The Challenges Facing Realism in the 21st Century
The field of international politics covers everything happening around the world including wars, revolutions, gender inequalities, and human rights. A large number of different theories have been developed in order to try and explain the complexities of international politics. These range from grand theories which offer a broad overview of the world system, to more specific theories which focus on a particular aspect or region of international politics. One of the most prominent and influential approaches is realism.
2. What is Realism?
-2.1 Theoretical Background
Realism is a theory that has its roots in Thucydides’ peloponnesian war. In this war, Athens and Sparta were the two main superpowers of their time. As they became more and more powerful, their rivalry also increased, eventually leading to war. This war was one of the first examples of balance of power politics, which is a key concept in realism. Balance of power is the idea that states will try to maintain a balance in the distribution of power so that no one state becomes too powerful. This theory was later developed by other thinkers such as Niccolo Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, and John Locke.
-2.2 Key Assumptions of Realism
Realism is generally seen as a pessimistic theory because it assumes that humans are by nature selfish and aggressive. It also assumes that states are the main actors in international politics and that they are primarily concerned with their own security. Because states are always looking out for their own interests, they are constantly in conflict with each other. The only way to prevent these conflicts from escalating into full-blown wars is through the maintenance of a balance of power.
3. Realism in the 21st Century
-3.1 The Arab Spring
The Arab Spring was a series of pro-democracy uprisings that took place across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. These uprisings were largely driven by economic grievances, but they also had a strong political dimension. The protesters were demanding greater freedom and democracy, and many of them were willing to use violence to achieve their goals.
The Arab Spring presented a challenge to realism because it showed that people are capable of banding together to overthrow dictatorships even when their states are weak and divided. However, it also showed that these same people can quickly descend into chaos and violence when there is no strong central government to keep them in check. In other words, the Arab Spring illustrated both the potential for democratic change and the dangers of anarchy.
-3.2 The Syrian Civil War
The Syrian civil war began in 2011 as part of the Arab Spring uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The conflict quickly descended into a full-blown civil war, with Assad’s forces fighting against an array of rebel groups. The main rebel group is known as the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but there are also many other smaller factions fighting under various names such as “the Islamic State” (ISIS) and “Al-Qaeda” (AQ).
The Syrian civil war has been one of the bloodiest conflicts of the 21st century so far, with over 400,000 people killed. It has also created a massive humanitarian crisis, with over 6 million people displaced inside Syria and another 5 million fleeing to neighbouring countries. The conflict has also had a spill-over effect on the rest of the region, with violence spreading to Iraq, Lebanon, and Turkey.
The Syrian civil war is a complex conflict with many different causes. However, one of the main underlying causes is the failure of the Assad regime to address the legitimate grievances of the Syrian people. This failure eventually led to a popular uprising which quickly descended into civil war.
The Syrian civil war presents a challenge to realism because it shows that even when a state is relatively strong, it can still be destabilized by internal conflict. This conflict also illustrates the dangers of intervention, as outside powers have become bogged down in a costly and protracted conflict with no end in sight.
-3.3 The Ukraine Crisis
The Ukraine crisis began in 2014 with the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych was a pro-Russian leader who had been elected on a promises to boost ties with Moscow. However, he quickly reneged on this promise after taking office, instead pursuing closer ties with the European Union (EU). This angered Russia, which saw Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence.
In response to Yanukovych’s shift away from Russia, Vladimir Putin began supporting pro-Russian separatist groups in Ukraine’s east. These groups eventually declared independence from Ukraine, leading to a civil war. The conflict has so far claimed over 10,000 lives and has displaced over 1 million people. It has also led to a sharp deterioration in relations between Russia and the West.
The Ukraine crisis is a complex conflict with many different causes. However, one of the main underlying causes is the failure of Yanukovych to address the legitimate grievances of the Ukrainian people. This failure eventually led to his overthrow and the rise of a pro-Western government in Kiev. This government then began pursuing policies that were seen as hostile by Moscow, which ultimately led to Russian intervention in the conflict.
The Ukraine crisis presents a challenge to realism because it shows that even when a state is relatively strong, it can still be destabilized by internal conflict. This conflict also illustrates the dangers of intervention, as outside powers have become bogged down in a costly and protracted conflict with no end in sight.
Realism is a theory that has been influential in the field of international politics for many years. However, it faces a number of challenges in the 21st century. One of the biggest challenges is the rise of new actors such as non-state actors and transnational corporations. These actors are often not subject to the same restraints as states, which makes them more difficult to control. Another challenge is the increasing interconnectedness of the world, which makes it harder for states to pursue their own interests without taking into account the interests of other states. Finally, the rise of new technologies such as nuclear weapons and cyber-warfare has increased the potential for destructive conflicts.