When searching for Realist approach versus Constructivist approach even in IR textbooks, it is clear that these two schools in International Relations are totally incompatible. “Realism is the school of thought that explains relations in terms of power”, (Goldstein & Pevehouse). Realists believe that in order to influence the behavior of other states, each state should not rely on its alliances, but rely on the power of their own. They see political power as the most important issue in contrast with ideology, morality, and other aspects of life.
Realists believe that human beings are unfaithful and can’t be trusted, so the need of a sovereign and strong government will help in keeping a successful society and in keeping norms and rules unbroken by the evil of humanity. The specific government will guarantee and maintain order so that the community won’t enter in a state of chaos created by the eager forces of humans, which are evil by nature and led by passion and the need of unlimited power.
One of the fathers of this school of thought was Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes stated, “A state of war will ensue that will put every man against himself.
Eventually the state of war will lead the people towards peace and the only way to achieve the peace is through social contract. Social peace and civil unity are best achieved through the establishment of a commonwealth through a social contract. This social contract insists that a sovereign power be granted absolute power to protect the commonwealth. This sovereign power will be able to control the powers of human nature because its whole function is to protect the common man”. Moreover, cultural factors such as ideologies and religion with which states justify their actions, do not matter to realists.
In the short term, the most important element of national power for them is the military force, also moral legitimacy, economic strength and diplomatic skills are important since they are part of military power. On the other hand, constructivism is an approach that gives lessons about social interactions, identity, and the nature of norms which can influence powerfully International Relations. Most constructivists tend to explain international behavior based on the principle of identity, which is the principle that provides solutions to the problem by sacrificing their own interest in order to benefit the other in the community.
Constructivism views IR in broader social relations, in contrast with Realism which simply tends to take the interests of the state as given. Constructivists examine how the identities and the interests of states are matched, and how they are shaped from the relations they have with each other state. For example, when North Korea builds nuclear weapons the United States get concerned; however, they will not be concerned if Great Britain builds nuclear weapons, because they know that no matter how many nuclear weapons Great Britain builds, they will not be a threat for the United States.
This example leads us to “the constructivist approach that points out the shared history, shared alliances, and shared norms tell Americans and the British they are not a threat to one another although they are very powerful militarily”, (Goldstein & Pevehouse). Constructivists hold that the identities of states arise from interactions with other states, thus they are changing and complex. So, because of the interactions that they have, states may get to the point where they can conceive one another in a way where they will not feel the effects of anarchy such as arm races or danger of a security dilemma.
In general, for constructivists changes in identity, institutions, norms, and regimes are better explanations than anarchy, power politics, and military force. Constructivists rely on the power to contain state action and also international norms. Realists argue that states follow “the logic of consequences” before they make a decision, which means that they think about what will happen to them if they make a certain move, whereas constructivists support the idea that “the logic of appropriateness”, which means that states mostly think of how to act in a certain situation, is more powerful.
In general, constructivists are usually perceived as more optimistic for making improvements in international relations than realists, who support merely materialism. Constructivism does not try to give the illusion that states will always have peace with each other, though it accepts that peace and war can exist together in world politics. According to Wendt, “Realism does not explain war; rather it explains why states engage in realpolitik behavior.
Constructivism by contrast provides an explanation for both war and peace, which is based on the logic of reciprocity”. I agree with Alexander Wendt’s statement that “if the United States and the Soviet Union decide they are no longer enemies, the cold war is over. ” Each state acts with another state according to the relations they have built with each other. So, “states act differently toward enemies than they do toward friends because enemies are threatening and friends are not”, (Alexander Wendt).
The significance that the military power has for a state is huge, that is why states feel threatened when a state is militarily strong, especially from states that do not have good relations with; in contrast with the states they have good relations with. I argue that threat is the main reason that causes a war, and since the United States and the Soviet Union have military and also economic power, the fear that one would use its missiles first against the other, lead them to war. The structure of the Cold War was based on mutual animosity, deep distrust and constant conflict” (Alexander Wendt). Thus, if these two powerful states would have decided that they are not a threat for each other the situation would have been way too different. Moreover, another factor I would like to state is that the fear of war made that the USA and Soviet Union to have a lot of budget expenditure on behalf of the national security.
Statistics have shown that in approximately 40 years of the cold war, these two countries have produced more ammo and war machines than what was build in the history of mankind. The fear that the Soviet Union or the United States would use its military power to go to war embraced the whole world community, as it is happening with the war against the terrorism nowadays. The war against terrorism had brought countries together in reinforcing their controls in custom points in order to prevent the loss of people of their community.
Cite this Realists and Military Power
Realists and Military Power. (2016, Nov 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/realists-and-military-power/