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A Realist View of International Relations

June 4, 2011

In international relations, “conflict and war are seen as endemic… States …are engaged in a relentless competitive struggle… the clash between states is … difficult to resolve because there is no authoritative government to create justice and the rule of law. In the absence of world government, … states have adopted a “self-help” approach to their interests and especially their security. In other words, they reserve the right to use lethal force to achieve their objective, a right that individuals living in civil society have given up to the state. Who wins in international relations does not depend on who is right according to some moral or legal ruling… power determines who gets their way. In international relations, might makes right”. See John Baylis and James J. Wirtz, “Introduction” in John Baylis, et al., eds. Strategy in the contemporary world, 2nd ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007) 1-16 at 8.
Bases of this view: Human nature. Thomas Hobbes, human beings are seen as “inherently destructive, selfish, competitive and aggressive.” Humankind is prone to conflict, violence, and great evil. In other words, human nature is “fundamentally flawed”.
Reason, law, morality and institutions play only limited role in world politics…”states will agree to laws when it suits them, but will disregard them when their interests are threatened. When states want to break the rules, there is very little to stop them from doing it apart from countervailing force.” (ibid at 8).


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