This was the idea behind Collective Security but to work the league needed “military power to deter aggression and, when necessary, to use a preponderance of power to enforce its will” (Tim Dunne). In the event of war the League of Nations would put sanctions and/or use military force to return the state or states back to normal.

Yet the League of Nations was considerably unsuccessful and less than 25 years after the Great War the Second World War began and the reality of the supposed collective security was exposed. The failure of America to join The League of Nations and the Soviets ideological problems with the system made it a club for “satisfied customers” (Tim Dunne pp168 01). The failure of The League of Nations illustrates that in order for collective security to be successful the structure of the International system would have to change, in other words the concerns of one must become the concerns of the many. The apprehensiveness of one state could produce a ripple affect with all others and while this is a major possibility Collective Security will never work, therefore not being successful at achieving military security. The end of the Second World War saw an end to idealism yet there was “recognition of the need to replace the League with another international institution with responsibility for international peace and security” (Dunne pp169 01).

Yet despite the failure of The League of Nations the conclusion of the Second World War reinforced the Liberal view that Peace has to be worked at. And so the United Nations was formed with the job of protecting the International community, this time in toe with both the US and the USSR. “We the peoples of the United Nations (are) determined to reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights of men and women and of nations large and small (To develop) friendly relations among nations based on resp[ect for the principle of equal rights and self determination of peoples” (UN Charter).

This time changes where made to ensure the institution would work. Consensus between all states involved was seen as a necessary entity to make the institution work so a veto system was created. The veto system allowed any of the five member states (America, Russia, China, England and France) to object to a decision to go to war as an alliance. But the polarized ideologies of both superpower states prevented any use of a collective security system until 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. This remains to be the only time in which the United Nations has been used despite recent attempts to use the system again.

The advantages conveyed by this are states sharing responsibility in keeping the peace of the whole world. The idea of collective security promotes co

mpromise and theoretically would promote peaceful conclusions to disputes within the international system. Yet the reality of state sovereignty and the dominance of realism, especially in the United Sates, has again left the ideals of Liberal values such as collective security in opposition. Therefore it’s easy to comment on the disadvantages of this form of military security system, such as its unstable nature and the dominance of American influence due to the economic hegemony since the ending of the cold war which has ultimately affected the influence within the UN and other international bodies. The almost two faced nature of these member states in promoting collective security yet simultaneously practicing Self help systems is a major disadvantage as the only way to assess comment on the advantages and disadvantages of this system is by using theory or the examples conveyed that do not convey the ideals behind the theory.


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