In John Mearhseimer’s article, he thoroughly presents in detail the theory on why states seek to gain power over one another. Mearsheimer presents the argument that great powers are engaged in a constant struggle for power, in hopes of eventually asserting themselves as the hegemon (49). Mearsheimer goes on to lay out his five “bedrock assumptions” on as to why great powers strive for hegemony: the international system is anarchic, great powers possess offensive military capability, states are always uncertain of the intentions of other states, survival is the most important goal, and great powers are rational actors (50-51). The author emphasizes on the fact that great powers are widely suspicious of one another, and this suspicion inevitably results in fear for one another. The concept of states living in constant fear of one another directly ties into Mearsheimer’s claim on as to why states are always seeking to gain power at the expense of other states. The only solution proposed by Mearsheimer to a state’s insatiable quest for power, and will to survive is their establishment as a hegemon (53). However, Mearsheimer makes the distinction between a global hegemon, and a regional hegemon, stating that there has never been a global hegemon (58). The constant pursuit for power by states is distinguished as offensive realism by Mearsheimer. The theory of offensive realism is presented by Mearhseimer as the principal explanation on as to why states seek to gain more power. Offensive realism is thoroughly discussed throughout the article, the section on the “security dilemma” in particular emphasizes on states seeking to establish their security at the expense of others (54). In the article’s conclusion Mearsheimer states that his argument is based on an analysis of the international system, and Meaarsheimer refutes Morgenthau’s claim, claiming that a state’s sole motive to obtaining power in an anarchic system is that of survival (59).
Analysis (313 words)
Throughout the article, Mearsheimer works to support his claim that states behave within a zero-sum mentality, states behave in hopes of amassing power at the disadvantage of other states. Measrheimer makes it clear from the very beginning that he does not agree with theories that do not tie into reality, therefore, he underscores the importance of positioning his argument around examples, and facts, stating, sound theories are based on sound assumptions (50). Mearsheimer presents his arguments in a systematic fashion, presenting all of his assumptions on a foundation of examples, and facts. Mearsheimer makes an appeal to the logic of the reader, regardless of whether the readers consider themselves realist or not, Mearsheimer defends his claims solely with the use of common logic, and fact, therefore making his claims difficult to dispute. Mearsheimer makes it crystal clear to the reader on as to which international relations theory he aligns himself with, as in one part of the article he spends his time solely defending the stance of offensive realism (58). The concept of states being subject to fearing one another’s intentions is firmly substantiated by Mearsheimer; Mearsheimer gives the example of the fear the United Kingdom, and France experienced upon the reunification of Germany at the end of the Cold War (51). Mearsheimer does not shy away from his firm belief in offensive realism, he constantly affronts any possible contention to offensive realism with the use of logic, and fact to corroborate the realist perspective. Mearsheimer utilizes an academic writing style with the exception of the occasional use of first person when he presents his arguments. However, in Mearsheimer’s defense, it makes sense for him to present his personal opinion in first person in order to keep the article as transparent as possible. Rather than droning on and on, Mearhseimer provides the reader with a concise, brief, and efficient presentation of his argument.
Total word count (625 words)
Mearsheimer, John. “The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.” New York: W.W. Norton &
Company, 2001. Print.
Why we will soon miss the Cold War by John J. Mearsheimer
Summary (265 words)
In the article Why we will soon miss the Cold War, Mearsheimer swiftly crushes any presumption of a peaceful international system coming about as the result of the Cold War’s breakdown. Mearsheimer presents the argument that with the passing of the Cold War, the international system is set to make the transition from a bi-polar balance of power to a multi-polar misbalance of power (35-36). A bi-polar system, Mearsheimer explains, is significantly more peaceful than a multi-polar system due to only two major powers being in contention, on the other hand, a multi-polar power proves to be volatile due to deterrence being difficult to maintain as a result of there being too many players involved (37). Along with a bi-polar system, nuclear weapons with the capability of mutually assured destruction make up the perfect formula for a stable, and peaceful international system according to Mearsheimer (39). Mearsheimer argues that a nuclear-free Europe would be the most hazardous post-Cold War order, resulting in the balance of power resembling that of the inter war years— “A design for tension, crisis, and possibly even war” (Mearsheimer, 1990). Mearsheimer proceeds with three policy prescriptions on as to how the U.S should confront the question of a multi-polar Europe: (1) United States should encourage limited, and careful nuclear proliferation, (2) Britain and the United states have to confront any aggressor in an efficient manner, (3) hyper nationalism should be kept at bay (50-51). Mearsheimer concludes acknowledging the fact that his policy prescriptions are unlikely to be adhered to, and the possibility of a stable system post-Cold War remains bleak (51).
Analysis (276 words)
John J. Mearsheimer makes the claim that the conditions of peace experienced during the Cold War have finally come to an end. He begins his article by giving the bleak, realist perspective of how the transition from a bi-polar international system to a multi-polar one will ultimately result in a volatile, and asymmetric global system (35). Mearsheimer’s article is written in a pragmatic manner, his realist perspective denotes the threat brought about by power asymmetries. The author is careful to back up his statements with real world examples all throughout the article. Mearsheimer incorporates the example of Europe in 1914, prior to WWI with the great powers in Europe asserting their dominance all throughout Europe as his model for multi-polarity, and he presents the two superpowers along with their alliances during the Cold War as the model for bi-polarity (36). Mearsheimer provides a contrasting perspective on the bi-polarity stability theory claiming that multi-polar systems are also capable of maintaining peace, so long as the power is distributed equally amongst the states (38). Mearsheimer devotes two sections in which he contrasts the concept of nuclear proliferation, he explains the outcomes of both a non-nuclear Europe, and one in which nuclear proliferation takes place. The contrast between both non-nuclear and nuclear scenario allows the reader to obtain a perspective on both sides of the argument; true to form, Mearsheimer reiterates his realist ideals in which he suggests a nuclear Europe provides the best hope for maintaining peace and stability (40-42). All in all, Mearsheimer takes an objective approach to asserting his position, he consistently backs his claims with facts and examples, not allowing much for an opposing argument.
Total word count (541 words)
The Atlantic Monthly; August 1990; Why We Will Soon Miss The Cold War; Volume
266, No. 2; pages 35-50.
The End of History? By Francis Fukuyama
Summary (290 words)
Fukuyama begins his article The End of History by addressing the fundamental change that came about with the end of the Cold War. Fukuyama goes on to explain that this change came as a result of the west’s economic and political liberalism emerging as victor in the clash of ideologies (2). With the end of the Cold War, and democracy coming out on top, history has reached its end according to Fukuyama. Fukuyama derives the concept of the “end of history” from George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel who firmly believed that history was a dialectical process, culminating into a final, complete moment (2-3). Hegel declared the end of history to have taken place in 1806 (3). Fukuyama argues that 1806 merely marked the beginning of the “end of history” (4). According to Fukuyama, history can be viewed as having been driven by human behavior which is rooted in the conscious mind, as a result the conscious realm affects the material world and vice versa (5). In order to develop a comprehensive understanding on historic events of the past, Fukuyama emphasizes on the importance of analyzing both the conscious, and material worlds (8).
As the article progresses Fukuyama focuses on the two challengers of liberalism: fascism, and communism. With the Cold War’s end both opposing ideologies lay defeated, as a result the conscious realm had been altered, although the implications had yet to be inherently seen in the materialistic world (10-13). Despite the spread of democracy bringing about the “end of history” Fukuyama makes it clear that the “end of history” does not imply that conflict will cease to exist, but rather democracy has emerged as the champion ideology, and is now set to establish a permanent foothold all throughout the world.
Analysis (291 words)
Francis Fukuyama starts off with an interesting concept regarding the world of ideas, described as the conscious world. This conscious world as Fukuyama explains has major implications in the material world. It becomes evident that Fukuyama is a constructivist as soon as he introduces the concept of the “battle of ideologies”, both Realism and Liberalism disregard ideologies in their theories (1).
Throughout the article Fukuyama displays a casual approach to his writing, and at times even resorts to expressing his opinion in the first person (9). Fukuyama’s approach to the argument is rather subjective, however in Fukuyama’s defense the concept of the conscious realm in particular is rather difficult to substantiate. Fukuyama only adds to the subjectivity of his article by failing to provide solid facts or examples for a good portion of the points he makes (9). Along with a substantial amount of typos and grammatical errors, Fukuyama tends to repeat himself often throughout the article. There are parts in the article in which one sentence would have efficiently put his point across but rather Fukuyama uses two or three (11).
Another flaw in Fukuyama’s article is his tendency to make blatant predictions of the future. Although Fukuyama’s article is not necessarily riddled with predictions of the future, the few predictions that make up the article are expressed more like fact, rather than an educated prediction (25). Despite the article’s flaws, Fukuyama does well to provide about two pages of notes that clarify his statements, and provide the reader with much needed guidance in order to navigate the dense material that makes up the article (26-27). Regardless of the shortcomings in the article, Fukuyama nevertheless provided a different scope that still holds relevant today in which to analyze the world.
Total word count (581 words)
Fukuyama, Francis. “The End of History?” The National Interest, 1989. Print.
The Politics of Rage: Why do They Hate Us? By Fareed Zakaria
Summary (255 words)
Fareed Zakaria’s article seeks to explain the reasoning behind the feelings of extreme animosity by terrorists towards the west. Zakaria states that the typical explanations of hatred towards the west such as envy, resentment, and opposition of our ideals all hold true to a certain extent, the actual reasoning is far more complex (1). Zakaria addresses the concept of “The Ruler” in chapter I, with the transition from kings, and colonial rulers came about Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian ruler who spearheaded the introduction of modern ideas into the realm of the Arab world (2). However, the Arab states that attempted to introduce modern concepts failed miserably, and were unable to readjust. As a result, the Arab states that were unable to readjust fell victim to authoritarian regimes (3). Zakaria discusses “Failed Ideas” in chapter II, according to Zakaria the Arab world has experienced failure time and time again in an effort to begin the process towards modernity, however, western globalization has been able to seep through in terms of materials, but the crucial merits, and principles necessary to establish a functional modern society have been unable to establish a foothold, mainly due to the systems of government in place (4-5). Chapter III “Enter Religion” in the article covers the implications Islamic fundamentalism has had in conjunction with poor leadership, and failed ideas by the Arab world. Zakaria concludes the article by providing a multi-faceted prescription consisting of intricate political, military and cultural courses of action in order to tackle the issue of Islamic fundamentalism.
Analysis (297 words)
Fareed Zakaria makes a compelling argument for the underlying motives, and factors that have brought about the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Zakaria’s article is written poignantly, and professionally; Zakaria’s choice of wording allows for audiences of varying educational backgrounds to read the article, he does not waste time with technical verbiage, nor makes attempts at word play. As a result, Zakaria’s article is both straight forward, and captivating. Zakaria is careful to reinforce his statements with real world examples all throughout the article. He incorporates major concepts in his article such as that of “The Ruler” in chapter I by using Gamal Abdel Nasser as the prime example in his argument, thus allowing him Zakaria to reinforce his argument (2).
Zakaria formulates his article by chapters that subsequently tie into each other allowing the reader to effectively connect the dots, thus allowing for a deeper comprehension of the material. Zakaria goes into depth when discussing the history that has laid the foundation for what is now Islamic fundamentalism, he does not approach the topic with a western bias but rather opts to provide the reader with a methodical analysis of the situation that allows for a glimpse of the Arab perspective. The unbiased analysis only adds to the credibility of Zakaria’s article. Zakaria even goes as far to proclaim the shortcomings of American foreign policy, specifically the neglect Afghanistan endured after their ten year war with the Soviet Union (7).
Zakaria dedicates an entire two and a half pages to the policy prescription he deems necessary in order to commence the process of normalizing relations with the Arab world, and ultimately putting an end to Islamic fundamentalism. Zakaria’s multi-faceted cultural, political, and military initiative tailors to all parties, once again, reflecting Zakaria’s neutral posture throughout the article.
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