Political realism is a school of thought in international relations which believes that national interest and security takes precedence over other social ideals and ethics of society. Political realism focuses on state security and power above everything else. The realist school believes that the imperfection of the nature of the work is a reflection of the imperfection in human nature. This imperfection has created a world of interest and goals whose evident tools of management is rooted in conflict. It holds therefore that moral principals cannot be the yardstick for measuring relationship rather, it must be based on the balancing of interests, realignment of ideals and settlement of conflicts as they arise.

            Early realists like Henry Carr, and Hans Morganthan argued that states are self centred, power-seeking and rational actors who seek to maximize their security wellbeing and chances of survive. They view co-operation between state as a strategy aimed at maximizing the security of each individual state as opposed to any other idealistic reasons. Similarly, any act of war must be based on self interest aimed at economic, military or political advantage to the state. The realist school point at the Second World War as an vindication of their theory.
            Classical writers such as Thucydides Machiavelli and Thomas Hobbes are often regarded as the “Founding Fathers” of political realism by contemporary writers. This works advocated the ultimate use of power by the state in pursuit of its goals and the realization of their objectives. Their thoughts popularised the use of power, not as a means to an end, but as the end itself.
            Political realism believes that politics, like society in general, is governed by objective laws that have their roots in human nature. To improve society therefore, it is necessary to understand the laws by which society lives. The operation of these laws being imperious to our designs and preferences, men will challenge them even at the risk of failure. Political realism believing as it does, in the objectivity of the law of politics, must also believe in the possibility of developing a rational theory which must reflect these objective laws. The theory of political realism holds the following key assumptions:
1.         The internal system is in constant state of anarchy. These is no actor above states capable of regulating their interest and behaviour. State must arrive at relations with other states on their own rather being dictated to by a higher controlling entity.
2.         In pursuit of national security, states strive to attain as many resources as possible. The means of such attainment is largely regulated.
3.         States are rational unitary actors, each moving towards their own national interest. There is a general distrust of long term co-operation or alliance.
4.         The overriding national interest of each state is its national security and survival. This must be protected at all cost.
5.         Relations between states are determined by their levels of power derived primarily from their military and economic capabilities.
6.         The interjection of morality and values into international relations causes reckless commitments, diplomatic rigidity and escalation of conflicts.
7.         Sovereign states are the principal actor in the international system and special attention is afforded to large powers as they have the most influence on the international state. International institutions, non-governmental organizations, multi-national corporations, individual and other sub-state or translate actors are viewed as having little independent influence.
            While political idealism equates a statement’s political and philosophical ideals with his personal sympathies, the political realist does not. It is necessary to distinguish between official responsibility and personal wish. While Abraham Lincoln did wish American blood to be shed by fellow Americans, he nevertheless approved the civil war for what he hoped would be an ultimate greater goal for the good of America.
            Neville Chamberlain’s politics of appeasement was good intentioned. He sought to preserve mankind from war and yet his level headedness brought exactly the opposite result. His successor, Winston Churchill, a realist, understood the current of the time and marched on headlong to confront the Nazi menace with a superior and moral political quality devoid of emotion and prevarication.
            In sum, political realism believe that mankind is not inherently benevolent but rather self centred and competitive. This perspective view human nature as selfish and conflictual unless given the right conditions under which they could co-exist. They believe further that state are inherently aggressive and are obsessed with security, and that territorial expansion is only constrained by opposing power or powers. The aggressive build up inherent in security obsession leads to its own variant of security dilemma where the desire to increase one’s security can bring along greater instability at the international level as the opponents continue to build up their own security in response. The scenario created here is that security and arms build up becomes a zero sum grave where only relative gains can be made.
            In evaluating the realist approach to international relations, it is necessary to note that there are not universal principal which all states can use to guide their actions. Instead, a state must always be aware of the actions of other states around it and must use a pragmatic approach to resole the problems as they arise. Notable proponents of the realism school include Sim Tzu and Mao Tse Tung (China); Chanakya (India); Thucydides (Greek) Cardinal Richeln and Charles De Gralle (France) Nichollo Machiavelli (Italy); Thomas Hobbes (English) Fredrick the Great (Prussia) Otto Von Bismarch (Adolf Hitler (Germany) Hans Morgan Than, Henry Kistinger and Ronals Reagan (US); Joseph Stalin (Russia).

Political Idealism
This school of thought believes that a rational and moral political order, derived from abstract principles and universally acceptable can be achieved in international relations. It points out the essential and inherent good in human and nature and believes that such cannot allow man to destroy himself. Political idealism blame the problem of conflict on imperfect social order, lack of knowledge and understanding and obsolete social institutions which have been unable to live up to the goals for which they were established.
            Also known as liberalism, the idealist school hold that state determinants of state behaviour. Unlike political realism where the state is seen as a military actor, liberalism allows for plurality in state actions. Thus, preferences will vary from state to state, depending on factors such as culture, economic system or type of government. Liberalism also holds that interaction between state is not limited to the political sphere (sometimes referred to as high politics) but also the economic sphere (sometimes referred to as low politics) whether through commercial firms, organizations or individuals. Thus, there are plenty of opportunities for co-operation and broader notions of power such as cultural capital where the acceptance of a particular culture by others could lead to the spread of such culture across national boundaries. The influence of American films, for instance, has led to the popularity of American culture in many parts of the world. This can create market for American goods worldwide. Another assumption is that absolute gains can be made through co-operations and interdependence thereby leading to the achievement of global place and understanding.
            Woodrow Wilson personified the liberal theory of international relations. His idealistic thoughts are embodied in his 14 points speech which culminated in the creation of the League of Nations.
            The distinctive characteristic of the idealistic school is their belief in human progress and a similar conviction that man is capable of living in peace with his fellow man despite several disagreements and misunderstandings. They believe that despite the two great wars of the 20th century, the global system could still be transformed into a fundamentally more peaceful and just world order. Idealism holds that great events are taking place in human relationship and such developments are bound to create new ways of thinking that would ultimately abhor wars and violence in inter state affairs. They point at such events as the awakening of democracy and the democratic spirit around the world, the growth of “the international wind” the development and growth of the United Nations the good works of men of peace or the enlightenment spread by their own teaching as having the capacity for positive transformation. The idealist feel that they have a duty, as students of international relations to assist this march of progress and overcome the ignorance, prejudice and ill-will of the past which had stood on the path of effective global interaction.
            Idealism is also marked by the prominent role played by international law and international organizations in its conception and policy formulation. One of the most enduring tenets of modern idealist thinking is the “democracy peace theory” which holds that states with similar models of democratic government do not fight one another.
            Idealism transcends the left-right political spectrum. Idealists can include human right campaigners and other defenders of ethical conduct in human relations. Idealism may find itself in opposition to realism though the two may relate with each other without engaging in serious conflict.
            The idealistic school suffered a crisis of confidence following the failure of the league which led to the out break of the World War II. The optimism engendered by the league mandate at the end of World War I was robust enough to convince idealist that the world at last, had found an outlet, for the resolution of conflict and international problems, without necessarily going to war.
            However,  since the end of the 2nd world war, the united nations has taken the centre stage as the global talk-shop, and despite four decades of a cold war between the East and West, the world have not witnessed another major global conflict. The relative success of the UN is believed by the idealists to have reduce global conflicts into minor skirmishes and armed conflicts in remote parts that on the whole could not be considered serious threats to the peace of the world. The absence of a major global conflict since 1945 is seen as a boast to the idealist philosophy.
            New conservatism has drawn from liberalism its focus on such issues as the promotion of universal values, such values include democracy, human rights, free trade, women’s rights and protection of the minority. Also conservatism encourages the use of force or the threat of force as acceptable and morally worthy in the pursuit of these goals. It however de-emphasise the preservation of international institutions and treaties in the pursuit of goals of state.
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