Realism and Liberalism

Realism and Liberalism are two major and dominant theories in global politics. They both have contrasting ideas when dealing with how states should relate to each other. Realism is a conservative and pessimistic theory which states predicts and will act on their national interest regardless of morals. This belief results from people who are selfish and competitive. Realism is a perspective that is dominated by cynicism. Realists place each state in the position of closely observing the actions of their neighbors to resolve problems effectively without regarding moral concerns. Realists only want to maintain their own security. They always want enough power so they can be strong enough to withstand attacks. They believe that the international system is inherently anarchical and cannot really be made peaceful except through power. Realists also do not believe in democratization. Realists also believe that countries will pursue power regardless of being democratic. They believe countries will fight for their interests even if they and their opponents are both democracies. Realists claim that only powerful states are true and key actors in international politics.

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Liberalism is progressive and optimistic. They emphasize that the broad ties among states have both made it difficult to define national interest and decreased the usefulness of military power. Liberals believe that the international system can be manipulated to make peace. Liberals believe in organization like the United Nations. They believe that institutions like that allow various countries to interact in a variety of ways and will lead to less conflict between countries. They also believe in democratizations. They believe that democratic countries will not fight one another. They also believe in non-state actors and their importance. They tend to pay attention to individual leaders and also they give way to non-governmental organizations. Liberals believe military power is not the only form of power. Economic and social power matter a great deal too. Exercising economic power has proven more effective than exercising military power.

These theories remind me of a documentary that I watched about Kofi Annan and the theory that he valued. I believe that there is a difference between force and diplomacy. After watching the documentary, I came to a conclusion based on the lectures that Kofi Annan is a liberal. I’m saying this because in the documentary, he states that he speaks for the poor, weak and the voiceless. He explains that he does not have power or any military resources. I also understand that, his influence is based on persuasion and morals but not because he’s the Secretary General. Discussing the September 11th disaster (after), he made it very clear that the United Nations interference was not to side with one team but to create unity amongst all nations. Thus, this eradicates the realist point of view. He stated that the security of every nation was one of the United Nations goals. I think that no other organization can take this job since it’s a very difficult task and it needs a fair and firm leader who will not be bias, or work because of a personal interest. In the documentary, an example on Sesame Street was used to demonstrate how to instill peace amongst individuals, which explained further that its not always about talking or persuasion but it’s the understanding and love that is expressed for one another.

From both theories I think it depends on what the person values the most. It’s either their self-interest or the interest of all. For example, Kofi Annan’s documentary made me understand.

Kofi Annan “ Center of the Storm” PBS

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