Science through out history has been the pursuit of truth: testable, quantitative truth. Political science is just the same — with out any of the tangibility of other doctrines. International Relations (henceforth referred to as “IR”) has many theories that attempt to define the actions of states in modern politics, the only problem with these paradigms is none of them are universal. In order to analyze the international system, it must be understood that it isn’t much of a system at all. It functions in a state of anarchy.
Anarchy does not mean chaos or lack of direction, rather, it means there are no rules. The UN is a governing body but it cannot control the main powers — which are unfortunately the only ones that matter. The very reason for the UN’s existence is to promote peaceful negotiation and humanitarian rights around the globe, which in theory is the human race’s greatest attempt to provide equality — all of it is undermined by the security council. USA, China, Russia, Great Britain, and France are all permanent members of this council which allows them to make the rules — and not play by them.
Their true power, though,isn’t in approving decisions, it is the ability to veto decisions that counter national interests. Contemporary examples include the USA invading Iraq with out sanction from the UN and more recently, Russia evoked its right of veto against the attempt to block arms selling to Syria, where mass civilian murder and destruction is taking place. An idealist might shudder in revulsion when confronted with the incontrovertible evidence of states acting almost entirely to the benefit of national interest but it is the way the system evolved.
Idealism is the very root of equality: the premise that national progress is enmeshed in global progress. The idealist paradigm is used frequently in IR for conceptual purposes because nations are unwilling to truly practice it but play along with the ideas. In the international system, there is no room for idealism: nuclear missiles have effectively cowed all lesser nations who do not have at least one of their own. A large critic of Idealism in the 20th century was Edward Carr.
Between his unrelenting criticism “coupled with the onset of World War II and then the Cold War, dealt [Idealism] a devastating blow”1. In a multipolar international system, it becomes increasingly difficult for idealist perspective to shine: with so much competition, nations are forced to focus on internal matters. It is difficult to function as an idealist nation because it believes in “the sweet reasonableness of mankind”2 which is disproven every day through media.
For example, back in the Martin government, the government clearly outlined it’s “Role of Pride and Influence in the World”3 which was also the title for the paper concerning foreign relations — however — as the “atrocity crimes in Darfur”4 became apparent, they did nothing. Ideally, idealism would be the dominant doctrine in global politics, but power corrupts even the most honest intentions and that is the brutal reality. M. A. D. : mutually assured destruction.
This phenomena is only made possible because of nuclear missiles and the idea that when one country launches a missile, other countries will respond in a similar manner and both sides will effectively be destroyed. This is only applicable to countries who have nuclear missiles though, which makes it difficult for so called second world countries to exist in such a global world. Many countries with nuclear capabilities have become “brutal realists”5 and believe to some degree that morality does not have a place in global conflicts — unless it agrees with their interests.
This is the USA’s current modus operandi and it has become apparent over the years — starting with Afghanistan in 2001 — that for them, “might makes right”6. This does not mean that all member of congress are brutal realists, no, it is to say that the decisions made by the White House in regards to foreign affairs seem to follow this trend: they make constant insurgences into other countries, undermining there sovereignty in the process, and change there way of life to suit the American Way. “‘The brutal realist takes pleasure in his brutal realism. He prides himself on his tough-mindedness.
His nose is hard. he enjoys the company of hawks. ’”7. There idea of might makes right makes them believe that with there power, everyone should have the same ideas, and if they don’t then they threaten there way of life. It is insecurity at an international level: they must force people to believe they are in power. It is evident that Idealism is impractical, however, the other end of the scale only increases global tensions and so we look for a middle ground. Liberal realism is the brain child of a great many scholars who are in between a fundamental idealist and an orthodox realist.
This hybrid ideal allows for a gray area in between the two doctrines making it more practical for an analysis of current behavior of states. In IR, power is the determinant factor for all conflicts — that is known — and liberal realists “understand the importance of power”8 but they do not believe the “brutality of politics at the global level”9 should remain as it is because they are “fundamentally liberal in their approach”10. The greatest accolade of this paradigm is they do not merit attempts at “universalizing… particular political orthodoxy on all peoples and states. ”
Although liberal realism is “long out of fashion in the literature on foreign policy and international politics”12, it has seen a resent influx of use pioneered by David G. Haglund and Stephane Roussel. As stated in this paragraph, universalizing a particular orthodoxy is not the correct course of action, however, this doctrine is certainly applicable in IR. James Eayrs, being “a ‘good Canadian’… suggest[ed] a middle way. ”13 that incorporated the best of both worlds, or perhaps could just one better world.
Practical Idealism is the idea of approaching things in an idealistic perspective, though tempering judgments with realism. On paper, this appears opposite to liberal realism, but in practice they are very similar. It puts optimism first in IR and with out optimism, there can be no progressive evolution. The people who act upon behalf of states should use this paradigm and be “moved by ethical considerations”14 when making decisions — with no stipulations based on cultural differences. It is the age old idiom in actual practice: love thy neighbor — globally, and locally.
With their love of combining state and religion perhaps the USA (arguably the greatest power in the world) would take this into account. Through out history, the brutal realists (which is the dominating paradigm) prosper, and then decline as a result of their attempts to bully everyone in to submission. The Roman empire, arguably one of the most stable and prosperous powers the world had ever seen, fell because it hubristically sought to change the world to their way of life. Shifting two millenia into the future, we find the US following the same course, whether it is too their doom shall be revealed as time progresses.
Perhaps another cataclysmic struggle will grip the earth such as the two great wars of the preceding century, but with the presence of nukes we will not survive such a hateful and irrational conflict. James Eayres message seem “quaint and old-fashioned”15 but that is because powerful people would like to belittle attempts to undermine their power and direction. Perhaps, we need to go back to the roots of humanity — for we are all humans — and learn again how to co-habitate this earth. As they say: “when in Rome”… ah, but there is no more Rome — and that is the point.