By Nadir Ali

Numerous theories have been employed to examine various conditions and circumstances in the International arena, but realism is the most prevalent and oldest thinking in international relations, and it has been used to comprehend various changes that take place globally.

Despite the fact that, as the dynamics of global political change, new theories emerge and criticism of realism grows, the essential assumptions of realism about power remain as valid as they were before.

Understanding Realism

The central actor in the international arena, according to realism’s beliefs, is a state concerned with its own existence and security. A state is always fighting for power in order to protect itself and pursue national objectives.

States are unconcerned about morality in order to achieve power and advance their national goals. In the international arena, there are no permanent allies or foes.

Interest is the only constant factor. In the case of South Asia, its practical application is extremely obvious. In its Afghan war, the United States relied on Pakistan, with whom it had favourable relations.

However, the United States’ interests are increasingly aligned with India in order to limit China, and ties with Pakistan remain strained.

The prevalent belief in realism about the anarchic character of the international community can be seen all over the world, and this consistent and persistent nature of the international system is causing reluctance to impose sanctions and rules against disobedient governments.

This distinguishing aspect of realism ideology is proven by several recent events, such as Russia’s annexation of Crimea, in which Russia entirely disregarded and violated an internationally imposed set of laws. Russian behaviour in this episode exemplifies the extent of disorder in the international arena.

Despite worldwide condemnation, it appears that Russia did not consider it a significant concern, and it eventually conveyed a message to other powerful powers that their actions would not be penalized as well.

Similarly, the assassination of Saudi journalist “Jamal Khashoggi” in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul is another example of states acting in their own interests and demonstrating their power without considering the consequences, then avoiding any kind of punishment or law in this anarchic system where “strong do whatever they want and weak suffer what they must.”

On the one hand, these agreements aid Saudi Arabia in strengthening its military, while on the other, they aid nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom in strengthening their economic dominance, with the cash invested in technical breakthroughs.

Assisting people who are to be utilized in violent conflicts and are indirectly involved in such wars shows that their business links and arms sales are far more important than the lives of those who are put in danger.

Another significant and basic part of realism theory is the concept of state self-interest, and there are numerous instances in the present international arena when a state’s activity is based on its own self-interest while completely disregarding its application to another state.

Gaining power is primarily focused on having great military and economic strength, both of which contribute to enhancing a country’s political clout in the international arena.

Collaboration between the US and Saudi Arabia is just another example that self-interest trumps morality, as well as the reality that economic and military expansion is vital and may assist a state to become even more powerful.

At the international level, realism is frequently seen as the dominant narrative, and it has progressed through periods of marginalization and support, through many phases and shapes as time passes.

It may be used in a variety of situations since it is a very adaptable theory. Because anarchy and merciless interests of nations are still there and will stay, and power buildup is merely a road to be taken, realism will remain an armoury for researchers to study the international arena.

Notion of Power in International Arena

In international politics, power has a centralized notion. “Man is a political animal, and he strives to pursue power,” writes “Hans Morgenthau”, a classical realist.

While structural realists such as “Joseph Nye”, noticing the changing character of global politics, proposed the notion of soft power, arguing that globalization and multilateral approaches have redefined power aims. Wealth, a robust economy, weapons, civic authority, and the ability to sway public opinion are all examples of power.

“The capacity to affect what others do is command power, but the ability to mould what others desire is co-operative power,” a contrast between hard and soft power.

In international politics, power has a centralized notion. Hard and soft power coexist in today’s world. Depending on the aims and rivalries, a single state can employ hard power on one front and soft power on the other.

This is where it becomes complicated when it comes to deciphering nations’ direct motivations. For example, the United States uses hard force against countries that threaten its hegemony and status quo, as well as its interests.

In the Middle East, the United States is projecting its strength toward China, North Korea, and Iran, notably by placing sanctions on Iran and Korea, as well as tariffs on powerful competitors like China, and by forging regional allies. On the other side, the United States uses soft power to influence Australia and Israel.


The writer graduated in Strategic and Nuclear Studies from National Defence University and is an Intern at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad.


**Disclaimer: The Diplomatic Insight does not take any position on issues. The views represented in the write-ups published are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and position of The Diplomatic Insight its staff.

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