Comparison of International Relations Theory

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Contemporary international relations is a complex field. Understanding events and attempting to make sense of them can be a daunting task. There are, however, tools available, which can assist in providing clarity to these complex issues. The first of these tools is historic knowledge. Without historic background of an issue, it is nearly impossible to understand the events driving that issue in modern times. A second tool, the one which will be the focus of this paper, is international relations theory. Theory can be defined as “a belief, policy, or procedure proposed or followed as the basis of action,” (Merriam-Webster) and can be used “in many cases as a basis of prediction.” (Mingst 56) There are three major theories which we…show more content…
While liberalism believes war to be avoidable through education, reformation of social institutions, and shared interests with other nations, realism finds war to be an unavoidable consequence of the self-preservation of the state. Liberalism sees the potential for and desires change, while realism finds change unlikely. Both theories agree on the principle that the international system is anarchic in nature. However, whereas realism relies on a balance of power to keep the system in check, liberalism does so through cooperation of international institutions and mutual interest of various states. In understanding international relations and world events, understanding the theories and principles through which to view these events is a good start. However, it is also important to ask yourself how you intend to use the theory. These theories can be applied to contemporary situations in order to understand the actions and reactions of various parties relevant to a specific issue. The theories can also be used to look at current events and attempt to predict future events. Another use for the theories is to apply them to past events, in an attempt to explain and understand why the events happened, and why various parties, or states, executed certain decisions. For an example of applying theory to a past event, we can look to the Gulf War of 1991. From the historic record, we
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