Is conflict and war an inevitable feature of global politics?

taken from the June 2010 mark scheme edexcel

The question about the inevitability of conflict and war in global politics has long been a matter of theoretical debate and discussion. It is perhaps the key issue that has divided realism from liberalism or idealism.

• Realist theorists have argued that conflict and war are permanent characteristics of international or global politics. Most basically, people are viewed as narrowly selfish and ethically flawed, intent on achieving self-advantage regardless of others. A lust for power and a desire to dominate others is an ineradicable feature of human nature. This implies that international politics boils down to a struggle for power, in Hobbes’s words, ‘a war of all against all’. The primary objective of every state is to promote its national interests, trying to achieve relative gains in the international system. International politics is thus, inevitably, a form of power politics, with war being used as an instrument of state policy. This tendency is strengthened by the anarchical character of the global system, in which, with no power standing above the sovereign state, states being forced to rely on self-help to achieve security in a context of mutual fear, suspicion and hostility. The dynamics of this anarchical system make long-term stability and international co-operation difficult, and perhaps impossible, to achieve. However, stability and peace can be achieved for temporary periods through the maintenance of a balance of power.

• Liberal theorists, on the other hand, believe that global politics can be characterised by harmony and co-operation, meaning that conflict and war occur for very specific reasons and are not inevitable. At the core of liberalism is a belief in reason and the possibility of progress. As individuals are moral creatures and not merely power-seeking ones, liberals believe that international and global politics can conform to ethical principles rather than merely power politics. They believe that conflict and war can be contained in at least three ways. First, free trade helps to establish economic interdependence between and amongst states, making war perhaps unthinkable and building international understanding between trading partners. International institutions can also be forged to ensure an international rule of law, helping to replace unstable balance-of-power politics with a system of collective security. Democratic government also reduces the tendency towards war, particularly as democratic states are accustomed to using compromise and negotiation to resolve disputes. Conflict and war may nevertheless occur, but they are usually associated with factors such as the rise of economic nationalism or the existence of authoritarian rule or imperial structures.


Terrorism revision – conflict war and terrorism edexcel government and politics unit 4d option d


The events of September 11 changed the view of terrorism significantly. Terrorism is a form of political violence that aims to achieve its objectives through creating a climate of fear and apprehension (Goodin 2006)

What are some aims of terrorism?

  • to instill fear in people’s minds
  • achieve political aims: IRA
  • religious aims (Woolwich attack)
  • nationalism: IRA
  • Protest against US hegemony

Ignatieff 2004 distinguishes between four different types of terrorism:

  1. Insurrectionary- aimed at the revolutionary overthrow of a state (anarchist and revolutionary communist terrorism)
  2. Loner or issue terrorism- aimed at the promotion of a single cause (bombing of abortion clinics in the USA and 1995 sarin nerve gas attack on Tokyo subway)
  3. Nationalism terrorism- aims to overthrow colonial rule or occupation, often with the goal of gaining independence for an ethnic religious or national group. Examples include FLN in Algeria, the liberation tigers of Tamil eelam
  4. Global terrorism: aimed at inflicting damage and humiliation on a global power or at transforming global civilisation (al Qaeda and other form of Islamism terrorist groups)

However the concept of new terrorism suggesting that there has been a change on the nature of terrorism predates the 9/11 attacks, interest in it being stimulated by events such as the 95 attack on Tokyo subway and the 97 massacre in Luxor. But what is new terrorism and how new is it?

According to Hoffman 2006: by 1995, almost half of the 56 terrorist groups believed to be religious in character and motivation. Al Qaeda was a certain example of this trend, motivated by broad radical politico religious ideology in the form of Islamism.

How to counter terrorism:

1.)Negotiations/political deals: Basque/ South Africa/ Northern Ireland = successful. Afghanistan=unsuccessful


-definite end to terrorism if the terrorist groups aims are met

-seen as the peaceful option (wont make matters worse) e.g. Good Friday agreement. Prevents further conflict (NI)


-takes too long to negotiate

-encourage others (sets precedent)

-legitimises terrorist organisations.

2.)Military repression: Afghanistan/Chechnya/Peru:Shining Path, Columbia FARC


-can work seen in Checnya, liberal views of being moral


-kill more people and make it worse


-undermines state sovereignty

-human rights jeopardised

-can encourage more attacks e.g Vietnam

3.)Increasing state security: jeopardises human rights e.g through spying


-prevents terrorist attacks


-removal of human rights (civil liberties) USA patriot.

Terrorism tactics and methods

  • Guerrilla tactics
  • suicide bombings
  • IED/landmines
  • threats
  • youtube/propaganda
  • political wing
  • kidnapping/randsom
  • destroy infrastructure

Implications of using military tactics to contain terrorism:

  1. fastest method rather than diplomacy
  2. leads to a further loss of lives
  3. may encourage more violence
  4. leads to watered down resolutions
  5. unnecessary

Does the need to counter terrorism justify restricting human rights and basic human freedoms?


  • The weakness of the strong: liberal democratic societies are weak in the sense that such as freedom of movement and legal checks on government power can be exploited. In other words, toleration and legality can become their worst enemy providing advantages for groups that oppose all these things. Effective counter terrorism must deprive terrorists of these advantages
  • The lesser evil: curtailing rights is justifiable when the rightness of an action is judged on the basis of whether it provides the good for the greatest number. Ignatieff 2004 argues that this is the lesser evil
  • The necessity of dirty hands: the doctrine of dirty hands is based on the belief that public morality is separate from private. It may thus be right for political leaders to do wrong if this serves public morality.


  • Counterproductive anti terrorism: in a sense all terrorism seeks to prove an overreaction on the part of government. Terrorism achieves its ends not through violent attacks but through a government’s response.
  • Freedom as a fundamental value: for HR supporters: morality is not a question of trade offs and calculations about the greater good. It is about the intrinsic rightness or wrongness of actions. As human rights are absolute fundamental and universal, an actions such as restricting civil liberties is wrong, no matter how inconvenient.
  • Moral authority and soft power: terrorism cannot be combated through state security alone: in important ways terrorism Is a hearts and minds issue: if a clear ethical line cannot be drawn, governments lose authority and undermines public support e.g controversial practices associated with GITMO and damaged the USA’s soft power and support behind it’s war on terror.

War on terror: name given to multiple wars and conflicts started by the USA and allies to combat terrorism.

Afghanistan (2001)

  1. Cause: 9/11 attack. Failed smart power
  2. UN: approved
  3. Early results: Taliban removed from Kabul. Al Qaeda slanted away.
  4. Continuation: insurgency. Turned humanitarian continued (bin laden killed in 2011)

Iraq (2003)

  1. Cause: alleged WMD’s. Pre emptive strike.
  2. UN: opposed/vetoed: coalition of the willing
  3. Early results: quickly removed from government. No WMD’s found
  4. Continuation: insurgency, humanitarian. RELATIVELY stable since.




Nuclear weaponry revision politics edexcel conflict war and terrorism unit 4d option d

There have been a number of nuclear arms control agreements to prevent the spread of both vertical and horizontal proliferation of nuclear weaponry. However, most agreements both experience pros and cons.

Vertical control:

SALT1: talks in 1969

-1972 froze no of launchers and limited strikes with ABM technology.

SALTII: 1972-1979: designed to limit no of weapons and research into new versions. Never ratified by US because of Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Soviet troops in AFG Reagan pulled out in 1986.

START1: Strategic arms reduction treaty was signed in 1991 and came to force in 1994. It limited USA and Russia to a total of 6000 nuclear weapon warheads and 1600 ICBMS

-drop of 80% from peak level.

It was replaced by New start in 2011:

-USA and Russia failed to reach an agreement  limitation, it’s treaties start II and III.

From 1972-2002 an agreement existed to limit ABM technology- the USA withdrew in 2002.

THE NPT: Nuclear non proliferation treaty. Principles of NPT include:

  • 5 states recognised as the nuclear weapon states or the “nuclear club”
  • other signatories agree not to acquire weapons in return the nuclear weapons states must share their technology for peaceful uses (mainly nuclear power)
  • originally designed to run till 95 but has now been extended indefinitely.

Comprehensive test ban treaty (CTBT)

  • 2000 tests to date
  • the CTBT seeks to ban all nuclear explosions in all environments for military or civilian purposes. Adopted by the UN general assembly in 86
  • a large no of states have either not signed or have not ratified it: the USA,China,India and Pakistan.
  • Not in operation because over 40 states are yet to ratify

Should the USA ratify CTBT?


  • would push other states to do the same
  • would help reduce progress in making nuclear weapons more devastating
  • can be tested/modelled without explosions
  • reduction in the environmental impact


  • treaty is unverifiable
  • test bombs are the only way to ensure they’re safe and stockpile has no issues
  • unlikely to prevent vertical proliferation
  • unlikely to prevent broken arrows and terrorist groups.

US non proliferation under Obama and its implications:

  • states no longer have a deterrence
  • states would lose their “nuclear umbrella”
  • encourages states to intervene in other states
  • provides instability
  • does not ensure that all other states will non proliferate

Nuclear Umbrella: the “nuclear club” offers allies of allies of the state nuclear protection in case of an attack. They benefit by the “nuclear club’s” nuclear umbrella: sheltered by nuclear weapons.

Why are nuclear weapons and WMDs seen as the ‘red line’? What is the difference between WMDs and Conventional weaponry?

Features of WMDs:

  1. unlikely to avoid collateral damage
  2. long lasting health or environmental impacts(birth defects)
  3. specific treaties in place to reduce proliferation and other weapons restricted

Features of conventional weaponry:

  1. Less likely to have long lasting consequences
  2. few treaties in place to limit weaponry with some very controversial weapons like cluster bombs only recently regulated
  3. can usually be targeted at ‘legitimate’ military targets


Theories of EU integration- government and politics unit 3d european union and regionalism

Theories of EU integration.

The main theories of integration that I will be looking at is functionalism, federalism, subsidiarity and neo functionalism.


In Europe, “federalism” is often used to describe those who favour a stronger federal government (for example, with governance under the EU) and weaker provincial governments. In federal nations of Europe such as German and Austria, the term “strong federalism” means sub national stats having more power than the government. Federalists believe poling sovereignty to a higher authority: supranationalism is important to maintain peace- West Europe now Eastern Europe wanted a more integrated Europe.


Implementing EU law as locally as possible. Subsidiarity agrees that community policy should be made at the centre but in a way that policies are implemented should be close to the people as possible

Why is subsidiarity important for states?

-allows states freedom and control over policy

-preserve integrity and national sovereignty

What are the problems for subsidiarity

limits the EU power

-problems for states as EU has over exerted power

Perspectives on the subsidiarity principle

Functionalists: believe in both proportionality and subsidiarity

Federalists: understand that subsidiarity is needed to encourage a supranational EU


-Prefer a intergovernmental EU

-Reject supranationalsm

-No need for formal integration

-Retain sovereignty

-States that are functionalists are UK and Denmark

Neo functionalism

-Believe in intergovernmental institutions

-Different form functionalism: accepts institutions are needed (creates levels of integration)


I will be going through the main debates regarding the European Union and Regionalism in accordance the Edexcel Government and Politics unit 3, option D specification. I find this unit the hardest, so here are just main points and arguments surrounding the topic. I probably won’t answer a question on this topic, but if the other three are harder- I will have to!

Why do some states want EU enlargement

In comparison to the integration in the EU, enlargement actually means getting bigger. This means, more states have membership to the Union. Inevitably, this route has a number of advantages and disadvantages that appeal to either Euro sceptics or Pro Europeans.

Yes, I believe in further EU enlargement

(Pro European view

  • Pro Europeans will encourage this as a step towards federalism
  • Further EU integration means that the chances of conflict is reduced. Seen through the stable relationship between France and Germany, established upon the creation of the European Union: the EU is essentially an “allied trade
  • Additionally, further EU enlargement means that it encourages free movement of people for further states. This means that the chances of illegal migration between states will be reduced as more countries will have access to the EU
  • EU provides an incentive for states to adopt a liberal democracy
  • the EU provides assistance with improving human rights records: to meet EU criteria before becoming a member.
  • No, EU enlargement is unacceptable. (Euro Sceptics view)
  • Some wealthy countries may argue that EU policy such as CAP (Common agriculture policy) are likely to be placed under heavy stains with the arrival of new members and perhaps become a drain to funds
  • Sovereignty is further undermined making decision making ineffective
  • States having a common policy is unlikely for example the UK and Romania are economically different
  • Euro sceptics believe this will give too much power to EU institutions: allegations of corruption e.g 1999 commission resigned under Jaques Sanferin
  • Opt outs may become more regular as decision making is too tough

Why do some member states wish for further EU integration?

  • Further EU integration is not adding more states for EU membership, but the closer integration between states and therefore requires further loss of sovereignty.
  • The EU should be more closely integrated as some policies such as fishing and transport are large issues and perhaps makeslittle sense for each country to attempt to address climate change single handily
  • The EU provides an essential counter power for the USA
  • Recent studies have shown that states that have freely opened up their boarders have seen significant economic
  • The EU has preserved peace in Europe since the end of the Cold War

Margot Wallstrom: marked V day in 2007 by accusing Euro Sceptics or risking a return to the holocaust by clinging to “nationalistic pride

No, there shouldn’t be further EU integration

  • Further EU integration means a further loss of sovereignty, therefore this, according to polls is unacceptable to British people
  • Further enlargement has increased cultural diversity: this is problematic as it makes integration problematic. E.g. the UK and Slovakia having a common economic policy is impossible
  • Foreign policy of states are different
  • Some states have not been positively impacted by the single currency: some people blame Germany’s economy in decline on Europe

EU integration

This argument revolves around the EU being a unique model of integration. Essentially, it is debated whether aspects of the European Union are easily transferable to other bodies such as the African Union, ASEAN and NAFTA, or if that these features are unique to just the EU

The EU is an exceptional model of integration

  • The EU starts the process of shaping integration of developing countries: the EU is currently building trade agreement with African Pacific groups
  • >Democratic framework: the EU is the only body to have an elected parliament, in comparison with NAFTA and ASEAN
  • The EU has shown its ability to ‘bounce back’ making it a model: the failure of the defence committee in 1954 prompted the European Economic committee in 1957
  • Success in solving historical fragile relationships: seen through Germany and France whilst the AU still has internal conflicts

No, features of the EU can easily be transferred to other regional groups

Similar size to NAFA 60% of entire GDP

Similar free trading agreements in Nafta

  • In order to become a model, the EU has to be able to cope with everchanging environments. This has not been the case with the EU being heavily hit by the crisis
  • UK failing to adopt the Euro shows that Europe is not fully integrated within itself
  • The EU model cannot be copied widely. For example the monetary system cannot be replicated by ASEAN as many countries would suffer from the exchange rates. E.g. the disparity between the Singaporean dollar and Indonesian rupees

The EU has developed into a major global actor.

The EU is a major global actor

  • The EU’s continent wide internal market gives it substantial economic influence: both political and economic. The sheer size of the EU in economic trade makes it a key global actor. It is the biggest trading bloc and home to the world’s second currency.
  • The EU has significant structural power being the only non state actor to be represented on the WTO, G7 and G20
  • The EU also exercises important diplomatic influence by virtue of its soft power. E.g in relation to Iran and nuclear proliferation and especially around the issue of climate change
  • The EU is not a major global actor
  • Still no combined military defence
  • Progress on establishing a common foreign and security power has been limited by the number of member states that want to retain control of foreign policies


My next post will be on theories of integration

Military power is now largely obsolete in global politics. Discuss.

Military power is now largely obsolete in global politics. Discuss.

Military power is largely recognised as the ultimate symbol for ‘hard power’ between states. Hard power is the use of force to achieve objectives through aggression and therefore military power can be seen as the epitome of exercising this caliber of power. After the extreme and frequent expression of violence, war and inevitably military power seen pre-1945, after the two world War’s and the Cold War, it could be argued that this power is largely obsolete in the global system. 

Yes, Military power is obsolete now.

  • After America’s invasion in Iraq, the trauma the war caused has certainly build a stigma of war wariness. The child and civilian casualties has both deterred and done its best to prevent future wars due to this already unpopular decision,
  • Globalisation has meant that states are more dependent on each other for trade. Therefore it is more likely that a state would pursue diplomatic pressure on (for example:China) rather than military force due to the dependence of goods and services.
  • The democratic zones of peace means that regional trade blocks such as the European has effectively established a stable relationship between former conflicting rivals in power: Germany and France and therefore military power is much less likely to be needed
  • Many wars, such as asymmetric wars appear to be unwinnable because of the unorthodox strategies used such as guerrilla warfare and terrorism which means that military dominant as well as economically dominant states are unable to tackle these problems with military power in comparison to conventional war. 

However, a realist view is likely to argue:

  • War is inevitable. Whilst states have managed to reduce the level of military power so frequently once used, it is the main way of states tackling serious obstacles such as terrorism. Further to this, it could be argued that such forms of violence (terrorism) is unlikely to be resolved with diplomacy without suffering a loss of sovereignty and therefore military intervention is the only way to stop some conflicts.
  • Realists may also argue that humans are inherently selfish and aggressive. Therefore, war is the instant reaction to states facing conflict.
  • Military power has increasingly been used for ethical purposes, notably to facilitate
    humanitarian intervention and to support peacekeeping and peacebuilding initiatives.

Personal opinion: I agree with the statement “military power is now largely obsolete due to the increased importance of soft power. The increasing use of soft power means that as a result hard power (in this case, military) becomes less important in resolving conflicts. In addition, the increased significance and formation of legal institutions within regional trade blocs: European Court of Justice means that conflict can be resolved through a higher body and therefore states do not have to resort to military aggression. 

What do you think?


Explain the relationship between regionalism and globalisation.

Regionalism and globalisation are two very different concepts: yet they inevitably work together. In order to establish their relationship, let’s distinguish between them first.

So, what really is regionalism?

Regionalism is the process through which geographical regions become significant political and/or economic units serving as the basis for cooperation and possibly identity. 

New regionalism involves more spontaneous process that often emerge from below and within the region itself and more in accordance with its peculiarities and problems. It is important to understand that new regionalism is a complex process of change taking place simultaneously at various levels of analysis of the global systematic levels.

And globalisation?

Globalisation is the interconnectedness and interdependence of states, forming a process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture.

Then, what is the relationship between both of these concepts?

Regional economic blocs have tended to be formed in part because of the impact of
globalisation on the economic independence of states. As borders have become porous
and economic sovereignty has declined, states have been inclined to work more closely
with other states in the same region.

• One motive for the formation of regional economic blocs is that these help states to
resist pressure from intensified global competition. These blocs therefore function as
customs unions, ‘fortresses’ against the pressures from the wider global economy.
• In an increasingly interdependent global economy, states seek prosperity through the
establishment of free trade areas that give them access to larger markets and facilitate
economic specialisation.

In short, regionalism is inevitably linked with globalisation. Whilst globalisation is the increased interdependence of states: regionalism allows this dependence. For example, the European Union gives states the foundation for free trade and therefore a segway leading into reaching globalisation.Regional trade blocks then have given states the scope to increased communication, contact and trade (in other words, an opportunity for globalisation.)