Anarchy and the Struggle For Power 9/17/2012 7:06:00 AM
Anarchy and the Struggle For Power
That lead to the theory that great powers vie with each other for
power and strive for hegemony.
1 The international system is anarchic.
2 ndis that great powers possess some offensive military capability
which gives them the wherewithal to hurt and possibly destroy each
3 is that states can never be certain about other states’ intentions.
4 is that survival is the primary goal of great powers.
5 is that great powers are rational actors aware of their external
environment and think strategically about how to survive in it.
As a result of these assumptions, three general patterns of
behaviour result: fear, self-help and power maximization
The basis of fear is that in a world where great powers have the
capacity attack and may have the motive to do so, any state bent
on survival must be at least suspicious of other states.
States also aim to guarantee their own survival. Because there is
no higher authority than the state, states tend to see themselves as
vulnerable and alone and therefore provide for their own survival.
This leads to states acting in accordance with their self-interest and
not subordinating their interests to the interests of other states or
the interests of the international community. States quickly understand that the best way to ensure their survival
is to be the most powerful state in the system in order to deter
threats to their survival. Therefore, the ideal situation is to be the
hegemon in the system.
Because one state’s gain in power is another state’s loss, great powers tend
to have a zero-sum mentality when dealing with each other.
The idea that a great power might feel secure without dominating the
system is not persuasive for two reasons.
First it is difficult to assess how much relative power one state must
have over its rivals before it is secure
Second, determining power is vastly difficult when contemplating it
The security dilemma states that measures a state takes to increase its
own security usually decrease the security of other states.
States weigh the costs and risks of offense against the likely
benefits and think carefully about the balance of power and how
other states will react to their moves.
States miscalculate from time to time because they invariably make
important decision on the basis of imperfect information
o Potential adversaries have incentives to misrepresent their
own strength or weakness and to conceal their true aims.
o Great powers are also often unsure about how their own or
adversary’s military forces will perform on the battlefield.
o Great powers are also sometimes unsure about the resolve of
opposing states and allies.
Defensive realists suggest that due to the tilt of the offense-
defense balance towards defense and the tendency of threatened states to balance against aggressors and ultimately crush them that
conquest is invariably punished and so great states should
concentrate on the preservation of the existing system.
Mearsheimer replies that defense realists exaggerate the restraining
forces against conquest but he uses largely pre 20 century
examples with the exclusion of Nazi Germany, even so he
emphasizes their battles against France and Poland and not the
inevitable loss to Soviet Union.
A hegemon is a state that is so powerful that it dominates all the