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Idealists and realists Essay


In his analysis, Jessica Matthews observes that the steady concentration of power in the hands of states, which began with the signing of the treaty of Westphalia, is no more (Bova 252). In her view, there are many actors in the international system, including state and non-state actors. On the other hand, Krasner notes that the state is still the only powerful actor in the international system because it enjoys sovereignty (Bova 237).

Idealists and realists have strong arguments as regards to the power of the state in the international system. To realists such as Krasner, the state is the only unit of analysis while idealists observe that there are many actors in the international system. Matthews’ analysis suggests that the international system is a community of both states and human beings. In this regard, foreign policy formulation should recognize all actors.

Therefore, the role of non-governmental institutions in foreign policy formulation should be respected. On their part, realists note that the international system dictates what should be done. In other words, individuals have no power to influence foreign policy formulation process because the process is dictated by changes in the international system. The international system is anarchical according to realists implying that there is no centralized authority.

The reality of the matter is that the role of the state in the international system is diminishing due to the emergence of other actors such as international organizations, supranational organizations, and Multinational Corporations. In this regard, states must consider the views of other institutions before coming up with foreign decisions. In the current international system, the influence of Multinational Companies cannot be neglected.

Some Multinational Corporations have adequate resources that they use to influence states to make certain policies that favor them. In the developing countries, states do not control foreign policies because of the presence of rich individuals and Multinational Corporations. For instance, George Soros influenced the foreign policy making process in the communist states because he was extremely rich.

He funded programs that aimed at eliminating communism. This affected the foreign behavior of states because they had to obey the rules set by an individual. Institutions such as the International Criminal Court affect the foreign behavior of states in a number of ways. States cannot act in a way that would invite criticisms from the ICC. In Kenya, the ICC has always shaped the foreign behavior of the state for the last five years.

The state has been forced to comply with the provisions of the court in order to enjoy good diplomatic relations. Realists would argue that powerful states force weak states to sign agreements that do not favor their domestic interests. For instance, the US forces states to enter into agreements, such as being members of the ICC, yet it is not a member itself. This shows that powerful states use international institutions to achieve their national interests.

In the international system, behavior of states is based on morality meaning that states observe international codes and morals. Realists would argue that morality is not considered when pursuing national interests because the end justifies the means. However, idealists do not share this belief because universal interests are crucial as opposed to national interests.

Since states have a duty beyond their national borders, idealists observe that human rights must always be observed whenever a state engages in conflicts with other states. Organizations such as Amnesty International are recognized as genuine actors in the international system because of their efforts to fight for human rights. Realists agree that states must intervene militarily to restore democracy.

However, states must conduct themselves in a manner that would guarantee fairness and equality. This means that professional codes of conducts must be observed whenever executing duties in foreign countries. In the battlefields, soldiers are expected to conduct themselves professionally by keeping away from heinous acts of crime such as rape, unnecessary murder, robbery, and violence.

The US forces are always accused of unleashing terror to innocent people whenever they are sent to restore peace and democracy in war torn zones. Since American foreign policy makers appreciate morality, soldiers are usually charged in the martial courts, and stiff penalties are imposed on the accused. Idealism applies in the international system because international law has always guided the behavior of states.

Cooperation is one of the tenets of idealism, which is frequently employed in the current international system. Terrorism, environmental degradation, and the south-north gap pose threats to countries forcing them to collaborate to forge a working relationship. States cannot exist in isolation due to the threats posed by terrorists.

Terrorism is a problem that affects both the rich and the poor states. It does not spare communists because terrorists do not care whether the leadership of the state employs capitalism or communism. An ideological difference among states is not a matter of concern to terrorists. States have struggled to form a global organization that oversees the production and consumption of nuclear energy due to threats of terrorism.

States are concerned with how the weapons of mass destruction are produced and utilized. It would be disastrous in case the weapons get into the hands of terrorists. Therefore, the Atomic Agency is an organization that is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that nuclear energy does not get into the hands of terrorists. The organization has the right to investigate and inspect the production of nuclear energy in all countries.

States cooperate when it comes to nuclear disarmament programs because nuclear weapons threaten the security of all states. Under this argument, realists would argue that powerful states do not want weak states to acquire nuclear energy because it would threaten their national interests.

Idealists believe that democracy and egalitarianism are particularly beneficial in attaining collective goals. In this regard, public opinion should always be considered when formulating foreign policy. Powerful states will always intervene militarily to restore democracy in regions affected by conflicts.

The US was justified to intervene militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan because the regimes of these countries interfered with the rights of citizens. In Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, the role of NATO was hailed because the regimes never considered public opinion when making policies. In the international system, states have always worked together to achieve collective security. The principles guiding states are based on norms, but not powers as suggested by realists.

Realists give a contradictory opinion. They suggest that foreign policy is considered high politics meaning that public opinion should never be incorporated into foreign policy making process. In fact, realists believe that states form alliances due to mistrust and suspicion. According to realists, states would always do anything possible to maintain sovereignty. According to realists, the human nature is selfish and brutal. In this regard, national interests influence the formation of international organizations.

Works Cited

Bova, Russell. How the World Works A Brief Survey of International Relations. Boston: Pearson Longman, 2012. Print.

Bova, Russell. Readings on How the World Works, Current Issues in International Relations. New York: Pearson, 2010. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2018, December 11). Idealists and realists. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/idealists-and-realists/

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IvyPanda. 2018. "Idealists and realists." December 11, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/idealists-and-realists/.

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IvyPanda. (2018) 'Idealists and realists'. 11 December.

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