Essay by vandrielo02 September 2014

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Ollie van Driel

Why do Realists believe that global politics is characterized by conflict?

Realist thinking focuses on the self-interested nature of humans and extrapolates that man-man states exhibit the same tendencies as those who govern them. This idea promotes the struggle between different state powers as their interests are placed first over other powers in the world system. Thus these states focus on permanent interests, rendering friendships as only temporary, solely for the duration that one state may gain from an alliance. This entire concept as a result focuses on the creation of an anarchic system. This is important in the era of complex interdependency because it still serves to explain how states respond to each other, even within IGOs.

Realists argue that global politics is characterized by conflict as state powers have permanent interests, which manifest themselves in the selfish pursuit of said states. A key example of this can be found in the Smithsonian Crisis of 1971, where President Nixon took the initiative of devaluing the currency of the US dollar specially to benefit America's economy, which thus forced the world to go into a free floating exchange system.

It is clear that this action was characterized by the conflict of interest between the US and the rest of the world political system. Realists believe that this dominant theme of conflict will always pervade over world politics as states place their economy, military and culture paramount over other states needs.

The security dilemma is one that epitomizes the conflict of global politics. The war on terror is a relatively recent concept with the most recognizable example being the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers in New York. Here, a non-state actor is infringing on the sovereignty of a great power, having exploited the nature of globalization.