War and Peace

War and war. It seems that the world has never gone a day without a war or violence. From the great war of Mahabharat in as early as 3102 BC till today’s war in Iraq, human beings witness and engage in the both condemned and glorified wars. Never has a decade or century gone without war. Robert Huntly calls the 20th century as a terrible century in which not less than 170,000,000 human beings lost their lives. The 21st century just begins, and we have already witnessed thousands have lost their lives in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Why do we engage in a war? Is it the case that “warfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death” as Sun Tzu puts it? Or should we view war as a misfortune of life that we have to eliminate?

Our reading on the books of Mearsheimer and of Huntley is just a good example how the long debates about the morality of war are translated into perspectives to understanding the international order and affairs. The Tragedy of Great Power Politics written by John J Mearsheimer, as we will see later on, is the example of those who believe that “war” is just as natural as life, the logic of power. On the other hand, James Robert Huntley in his Pax Democratica: A Strategy for the 21st Century believe that there is a better way for life, a life without war in democracy.

Those opposite ideas are interesting as we try to find a satisfying explanation to the international affairs. The books, therefore, will be discussed critically and, then, comparatively, to find their contributions to our efforts. Hopefully I can find sensible theory and arguments to the very question of world order and peace.

The Tragedy of Great Power Politics

Mearsheimer based his book on five assumptions that he believe as an accurate representation of an important aspect of life in the international system.

The first assumption is that the international system is anarchic. It does not mean that it is chaotic or riven by disorder. Instead, there is no central authority above state, by which all states can have their sovereignty. To put in his word, “there is no government over governments.” (Mearsheimer, 2001: 30). The second assumption is that great powers have military capability to hurt and destroy each other. He believes that the states are dangerous to each other. In addition, as his third assumption, the states can never be certain about other state’s intentions. The fourth assumption is that survival is the primary goal of great powers. Security is their main most important objective. The last assumption is that great powers are rational actors who are aware of their external environment and they think strategically about how to survive in it. (Mearsheimer, 2001: 30-31).

Through these five assumptions, Mearsheimer sees the international affairs as an ongoing struggle of power between the great power politics. He based these assumptions on a Darwinian world where the basic nature of all creatures, including human beings and then the state they build, is the survival. Accordingly, the most important thing for a state is security of its own.
Such anarchic view of the world is not a new or innovative one in the international studies. He himself mentions at least two dominant opinions to understanding the international affairs: the liberal idealist approach (liberalism) and the realist approach (realism).

He describes liberalism, which he does not embrace, as an approach that tend to be hopeful about the prospects of making the world safer and more peaceful. They generally have three core beliefs shared by all theories in the paradigm. First, liberals consider states to be main actors in international politics. Second, they emphasize the internal characteristics of states vary considerably – such as bad and good states. Third liberals believe that calculations about the power matter little for explaining the behavior of good states — political and economic calculations matter more. In an ideal world where there are only good states (the 21st century?), power is not relevant to be analyzed (Mearsheimer: 2003.

He also points out three theories explaining why it is possible to have an ideal peaceful world. The first is liberal-market theory that believes that economic interdependence among the states, and the prosperity coming from this economic web, makes them unlikely fight each other. War happens because the states try to gain or preserve wealth, so they will have no reason to wage a war if they already wealthy. In addition, economic interdependence makes them think twice to wage a war: it is better to enhance their economic ties and concentrate on accumulating their wealth rather than waging a war.

Another important theory based on liberalism approach is democratic theory, which claims that democracies do not fight other democracies. Therefore, in an ideal world where all the states are democratic, they will follow a peaceful “democratic” way in dealing with other states as democracy resolves the differences and conflicts by non-violent ways.

Last but not least, there is a possibility to make a peaceful world because the states believe in an international cooperation and establish international institutions that significantly reduce the likelihood of war. Liberals claim that those institutions can fundamentally change state behavior and the way they deal with other states in a “proper” way according to the rules they have negotiated.

Realism, which Mearsheimer belongs, understands that creating a peaceful world is desirable, but it is not practical. Realism does emphasize on the irresistible strength of existing powers, to compete each other. What should be done is accepting and adapting to these forces and tendencies. The view is based on three core beliefs. First, realists also treat states as the principal actors in the world politics, but hey focus only on great powers. Second, realist believe that the behavior of great powers is influenced by external environment, not by internal characteristics – there is no such good and bad states because all states behave according to the same logic toward external situations. Third, realists hold that calculations about power dominate states’ thinking and that states compete for power among themselves.

There are two main theories under realism: human nature realism (classical realism) and defensive realism (structural realism). First, human nature realism who holds that states are led by human beings who have a “will to power” and likely “were born to power”. The principal driving force in international politics is the will to power inherent in every state in the system, pushing them to strive for supremacy. The second theory, defensive realism, does not assume “a will to power” as driving forces of the states, instead a “will to survive”: they strive to survive in the system and therefore they seek security. However, the “will to survive” does not come from the human nature as classical realism believes, instead from the belief that the world is anarchic environment.

Mearsheimer’s position is not like those two theories, he calls it offensive realism. It is a structural theory of politics that sees great powers as concerned mainly with figuring out how to survive in a world where there is no agency to protect them from each other. However, unlike defensive realism, offensive realism believes that the absence of status quo in international system is an incentive for the states to be the hegemon in the system. Therefore, offensive realism is like classical realism in portraying great powers as relentlessly seeking powers. However, the difference between them is that classical realism claim that states are naturally endowed with Type A personality and defensive realism sees international system that force the states to maximize their power. In arguing for the defensive realism, he believes, that he makes the case.

Pax Democratica

As it was mentioned by Maersheimer before, there are three theories developed under the tent of liberalism: the liberal market, democracy, and the international institutions. Pax democratica, I think, just fully represents this liberalism. First of all, Huntley is concerned with war and democide, and he is committed to reduce them, and the best way to eliminate them is “replacing arbitrary and autocratic regimes with democratic government” (Huntley, 1998: 5).
He believes in democracy as a solution for the world in crisis because “(1) well-established democracies, tied together in cooperative webs, are most unlikely to make a war on one another; (2) Well established democracies are highly unlikely to perpetrate democide on their own peoples, or on others.” (Huntley, 1998: 6). Furthermore, based on Freedom House’s survey, he believes that democracy is a world wide trend, irrespective of cultures or continents “Think of democracy as the modern way, not just the Western way.” (Huntley, 1998: 9).

Unlike realism that emphasizes on the “real” world, understanding it and trying to find ideas how to deal with its realities without any ambition to change it, pax democratica learns the world as a changeable reality. Something can be done to change the world into the idealized one. As Huntley found the 20th century as a terrible century, his book is trying to offer wisdom so that those terrible world will not happen again, “wars have killed millions, for insufficient reason. War is humankind’s greatest evil. Good people should make a system to eliminate war” (Huntley, 1998: 3).

Therefore, I would say, this book is about should theory, a normative work where we can find easily how Huntley tries hard to “construct” his idealized world with imperative words of should and must. In as early as page 1, he has already said, “We must learn how to strengthen further the brotherly impulses of our world…”; “Democrats everywhere should regard it as their first duty…” (p. 6); “The democracies should form a permanent … intercontinental community…” (p. 6); “to confront looming chaos, the democracies must regroup…” (p. 64); and we can find such should-ideas elsewhere in his book.

War, therefore, is a reality that should not happen and the history of human beings, according to his view, is the history of finding an escape from war and of finding an order. He divides this effort into four phases: order through empire, order through a balance of power, order intergovernmental organization and international arbitration, and finally order through supranational political community. Democracy, in this perspective, is In the hart of this fourth phase because the idealized world that Huntley argues for is the world with democracies (chapters 1, 2, 5, 6, and 8 are devoted for this), in which they set up an international web of cooperation to establish a peaceful world order. The non-democracies are seen merely as challenges that democracy and its club should deal with and change.

Comparing Two Worlds

So, we have two different worlds here. The one is an “amoral” world of Mearsheimer where the logic of power, the will to survive, and the will to be a hegemon, are the driving force behind the international relation and politics. On the other hand is the constructed and idealized world that Huntley sets up through the strategy of democracy and international order.

Mearsheimer would understand and be interested in the idea of peaceful world, but he rejects such approach as a utopia: it will not work to explain the behavior of states and international relation. For Mearsheimer, “the morality” is out of power logics. When the US had to deal with NAZI, it did work together with the communist Soviet Union. The political decisions depend more on the power calculation than moral calculation. If the communism was morally wrong, what did make the US work together with Soviet Union? The answer was and is power. For Huntley, however, what matters is that we will not let that happen again. The logics of power has cost millions lives and the logics is the old way of dealing with other states in the old world. In the 21st century, we should and we can use another strategy: democratic strategy.

Democracies have saved democracies from the violent world, and it will work as it did. He said, “A look at what the democracies were able to do in the recent past, 1940-1990, may give us heart…”

The differences arise from the different ways of learning the history. For Mearsheimer, the history is a reality that we have to deal with as whatever it is; it works on its own logics that states only can “response”, understand and adjust, so that they can survive in this anarchic world. Huntley, on the other hand, looks at the history as a lesson that human beings and their machineries (states) have a control over it. For Huntley, there is no such pre-determined nature of willing to power in the state because human beings can choose what they consider good and bad.

Cold War Matters?

With those differences in understanding history, Mearsheimer and Huntley view the Cold War in very different ways. Huntley would celebrate the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall as the end of Cold War. His logics suggest that the end of the Cold war is the end of competing two super powers and the war (fighting for power) was over. Seen through this way, the logic of power is not relevant anymore because it is only democracy now that dominates the world. In his argument, democracies will not fight each other. So, the end of Cold War is the end of continuing war and the prospect for the peace world of democracy, pax demoratica.
However, for Mearsheimer, there is no substantial difference between the pre-Cold War, the Cold War, or even the post Cold War, you mention it. In the anarchic world of Mearsheimer, the world without any supra political unit over states, they will always compete to maximize their power. The competition for power did not stop by the end of the Cold War. He believes that states still fear each other and seek to gain power at other’s expense. The best evidence for this is the fact that the US maintains about one hundred thousand troops in Europe and Northeast Asia for the explicit purpose of keeping the major states in each region at peace (p. 361).


Can democratic societies learn from the history? Only Huntley, I think, who believe that “democratic societies” do exist and, therefore, they can learn from the history to bring about peaceful world Huntley dreams about. The democratic people, he said, has learnt from the history and taken an uncompromising lead: they determined that democracy must survive; they envisioned a world order based on common action by the democracies; and they created interlocking web of international institutions to smooth the transition to a new phase in the advance of civilization.

For Mearsheimer, by contrast, “democratic societies” is utopia and there should be no such society who can learn form the history. What Mearsheimer believes are “Machiavellian societies” whose logics are survival. For such societies, pursuing power is the only thing they can learn form the history.


Post a Comment

Lebih baru Lebih lama