Word Count: 2900
What are the main obstacles to cooperation?
The world we live in always seems to contain wars and conflicts. Just by looking back over 100 years, the history is filled with major wars like the two World Wars, the constant scare of escalation of threat during the Cold War and more recently The Afghan and Iraq War. Despite the fact that people always talk about the need for peace, the world is instead filled with fear and constant security threats. Since the First World War many theorists and political scientists tried to come up with a solution on how to create a peaceful international environment but with no real achievement. This leads to a natural conclusion that there are certain obstacles that prevent cooperation between states. This essay will analyse the main difficulties to cooperation. In order to do that, it is necessary to look at some present theories that suggest they have the answer to why cooperation is so hard to accomplish. This article will first look at the realist theory and explain what points it suggested to spell out threats to security and peace. Secondly this essay will illustrate what liberals think about cooperation and why they believe it is difficult yet possible to accomplish. The debate between realist and liberalist theories has been going on for many years now, almost since the end of the First World War. Each theory will offer its on view. The topic of obstacles to cooperation is sharply contested and debatable therefore the best that can be done is to find the closest and most probable answer to the question. This is what the conclusion of this essay will address and also discuss whether the obstacles to cooperation have changed throughout the years. Before this essay explains different theories it is essential to illustrate what cooperation actually means and what it entails. Scholars have summarised cooperation as "when actors adjust their behaviour to the actual or anticipated preferences of others, through a process of policy coordination."1 Cooperation basically should lead to rewards for all states, not necessarily equal rewards, but everyone should benefit. Competition or conflict on the other hand is “goal-seeking behaviour that strives to reduce the gains available to others or to impede their want-satisfaction.” Cooperation can be between two states or a multiple number of states. The same applies to conflict.2
Realists believe they can provide the best explanation on why cooperation is so complicated to achieve. Realism is the most dominant theory and has been so since the end of the Second World War. Even though in the last few years it has been criticised heavily for not being able to explain certain issues in international relations like the peaceful end to the Cold War, it still provides a thorough theory. Realism divides into three parts: classical realism, neo-realism and neo-classical realism. The classical realists are more concerned with human nature. They believe that people in general are selfish and aggressive. The main actors of the international system, the states, are guided by this and essentially war is inevitable. There is a lot of evidence to support that, like the Nazi Germany led by Hitler or Iraq led my Saddam Hussein. Neo-realists are more concerned with the distribution of power and the international system. The international system lacks a sovereign authority that can make and enforce binding agreements. Without such authority, the states are given an opportunity to do what they like which makes it difficult for states to trust each other and cooperate.3 This point is further maximised with the realist assumption that the state’s main goal is power maximisation and security. So with no world authority to keep an eye on those power seeking states, it is a no surprise that realists see international relations as a constant battle and a struggle for survival. Even if some states are not trying to increase their...
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