International Relations: States
International relations, as a field of study and practice, invites scholars to theorize how states can or should interact with their neighbors on a global scale. The realist approach holds that international cooperation can be difficult to achieve with potential for conflicts and tension among states (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 76). States are less incentivized to cooperate with others as there are limited relative gains from cooperation since they would lose their power thereby becoming more vulnerable. Realism hypothesizes that states primarily pursue their own interests as unitary actors in the anarchic international system (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 73). In this context, the main interest is security and to increase their power through conquest and balancing (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 73). the need for relative gains results in a security dilemma whereby one state seeks more power acquisition to ensure security at the expense of another. Consequently, the other state pursues more power resulting in a spiral that is leads to consistent conflicts and tension among states despite the absence of war and conquest (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 76). The major assumptions of realism are that the state is a unitary and principal actor with international bodies holding less power.
For liberalists, the possibility of international cooperation is high and states have a higher probability of peaceful coexistence. The core concept in liberalism is that human beings are rational and inherently social, a foundation that facilitates the development of suitable institutions for the enhancement of human welfare through learning (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 82). The key actors in international cooperation include international organizations, states, and nongovernmental organizations (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 83). Liberalists emphasize three main factors contributing to international cooperation including international institutions, democracy, and economic interdependence (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 86). International institutions comprise treaties and organizations which play a critical role in the facilitation of cooperative interactions through international politics.
These organizations are also instrumental in establishing a framework for interactions, consequently creating an environment where a continuity of international relations is anticipated and reciprocated. However, it is important to note the difference in motivators for cooperation between classical liberalists and neoliberal institutionalists (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 84). Classical liberalists believe in the inherent goodness of human beings, and emphasize that this is the core of international cooperation. Conversely, neoliberal institutionalists theorize that cooperation is in the actors’ self-interest and that it stems from consistent and continuous interactions among states.
The constructivist approach argues for the significance of the actors’ identities including their culture and social structures that define these identities and influence behavior in international cooperation. Under this theory, the key actors in international cooperation include the elites, the people, and the different cultures rather than the state as one. The interactions between different identities plays an integral role in defining international politics. According to AUTHOR (87), states can have convergent or divergent identities based on their ideals and characteristics and these aspects determine their willingness to cooperate with others. Notably, constructivists argue that state interests, just like state behaviors, are shaped by their beliefs and the perceptions of others. These interests develop from their socially constructed identifies and they have a significant role in international cooperation. Similar to liberalism and realism, constructivism reinforces the value of power in international relations. However, their perception of power is relatively different. Constructivists perceive power in discursive terms whereby it is based on the strength of ideas, language and culture while liberalists and realists focus on the material power stemming from political, economic and military strength.
International Governmental Organizations (IGOs) and international law play a crucial role in security, peacekeeping, and war prevention. International law is essentially a set of rules and guidelines designed to regulate interactions among states, individuals, and IGOs. This law is structured to highlight approaches to international cooperation while providing a framework for conflict resolution. It also outlines the expectations from each state, oversees the establishment of international order, and protects the status quo while overseeing a state’s use of force to maintain order (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 246). Beyond these functions, international law is also a moral and ethical compass that aims for justice and equitability to guarantee cultural and social desirability.
In the context of security, international law and IGOs are vital in foreign policymaking and in regulating how states implement and conduct foreign policy. States benefit from being in IGOs as they have a framework that legitimizes their policies and viewpoints especially when enforcing their actions to ensure security (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 323). Additionally, IGOs are vital in availing inter-state information that could be instrumental in the policy-making process, thereby guaranteeing that states can effectively develop security policies to their benefit. Other IGOs also execute specialized activities that align or augment state policy (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 323). One of the main IGOs tasked with international security is the United Nations (UN).
Regarding security, the UN has tasked with overseeing international peace and security through policies, treaties, and using its resources to ensure that peace is achieved. The organization encourages member states to refrain from threatening or using force under different circumstances unless otherwise approved (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 327). It also requires that all inter-state disputes are revolved using peaceful means through regional mediations or its own intervention. The Hague conferences also outline guidelines for peaceful conflict resolution and they hold transgressors accountable using the necessary measures. When conflict cannot be resolved through peaceful means, the UN also highlights enforcement measures that can be integrated which are particularly sanctions on a state and guidelines on the use of force.
In the past, the view of international security was limited to the realist perspective whereby the state wielding more power would have better security. This view was primarily held by the founders of the United Nations and the League of Nations, which set the foundation for international peace. However, in the more recent times, the UN has encountered various challenges that have forced it to reconsider its perspective on security and peacekeeping. This can be mainly attributed to the consequences of war on less powerful countries and the impacts on the surrounding communities. For example, the UN took on more roles and responsibilities in providing relief to victims of conflict in the form of food, clothing and shelter for victims and states susceptible to natural disasters. These responsibilities are classified under human security, which go beyond political conflict while still capturing the concept of security.
While these efforts have been relatively successful in upholding security and peacekeeping, conflict is still existent in different parts of the world. It is important to note that some states are not part of these international organizations and as such, they do not have a governing body to regulate their use of force. Consequently, it is difficult to control the impacts of these conflicts on other surrounding states. Additionally, based on the realist perspectives, states are unitary actors and they can take it upon themselves to make independent decisions particularly when posed with a threat.
Does everyone win with the globalization of trade and finance? Discuss with reference to International Financial Institutions and trade agreements.
Across the world, international finance institutions (IFIs) are crucial for state and interstate socioeconomic development, which can be particularly beneficial for developing countries. IFIs execute different responsibilities to facilitate financial independence and to promote international development. For example, the International Financial Corporation allocates loans for private entities in developing countries whereas the International Development Association allocates funds to low socioeconomic countries for their development. Both organizations have payment plans that make it convenient for countries to conduct businesses appropriately while repaying their loans. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency also aims to augment capital flow in developing countries by offering investment insurance from currency restrictions, conflict and political unrest, and expropriation (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 281). The availability of wealth funds has resulted in faster capital movement across national borders, which is facilitated by currency differentials across the world. States have also specialized in the trade of new financial instrumental that maximize their long-term profits. With these investments, states that are heavily dependent on natural resources (such as natural gas and oil) can cushion themselves against economic turbulence. The eruption of new economic markets has also led to the development of other financial instruments that are vital in protecting organizations from future economic changes and anticipate future investments and pricings.
While IFIs have been instrumental in economic development, it is important to note that the globalization of trade and finances is often not a win-win situation. Mingst, McKibben and Arrenguin-Toft (281) notes a decline in capital flow from multilateral institutional and bilateral donors over the past four decades, which has impacted the World Bank, the United States and Germany. At the same time, capital flow from private sources has increased significantly within the same time-period. A suitable case of the failures of the globalization of trade and finance is the Asian financial crisis. In 1997, investors across different countries in Asia started leaving the market in fear that the government did not act in their interests and was not committed to their needs. Several countries were impacted including Thailand, Indonesia, and South Korea. Following the crisis, it was difficult for these countries to adjust to the rapid loss of capital as the gross domestic capital dropped by 2% (Mingst, McKibben & Arrenguin-Toft 281). Different finances aspects experienced significant losses including the exchange rates, the gross domestic product, and stock markets across various parts of Asia. As a result, many companies went bankrupt and a significant population was left in poverty. Mingst, McKibben and Arrenguin-Toft (281) note that most of the affected countries were heavily dependent on international trade and as a result, they became economically vulnerable. In response to this, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) offered large bailouts and structural reforms to some of these countries with the anticipation that they would reform their economies. This approach proved somewhat successful despite the controversies it presented. Ultimately, these economies recovered accordingly and still maintained their affiliations to the global financial markets.
Mingst, Karen A., Heather Elko McKibben, and Ivan M. Arreguin-Toft. Essentials ofinternational relations. WW Norton & Company, 2018.