The international relations can be either strained or relaxed, reflecting the relationships between the countries. Though globalization made the relations between most countries more favorable for the development of economies and partnership, it is necessary to remember about the balance of powers that makes the cooperation possible while force concept should be analyzed to evaluate the necessity for interactions and responses to inequalities. As such, the role of forces, especially military ones, should not be underestimated for international relations and major conflicts in terms of bipolarity or unipolar system.
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The role of the military force in contemporary politics is as high as it was in the period of the cold war which is marked with two devastating conflicts that influenced the economic, political, and social stability of both superpowers talking about the United States and their Vietnam affairs and the Soviet Union and Afghanistan.
When two superpowers became involved into a conflict which was the major issue of the entire world being the challenge and a problem for all, a concept of a strong state was to be considered because the stronger state could spread its influence on other countries while the theory of overstretch identifies the collapse of empires as inability of states to commit their obligations before other countries.
Though the multipolar system is more stable and typical of the current globalization situation because there is a number of strong states able to perform their obligations, the situation of the cold war period was a bipolar one being substituted by the tripolar when China got stronger. The theory of imperial overstretch can be applied to both major conflicts that took place I the cold war period when the Soviet Union supported the Vietnamese communist camp while the US-supported Afghanistan in the Soviet war against it.
The domestic politics of every state in this confrontation play a crucial role as the stability inside the country enable it to oppose the external opponents. As suggested by Ferguson and Kotlikoff (2003), “America’s chronically unbalanced domestic finances” (p. 2) can be considered the reason for its inability to commit its obligations and promises it gave in terms of financial and ideological support as well as military aid.
Though the conflicts between the US/Vietnam and Soviet Union/Afghanistan were financial devastating for economies of more countries than these two superpowers, “Today, colonial rule is not only widely condemned but far too costly, as both cold war superpowers discovered in Vietnam and Afghanistan” (Nye, 2002-2003, p. 549). In this respect, the financial aspect of the conflict supports the theory of imperial overstretches developed by Paul Kennedy applied to these two cases.
The social relations contributed greatly to the collapse of the Soviet Union, while the same strategy applied by the United States would inevitably lead to a collapse as well because it is impossible to sustain the country with all economic and political relations using fragile domestic politics. “In the Vietnam era, for example, American government policy and popular culture worked at cross-purposes. Today popular U.S. firms or non-governmental groups develop soft power of their own that may coincide or be at odds with official foreign policy goals” (Nye, 2002-2003, p. 554).
In this respect, the society works for the development of further relations and ties with the foreign units which provides evidence of the theory of imperial overreaction not be applied to the United States in case the state receives support and approval concerning their actions from other countries and the domestic units such as nongovernmental and manufacturing enterprises.
The expansion of powers can be used to sustain the economic stability of the country, whereas it can be effective as well as unprofitable and leading to collapse. As reported in the study by Snyder (1991), “Counterproductive aggressive policies are caused most directly by the idea that the state’s security can be safeguarded only through expansion” (p. 1). In this respect, both superpowers involved in the cold war had the idea of safeguarding the state’s security by expanding its influence over other countries and territories, whereas the stability should have been cultivated within the state without involving other parties.
The development of technologies is another aspect that has to be analyzed in terms of the theory of imperial overstretch to be applied to the US/Vietnam and Soviet Union/Afghanistan conflicts as the attempts to sustain their influence over others to prove that they can expand the influence and, in this way, protect their domestic affairs from intrusion or aggression from outside. Besides, the aggression can be referred to as military campaigns as well as ideological propaganda that appears to have contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union when people learned about another lifestyles. “Postindustrial societies are focused on welfare rather than glory, and they loathe high casualties except when survival is at stake” (Nye, 2002-2003, p. 549). As such, the glory was the major aspect for the US and Soviet leaders and governments making the imperial overstretch theory applicable to both states.
Ferguson, N., & Kotlikoff, L. (2003). Going critical: American power and the consequences of fiscal overstretch. Web.
Nye, J. S. (2002-2003). Limits of American power. Political Science Quarterly, 117 (4), pp. 545-559.
Snyder, J. (1991). Myths of empire: Domestic politics and international ambition. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.