Robert Gilpin Thucydides and World Politics

            The world has somewhat seen the expansion of the liberalism ideology, which waned Thucydides’ manifestation of states being self-serving utility maximizers. I would argue that even though the insecurities that states experienced in the Peloponnesian War can still be observed at present, it has already mellowed down due to the rapid advancement of globalization over the past few decades. The unfettering of the markets and the rise of the international regimes such as the United Nations and the regional institutions (EU, ASEAN) has fueled the unstoppable globalization movement. Current state coalitions do not merely focus on security issues, such as what was witnessed in the notable alliances in the archaic times. The Peloponnesian, Hellenic and Delian Leagues emerged to invigorate their military prowess, while the current coalitions have given more importance to the economy, human rights, environmental concerns and the conviction that peace leads to a worldwide economic prosperity.

Baylis and Smith pointed out that the Kantian logic has been an accepted belief in the international arena for quite some time now[1]. Wars between democracies are seen as being rare and they are believed to settle mutual conflicts of interest without the threat or use of force. More importantly, non-state organizations have the ability and clout to overcome the dangers of security competition between states. They exert a casual force on international relations, shaping state preferences and locking them in to cooperative arrangements[2].This unmistakably diluted the assertion of realists, as states are cooperating and compromising with each other, rather than picking fights and spilling blood. The anarchic nature that was witnessed at the time of the Greek civilization is unequaled by the contemporary era. We are not as chaotic as some realists would contend, as we have not even used the nuclear weapons since the end of the Second World War.

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Yes, it is undeniable that a handful of wars can still be noticed at present time, but most of the powerful nations would preferably negotiate and settle the conflict than wage costly campaigns. Most of the conflicts that happened over the past fifty years (Korean War, 1st War on Iraq) were justifiable by international standards and necessary for law and order to be achieved. These wars are not as turbulent and lawless as what was witnessed before, wherein power could never be compromised. The best example of this case is on the “soft” reaction of the United States when Russia violated the international creed by invading Georgia. Seizing another territory is an alerting situation that could have gory and grisly impacts on the international arena. But the United States knows too well on how economically important Russia is, too important to instigate something destructive. Both nations are part of the influential G8 bloc and synergism is vital for their economies to recuperate, especially in the case of the US. Declaring war against the Russians might have transpired during Thucydides’ time, but is illogical to undertake these days. Large areas of the Russian territory has yet to be explored, such as the Bering and Okhotsk seas, which might contain vast amounts of natural resources that would profit the US companies. Any oil and gas discoveries in the Russian soil would be a blessing for the American market[3]. Ed Verona of the US-Russia Business Council spotlights that both countries have bilateral ties that are significant to each other’s economic well being. These Fortune 100 companies generate billions of dollars on aviation, construction, pharmaceuticals, automotives, agriculture and oil. Instead of going to war, these influential countries are cooperating with each other by being part of the World Trade Organization that brings more transparency and stimulating increased trade flows. Since Russia is the world’s largest energy exporter and the US is the world’s largest importer of energy, it is sensible that a war between the two nations is far fetching. Moreover, the US does not only look out for itself, but for welfare of its associates, specifically Britain. Verona mentions that the EU bloc depends on the Russian oil exports, with a bilateral trade of $350 billion in 2007[4]. This means an impending war would only shatter the soundness of their economies. The unlawful act that Russia did on Georgia is not only a pardonable offense, but would be a global norm that indicates on how peace and conflict resolution is being primarily practiced over blatant hostilities. If Sparta and Athens fought each other for power and wealth back then, countries of today are rather collaborating for future power and wealth.

The current global financial crisis is another significant example on how the role of the states in the Greek period has drastically changed in this day and age. States are continually losing their grip on the international structure, paving way for the global markets and other non-state actors to have control and dominance. The modern fiscal problem is an indication on how the markets where given power to expand globalization and concomitantly, made the states weaker and submit to the economic factors. Robert Wade suggests that the free market ideology (which is the complete antithesis of the realist’s contention that states are the supreme primary actors in IR) caused the economic disaster. It was beyond the state’s capacity to stop the banks from excessive debt-lending and risk-taking attitudes of the huge financial firms[5]. It might even be a case of self-destruction by the states, especially when the US opened up their financial sector and allowed them to run freely. Wade pinpoints that one solution would be to reform the overcomplicated and ineffective global regulatory structure. If states are as ineffective as the global regulatory system, then how could they be considered as the primary actors? They have truly been overshadowed by the transnational firms, which are crossing borders to look for earnings and gains. Furthermore, this just shows states are now more concerned with their economies than their military and national securities. They are focused on regulating the markets; such as Wade’s suggestion to place finance in the same frame as regulated industries like drugs, tobacco, firearms and explosives[6]. It is even palpably spotted in the US presidential elections that the issue on the economy is given more seriousness compared to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. How would the realists contend on issue that we are on dire straits, as thousands of people are losing their jobs and do not have enough food to eat, but things are still pretty organized to an extent where peace among states and global norms are still being followed? If the global crisis could be solved, then I believe that it must still follow the ideas and values of liberalism. Treaties, conventions and working groups in promoting a refurbished global regulatory framework can only be attained if the states work hand in hand. Assisting each other might be the only way to redemption. On top of that, other global crises like the SARS outbreak (severe acute respiratory syndrome), H1N1 virus (swine flu) and other health-related quandaries have been pretty much dealt with toleration and order. If this happened centuries ago, upheavals and fortifications might have materialized. But at present times non-state institutions such as the World Health Organization have gained much respect and the dutifulness of the states in adhering them. Instead of completely breaking off ties with disease-stricken nations, these states have abided by the international values of cooperation and pitching in.

The success of the European Union is another indication on how majority of the countries in one continent or region can undergo constant peace. They do not only share the same currencies, trade exemptions and a free pass for citizens to each member-nation, but are also ardently helping out each other to achieve absolute gains. The notion that states are selfish and power-hungry can be utterly rebuffed if you use the EU as the paragon of peace and cooperation. The EU states are evidently prosperous and sheltered away from the harsh reality of poverty and disorder (compared to the regions of Africa and East Asia) due to their willingness to assist each other. At the same time, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN are extending and amplifying their regional partnerships by shifting from non-mandatory regulations to binding principles. This means that that they are ready to make big steps in assuming their roles and responsibilities for the betterment of the international society.  We must remember that border states and other nearby nations can potentially enter into a long-term conflict because of territorial disputes, especially on how deal with the open seas. There are still areas of land that are being disputed in the Asian region and one of them is the Spartly Islands. In spite of that, the Southeast Asian countries have placed their differences behind them and are instead focusing on the transnational crimes, illegal migration and economic contingency plans. You do not see them invade each other, but are putting their contradictions into the legal proceedings and are continuously in good terms with each other. This is why the ideals of liberalism are presently getting the better hand, as nations are choosing peace and cooperation over diffidence and vexation.

It is indubitable that states are still very important in today’s international relations. Their autonomy and capacity to alter something is still very much distinguished. The global crisis might even spark a new era of chaos if the gloomy world economy does not improve. They are still rationally seeking for extreme gains. But at present, things are definitely divergent from how Athens and Sparta dealt with each other, as the rise of the international regimes and global markets tells us that no longer are the states the lone primary actors. Each institution has now the crucial role to play and each of them can very well influence the outcome of the future. States can no longer fully control the international arena and completely rule with a rod of iron.

Bibliography

J Baylis & S Smith, The Globalization of World Politics: 3e, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp. 1-78.

E Verona, ‘Remarks on US-Russia relations and energy security’, retrieved 27 March 2009, <www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/2009-62-12.cfm>.

R Wade, ‘The First-World Debt Crisis of 2007-2010 in Global Perspective’, Challenge, vol. 51, no. 4, 2008, pp. 23-54.

[1] J Baylis & S Smith, The Globalization of World Politics: 3e, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 18.
[2] Baylis, p. 31.
[3] E Verona, ‘Remarks on US-Russia relations and energy security’, retrieved 27 March 2009, <www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/2009-62-12.cfm>.
[4] Verona, <www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/2009-62-12.cfm>.
[5] R Wade, ‘The First-World Debt Crisis of 2007-2010 in Global Perspective’, Challenge, vol. 51, no. 4, 2008, pp. 23-54.
[6] Wade, pp. 44.

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