What Is Power in International Relations
Power is a very complex concept such that most political scientist have different definitions of power or different ways of looking at it and explaining it . however power is one of the most important instruments in international relations , Hans Morgenthau an American political scientist suggests that “international politics like all politics , is a struggle for power.
Power is central to realist thinking which can be dated back to Thucydides who said ‘the strong do what the have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept . ” realists also believe that humans are naturally political animals they crave power and are self centred. International relations as the study of relationships between states is a product of human nature .
The American scientist Robert Dahl suggests that power is the ability of an actor to get another actor to do what it otherwise would not have done , or not to do what it would otherwise have done (Dahl 1970) the first of these relationships we could call compel lance and the second deterrence Dahl has established what power can be used for however to get a broader understanding of power we need to look at other definitions of power Chris Brown argues that power is three things at the same time ; power is an attribute; it is something that states possess, or have access to , have at hand to deploy in the world to protect their national interests or sovereignty. , power is relational; it is the ability that groups or states have to exercise influence over others and power is a property of a structure ;there are institution, rules codes and social practices which may influence our lives and thus have some sort of power example of this is a legal system . (Brown 2009) . The realist approach to power in International Relations is that “power is based on the material capabilities that a state controls”. (Dunne, T. Kurki, M. Smith, S. , 2007) This is the basic force model.
That an actors power depends on its attributes Power in international relations is about influence the ability to act in the interest of ones state whether by protecting it or acquiring something power is very effective means of doing so . realists believe that the international system is anarchical and states need to arm themselves and acquire more power in order to survive . ( Kegley and Wittkopf 2006) The power a states possesses is mostly measured in terms of its attributes this might include the size and quality of its armed forces ;its resource base measured in terms of raw materials ; its geographical location and extent, size and skill of its population; the efficiency of its governmental institutions; and the quality of its leadership.
However for these attributes to be effective a state has to be willing to use them to their advantage. There are two categories in which power can be used they are hard power and soft power ; hard power consists of military power; which is the size and skill of a nations armed forces and the amount of weapons guns , bombs , missiles. Political power ; the basis of international diplomacy and the ability to form alliances and make decisions In the interest of a state ; economic power ; this is visible evident and observable it can be measured in terms of GNP/ GDP , currency reserves , strength of currency , national resources , aid donations and size of market of a state . soft power consists of cultural power; moral and prestige. ard power is preferred by realists especially the military power ,hard power is used to coerce other states to change their minds it can be used as a means to deter or compel for example , in July 1990, Iraq threatened to invade Kuwait . The United States warned Iraq not to do so . On August 2, Iraq armies invaded and quickly conquered Kuwait . Iraq disregarded U. S warnings because it judged that the U. S did not have the will to back up its warning , after deterrence failed the U. S had to compel Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait ,the U. S called on its allies and amassed half a million troops , The U. S led coalition forces destroyed and forced the surrender of the Iraqi army in Kuwait . Nester 1995) although military power was effective in the case its is not always effective in other contexts for example the United States was stronger than north Vietnam in terms of its military might it had more men , more tanks , planes and ships committed than North Vietnam but still it was essentially defeated , for a state to be successful in a conflict it must communicate clearly what it wants and the means by which it intends to get what it wants . (Nester 1995) . hard power obliges its addressees to consider their interests in terms mainly of calculable costs and benefits . However the basic force model has not always been effective in achieving the interests of a state another example of its failure is in the United states war against the Taliban in Afghanistan despite the overwhelming military might of the United states and its allies it has been unable to defeat the Taliban even after ten years of waging the war.
This has lead some scholars to emphasise the power if ideas , this is the ability to maximise the influence of capabilities through a psychological process. International influence is also gained by forming the rules of behaviour , to change how others see their own national interest , if a state’s own values become widely shared among other states it will easily influence others for example the United states has influenced other states to accept the value of free market and free trade . this has been called soft power . ( Goldstein & Pevehouse, 2006) Soft power is used for persuasion its the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments as is the case of hard power . It arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and policies.
Soft power is enhanced by making policies seen as legitimate in the eyes of others, America’s most potent source of cultural power , has not been popular culture but its political philosophy “Liberty” Nester suggests that it is the most contagious idea in history . (Nester 1995) The United States was largely responsible for ensuring the western conception of human rights was enshrined in United Nations charter and the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, which every member of the United Nations pledged to uphold. Soft power can be wielded in many ways from cultural exchanges to propaganda and public diplomacy . Egypt’s president Nasser achieved ascendancy in the Arab world , in part by skilful use of the “ transistor revolution” to beam the message of Arab nationalism and unity under his leadership to surrounding states.
Another example of soft power is the marshal plan after the second world war the United states gave billions of dollars in aid to help build Western Europe and prevent it from falling into the influence of soviet communism . it can be argued that soft power is a better way to wield power than hard power because its is less expensive and destructive than using basic force but instead promotes peace by creating shared interest and values between states . Conclusion Power in international relations is about what a state can stop a state from doing to it, and what a state can do . realists believe that the only way a state can achieve their goal is with the use of hard power and acquiring military might over other states.
Military power is not always effective in achieving the goals of states in the international system , but the use of soft power alone cannot achieve the goals of a states . A combination of hard power and soft power would be an effective means for states to achieve their goals . however excessive use of hard power causes a state to loose a great deal of its soft power Bibliography William nester (1995). international relations geopolitical and geo-economics conflict and cooperation. new York: HarperCollins college. Kegley , C and Wittkopf E (2006). world politics , trends and transformation. 10th ed. London: Thomson Wadsworth. p28-37 , p476-478.