Realism and Idealism in Modern International Relations

There are two theoretical frameworks that dominate international relations (IR), in particular one can speak about realism and idealism. They can be viewed as ideologies or principles that affect the policies of different states. Overall, these approaches are still debated by many governmental officials and scholars who try to determine which one is most suitable for understanding the interactions between or among countries. It is necessary to compare and contrast the principles of these frameworks and discuss their applicability to contemporary international relations, especially the Gulf politics. These are the main questions that should be examined. One can say that realism and idealism closely tied to such issues as self-interest and mutual aid. Finally, each of these frameworks is relevant to modern international relations.

At first, it is vital to examine the main elements of political realism. This model is based on the assumption that states should be the main actors of international relations; more importantly, there should not be any international agency that can dictate its terms to sovereign governments (Rengger 54). Furthermore, it is not permissible to intervene into the internal policies of a country because this intrusion can undermine the sovereignty of a state. This is the main principle of this framework. Additionally, realism implies that states only pursue their interests and it is unreasonable to expect that they will readily help one another (Spegele 32). Thus, the advocates of this approach have a very skeptical or pessimistic view of politics or decisions taken by leaders. Overall, realism is one of the most important theories that explain the interactions between states. It should be noted that political realism dominated the international relations until the beginning of the twentieth century. However, military conflicts as well as atrocities against populations highlighted the necessity for international organizations that could coordinate the actions of different states. Nevertheless, the principles of realism continue to influence the relations between countries and one cannot disregard the importance of this framework.

The second approach that should be discussed is the idealism. This philosophy is premised on the idea that different states should work together in order to address the most important problems (Shimko 43). Admittedly, idealism has some similarities with realism. For example, the supporters of this approach also acknowledge states are driven by their interests. However, they point out that these actors must reconcile their interests in order to overcome common challenges (Shimko 43). It is also necessary to remember that political idealism implies that there are certain values, norms, or principles that every country is obliged to follow. This argument is particularly relevant if one is speaking about the use of human and civil rights of individuals. Thus, the advocates of idealism believe that there should be some international law that can regulate the activities and decisions of different states. This is the main distinguishing feature of idealism, especially in comparison with realism. Contemporary international relations are affected by each of these frameworks.

It seems that both realism and liberalism can be fruitful for the discussion of Gulf politics and the relations between different countries that have different interests, goals, and priorities. First of all, these theories can be used to predict the decisions of different political leaders. Secondly, they are vital for formulations solutions that can suit both sides. In this case, close attention should be paid to the principles of liberalism which emphasizes the idea f international law and protection of human rights. Thus, one should not suppose that these frameworks are only theoretical; it is important to remember about their practical implications. For instance, one can speak about the recent uprisings in the Arab world because they posed a variety of challenges to the political leaders of many countries. The political conflicts that took place in Libya, Syria or Egypt were caused by a variety of factors, and at this point it is not fully known what kind of consequences they will lead to (Haas 14). To a great extent, the task of international community is to avert possible military conflicts between different states. More importantly, international agencies should ensure that human rights are properly protected by various governments (Haas 14). Provided that these goals are achieved, it will be possible to achieve sustainable development in the countries like Syria or Egypt. Apart from that, this example suggests that some principle of this theory can guide the decisions and negotiations among political leaders of different countries.

These frameworks are also important for the discussion of foreign policies pursued by different countries. For example, one can look at the UAE foreign policy because it shows how different ideologies can influence the decisions of political leaders. The government of this country attaches important to establishing partnership with different states, especially in the Middle East. To some degree, this country follows the principles of political idealism that sets stress on the necessity for mutual aid and partnership. Currently, the UAE is a member of the United Nations Organization; more importantly, the UAE is an important element of the Arab League. Apart from that, the government of this country supports international cooperation, especially for the regulation of nuclear weapons or nuclear energy (Davidson 102). Furthermore, the state offers financial aid to many countries in the Arab world (Abed & Hellyer 173). Therefore, one of their intentions is to foster international cooperation in effort to promote the welfare of Arab people. This is some of the main aspects that one can identify. However, at the same time, this state resists any intrusion into their internal affairs (Alshamsi 183). The government of the UAE objects to the idea that any international organization or agency can dictate their terms to them or intrude into their internal policies or laws. So, one can say that this attitude reflects the principles of realism and it is important for the government of the UAE. This is how the concepts of self-interest and cooperation can influence foreign policies.

On the whole, this discussion indicates that contemporary politics can hardly be productive if states do not try to reconcile their self-interests. Realism and idealism represent two aspects of modern international relations. It seems that both of these frameworks are vital for understanding and constructing international politics. Modern international relations reflect both realism and idealism, because sovereign states have to attain different goals. In particular, they should pursue their self-interest, but at the same time, they should establish partnership with one another because in this way country can better attain their goals. This is why these theoretical frameworks are relevant to various aspects of the Gulf politics such as upheavals in the various countries or the foreign policies of the UAE.

Works Cited

Abed, Ibrahim, and P. Hellyer. United Arab Emirates: A New Perspective, London: Trident Press Ltd, 2001. Print.

Alshamsi, Mansoor. Islam and Political Reform in Saudi Arabia: The Quest for Political Change and Reform, London: Taylor & Francis, 2011. Print.

Davidson, Christopher. The Persian Gulf and Pacific Asia: From Indifference to Interdependence, New York: Hurst Publishers, 2010. Print.

Haas, Mark. The Clash of Ideologies:Middle Eastern Politics and American Security: Middle Eastern Politics and American Security, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

Rengger, Nicholas. International Relations, Political Theory, and the Problem of Order: Beyond International Relations Theory?, New York: Routledge, 2000. Print.

Shimko, Keith. International Relations: Perspectives and Controversies. London: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.

Spegele, Roger. Political Realism in International Theory, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Print.