IR Journal

Who started the Cold War? Does the question matter in any way?

The Cold War constitutes a representative time in world history for two distinct reasons. First of all, it was not in itself a war in the general understating of armed and military conflict, but a battle of ideologies and technological advancements. A race was set to establish the technological leader of the world. Secondly, the Cold War is important due to the players it engaged. On the one hand, there was the United States of America striving to become the new leader. At the other side stood the Soviet Union, which strived hard to maintain its position as world leader.

Another interesting characteristic of the Cold War refers to the emergence of the conflicts. With general wars, there is an invasion, a pretense or an attack to lead to the war breaking out. Finding the real emergence of the Cold War and the people who first started it is however a more difficult task. Given the conflicting evidence, reputable scholars have come to conflicting conclusions, meaning then that any answer relative to who started the Cold War cannot be entirely comprehensive. Within the current context however, the relevance of such a question is limited, mattering mostly only within the academic field.

A first opinion is that the Cold War was caused by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that strived to expand to the entire world and implement their communist ideologies. A second opinion is that the war was commenced by the United States of America which recognized the soviet threat and wanted to restrict it (the atomic bomb is often perceived as a statement to the U.S.S.R.). Finally, there is the third opinion according to which the Cold War commenced due to misunderstandings between the U.S.A. And the U.S.S.R. The least popular cause is that of a necessity to identify the position of Germany in the after Hitler period (Greenfield History Site).

2. Do you agree with the maxim that, in international politics, "the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept"?

In order to state if one agrees or disagrees with the maxim, it is first necessary to truly understand it. Some time between 460 B.C. And 395 B.C., Greek historian Thucydides wrote the History of the Peloponnesian War. The work is extremely complex and numerous historical studies since then through today have made references to the means in which Thucydides understands and presents politics and history.

In the fifth chapter of the book, Melian Dialogue, the historian states his opinion relative to international politics. He argues that "the strong do what they have the power to do and the weak accept what they have to accept." What this basically means is that interstate relations are guided by the power of each global player. If one country is more powerful than the other, it will reveal an increased ability to implement the policies it finds most advantageous. The limited power of the second country prevents it from implementing the policies which best serve its needs, but has to comply with whatever the more powerful state decided. Alexander Kemos explains that, to Thucydides, "international relations allow the mighty do as they please and force the weak to suffer as they must."

In terms of a personal opinion, this tends to agree with the Greek historian. International policy making has always been influenced by the more powerful states. When Germany was a growing force, Jews were being persecuted across the globe. When the Roman Empire grew, Christians were being persecuted. Now, as the United States consolidates its leading position, values such as globalization and a war on terrorism are being forwarded without the support of smaller countries, which have to close their mom & pop stores to welcome Wal-Mart or allow the U.S. troops to station on their territories.

3. Discuss some of the key differences between the realist school and the transnationalist school of IR.

Many of the views forwarded by history in the distant or more recent past are influenced by the school to which their issuers belonged. Two important schools of international relations are the realist school and the transnationalist school. The following lines reveal some of the most notable differences between them:

(1) the first concept, often used as political realism and synonymous with power politics, sees that countries fight for economic and military power and stability and that they care less for ideological battles or ethical disputes. The transnationalists however believe that individuals and states place increased emphasis on morality and that these do indeed guide international politics.

(2) Directly pegged to the approach of the country's interests is the belief in human nature. Realists believe that the human nature does not support the well-being of others, but that each state and each individual is guided by personal interests; the realists are as such pessimistic. The transnationalists on the other hand are more optimistic and state that the human nature is generally good and supportive of the development of nations in the meaning that people foster cooperation, mutual aid and reciprocal welfare.

(3) Realists argue that cooperation does not constitute a focal point in the national approaches to international politics and that countries compete against each other. Transnationalists on the other hand militate for cooperation as the primary means for international growth and plea the international community to reduce the competitive efforts (Canestaro)

4. Discuss some of the key differences between the realist, transnationalist, and class system theory schools in IR. Of these three system level theories, which do you think is the best for describing, explaining, and ultimately predicting international events? Give examples of why you believe that theory is best.

A comparative analysis of transnational and realist schools of thoughts in international relations has already been conducted throughout the previous section. The conclusions indicate that the transnationalists are more optimistic and believe that national values revolve around overall global well-being and cooperation. Realists are more pessimistic and argue that each country strives to meet its individual goals of economic prosperity and military stability. The adepts of the class system theory schools in international relations reveal views conflicting with both transnationalists as well as realists. In this order of ideas, the class system theory points to the importance of the economic factor as the generator of international relations. Otherwise put, these scholars argue that international relations are not guided by neither conflict nor cooperation, but by capitalist structures which strive to accumulate as much capital as possible. This idea was first seeded by Marxist theories, but soon expanded and gained new notions. According to the class system theory, one class will emerge as a more powerful and stronger class and will ensure that its demands and desires are being safeguarded at both national and international levels (Hobson, 2000).

The answer relative to the most adequate model to explain and predict international relations would, at this point at least, revolve around the third model -- the class system theory. Money, in the understating of the capital accumulated, has always ensured its owners that their interests will be safeguarded. It is nevertheless possible for this model to lose its relevance in the coming years due to the scarcity of natural resources and the threat of global warming. In this context, the most adequate system to guide international relations would be the transnationalist one.

5. Discuss some of the criticisms of feminist theories. How do these criticisms compare to the other theories of IR?

Feminist theories become distinguished through a sense of individuality and focus on the person and on emotions. In terms of international relations, they strive to identify and explain the individual role of various groups or individuals to world politics. Additionally, they strive to identify the dual relationship in the meaning of the means by which men and women impact international politics, but also the means in which men and women and influenced by international relations. Gender is often discussed and the most relevant example in this sense is the belief that politics is a field to be handled by men, who are less emotional. The feminist theories of international politics have been, and continue to be, the recipient of great criticism. Two most important arguments against it are succinctly presented below:

(1) Feminist theories tend to place women at the heart of discriminations, but do not consider their privileges, such as their exemption from fighting wars

(2) Feminist theories tend to be personal and subjective and are not always based on clear and technical facts; "Literary and subjective [as constructions in feminist theories] signal […] the abandonment of science, the abandonment of theory building for a free-for-all of personal expression" (Sylvester, 1994, p.142).

An actual comparison of feminist and other international relations theory is generally difficult to achieve for the simple reason that the two revolve around entirely different sets. Whereas the latter refer to politics in its essence,…