Understand the Perspective of Realism in International Relations

There are many paradigms that are very influential on the existing behavior in international relations. One of the paradigms in international relations is ‘Realism’. In the basis of realism, the term which states that the strong wins or what we often call ‘the law of nature’.

Realism is one of the perspectives or points of view in International Relations that dominates quite a lot. The theoretical tradition in international relations also dominates the Cold War, because this idea can provide a fairly convincing but simple explanation of alliances, wars, obstacles to cooperation, imperialism, and various other international phenomena.

This theoretical approach also illustrates that international relations is a struggle for power between countries that are pursuing their own national interests and are generally pessimistic in facing the prospect of efforts to eliminate conflicts and wars. The state is the only perspective actor in international relations who has the same characteristics as humans, namely individualism and selfishness, and ultimately views peace as pessimism, because this theory assumes that international relations is not far from the word ‘conflict’.

Conflict between countries is something that cannot be avoided, because in the international system, there is no legal system that can regulate the behavior of a country. The state will always try to strengthen itself, and consider international individuals and organizations to be insignificant and powerless.

Conflict is imminent, because of the nature of violence inherent in humans, and because the path chosen by the world’s population is more interested in organizing a sovereign and independent state that tends to disrespect authority outside or above their country. Realist thinking is thus based on the search for power and domination that emanates from human nature as the basic reasons for conflict.In order to create a better world, we must work with these facts, not ignore them.

This pessimistic view of international relations has provided a systematic formulation that runs under various nicknames about “realism, real politics, or power politics”. Realism, whether consciously referred to by that name or not, is the dominant framework for understanding international relations, and has virtually shaped thinking about every current professional foreign policy elsewhere in the world. Especially since Thucydides, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Carr, Morgenthau, and Waltz discuss this in their work.

Analyst circles also reject the application of moral principles in international political analysis because of the fundamental differences between international politics and domestic politics. At the domestic level, there is a powerful authority that can regulate individual morality, while in the international relations, there is no powerful authority that can regulate the life of the state, because relations between countries take place in anarchic environment.

We can take the US as an example, which is actually a superpower country, with the power it holds, the world can be embraced by just snapping its fingers. That at this time, has a hidden meaning and purpose behind the conspiracy.

Well, back again, the only goal is power. Examining a case in point, in the Strait of Hormuz Dispute (2011 – 2012) for example, as is well known, the existence of the Strait of Hormuz is very important for oil consuming countries in the world.

Where 40 percent of the world’s oil passes, this strait is also the only waterway of eight countries in the Persian or Arabian Gulf region, where Iran is one of the countries bordering the Strait.

This dispute is the result of the Iranian nuclear crisis which has spawned political tensions in the Middle East and the world till today. This crisis began when Western countries, led by the United States, gathered strength in their efforts to impose economic sanctions on Iran, a country which has always been suspected of developing nuclear for military weapons.

Iran, after the 1979 revolution, which has never submitted to the West, responded to the discourse of sanctions to be imposed by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. This is a ‘power debate’ between the United States and Iran that seems to be a classic vengeful tale that will always exist.

Realism is deeply influenced by the environment and takes the most pragmatic steps in solving problems such as war, although these steps are not always true especially over a long period of time. Therefore, Realists also think that moral principles cannot be applied to understand ‘State Political Behavior’. Political realism does not require moral justification, but it does require a sharp distinction between what is desired and what is possible, between what is expected anywhere at any time.

Raihan Ronodipuro
Raihan Ronodipuro
Raihan Ronodipuro holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the prestigious School of Public Policy & Management at Tsinghua University, China. His academic journey was propelled by the esteemed Chinese MOFCOM Scholarship, leading him to successfully attain a Master of Law in International Relations from the School of International and Public Affairs at Jilin University, China. With a rich background, Raihan has also contributed as an Associate Researcher in the Department of Politics and Security at the Center for Indonesia-China Studies (CICS). Currently, he plays a pivotal role as a member of the International Relations Commission within the Directorate of Research and Studies for the Overseas Indonesian Students' Association Alliance (OISAA) for the term 2022/2023.