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Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for power and peace

Info: 4888 words (20 pages) Essay
Published: 16th May 2017 in Politics

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In 1948 a German called Hans J Morgenthau wrote a book called, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for power and peace. This was book was to become the bedrock of American foreign policy for much of the cold war years (1945-1991). Morgenthau was also very critical of American foreign policy, especially the war in Vietnam and viewed it as very simplistic, “The statesman must think in terms of the national interest conceived as power among other powers. The popular mind, unaware of the fine distractions of the statesman’s thinking, reasons more often than not in the simple moralistic and legalistic terms of absolute good and evil”. (Morgenthau, 1978, p13). Morgenthau died in 1980, a supporter of his ideas called John J Mearsheimer has stated that, “he would have regarded the neo-conservatives’ adventure in Iraq as equally flawed”. (Mearsheimer, 2005). Mearsheimer also goes on to say that, “almost all realists in the US- except Henry Kissinger- opposed the war in Iraq”. (Mearsheimer, 2005). This highlights that most of the realists are collectively combined in their idea of thought.

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Realist influence in US foreign policy really started to take hold during the presidencies of John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnston and peaked during the Vietnam War. The main idea of the Vietnam War was to contain and defeat the communist threat in South East Asia, this very similar to George W. Bush Jnr’s idea of containing and defeating terrorism in Iraq and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction. By the end of both wars the neoconservative and realist paradigms were in peaces due to the disastrous outcomes.

Hans J Morgenthau identified six key principles of a Realist foreign policy in his book Politics among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. (Morgenthau, 1978,4- p15).

1) “Politics is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature.” This means that realists try and make a paradigm that can be split between the truth and opinion we can emphasise with politicians and say what course of action they should take.

2) “Interest is defined in terms of power”. This is the primary function of politics. Countries have interests in many parts of the world. We do not ask what motivates a country in terms of foreign politics, we question how politicians go about achieving those interests. All countries are different and so some will behave differently to others, they might be predictable or unpredictable. Morgenthau argues in his book that predictable foreign policy can be good because it lessens risks taken and broadens the benefits of policies because that is politically successful.

3) “Interest defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid but whose meaning can change”. Morgenthau has described power as strength to rule people and keep control of that strength.

4) “Universal moral principles cannot be applied to the actions of states in the abstract; the circumstances of time of time and place must be considered”. The states continuation is the primary objective of any government. Any other course of politics will be judged by the actions taken.

5) “The moral laws that govern the universe are distinct for the moral of anyone nation”

6) “The difference between political realism and other schools is real and profound”. Realism is reliant on human nature. A man who only has one objective is dangerous because that is what he strives to achieve. But to further develop realism as a theory this man must not be included into other aspects of realism as a theory.

The Chapters in this dissertation discuss these six principles and in the conclusion each principle will be analysed and summarised to give an evaluation of the foreign policy theory, portraying ways how a realist foreign policy approach is and is not a suitable way to determine foreign policy.

Chapter One- How can realism be defined

Realism uses the state as the primary actor in world politics. Its main achievement is that since the purpose of the state is national survival in a hostile environment the acquisition of power is the proper, rational and inevitable goal of foreign policy. Thus foreign politics can be defined as a struggle between power maximising states in a chaotic environment. Hence realism is sometimes referred to as the power politics school of thought. Although this policy does not offer adequate explanations for US foreign policy towards rogue states, states whose behaviour has the potential to alter external security environment in a negative way for the US. As James Feron argues the theory can’t explain why, ‘a state chooses bad or foolish foreign policies’. (Feron, 1998, p291) These theories do not tell us why the US does not balance against some threats.

Concepts of ‘self -help’ and ‘sovereignty’ become integral parts of the realist view of global affairs. Since all states seek to maximise power in such a lawless world, realism emphasises the prevalent nature of conflict and competition in world politics. This in turn validates the acquisition of military capabilities by states, sufficient at least to deter attacks in a dangerous and uncertain world.

Acceptance of the constant risk of conflict does not mean that the threat of conflict should go unchecked, since this would threaten the whole concept of the state. A technique utilised by realists in managing conflicts is through the balance of power. For example this can be seen throughout the cold war with the build-up of arms and the desire to build a bigger military capability to ensure that the balance of power was held between the USA & USSR.

This case illustrates that power and the role power has is a major influence in international politics. This underlines the realist paradigm that international relations is based upon a hierarchy, of which it is based on power capabilities, where the principle of equality between states is non-existent since states vary in their abilities to project power. Weaker states are usually taken advantage of by stronger state’s. An example of this can be seen with US political and economic embargo and sanctions placed on Cuba since 1959, this the best example of a long term attempt at trying to bring about political change in a country.

Chapter Two- “Poltics is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature”

Morgenthau’s first principle indicated that politics is governed by the rule of law and that this can be found in human nature. Realists argue that the rule of politics must make a clear cut choice between the fact and fiction that has to be supported by reasonable debate and evidence and it must not corrupt itself by the objective desires of politicians. An example for this can be found in the US decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. The Bush administration clearly corrupted itself in looking for evidence and reasons to invade Iraq, and in doing so produced false reasons and intelligence to support their theory that Iraq was harbouring terrorists and manufacturing weapons of mass destruction. This idea is supported by Dr David Kay’s in his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Dr Kay stated “We have not found at this point actual weapons,” David Kay’s report to Congress went further to say, “It does not mean we’ve concluded there are no actual weapons.” (Kay 2004). In Bush’s case for starting the war against Iraq realists would say that Bush failed to split the truth from opinion and therefore he gave a misleading reason for going to war. The war in Iraq, Bush had hoped for would be the domino theory that the Vietnam War was suppose to be. According to Mearsheimer Bush had hoped that by installing democracy in Iraq it would lead on to other nations having revolutions that would eventually implement a democratic government. This can be seen as going against Morgenthau’s first principle

But on the other hand we can see evidence of Morgenthau’s teachings as a justification for the war in Iraq. Morgenthau’s first principle of, “Politics is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature”. (Morgenthau, 1978, p4-15). This can be highlighted in foreign politics with states trying to compete against one another to be a global dominator this, ‘objective law’ has its place in human nature. The USA has assumed its current position as global supper power since 1991 after the disintegration of the USSR. The attacks on the trade centres on 9th September 2001 marked a turning point in the way the USA thought it could wield its power. The USA felt as if its position as a leading super power was under attack and tried to regain its statue and position with the invasion of Iraq in 2003. But Morgenthau does not count on emotions to used as a reason to go to war which was used under the guise of the protecting innocent people from Saddam’s weapon of mass destruction threat.

Morgenthau was enthusiastic to apply human nature and objective laws to his six principles. He used them to express his direct opposition to the war in Vietnam and how the US war there could not defended. He also highlights that the US government was, “manipulating the public mind: by avoiding inconvenient facts, by disseminating misinformation under the guise of educating the public, by convening public meetings with a pro-war policy program, by enlisting speakers who share the freedom house agenda… in consequence by making dissent unpopular and by suggesting the dissenters are unpatriotic”. (Zimmer, 2011, p304). This can be seen in Morgenthau’s first principle as it shows that politicians failure to split the truth and opinion can lead to a manipulation of action taken by those that are in charge and by the way they try to hold on to power. Leo Strauss, a neo conservative, seems to compliment Morgenthau on the way that human nature can effect decisions Strauss has indicated in his work that politicians tell ‘noble lies’ to help society come to terms with the action there state is about to take. “Strauss believed it was for politicians to assert powerful and inspiring myths everyone could believe in. They might not be true, but they were ‘necessary illusions’. One of these was religion and the order was the myth of the nation of America that was the idea that the country had a unique destiny to battle against the forces of evil throughout the world”. (Curtis,2004)

Chapter Three- “Interest is defined in terms of power”

An ancient Greek philosopher called Thuydides is quoted as saying, “the do what they have to do and the weak accept what they have to accept”. (Strassler, 2008, p32). This can be highlighted in Morgenthau’s second principle. Thuydides teaching can be a primary objective of a states acting to defend their interests. This is never more evident in American foreign policy towards Iraq. The war can be viewed as following a very clear cut path of realism rather than neo-conservatism. It can be argued that when a super power is on the path to war there is no state or international organisation that can stop it, for example the USSR’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan 1979-1989. This is most certainly the case with Iraq despite various protests to the war across the globe.

In the wake of terrorist attacks on the 9th September 2001support for the war in Iraq was running high due to the information and evidence that was being provided by the Bush administration to the public. The war then began to echo that of Vietnam as American became bogged down in fighting insurgents and the death toll began to rise. This is evident in a Gallup poll (figure A), “… Iraq war opposition (63%) is also notable because it is the highest ‘mistake’ percentage Gallup has ever measured for an active war involving the USA- surpassing by two percentage points to 61% who said the Vietnam war was a mistake in May 1971”. (Jones, Gallup, 2008)

(figure A) (Jones, Gallup, 2008)

http://media.gallup.com/poll/graphs/080423Iraq1_x7b3m0.gif

In conjunction with Morgenthau’s second principle, the USA felt it was in there national interest to guarantee safety to themselves by eliminating Saddam Hussein. This in turn it was hoped, might have a knock on effect to the rest of the Middle East. Despite only a handful of supporters and many opponents to it, the USA took Thuydides view to the war. This also highlighted America’s commitment to spreading democracy and therefore creating a global and peaceful environment for the world and the Middle East.

Is second principle of Morgenthau’s of “Interest is defined in power”, can be viewed in another way that the US was securing its interests in the short to long term. Many critics have argued that the US is securing is interests in the short to long term and that Iraq had to pay the price for that under the case that was peddled by the Bush administration. David Lieberfield has suggested that, “in order to address why Iraq in particular was targeted, realism would also point to Iraqs geostrategic location which impinged on multiple security concerns of the US and to Iraqs unsurpassed oil reserves which it could deploy against US interests” (Liebierfield, 2005, p4). From a realists perspective this can be seen as the primary goal, securing the US’s interests and preventing the emergence of a hostile power, instead of the neo-conservative view promoting human rights and encouraging democratisation. There is further evidence that America was trying to protect its long terms interests in the oil that is in Iraq was during a cabinet meeting with Bush, “”President Bush’s Cabinet agreed in April 2001 that ‘Iraq remains

a destabilising influence to the flow of oil to international markets

from the Middle East’ and because this is an unacceptable risk to

the US ‘military intervention’ is necessary.” (Murphy, Evening Standard, 2003).

This chapter has demonstrated that Morgenthau’s second principle of. ‘Interests is defined in terms of power’ has shown that states achieving and protecting their interests by using power to define them is ruthless, “The assertation of American power after 9/11 was seen as a turning point as it highlighted to the world that American power was not in terminal decline, America sought to protect itself and its national interests by the use of force”. (Harisch, Frank, Maull, 2011, p182). Beside what many critics of the war may perceive, Henry Kissinger has claimed that it has benefited the US in the long term. (Kissinger, 2011). Although morality was injected into the reasoning behind the war, Strauss have advised that this and is evident in Morgenthau’s first principle. Morgenthau tries to express in his writings that morality and national interest should be kept apart when it come to foreign policy.

Chapter Five- “Interest defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid but whose meaning can change”

Morgenthau’s fourth principle takes into consideration the concept that “Interest defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid but whose meaning can change”. (Morgenthau, 1978,4- p15). Morgenthau places emphasis on the defining of power, he expansively defines it as, “anything that establishes and maintains control over man”. (Morgenthau, 1978,4- p15). He also argues that meaning and definition of the nation state changes over time, “while the realist indeed believes that interest is the perennial standard by which political action must be judged and directed the contemporary connection between interest and the nation state is a product of history and therefore is bound to disappear in the course of history”. (Williams, Wright, Evans, 1993, p198).

Realists don’t assume that the world as we know it at the moment, which is divided into individual states, could be replaced by states based on a larger entity and being far from what we know now.

Other thoughts of realism, which are different to Morgenthau’s, ponder about how the current global state of affairs will change. Realists do accept that this change can be bought about by looking at how factors shaped the past and that similar factors could possible shape the future. But Williams, Wright and Evans argue that, “realists cannot be persuaded that we can bring about a transformation by confronting a political reality that has its own laws with an abstract idea that refuses to take those laws into account”. (Williams, Wright, Evans, 1993, p198).

Realism is against the idea of pacification. Realists support the theory that appeasement doesn’t work by using Hitler as an example. The bush administration took a standing point with the realist perspective when it came to foreign policy with Iraq. The policy that was taken against Iraq, has been justified by Richard Perle, “the continental power wanted until after Hitler invaded Poland in 1939 and America waited until after September 11th to go after Osama Bin Laden. Hitler’s self declared ambitions and military build up like, like Bin Laden’s were under constant scrutiny long before the acts of aggression to which a response became unavoidable. Both could have been stopped by a relatively modest well timed pre-emption”. (Perle, The Telegraph, 2002). Perle goes on further to stress that, “what risk do we run if Saddam remains in power ad continues to build his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons ? what dangers would follow his acquisition of nuclear weapons. We cannot know for sure. But on which side would it be better to be on? How would a decision to do nothing now and hope for best, look when Saddam has nuclear weapons and he makes another run at Kuwait or succeeds Afghanistan as terrorist head quarters of the world”. (Perle, The Telegraph, 2002). Perle is highlighting the American and continuing schools of realism’s thought on appeasement a potential dangerous enemy. He is conforming to Morgenthau’s third principle by applying, establishing and maintaining a certain level of control over Iraq and the people of Iraq.

This highlights Morgenthau’s third principle, “interests defined as power is an objective category which is universally valid but the whole mean can change”. Howard Feinberg has argued that, “Power is anything that establishes and maintains the control of man over man”, accordingly to Morgenthau’s third principle his definition of power cover not only the intrinsic power of capability (“physical violence” or the threat thereof”), which is all that Waltz recognises, but also that of contingent power (“subtle psychological ties and mental control”). National character… morale and the quality of government” are found by Morgenthau to be even the most important components of power, even more so than the intrinsic capabilities. (Feinberg, 1996). This highlights that power is control and that Morgenthau’s third principle realises this. But as with America, Morgenthau’s third principle has realised that power has its limitations to control as the US found concerning its support from different nations leading up to the Iraq war. The critic Kenneth Waltz has argued that American justification for the war is an attempt to convince the world that to go to war is just. But it is also a classic realist sign that of an attempt at trying to take control, through the power of reasoning. “The urge to explain is not born out of idle curiosity alone. It is produced also, by the desire to control or at least a desire to know if control is possible”. (Waltz, 1996, p15).

Despite Morgenthau’s third principle, realism does not take into account the climate in which foreign policy can be applied. An important part of the realist school of thought is the balance of power. The balance of power can be applied successfully to foreign policy the actions applied can also make the world co-operate more there is no nation state is trying to gain an upper hand. An example of this could be the peace that has existed between France and Germany since the end of the Second World War.

Chapter Five- “Universal moral principles cannot be applied to the actions of states in the abstract; the circumstances of time and place must be considered”.

Morgenthau’s fourth principle argues that the school of realism realises that morals can play a part in the importance of taking a political action. It also recognises that there can be some friction created between those that want to apply those morals to a states actions and whether or not the application of those morals on a states action is successful or not. Realism fails to address any tension that may occur and it does not make clear any moral or political issues which may occur by a state acting as a leader. The state may try and make its own morals appear more appealing to other nations than they actually are. Hasting argues that Morgenthau’s fourth principle advocates that some states may act even if the moral is indefensible or even morally wrong, “… relations between states as leaders must sometimes take actions considered morally wrong in order to best serve the interest of those to whom they are accountable. i.e the people”. (Hastings, academia.edu).

Morgenthau insists that realism can not apply morals to states actions, “Political realism is aware of the moral significance of political action. It is also aware of the ineluctable tension between the moral command and the requirements of successful political action. And it is unwilling to gloss over and obliterate that tension and thus to obfuscate both the moral and the political issue by making it appear as though the stark facts of politics were morally more satisfying than they actually are, and the moral law less exacting than it actually is”. (Myers, 2006, p14). Morgenthau’s argument highlights the fact that the state has an obligation to continue function as one, and to protect its people that are within the state. According to Keaney, he argues that it is the in the intrinsic nature of the human actors who control the states that cause states to behave in the way they do”. (Keaney, 2006, p4) . This suggests that there can be no morality in politics unless there is careful management. If states actors do not take into consideration the results of their actions then this can risk upsetting the balance of power. Realism does come to the conclusion that any form of political action is bad despite states morals. This is due to an outcome that is going to be unfavourable to any actors involved despite any judgements passed on actions taken. An example of this can be US foreign policy in Iraq.

The US actions in Iraq can be considered a clear reflection of Morgenthau’s fourth principle. This because of the US taking a course of action that other states actors did not agreed with. This can be seen in figure B with a steady decrease in the popularity of America after the invasion of Iraq, the chart shows the opinions of Western European countries. In realist terms the primary objectives of the American government after the September 11th attacks was to gain a foothold in the Middle East that would give access to other parts of the world. Many saw the Americans actions as unfavourable and that prompted them to say that the American attack on Iraq was for its oil reserves. The Bush administration came to the conclusion that it would be better to invade Iraq and eradicate it of terrorism altogether rather than them hunt individual terrorists. Bush prior to the invasion of Iraq squarely pinned the blame for anti-Americanism onto the shoulders of Iraq and other dictatorships in the Middle East. This argument has been supported by Tom Lindberg and Suzanne Mossel, “Given the links drawn by everyone from Osama bin Laden to President Bush between the Iraqi insurgency and the fight against al Qaeda, it becomes clear that anti-Americanism plays at least some role in motivating those who aid and abet the Iraqi insurgency with financing, shelter, and other forms of support.” (Lindberg, Mossel, The Princeton Project of National Security, p13).

(Figure B)

Do Opinion of the United States

you have a favorable or unfavorable view of the U.S.?

Europe: Percent responding Favorable, all years measured

COUNTRY

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

View trend for Britain on this question Britain

75

70

58

55

56

51

53

69

65

61

60

View trend for Bulgaria on this question Bulgaria

72

51

View trend for Czech Republic on this question Czech Republic

71

45

54

View trend for France on this question France

62

42

37

43

39

39

42

75

73

75

69

View trend for Germany on this question Germany

60

45

38

42

37

30

31

64

63

62

52

View trend for Greece on this question Greece

35

View trend for Italy on this question Italy

70

60

53

74

View trend for Lithuania on this question Lithuania

73

View trend for Netherlands on this question Netherlands

45

View trend for Poland on this question Poland

79

62

61

68

67

74

70

69

View trend for Russia on this question Russia

61

37

46

52

43

41

46

44

57

56

52

View trend for Slovakia on this question Slovakia

60

41

View trend for Spain on this question Spain

38

41

23

34

33

58

61

64

58

View trend for Sweden on this question Sweden

46

View trend for Ukraine on this question Ukraine

80

54

60

As Morgenthau’s four principle reiterates, some actions taken are going to be unfavourable to others. For realists the invasion of the country was a logical, with the evidence given. This is because national security and the continuation of the state take priority above any other interest which maybe had even if the political decision is unfavourable. The US did perceive that Iran and Syria did pose a threat against the USA. But with the US having such a close force to these threats it could be in a better position to take action against one of the need was there. Bush, it could be argued was using a domino theory as exactly as was employed in Vietnam.

Chapter Six- “The moral laws that govern the universe are distinct for the moral of anyone nation”

 

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