Balance of Power as a Concept

Topics: World War II, United States, Superpower Pages: 11 (3896 words) Published: July 18, 2013
Balance of Power as a concept
The concept of balance of power is considered as one of the oldest and fundamental concept in the field of international relations (Paul T.V 2004). International relations theorists had been defining balance of power differently to highlight its significance and relevance in international politics, as David Hume declared balance of power as scientific law due to its significance in international politics. Glenn Snyder highlighted balance of power as a core theoretical concept in international relations. Hans Morgenthau called balance of power as “iron law of politics” and Henry Kissinger, regarded balance of power as more an art than a science (Paul T.V 2004). Significance and relevance of balance of power even in contemporary times cannot be ignored though it was a fashionable trend among states in historical times. Power is unevenly distributed among states in international system of states. Therefore, some of the states are powerful and others are comparatively weak. There is no instrument to measure power of states, though power is always measured in relative terms. States, especially small and weaker states, often cannot achieve security on their own. So they have to depend upon other states for enhancing their security. This way smaller state, by concluding alliances with other powerful (friendly) states try to attain balance of power against a powerful adversary or a threatening state. The term ‘Balance of Power’ refers to the general concept of one or more states’ power being used to balance that of another state or group of states (Goldstein S.J 2005).

Strategies to maintain Balance of power
The concept of balance of power ideally ensures that power is distributed in such a way that no single state or entity is able to dominate the remaining states or entities. Objective characteristics such as relative military power and economic resources determine the distribution of capabilities and hence play a central role in establishing which states occupy the positions of major powers. Major Powers keep strategy of balancing as topmost priority in security realm because a successful balancing strategy ensures peace and it is a precondition of the preservation of the state system (Liselotte O, 2007). Cold war presented precise example of balance of power between United States and Soviet Union. Both the states had developed WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and made alliances with other states to extend their influence across globe. United States formed NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and Soviet Union concluded WARSA Pact (ibid). There was a condition of Quasi balancing between them that shunned them from engaging into any direct clash that could escalate into nuclear catastrophe. Scholars pinpoint the reason of about balance between both powers as a chief reason of de-escalation. States adopt multiple strategies to strengthen their power comparative to other competitive actors. The study of international relations is diverse in nature that’s why states can’t rely or depend permanently on others to secure their national interest. Most reliable strategy to balance against any threat is internal balancing. The reason is, every state watches her interest and can sacrifice others’ interest whether they are friends or enemies. There is a famous proverb to highlight diverse nature of international relations study.“There is no permanent friend or permanent enemy in international politics but permanent interests, a friend of today may be the enemy of tomorrow and enemy of today may be the friend of tomorrow” (Morgenthau H J, 1992) The above cited quote explains Pakistan-United States relationship nicely. The nascent state of Pakistan was looking for its security against India and decided to join United States’ bloc. Despite being the member of US sponsored security pacts in Asia US could not provide any security against India during 1965, 1971 wars. The war of 1971 proved catastrophic...
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