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Realism and the International Order

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Realism, as an explanatory theory of international relations, provides perhaps the most concise and strongest definition of what constitutes state interest, behavior, and the establishment of the international order. Accordingly, realists argue that states exist within an anarchic geopolitical framework and this framework is an inherent component of international relations. In fact, for realists, the desire to maximize state interest within a situation of global anarchy is the most crucial component required in the understanding of political actors and state behavior. As we analyze the existence of international order from the Cold War until today, this research paper aims to undertake a thorough analysis of the key principles of international affairs, state interest, and state behavior. An in-depth exploration of the phenomenon of international order, despite an anarchic international environment, will guide this assignment.First and foremost it is important to remember that state interest operates within an anarchic environment. The international system is inherently unstable and is aptly characterized by widespread anarchy. Due to the absence of a supra-state or overarching Leviathan authority, states are placed in inevitable and perpetual competition, described as the security dilemma. Because of the anarchic nature of international affairs, states are perpetually concerned with their survival. For realists, the international system is a “dog-eat-dog world” and ensuring survival is paramount for any and all states. According to Hans Morgenthau, pioneering German political scientist and an early proponent of realist thought, due to the inherent instability of the international system, the fundamental national interest of all states is to “protect [its] physical, political, and cultural identity against encroachments by other nations” (Morgenthau, 1952). Specifically, threats to states are determined by their relative power vis-à-vis one other in the international system.