International Relations: Conflict and Cooperation in Global Politics October 22 2012
Neorealism, a concept of international relations that emerged in 1979 by Kenneth Waltz, is a theory which forces on demonstrating how the world works instead what the world ought to be. Neorealism thinkers claim that international structure is established by its ordering principle, which is anarchy, and by the distribution of power, measured by a number of great powers, which have the largest impact on what happens in world politics. Since there is no central agency that plays a role as “night watchman” (Mearsheimer, 2001, p. 5) to guarantee the security of states, the anarchic international system pushes great powers to maximize their relative powers in order to attain the minimum goal of their own survival. The trepidation of security is primary factor influencing great powers’ behavior, and in turn makes great powers quickly recognize that the best way to survive without protection is to perpetually expand actual military capability until reach the ultimate aim - hegemony. Great powers can never be certain about other states’ intentions, which makes them fear each other, and view each other as potential enemies who always have the capability and motive to attack them. To guarantee their own survival, great powers adopt the logic of self – help acting according to their self – interest, and always look for opportunities to alter the balance of power by acquiring additional power for themselves and by thwarting their rivals to increase powers. The self – help system gives rise of security dilemma that reflects basic logic of offensive realism. No matter a states becomes strong or weak, both strength and weakness in national security can be provocative to other great powers. Mearsheimer states: “ The essence of the dilemma is that the measures a state takes to increase its own security usually decrease the security of other states.” (Mearsheimer, 2001, p. 13) Neorealism offers a considerably broader definition of power, and view power as two types: actual power and latent power. Waltz states that power includes the following components: “ size of population and territory, resource endowment, economic capability, military strength, political stability and competence.” (Waltz, 1979, p. 131) Actual power mainly points out military capability, such as army, air and naval forces, which directly gives great powers the wherewithal to hurt and possibly destroy each other. Latent power comprises size of population and territory, national wealth, and political stability. Rational great powers do not contend with current distribution of power, and always care about relative power rather than absolute power. They not only look for opportunities to take advantages of one another, but also work to ensure that other states do not take advantage of them. Before great powers take offensive actions, they consider carefully about the balance of power, about the costs and risks, and about both how much power they could increase and how much power their rivals could obtain. Nevertheless, great powers can never be sure how much power is enough to secure their survival in the ruthless international system. They not only strive to be the strongest, but also to be the only power – hegemony in the world. Mearsheimer defines:“ A hegemon is a state that is so powerful that it dominates all the other states in the system.” (Mearsheimer, 2001, p. 40) In international relation history, no state has ever achieved global hegemony because of the stopping power of water. The best condition great power could obtain is to become regional hegemony, which dominates distinct geographical areas. Once a great power becomes regional hegemony, it does not want any peers to contend with it. Moreover, neorealism considers three possible systems – unipolar system, bipolar system, and multipolar system. Among all three systems, multipolar system is the most...
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