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Briefing Paper Series
Bernt Pölling-Vocke (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Master of International Relations
Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
|The struggle for pie and peace: All state leaders are realist. Why?|
All state leaders are realists. But why? The straightforward answer seems to be “because they have to be”, which in turn leads to the question “Why do they have to be, in order to function as state leaders?”
the current stage of human history, the world is divided into almost 200
nation-states, with each state possessing a permanent population, a
government, a territory defined by borders and the capacity to enter
into relations with other states. Considering these prerequisites, the
job-description for a state leader entails the requirement of a realist
approach to the task at hand.
realistic approach to state-leading consists of a belief that the
international system is anarchic and that sovereign states are the
primary actors in international affairs. Within this system, each
nation-state is a rational actor trying to assert its own self-interest
and security. Balances of power dominate international affairs and have
to be managed in a favourable way by those chosen as state leaders.
state-leaders can be compared with children at a birthday party.
Everybody tries to grab the largest piece of the pie, and those who end
up with the smallest pieces are either weak and socially insecure or did
so for strategic reasons, as they do not like pie and will demand a
larger share of the bonbons afterwards, which serve his or her interest
better. There is no universal moral principle at work, when the one who
does not like pie waives his interest, as the renunciation is part of a
rational strategy aimed at the maximisation of personal interest once
the bonbons come around. A state leader not capable of securing the most
pie or most bonbons possible for his people has failed, as the world is
anarchic and without a parent who might undermine realist strategies at
the table by serving the cake slice-wise. It is also well known that
most children’s birthday parties bring along tears at some point of
time; here we can then see balances of power (or shifts in those) at
strategies can be divided into different patterns of behaviour: maximal
realism and minimal realism. Under maximal realism, the position of the
hegemon, the most powerful entity at the birthday table, is the most
desirable. Under minimal realism, those who are non-hegemonic will ally
against the hegemon in order to secure their own interests. Thus,
cooperation is just based on the idea of maximising ones own influence
and power. The rational conclusion is, that isolation will result in
less pie than cooperation for the common in the name of individual
interest. Relations are thus controlled by relative power, which
everybody tries to secure at least or maximise at best. Those who do not
subdue themselves to the birthday party relations end up without pie,
with tears in their eyes and possibly no invitation to the next party.
for reasons that seem to be based on higher morals, the bully at the
table decide to divide the pie equally among all guests, political
realism rightfully refuses to identify his moral aspirations with the
moral laws that govern the universe. By acting righteous and morally
sound the bully just hides his own aspirations.
short analogy, “The struggle for pie and peace”, concludes why all
state leaders have to be realists and believe in balances of power at
work. If an archaic world offers no greater authority than the
nation-state, then all action by the state-leader has to be motivated by
nothing but the rationally pursued interests of those he represents.