Realism in the Asian Pacific
Realism, constructivism and critical theories have divergent explanation for the current security issues in the Asian Pacific. International relations perspectives are conditional, and they can be considered as natural hypotheses that are assumed. They need to be checked against the reality as the facts of life unfold. A rational perspective should be adjustable to dynamic circumstances, and it allows the society to continuously fine-tune its understanding of the dynamic world around it. Various schools of thought aim to determine or predict economic, political and other social factors that affect societal life (Pervez 2012, p.21).
All the three theories may resolve the security issues in Asia. However, constructivism and criticism may cause more problems rather than resolve security issues. One of the major reasons for this is that the Asian Pacific is the largest, most populated, and potentially the wealthiest region in the world. Another reason that may support this idea is the fact that Asians still hold tightly to their culture and traditional institutions. In fact, they are now reconciling their origins and identities with the existing modernization experience. They are also adopting regionally distinct ideas to confront the pressure caused by global change. Moreover, the economic success of the region and the strategic destiny will actually depend on how effective the approach will be. Political realism was overriding globally, with the principal concern being security and power control. After the Cold War period, tranquility and peace among nations was attained through diplomacy (Horowitz 2003, p. 49).
The current security situation in Asia is very much influenced by some impeding factors. It does not encourage the required combinations of approaches and institutional building to achieve or actually regain regional order. Examples include budgetary considerations, domestic bureaucratic rivalry and the short-lived “worst case scenario” conditional upon other states’ behavior. Therefore, the best approach to address the current security issues in Asia lies in pursuing realist policies.
Realism in national relations deals with human nature in terms of what individuals are supposed or not supposed to be. It also deals with events as they occur as opposed to how they should occur. Realists argue that nations pursue their interests within anarchical systems by utilizing and exercising powers, while ensuring that the social economic powers are subdued by political powers in support of state powers. From this it follows that: (1) states which have the primary units must come up with their strategies and develop capacity to pursue their interests in anarchic situation; (2) nations are completely unaware of other nations’ strategy; (3) nations’ strategic plans are offensive to other nations and consequently very dangerous for them to adopt. However, nations will have to act rationally and defensively for their survival. According to advocates of realism economic system, the key players on the world stage are nations, and therefore, territorial sovereignty and security are of paramount importance. The matter of utmost concern for every sovereign nation is to ensure that there is a state of peace within its boundaries. This means that a state must have military strength in place on the global level because of the lawlessness in the international relations system, which lacks central global ability to resolve clashes. According to realists, politics shapes economics; however, economics still has a significant role to play in terms of states’ supremacy. In order to maintain an optimal offensive system, nations seek to gain economic strength. Wealth and resources are prerequisite for states’ supremacy, because conflict is directly associated with both economics and politics. Powerful states determine the limits and rules of the system by balancing alliances or power. The cooperation structure is difficult to attain, because realism teaches that the nature of people and, hence, the global system, is conflict.
Economic issues are considered to cause conflict and insecurity among the Asians because economic interdependence is not symmetrical. Developed economies tend to do all they can to increase authority and influence over developing nations, since they are more focused on achieving the relative power, rather tha the absolute power. According to realists, conflict among nations is a natural element of the game. According to the realist argument, relative benefit is of greater importance as compared to mutual benefit. Thus, states shift from one governing regime to another in order to gain more than other economic authorities. This is witnessed in Asia, which hypocritically advocates liberalized market, but applies tariffs on their agricultural products.
The first priority for nations is to pursue their self-interest. Unlike liberalism, realism teaches that free market will constantly maximize wealth. However, realists value domestic concerns and give them priority over international issues. Asia’s self-sufficiency is preferred over economic dependency. For realists, a nation is to intervene in trade by applying protectionist measures to attain its national interests.
According to realists, globalization is a dangerous economic revolution stage. Globalization accommodates an active global society, and by default, it creates favorable conditions for development of societies. In the globalization era, terrorism and transnational crime rates increased significantly and became difficult to control. To realists, interdependence is a temporary occurrence. Lasting stability and tranquility cannot exist under globalization. International institutions, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and others, are assumed to be temporary organizations. This assumption is based on the belief that human beings tend to break their treaties, promises, and contracts. The optimal route for liberalized cooperation is to secure lasting stability for international political and economic relations.
Realism can be grouped into three components: bilateralism, maximal and minimal and power balancing. Bilateralism is concerned with the security issues between two nations that seem to be in the same position in terms of power balance .Nations may agree to enter into such bilateral negotiations if they believe that their combined security interests and their capabilities will be highly beneficial and effective for both nations. Maximal realism is also called the strategy of preponderance or primacy. By arguing that world peace is based on economic and political conditions of the nation, maximal realism seems to be in support of the Asian Pacific. According to this school of thought, the key to peace and stability of any Asian nation lies in ensuring military superiority over any nation that may try to threaten it, and maintaining its willingness to secure interests of its allies. Minimal realism, also referred to as neo-isolationism, views the power of the Asian Pacific as less beneficial. This school of thought argues that power transition in Asia cannot be avoided, and therefore, future conflicts can be avoided through the downgrading of rival powers. Power balancing have become the most widely discussed and known strategy of organizing security in the Asian Pacific. Power balancing, therefore, refers to the sharing of power to ensure that no particular region has dominance of power.
The main aim of power balancing is to ensure that no region prevails over other to the extent of going to war. Power sharing, on the other hand, centers around gaining advantage through coalition and concert. However it is argued that the United States is likely to intervene and exercise its authority over the Asian Pacific regardless of whether either of the strategies will work. Budgetary considerations and bureaucratic responses are some of the issues that will influence the policy of the United States. Furthermore, it is also argued that if the United States takes this course of action, there is a strong likelihood that other Asian Pacific states may view this as anti-China strategy (Roskies 1993, p.7). This reaction may spark more tension, which may consequently lead to regional conflicts. Development of the two countries may cause animosity between the two countries in their security relations (Alagappa 2008, p. 23).
It is further argued that the best strategy would be the combination of bilateral security measures that involve established alliances and multilateral strategies. A strategy involving both bilateral and multilateral strategies is the key component of the convergent security approach. The convergent security approach can be defined as transition from regional security that is based on predominantly realist-oriented bilateral components to security based on regional multilateral arrangement (Heo 2003, p. 29).
Despite the great emphasis placed on realism as a theory that best explains the conditions in the Asian Pacific, they are many challenges that may hinder implementation of this program. To ensure that stability and prosperity are successfully accomplished in the Asian Pacific, convergent security is to ensure that it has dual commitment from the United States. The United States must first ensure that there is continuation of significant strategies in the region. Secondly, the United States must ensure that there is simultaneous willingness to re-orient its security concerns or aims to ensure they are in line with the objectives or predominant security concerns of its Asian allies (Peou 2010, p.49). To achieve this, the USA will have to revise its regional outlook and strategies from a predominantly defensive posture of checking rivals through power balancing to the one that will be more focused on empowering cultural traditions and norms in the Asian Pacific. However, this may not be very easy to achieve. The other limitation that may face realism policy is that it lacks precision in the way the key terms, such as national interests and power, are used. This becomes a problem during the analysis. Once it has been asserted that good leaders should develop or acquire power to serve the national interests, the question that remains to be answered will be what the key components of national power are and how best power can be used to serve national interests? According to the realist argument, acquiring security by amassing power is self-defeating. The need to acquire absolute security by one state may be seen as creating more insecurity to other states in a manner that everyone would be involved in an upward spiral of ensuring that they protect their policy, and consequently jeopardizing the security of all other members. Another weakness of realism is that it fails to indicate which criterion is to be used to determine historical data that is important for the analysis, and what the rules that are supposed to be used in interpreting the information are. Furthermore, realism fails to consider the development of the international political situation (Farrell 2010, p.34). For instance, it failed to explain the creation of new commercial and political institutions in Western Europe in the 1950s and the 1960s.