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Realism and Liberalism Compare and Contrast

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Many theories demonstrate insight into the concept of war, international relations and domestic relations. Realism and liberalism provide pictures that relate and coexist, yet are opposite in theory. Realism is conservative and pessimistic. Realists plan for permanence of the current international state of affairs. Liberalism is progressive and optimistic. Liberals believe change is necessary and inevitable. Neither viewpoint gives us the right or wrong side as both contain truths depending on circumstances. International politics relies on all players in order to be complete. No one theory or example can cover all situations. Realist and liberalist theories provide contrasting views on actors, goals, and instruments of international affairs. ________Realism and liberalism define the actors within international relations differently from each other. Realists tell us that only powerful, larger states are true actors in international politics. Liberals believe that states are the central players but there are many other actors to consider.

The role of actor from some liberalist views includes individuals and corporations crossing international borders and binding together as another entity, the global community. In addition, contemporary times shows us that many powerful groups such as terrorist cells are real players in international affairs. Realism explains that power is held and maintained by the states. Even if this proves true, other entities control situations that change how states interact. ________Realists and liberals both agree that the actors of both theories desire power. However, each side views the method for obtaining and maintaining power differently. The realist claims that power comes from military dominance by state over state. Therefore, war and the struggle for power becomes the realist’s key dilemma. Liberals open up the concept of power to include trade, corporate agreements and individual contracts. Many states obtain great power through trade and would not be able to win a military war.

Corporations maintain more control over international employment and production than many states. ________Instruments of international relations fluctuate with time and the circumstances. Historically, force by military action followed by occupation provided the main source of gain for an aggressive or threatened state. States battled one another by strengthening armies and massing weapons. Realists believe cold war tactics are the best alternative to retain power and security for the state. Liberals see these tactics as unrealistic. The cost of implementing strong militaries and waging war outweighs the gain even before addressing the cost of cleanup and repair. States increase power and control over trade by levying tariffs and taxes. Even while states are waging war against one another, trade continues among states inside and outside of the conflict. ________Is it ethical to sacrifice one life to save one hundred lives or even one thousand? The issues of morality and ethics impart a new angle towards international relations and the use of force.

In war, many innocent bystanders lose lives and property. Who decides which life or what property is expendable? Nye gives the example of taking one life to save two others . The dilemma is that the guilty party is unknown. Any of the three individuals could be guilty or all could be innocent. This example demonstrates that sometimes it is necessary to commit one immoral act to prevent a larger number of the same. Where is the line between just and unjust war? If one chooses to destroy one life based on the premise that it will save a mass population, is it possible that the mass population may lose life anyway? ________Differences in realism and liberalism indicate that we can evaluate international relations in multiple ways. Conservative approaches succeeded historically; however, due to inflation and technology, realist methods have become less desirable. Liberalism provides better options to reach goals and considers a wider range of actors. The realist view of international relations carries a narrow minded and uncompromising approach. Liberals change motives and concepts as states and the global community transform. Realists change as well but deny the reality of it. We must look at the entire picture of each international situation before picking the best way to handle it. Conservative approaches solve many problems but alternatives must be kept available.

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