In this paper, I seek to demonstrate that the perpetual existence of great powers do not challenge the idea of international environment that is anarchic. This means, in international relation terms, that states seek to increase their economic and military power at all costs. This is due to an international system that is a self-help system where states must survive by acquiring power in all its forms in order to continue to exist in a ruthless international environment. Throughout this paper there will be international relations scholars mentioned such as John J Mearsheimer from the Realist school of thought; Structuralist’s such as Headley Bull; the Defensive Realist, Kenneth Waltz, .By using international relations theory when discussing international politics I shall demonstrate that the existence of great powers does not challenge the idea that states interact in an anarchic international environment.
The classical realist Edward Hallent Carr (1939) put forward a theory in international relations which had Marxist traditions from the politics of the era that he was writing, at the end of the First World War; his most famous published work was the 20 Years Crisis from 1919 to 1939. Carr’s theory demonstrated that an international environment is where states seek to overturn the current international order such as the revisionist powers; these were the axis powers: Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and Mussolini’s Italy. Carr also argued that in an international system, great powers do not challenge the existence of an anarchic environment because they seek to create their own utopias: all great powers want to create their own utopia in an international system, which will-for a time-be dominated by a particular doctrine. Great powers seek more power and dominance in an international system that is anarchic.
“it will not be difficult to show that the utopian, when he preaches the doctrine of the harmony of interests, is innocently and unconsciously adopting Walewski maxim, and clothing his own interests in the guise of a universal interest for the purpose of imposing it on the rest of the world.”
This demonstrates that great powers in an international environment, is a system of self-help and anarchy states will seek to put forward the agenda to create their own utopia. This can be supported by Booth (1991) who argued that utopianism and the realist school of thought uses a combination of utopianism and realism to understand great powers and the international environment because
“ ‘combination’ of utopian and reality, the ‘coordination’ or ‘unease compromise’ of power and morality, the importance of basing fought on ‘elements’ of both utopia and reality, and he describes politics and law as a ‘meeting place’ for ethics and power.”
Therefore, this shows that in an international environment with great powers that idea of an anarchy will not be challenged by Great Powers however great powers will seek to impose or cooperate in a manner that helps to create international stability. But international environment is still one of ruthlessness and an anarchy just without the conflicts on the scale of two world wars in the 20th century. Also, the goal of Utopia being achieved by a great power is referring to a state ability to achieve power hegemony either within a region spear of influence or a global influence that is becoming a global hegemony. The idea of Utopia in terms of an international environment that is anarchic refers to a state there exists were a dominant ideology seeks to dominate the system and dictate the conduct of the international environment. For example, the Woodrow Wilson and the consensus of the great powers at the end of the First World War never to have conflict again because of the predominant belief that the war was caused by the actions of a few and not the nature of an anarchic international environment. Therefore, there will always be effectual conflict because according to Carr there will always exist another generation seeking to upturn the current utopia and install their own view of conducting politics in an international environment that is anarchic and because of this there will always be conflict to maintain and change the status quo.
The ideas of Kenneth N waltz support the idea that great powers do not challenge that an anarchic environment of international politics, in fact according to Walt’s and “Morgenthau, example, thought of the “rational” statement as ever striving to accumulate more and more power”. Therefore, with states gathering various forms of power in order to survive in an anarchic system demonstrates that with the existence of great powers will not prevent or eliminate the existence of international political environment that at its core is one of anarchy. What waltz provides is a theory which helps understand the anarchic environment of international politics which is that states seek to accumulate power that not risk destroying the current international system. The present system in the mid-20th and 21st century is dominated in the consensus brought about at the end of the Second World War with the development of the United Nations to bring order and peace to an anarchic environment. However, “governments, however, have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force, and legitimate here means that public agents are organised to prevent and to counter the private use of force… A national system is not one of self-help. The international system is.” Due to the fact that states have a monopoly on violence means that great powers do not challenge the idea of an international environment that is anarchic even though great powers exist and interact in an anarchic environment. But waltz is a structural realist and a defensive realist meaning he supports the idea that states will see to maximise their power because of the nature of the international environment but they will not seek chaos and warfare to the extent experienced in the 20th century. However international politics is still an anarchic because superpowers and lesser powers will always continue to jockey for power and influence because the nature of an act environment is to provide security and the continued existence of one stay for the accumulation of more power. But even with the accumulation of more power according to Walt’s the state seeking to increase one’s power will only be to improve one’s own nation security. That security will not be at the expense of one’s own rival unless that rival threatens to jeopardise that states security and position in the international hierarchy, examples of that happening is the Peloponnesian War were Sparta seem to prevent that the Athenians from dominating Greece and more contemporary examples could be viewed with Russian aggression in Ukraine and Georgia, as an attempt to stabilise and increase Russian power after the Cold War. This can be viewed with waltz theory of defensive realism not one of total aggression and seeking of power but that state interactions are given by the nature and environment of international politics and the great powers do not challenge this idea in fact great powers only seek to deepen and intensify rivalry. The reason for this is if all states possessed the same amount of power and there will be no international environment that is anarchic but because some states are greater than others will inevitably to anarchic because of the nature of a self-help system.
The offensive realist John J Mearsheimer portrays international environment where states manoeuvre for power in order to hopefully become the world’s most dominant superpower and therefore becoming a unipolar power meaning all other states could not possibly threaten one of powerful state. Mearsheimer also was for the argument that “United Kingdom and France, still harbour deep-seated, albeit muted fears that a Germany unchecked by American power management behave aggressively”. Therefore, Mearsheimer demonstrates that the perpetual existence of great powers and superpowers do not affect the idea that states interact in an anarchic environment in fact it could be described great powers fuel the interaction between the state and an anarchic international environment. This can be shown in the fact that “Mearsheimer also offers striking new insights into balance of power theory, the role of geography, and the debate over land power this airpower and naval power”. These insights are the idea that great powers are destined to clash in order to create a new international order or to merely overtake the existing international structure that being the current balance of powers in order to reshape a new international environment. An example of a restructuring of the nature of power in an anarchic environment caused by great powers is the end of the Napoleonic wars the creation of the Council of Europe in 1815 and the creation of the league at the end of the First World War as well as the development of the UN structure at Dumbarton Oaks in 1944. However, with the change of international order from a multipolar world in the 19th century to a bipolar world in the mid-20th during the Cold War as well as a unipolar world in the 90s and present day international divisions and rivalries could be described as a world becoming multipolar. Which in international relations terms means world with a snow hegemony but rather there are several powers either coexisting or vying to dominate the global international system. But no matter the form of government geopolitics the international environment will still remain anarchic and great powers will not challenge the idea of states and interaction in an anarchic humour. That is because states will always seek to maximise power in a self-help system and therefore there will always be new powers trying to overthrow the existing order not necessaryfor violence but the international environment will still remain anarchic.
Another theory that can be used to show that the existence of great powers does not challenge the idea of an anarchic international environment where states interact this can be understood with constructionists theories developed by Hedley Bull and Alexander Wendt. Both scholars put forward an argument that is not merely states actors that interact in an anarchic environment that culture plays a part in the interaction between great powers and overstates of lesser power. Alexander Wendt developed his argument to demonstrate
“To see this it is useful to consider three reasons why actors may observe cultural norms: because they are forced to, because it is in their self-interests, and because they perceive the norms as legitimate. These explanations correspond roughly to neorealists, neoliberal, and idealist (constructivists?) Theories of “the different that norms make”in international life, and perhaps for that reason they are often seen as mutually exclusive.”
Therefore, because there are social norms in society there are also international norms that become embedded in international agreements such as you chat and tune rights and the settlement of the United Nations which preserves a particular kind of peace and that is the existing borders at the end of the Second World War. Norms also mean in an international social context according to Hedley Bull “influence of the system and the nature of the state in the determination of the events, about the right of states to intervene in each other’s affairs and so on.”
This means the existence of international norms and embedded norms shows that there is argument to be made that great powers challenge the idea of states interactions in an anarchic environment. However, despite the existence of norms and structures that are developed to limit the damage caused and inflicted upon between states because of the nature of the international system. That does not mean that the existence of great powers challenge the idea that states interact in an anarchic environment because norms are never truly embedded because the international system is an anarchic and no state according to the UN can be dictated to because states are free and independent actors and no state can be forced to obey commands of more powerful states by international norms. However even with international norms they remain on embedded because they are no actors in the international environment that are above the independence and power of states even with the existence of great powers does not challenge the anarchic environment that states interact in. This is because great powers also interact in an anarchic environment and seek to maintain the position as great powers and therefore will only contribute to the nature of interactions between states in an anarchic environment this can be seen in the nature of the Cold War and present rivalries today between great powers such as the United States, Japan and Russia, China. Therefore rivalries between great powers and lesser powers only demonstrate that the only permanent norm and structure to the anarchic environment is the nature of anarchy itself in the international environment even with the existence of such institutions as the UN that seeks to bring about the end of interstate conflict.
The interaction of great powers does not challenge the idea that states interact in an anarchic environment because even with the existence of great powers there’s always been rivalry and conflict that does not require the existence of great powers. Also, states interact my other means of violence such as global commerce and other nonlethal means of interaction but in terms of international politics the political environment is one of anarchy and will state must be self-sufficient in order to survive. The existence of great powers demonstrates clearly in their rivalries such as the ones can be understood presently and “increasingly formidable coalition of illiberal powers China, Iran, and Russia-is determined to undo the post-Cold War settlement and the US led global order that stands behind it”. Also, the rivalry between Iran and Iraq and the burning conflict in the Middle East between Islamic fundamentalism and the idea of a liberal or tolerant society is being waged which has in terms of international environment is to do with the interaction and rivalries between states but great power’s not challenge this idea and in fact this can be viewed not as originally globally because
“Whether it is Russia forces seizing Crimea, China making aggressive claims in its coastal waters, Japan responded with an increasingly assertive strategy of its own, or Iran try to use its alliance with Syria and Hezbollah to dominate the Middle East, old-fashioned power plays are back in international relations.”
This in fears that great powers do not affect the idea of an anarchic environment because states with a be great powers or the lesser powers such as Iran and Saudi Arabia states still fundamentally interact in an anarchy environment with this seek to pursue their own rational self-interests. That being to pursue their own national goals to further their interests and survival by accumulating more power at their rival’s expense. Therefore, a return to a state of international politics to a similar multipolar error such which existed in the 19th century were the great powers of Europe Britain, France, Germany and Austria Hungary and the present day multipolar order that is shaping is the European Union, the United States, China, India and Russia. This return to a multipolar world can only enforce the nature of an anarchic environment was states interact in great powers do not challenge this idea because multiple great powers will perhaps lead to a similar state of anarchy that which existed in the 19th century were states use all means necessary to acquire power and weaker rivals leading to an international environment were the old rules no longer apply. Those rules being simply the old Cold War divides and the triumphs of Western dominance in the 1990s shows were the is a vacuum of great power or if there are multiple great powers they will lead to increased international conflict until more powers rise to fill the vacuum that will simply lead to strengthening the idea that states exist in an anarchic environment and that great powers do not resolve a self-help system.
Finally, in this paper I hope to have demonstrated how the perpetual existence of great powers does not challenge the idea that states interact in an anarchic international environment in contrary great powers make no difference when it comes to the anarchic nature of the international environment. However great powers do create international order that is temporary but the international system is still anarchic this can be seen through the conflict throughout the Cold War between the superpowers the United States and Soviet Union and colour conflicts in the Middle East and Russian aggression in Ukraine. Which only further demonstrates that great power not prevent the interaction of states in an anarchic environment because there is no more powerful actors than states and they are autonomous and there is no power is capable to dictate to a state. Therefore, great powers do not challenge the existence and idea that states interact in an anarchic environment.
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