The Necessities of War, Hegemon & Power in an Anarchic World

Chaos, meaning war, despite all its devastating casualties and destruction, war is a ladder, utilized by states to achieve power and hegemony.

Chaos is not merely a pit that may swallow us whole; chaos is a ladder” quoted from the Game of Thrones series. Chaos, meaning war, despite all its devastating casualties and destruction, war is a ladder, utilized by states to achieve power and hegemony. The quote successfully encapsulates the differing sides of war seen through the state’s perspective. 

Over the centuries, the international community has had a grasp of how to survive in an anarchic world. But is it truly anarchic after World War 2? I would argue not. Evidently, the international community has cooperated and collaborated in efforts to ensure peace and stability throughout nations, yet, some states possess more power than others, with more dominance to assert wielding an abundance of resources that can influence the international system. Therefore, is the world anarchic? Not anymore.

However, in the past, anarchy was all states knew. Anarchy by definition is a society with no absolute power placing control. The lack of central authority creates a society that is vulnerable to a power struggle, thus, illustrated in World War I and II. Understanding that anarchy does not merely cause chaos due to the absence of dominance and regulations but it opens opportunities for states to climb the ladder, filling the absence. In alignment with Alexander Went, emphasizing that anarchy is not predetermined but rather is constructed by states themselves, whether or not states choose to utilize anarchy by cooperating or seeking dominance, is in their control (Wendt, 1992).

In the present time, states have understood and utilized the nature of anarchy into a more collaborative and cooperative dynamic around the international community, based on regulations and rules that states must adhere to (Wendt, 1992).  The underemphasized reality is that even without the presence of a hegemon while continuing in an anarchic world, regulations and rules would still not function.

Before states truly understood how to navigate in an anarchic world, the outbreak of World War II occurred. Despite the efforts of ensuring peace and stability after the end of World War I by forming the League of Nations as well as establishing regulations and treaties, yet still inevitably failed due to the United States’ absence from joining the alliance ( Editors, 2009). In addition to the exclusion and expulsion of other powerful states, including the Soviet Union and Germany ( Editors, 2009). Therefore, depicting my argument earlier, that hegemony is crucial for ensuring the stability of states adherence to any international agreements.

Meanwhile, after World War II which encompassed several outcomes including the United States and the Soviet Union gained as superpower countries. Furthermore, the fall of the League of Nations in 1945, following the establishment of the United Nations in 1946 (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2020). After witnessing the evident failure of the League of Nations, changes in the  United Nations system of voting were initiated. Including the formation of the veto power putting 5 states with permanent positions of power leading the voting mechanism in the international community. The veto power has caused controversies as debates sparked surrounding the unjust voting system and whether or not it should be reformed. As despite the presence of the veto power has led to the questioning of the UN’s credibility in decision-making due to the constant illustration of the P5 countries prioritizing nation’s interest over global good and have prevented decisive actions in crises that need humanitarian assistance, yet there are significance for the need of hegemony to reach order (G, 2013).

The realism approach puts a strong emphasis on the state’s pursuit of self-interest, thus, it is necessary to acknowledge that states with a significant amount of power have the desire to participate in some acknowledgment of power is given to them, hence, highlighting that the veto power ensures powerful states to adhere with them. The presence of hegemony in the United Nations has maintained a balance in the power dynamic between powerful nations as the veto ensures that the Security Council reflects a consensus among the states (G, 2013). Most importantly, unlike the League of Nations, the existence of the veto power in the United Nations serves as a safety measure preventing World War III from emerging, as the veto makes certain that the role of the United Nations does not cause a boomerang or do more harm than good (G, 2013; Robinson, 2021).

The United Nations’ veto power comes with the good and the bad, despite that, understanding the necessity of hegemony, not only in international organizations like this but also in the world is crucial. However, in the particular case of the United Nations’ veto power, it is strongly recommended for a reformation although not by entirely removing the veto but might as well expand it. The expansion of the veto power aims to provide the distinctive perspective that several countries from differing regions might bring to the council as well as advocate for countries in those underrepresentation regions, these countries included Germany, Brazil, Japan, and India (Mar 11, 2024). Another proposed proposal by France, emphasizes the restraint towards P5 countries using the veto power in cases of humanitarian crises and mass atrocities, therefore facilitating military intervention purposefully for humanitarian assistance. Lastly, a need for the continuation of the “Uniting for Peace” procedure which operates to allow the UN General Assembly to step in at times when the Security Council is in disagreement (Motamedi, n.d.). Hence, ensuring the United Nations’ effectiveness when facing international crises.

The world has gone through several changes that have been curated by the acts of war, aimed to achieve hegemony and power. A significant illustration of this would be international organizations. International organizations possess the objective to resolve and become a pillar of hope to those in need in the world. Although the effectiveness of these organizations, especially the United Nations, is unquestionably flawed. Yet, simply disregarding the fact would be rather fatal, therefore embracing the defects is a necessary step to move forward toward transforming these international organizations.

Essentially, the aim of this essay encompasses the differing perspectives of the amoral image and disserving perception of the words “war”, “hegemony” and “power”. Despite the corruption and destruction, war serves as the fuel for achieving hegemony and power, yet oddly, it also establishes the framework for rules and regulations that help ensure their functions. An illustration of the veto power given above is the need for hegemony in an anarchic world, as despite its tainted connotation, its presence is pivotal in maintaining world order.

Aliyah Fazahra Shogie
Aliyah Fazahra Shogie
I am Aliyah Fazahra Ramadhani Shogie, currently pursuing my studies of International Relations at the University of Gadjah Mada. My academic and personal journey is deeply rooted in a passion for international politics, with a particular focus on constructivist theories. I am dedicated to exploring the often underemphasized narratives of individuals and communities in crisis, seeking to shed light on their experiences and perspectives through my writings.