The Absence of Government

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What is striking in international relations is the absence of world government, or anarchy; there is no authority higher than that of each sovereign state. This implies that no official body exists to regulate the behavior states have with each other, and thus contributes to a general feeling of insecurity, where force is often the only mean of securing disputes. It is a system of self-help, where each country relies only on its own force. Neo-Realists thus define the interests of states in terms of “power”. Indeed, the priority of states is survival, and in a world of anarchy, this implies power to impose over others. The problem is that efforts to enhance the security of one state often act as a threat to other states. Here lies the problem of Security Dilemma, which contributes to a further rise of tension[1]. In such a context, not only is it impossible to know what other states’ intentions might be (offensive/defensive), but it is also impossible to trust other states, since anarchy implies that every state is solely motivated by its own interests in view of its own survival. Cooperation is thus difficult, and, when existing, is largely fragile and irrelevant. This essay will detail the three types of cooperation: Political/military, economic and humanistic, each time describing their limits. The first type of cooperation is political and military cooperation. It is represented by the capacity of states to ally with one another. The recent events in Georgia acts as a proof that ally-hood is often shallow and irrelevant. Indeed, anarchy necessarily implies suspicion even between allies, since the intentions of each state are always unclear. To Russia, the invasion of Georgia was supposedly a defensive move in order to protect the population of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which have close ties with Russia, as well as Russian peacekeepers in the region. To Georgia and other western countries, however, the Russian move was an aggressive one. Russia and the USA are officially allies[2]. However the lack of visibility implied by anarchy thus acts as a break to cooperation by generating suspicion. Furthermore, the Russian invasion acts as a threat to the interests and security of great western powers like the United States, because of the region’s importance in the oil transport (it serves as a key route to avoid Russia and Iran). Thus, although USA and Russia are allies, one can see that they are wary of each other and are careful not to let the other gain too many strategic advantages. Even within an alliance, a country is first concerned with its own interests and security, which makes it distrustful of all other states. There is a sort of competition for power and influence which makes the alliance void of meaning. Because of this striving for power and personal interests, allies may also be tempted to cheat and defect (e.g. break a treaty, or, in the case of a conflict, choose not to show up). The belief that allies may cheat means that a state must secure itself from allies as well as foes; it cannot rely on its ally’s strength and has to be able to turn against it if needed. Cooperation is thus futile. Alliances are fragile and temporary (e.g. last only as long as the fighting against a common enemy), as they rely only on the interests states see in them, and are disregarded as soon as they are no longer profitable. Thus, although the British were supposedly allies of the Zionist movement and of Israel, in the emergence of the Second World War, they became aware of the need they had of Arab oil and airfield resources. This led them to re-assess their policies towards Palestine, to the expanse of their Israeli ally[3]. We have thus demonstrated the limits of political and military cooperation. Because of anarchy, concerns about visibility and security diminish the chances for and meaning of cooperation. Alliances are usually fragile, temporary and oriented towards each state’s personal interest...
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