2-One World Rival Theories 9/13/2012 9:52:00 AM
Realism instills a pragmatic appreciation of the role of power but
also warns that states will suffer if they overreach
Liberalism highlights the cooperative potential of mature
democracies, especially when working together through effective
institutions but notes democracies’ tendency to crusade against
tyrannies and the propensity of emerging democracies to collapse
into violent ethnic turmoil.
Idealism stresses that a consensus on values must underpin any
stable political order, yet it also recognizes that forging such a
consensus often requires an ideological struggle with the potential
The theories act as a powerful check on each other. Deployed
effectively, they reveal the weaknesses in arguments that can lead
to misguided policies. Realism 9/13/2012 9:52:00 AM
Realism’s core is the belief that international affairs is a struggle for
power among self-interested states.
o No hierarchy among states therefore anarchy
Realism helps explains the continued centrality of military strength
and the persistence of conflict and also explains the US military
response to September 11 in terms of a powerful state moving to
expand their sphere of dominion.
It is harder for normally state-centric (realism regards states as the
important actors) realists to account for the US declaring war on a
nonstate terrorist organization.
Standard realist doctrine predicts that weaker states will ally to
protect themselves against stronger states and thereby form and
reform a balance of power
o However no combination of states or other powers can
challenge the US militarily and no balancing coalition is
Some theorists speculate the US geographical distance and
relatively benign intentions have tempered the balancing instinct
and point out that second-tier powers tend to worry more about
their immediate neighbours.
Other scholars suggest that armed resistance to the U.S by foes in
Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere constitute as the beginnings of
balancing against U.S hegemony.
French and German opposition to US policies are ambiguous as they
represent a institutional and treaty based resistance as opposed to
militarily. Liberalism 9/13/2012 9:52:00 AM
Liberals forsee a slow but inexorable journey away from the
anarchic world the realists envision, as trade and finance forge ties
between nations, and democratic norms spread.