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Sources of Power - International Relations

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Aliona Fezoua

on 28 January 2014

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Transcript of Sources of Power - International Relations

In order for one to truly grasp the concept of the sources of power in international relations, one must first recognize and acknowledge the various aspects of power itself:
Sources of Power
Political Source of Power
The Communist Party of China (CPC) has been the ruling political party of the People’s Republic of China since 1949 and is the sole party permitted to rule. Nonetheless, it makes up the United Front, founded in 1921, in cooperating with 8 other legal parties. The headquarters of the party are located in Zhongnanhai, Beijing. The National Congress directs the CPC, nevertheless the Central Committee may become the highest body if the National Congress is not in session. Although the political party commits to a communist ideology, many argue that its fundamentals are in fact primarily based on a socialist philosophy with several distinct Chinese attributes.
Social Source of Power
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, is an agency of the United Nations, founded on the 4th of November 1946, which principally focuses on the concrete establishment of global peace through science, education and culture in order to reach international collaboration. The headquarters of the organization are located on the Place de Fontenoy, Paris, France. In total, the agency comprises 196 member states and 9 associate members with, as current Director General, Irina Bokova.
Economic Source of Power
The Brazilian economy, a free market economy, is currently the 6th largest global economy in terms of nominal GDP and 7th largest in regards to the purchasing power. Being the largest economy in Latin America and second largest of the Western hemisphere, the Brazilian economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, part of the BRICS, since it has an average annual GDP growth rate of over 5%. The labour force of the country is estimated at 107.1 million with a Gini coefficient of 49.3. Some of the economy’s main industries include: textile, chemical, aircraft, motor vehicles, steel and machinery.
Verdict - Which is the most significant?
As of today, international issues and crisis are increasingly solved through diplomatic means, nonetheless one must not overlook the ‘hidden’ tension between countries which continuously emerges, concealed behind a utopian like façade. Military power plays a major role in maintaining the latter tension, which must be present in order for a state to gain power, due to two key aspects of the source: influence and security. On the one hand, in regards to the former attribute, military power allows a state to become increasingly powerful as its influences stretch worldwide, which, in the military sense, is typically achieved through intimidation.

The U.S military is a prime example of such great influential supremacy, for if the country’s military force was not as powerful as it is today, or if it was completely absent, many recent or ongoing global concerns would have been addressed differently: South Korea’s current democratic state would, to a certain extent, be at the mercy of North Korea’s substantial military units, the democracy of Taiwan would certainly perish under China’s premeditated assault in order to obtain Taiwan by force if the U.S aircraft carrier groups were non-existent, and Iraq would evidently not be in control of some of the most potent oil reserves Western democracies rely on. In short, due to the United States’ vast international military presence throughout history, numerous nations today live in fear of retaliation from the country if they were to act against the U.S’ interests. Such control could inevitably be translated into power which is one of the many reasons why the United States is a present super power.

On the other hand, as is typically associated to the source of power, military authority also serves security-related purposes. In modern society, many incorrectly assess the prevailing democratic peace as self-sustaining, whereas this ‘peaceful’ facet is all but sturdy. Indeed, states have always required an influential military force in order to not only expand territorial benefices, but also to preserve and protect their own resources, in all senses of the term. In essence, the comforting sense of accumulative democratic peace acquired throughout the years is predominantly an illusion, for the greater good, to dissimulate what lies beneath – coercion, constraint and tension, all driven by an unrelenting military power.
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Military Source of Power
The military forces of the United States of America, otherwise known as the United States Armed Forces, consists of five key branches: the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. The headquarters of the organization are located at the Pentagon, Arlington County, Virginia, US. Military policy is primarily established and undertaken by the U.S Department of Defence, a federal executive department, which works closely with the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the military, in regards to military affairs. All branches may have to work together during specific operations and joint missions, except for the Coast Guard which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
A prominent, and rather typical, aspect would be power obtained through the victory of a state in conflict, which inevitably determines the nation’s ‘security’. Thereupon, a state which undertakes numerous victories, usually related to military campaigns, will witness its power grow globally as it successfully protects its sovereignty, security or interests in terms of strategy.
Power in regards to general ‘control’ similarly represents a key aspect of the notion. To have control over one’s enemy is to fundamentally be more powerful than the opposition. This is usually achieved through the monopolization of all types of resources as of to increase the decisive capabilities of a state.
The power of a nation may also be reflected in its ability to influence other actors in the international system. Indeed, ‘influence’, which could be viewed as a form of ‘control’, is often a favoured power tool since it may be expressed in several ways, such as competitively or cooperatively, thus fitting for all states.
In essence, one could argue the existence of two types of power: hard power and soft power. On the one hand, hard power promotes the balanced establishment of power through forcible means which prominently relay intimidation. Realists and neorealists classically favour hard power over soft since the former is associated to the stronger nations of the international system. On the other hand, soft power could be seen as a much more peaceful and diplomatic approach in gaining power since supporters of the methodology are known for taking recourse to debates, persuasion through noble example and propaganda.
The military power of the United States is oftentimes associated to offensive realism, which foremost promotes maximization of power by a state, due to two key concepts: the exorbitant military expenditures of the country as well as its vast military presence worldwide. In regards to military expenditures, the US military has a total budget of $642.7 billion which, as of 2011, represented 4.9% of the country’s GDP. On a global scale, the latter budget accounts, approximately, for half of the world’s annual spending, which reflects the considerable strength of the offensive military force of the United States rendering it a potential danger for other nations – as states are depicted by the realist theory. Such an enormous amount of money enables the country to not only significantly better its military resources but also to deploy its military troops worldwide. A prime example of the United States’ inexhaustible military presence would be the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Many have attempted to justify the ‘moral’ motives of the US, such as the country’s government shaping the ultimate goal of the mission to be to remove “a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harbored and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world". Nevertheless, it was well known that the state’s real intent was to access Iraq’s well preserved oil reserves – “people say we’re not fighting for oil. Of course we are” (then-U.S Senator Chuck Hagel, 2007). The Iraq war precisely depicts the true nature of realism/realpolitik since the latter claims that, under anarchy, the principal goal of states is to survive or maintain sovereignty through the use of military force if necessary, in other words: the 2003 Iraq invasion by the United States driven by one sole motive – the conquest of the Iraqi oil reserves.
U.S Military Troops in Iraq
Iraqi Oil Reserves
Branches of the U.S military
The Communist Party of China could inevitably be seen as an application of a form of radicalism since the organization follows an ideology which is principally based on Marxist and Leninist thoughts with Chinese attributes – Maoism. This is reflected in the current constitution, adopted in 1982, of the People’s Republic of China which primarily derives from the 1936 constitution of the Soviet Union. Since the latter constitution is heavily influenced by radicalism so is the 1982 constitution of China, nonetheless one must not overlook the, at times, drastic differences between the two, such as the right of secession in the Soviet text whereas the Chinese document unequivocally forbids secession. Furthermore, in regards to socialism, or radicalism, Article 1 of the country’s constitution specifically portrays China as a “socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship”. In other words, the state depends on, to a certain extent, an alliance of the working classes which are ruled by the CPC.
The Chinese Constitution
Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Constructivism, in international relations, is classified as a ‘critical’ theory yet is generally associated to liberal ideologies. One could argue that the UNESCO is a constructivist organization since it promotes social interaction as of to reach international collaboration, which ultimately suggests the gradual ‘construction’ of global cooperation. Some activities of UNESCO which utilize social interaction as a mean to fulfill the primary goal include: UNESCO ASPnet, an association of 8,000 schools in 170 countries, the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works, a branch which focuses on the translation of works of world literature, the UNESCO-CEPES, a de-centralized office which endorses higher education in Europe, and the International Programme for the Development of Communication, a programme which strives to achieve freedom of expression on a global scale.
World Heritage Education Programme - UNESCO
The Brazilian economic policy seems to be a subject of ongoing controversy since it clearly possesses liberal qualities in specific sectors yet resorts to some sort of hybrid regime in regards to other divisions of the economy, which many refer to as liberal neo-developmentalism. Some of the more prominent liberal aspects of the regime include: ensuring a macroeconomic stability in the country, and striving for full employment, whereas: gradual increases in the minimal wage, the engagement of state-owned organizations as of to better national welfare and employment programs, and growing independent of foreign savings all fit a neo-developmentalism approach to the economic policy. As a result, one could argue that the economy of Brazil follows an intricate policy regime, governed by liberal goals which resemble those of the Washington Consensus, yet simultaneously promotes neo-developmental means in order to fulfill the latter goals.
Macroeconomic Stability - Growth
Washington Consensus
North Korea and South Korea Conflict
China and Taiwan Conflict
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