Observations of Realists Essay
Observations of Realists
1) Are the observations of Realists, such as Hans Morgenthau, accurate in respect to their assessment of the importance of international law in contemporary world politics? Realists such as Hans Morgenthau and more recently Lloyd Gruber, base their theories on the assumption individuals, and hence states, act rationally to protect their own interests, the national interest. They believe states exist in a world of anarchy without an over arching authority. While this may be the case and it certainly is for some states, it is a theory that requires review within the context of the modern world and international law.
In the world of bi-polar power during the Cold War, Morgenthau’s views interpreted the global climate accurately, however it is now short sighted in our time of globalization. Multi-National Corporations (MNC), Inter-Governmental Organisations (IGO) and Non-Government Organisations (NGO) play a very large part on the world stage and influence countries, economies and conflicts. Meanwhile younger theories are tending to consider the state and the world’s political climate as a holistic, interactive entity.
Increased access to communication, social media and increased global wealth serve to provide an environment for a better financed and informed NGO. Yet even the UN, it’s efficacy being constantly brought into doubt, plays a vital role in establishing norms and standards with the global stakeholders. These developing theories document our planet’s political interaction and development and as such are constantly in a state of change. Sometimes in-sync with current standards such as international law and other times, not.
Taking into account realism is one of the more established theories of international relations, we have to also consider the global climate in which the theory was established and compare that to now. Hans Morgenthau was born in Coburg, Germany 1904 and experienced two world worlds. He and his predecessors experienced states as the only actors in world politics. The United Kingdom was exiting her great period of colonisation and was witnessing the unraveling of her empire. Meanwhile Germany was rebuilding and rising in global status.
The world was experiencing a transition into industry and moving away from the traditional agriculturally driven economies. Throughout this time, the average person’s existence was more concerned with subsistence. Overseas phone calls and intercontinental travel were beyond the average person’s reach. The importance of setting the scene here is to understand globalisation was in its infancy. To understand this helps to shape the importance other actors in world politics play. Instant communications, the Internet and global travel have made the world a smaller place.
Activists, such as Green Peace, can now influence states. So much so, the Rainbow Warrior, Green Peace’s flagship, was sunk by the French spy agency, Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE), in July 1985, killing a photographer. This is an extreme example of NGO influence, yet it cannot be denied that to bomb a civilian ship highlights the pressure Green Peace was placing on the international stage. Realism does not take into account all variables acting upon the state in today’s day and age.
When established, realism existed in a time of strong state actors. Today, with the ending of the Cold War that line has blurred, NGOs etc… have filled that void. To understand the motivation behind the establishment of these organisations helps us to understand the influence they have. For instance, Oxfam, Amnesty International and the like have their basis within a moral social consciousness. Therefore, it’s easy to see why theories, such as Social Constructivism, focus on a world shaped by the influences of a nation’s shared beliefs, culture and values.
As democracy extends further and nations adopt a capitalist model to fit into the global model, the demands to maintain a balanced, humane society increase. Governments feel this pressure and so, act accordingly. An argument by Social Constructionist such as Barnett and Finnemore is that IGOs have the real power. As I will show later using the US invasion of Iraq, governments still have the final say on their actions, although IGOs, NGOs and MNCs play a very large role in influencing them.
Having stated this, one may counter argue this implies it is still a state verses state environment (Realism), however, the world has still evolved into government verses government verses IGOs, NGOs and MNCs, henceforth realism cannot not explain the actions of governments alone and must consider the external influences. Constructivism does so, but places the power into the hands of IGOs and the like. An alternative needs to be sought. Alternatives such as the European Union, which remains “…the most successful experiment in political institution-building since the Second World War.
Andrew Moravcsik goes on to say the EU cannot replace or aspire to the democratic status of nation states, yet their role remains embedded in monitoring accountability and extensive checks and balances upon its member states. Emerging actors such as the EU again demonstrate the changing environment and clearly indicate realist theories, must by reconsidered. Focusing on the institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, we can cite several occasions in which their influence has shaped global politics, whether for selfish or selfless motivations.
The concept of poverty alleviation was raised by the World Bank during the 1960’s and saw the World Bank “sell poverty alleviation to members through a mixture of persuasion and coercion. ” The Ford Foundation established a report highlighting the successes of poverty alleviation and cited their own programs, many of which were to governmental organizations. The report also stated poverty alleviation programs were ineffectual and implied corruption. Albeit, this report was funded by the Ford Foundation to report on its own programs, yet I was under the impression they were given freedom to report accurately.
Even though the Ford Foundation was established by Henry Ford’s son, and not the company itself, it still represents the power and influence a MNC can exert. These reports are not controversial, but it does go towards forming an image about governments and it is in this way influence is exerted. Furthermore, the actions of the Ford Foundation to fund relief programs, brings into question the effectiveness and validity of IGO programs. Probably the largest non-state actor is the United Nations (UN).
It’s governance covers many areas of international concern, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program (WFP), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), etc…. As a consequence, its membership is extensive. Whether the member states take their affiliation with the UN and it’s associated bodies seriously or whether they use them as a vehicle for their own means is irrelevant.
In either case, the mere existence of this relationship affects the outcomes of global politics. While UN peace keeping missions and other security programs are a subject for debate into the validity of the UN, it cannot be argued that President Bush’s attempts to have the invasion of Iraq sanctioned in 2003 was an attempt to the have the US’s actions deemed as “right’ within the eyes of the global audience. The fact the US then ignored the UN’s recommendation is irrelevant, the mere attempt to legitimize the US’s actions implies the states are now not the only actors within global politics.
This occurrence in itself indicates in itself realism is becoming outdated and the need to consider a more holistic approach. While it can be argued the UN is an Inter-Governmental Organisation (IGO) and is therefore a part or rather a stage for governments to act upon. It must be noted the sovereignty of states, upon which realism is based, does not exist within the UN. The UN is a global entity upon which sovereign states are members, the UN in itself has now physical bounds and by its title, implies the uniting of nations as a common theme.
The Neorealist and Structural Realism models may be more applicable in that they balance of power among states is considered in the UN forum, however, true Realist theories, such as those proposed by Morgenthau, are becoming less relevant based upon the increase in non-governmental actors. The development of the Realist theory and subsequent “neo” theories show a development of thinking and a mark of the time in which they were contrived. These theories cannot be accurate moving into the future as the benchmarks upon which they are based change with the development of the world, it’s technology and it’s people.
They can however, allow us to isolate specific elements of global relations, regardless of the time they were developed. I foresee a more holistic approach to global government and non-governmental relationships develop. This will allow us to consider all of the relevant stakeholders while incorporating the best of each perspective, whether it comes from a sociological, economic or political basis. Realist theories are accurate to a degree regarding world politics, however the influence they now hold on international law and global governance has become less.
The role of non-state actors, facilitated by the expansion of communications and travel, namely globalization, has given rise to organisations, which previously were unable to exist. Their power varies greatly within the influence they have upon governments of the world, yet they do influence. In a world where the occupants are more aware and hold their respective governments to account for their actions, these nations cannot afford to ignore the influence of the new players in the game.