It is difficult to understand the world affairs without analysis of anarchy system. In International Relations, “anarchy” is an absence of a central power or authority in international system. The absence of central authority includes the absence of global authorities that make and enforce agreements and rules. Since there is no overarching authority in international system, realism view that anarchy leads states to distrust-environment and defend for themselves from external threats. Realists view international politics as a “self-help” system, where states have to depend on their resources and strategies to survive. Realist main concepts are security, power, and its informed by not what the world should be, but to look at the facts by what it is, as a reliance on rationality.
Struggle for power is the fundamental principle in the international arena regardless of the state’s status quo. Realists are often criticized for power and self-interest and their skepticism of ethical norms to relations among states. However, Realists does not deny the presence of ethics in international relations, but they are critical of moral ethics that does not take into account in political realities. Realists emphasize on a practical approach in international relations; therefore, they explore possible alternatives because of its likely political consequences by the nature of human beings.
In the “Melian Dialogue,” Athenian envoy argued that without any mutual authority that can enforce order “…states survive only when they are powerful.” In contrast, Idealist Malians argued on an appeal to justice, fairness, and trust in alliance. Therefore, states are responsible their survival and define their interests. Anarchy, therefore, leads states in a situation in which power has the absolute role in shaping international relations. The development of non-government organizations and multinational corporations in the 1970s, appealed to the realist thinking, which became known as neoliberalism.
Realists believe that states to be the principal actors of the world politics. They also agree that creating a peaceful world, but note its difficulties in “practice” due to inescapability from the world’s security competition and war. Relative power matters in realism and anarchy, therefore, states motivated by relative gains not absolute. Mearsheimer argues that states are always exercising to gain power over their rivals with or without threat. Because of the uncertainty about other state’s intentions, states’ interactions with one another are carefully in ensuring gain power and/or not weak relative others’ gain (Mearsheimer, 2014). States can make commitments for treaties, but no sovereign power ensures the compliances of the agreements. Every party involves treaties take its own risks. John Mearsheimer said in an interview, “If a state gets into trouble in the international system, it can’t dial 911.” Then, each state takes care of its own security to survive.
Realists’ negative view of the international system argues that anarchy world system leads states seek power to defend for themselves. For this reason, gives rise to a “security dilemma” in a self-help system. Mearsheimer characterization of anarchy is a “self-help international system where states look for opportunities to take advantage of each other.” Whenever a state presumes a threat or attempts heighten its security, creates objective to its neighbors or make regional security alliance that would decrease the security of other state(s). The most action the other state can take in response to the other state’s behavior, is reestablish balance of power by increasing its weapon and defense expenditure for defensive and offensive, combined with both security and autonomy elements. Bipolar system of the Cold War and today’s arms race between Russia and NATO alliance are examples of security dilemma in international politics. The United States has long taken advantage of its power and dominance against other states by imposing its preferences wherever is possible, regardless of its allies’ interests. For instance, the United States’ push for NATO expansion, its disdain treatment with UN when does not conform its interest, and concern about the rising power of China (Walt, 2017). These factors contribute to a conflict-based paradigm, which power and security become the main issues, and in which there is little place for trust among states.
The development of non-government organizations and multinational corporations in the 1970s appealed to the realist thinking, which became known as neoliberalism. Realists believe that world actors can work together on a series of issues; however, international institutions do not have independent effect on states’ behavior. In contrast, great powers turn to international institutions to maintain their share of world power. Great powers practice joint-cooperation to increase their absolute powers. Yet, cooperation is sometimes problematic to achieve and almost always difficult to sustain. Two factors exist in cooperation situation: relative gains and concern over dishonest; this, particularly involves with great powers because they see each other as real or potential enemies and they therefore seek gains at each other’s expense.
Finally, in international system, there are no pre-set laws and rules help dictate state and non-state behaviors, and therefore, states live in a world of anarchy, where no agency or institution exists to protect them from one another. Realist believes that anarchy as a “lack of central government to enforce rules” and protect states. In realist point of views, states are the only principal actors in international politics, as there is no central authority to regulate a sovereign state. Realists claim that the rules of the international system are dictated by anarchy; in this sense, anarchy is a fundamental struggle for power and dominance. Hence, war, and conflict are inevitable threat as each state ensures its own survival and interest at the expense of others.