What Is 'Power' in International Relations? Use Examples to Illustrate Your Argument

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What is 'Power' in International Relations? Use Examples to Illustrate your Argument

Power can be seen as a very complicated concept within International Relations. Power in International Relations does not only refer to military might but also includes economic power, cultural power and also, 'soft' and 'hard' power.

Brown defines power as not just one thing but three things all working at the same time. They are; the attributes that the actor has and can use, the relationships between actors and the ability an actor has to influence others and thirdly the actors structure,when its system makes actors behave in a certain way. The first two parts of this definition of power in International Relations are most relevant to traditional International Relations such as Realism.

The realist approach to power in International Relations is that “power is based on the material capabilities that a state controls”.Dunne, T. Kurki, M. Smith, S. (2007) “International Relations”, Oxford University Press. This is the basic force model. That an actors power depends on its attributes.

The basic force model is a simple enough understanding of power in International Relations as the more attributes a state has the more power it has. However, there are problems with the basic force model. The current conflict in Afghanistan is a prime example of the problems with the basic force model. On paper the United States and the United Kingdom are two of the most powerful countries in the world, regarding military strength. Despite this they have been unable to win the war against the Taliban in nearly ten years. Their overwhelming military power has failed to achieve its objectives against a vastly outnumbered and poorly equipped opponent. Therefore, other factors must be taken into account and the basic force model does not fully describe what is power within International Relations. Another example of the failure of the basic force model is the Vietnam war which raged between...
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