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Realism, Liberalism And Feminism

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Realism, Liberalism and Feminism

In our modern world we can communicate instantly worldwide, cook a full meal in under a minute, and have enough weapons to destroy not only our planet but just about any planet that gives us a funny look. Of course while technology progresses at its incredible rate, we squabble and argue over who gets what, and what they can or cannot do with it, whether or not that is what it is or if it is something that it truly isn'tÐ'... and frankly it's all very confusing. Luckily all of the crazy talk is sorted into convenient theories from which we can pick and choose. In this paper liberalism, realism and feminism will be examined and compared.

One of the more predominant theories, realism, gained a lot of support in the post World-War II era, particularly during the Cold War. Before this time idealism, which stated that through international community states could work together to achieve mutual goals, had been the most popular theory. After the two world wars it seemed to many that these ideas were incorrect and a more Ð''realistic' approach to understanding world politics was necessary. Realism is based on power, the main ideas include that the sole actors within the world political realm are sovereign states, which act rationally and out of self-interest within the Ð''bounded anarchy' that makes up the world. Military force within realism is not considered a resource for desperation, but as a form of leverage. Realists believe that war is inevitable because it is the result of states acting out of self-interest, essentially wanting to increase its own power.

These ideas are heavily criticized by liberals and feminists alike. Firstly the idea that the actors within world politics are solely sovereign states begs the question of individual influence within political decisions, and could even be classified as utopian reductionism. Looking back at historical examples it's difficult to imagine events like the Vietnam War, World War I or the Iran Contra Scandal as a fulfillment of the needs of a state. To cite a more specific example, during the Cuban missile crisis it was not simply the best interests of the United States that were represented during the decision making process. Many of the players who helped make the decision had personal goals tied into the outcome; thusly it is hard to distinguish if certain players were acting in the best interest of the state as a whole, or if they were trying to accrue their own personal rewards. The states themselves as a whole do not in fact make decisions, the leaders of each country do and while it is easy to say that we hope they act rationally many times this is untrue. An example of irrational behavior is found in the actions of both Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush. Both of these men were president of the United States during a period of war, Johnson had the Vietnam War and Bush has Iraq. What the two have in common is their attitude towards negative information, specifically ignorance. Two men who both were given the task of bringing peace to a small Ð''defenseless' country which were ruled by new forces of Ð''evil' and neither of them wanted to hear anything to the contrary. As both operations seemed to require far more resources then the United States was willing to commit, warnings from several sources were ignored clearly illustrating irrational behavior. The state then pursued courses of action based on irrational decisions with one-sided facts and clearly was doomed from the start.

At the other end of the spectrum is liberalism. Liberalism takes the opposite stance of realism. The concepts of collective security and collective defense illustrate the differences between realism and liberalism rather effectively. A liberal thinker would be more in favor a collective security organization in times of hostility, in other words a council of world leaders that exists to prevent any one country from attacking another thusly acting in both long-term self and group interest. A realist might favor a collective defense agreement because it benefits the short-term self-interest of the nation by increasing defenses, but does not infringe on any abilities of the country, such as invading another country on its own accord without needing permission from council members. Liberals denounce the idea states themselves are the most important actors in world politics and say that individuals and non-governmental organizations must be included as well. One of the main differences between the two theories is the definition of Ð''rationality'. Realists believe that rational behavior constitutes an individual trying to constantly maximize his or her short-term interests, whereas a liberal believes that rational actors should ignore individual short-term interests in favor of maximizing long-term communal interest. Thusly not only maximizing self-interests as a part of the community, but helping the others around you accomplish the same goal. Within liberal theory, military aggression is not an acceptable form of leverage; it is relatively costly especially compared to negotiation or diplomacy. Liberals also oppose the realists' anarchical view of world politics; liberals instead prefer to categorize it as a loose order. They believe that the spread of democracy will bring the end of war as people will be able to work together to understand and fix mutual problems.

Those critical of a liberal view point out several problems, many counter the argument that NGOs and IGOs can be considered actors within the world politics because they are in fact at the will of the countries that they reside within. Along with this there is the concept of "free-riders" within the communal system, essentially people who benefit from the actions of the rest of the community but refuse to work to better it themselves. Many would say that liberals are too tolerant of both free-riders and other self-interest motivated states. In the 1930's leading up to World War II much of Europe simply hoped they could avoid fighting through the



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