International Relations Realist Theory

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On June 28, 1914, the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand, was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. By August 4th 1914, all of Europe was at war. Understanding how and why this war happened is one of the greatest international relations questions of our time. Within a matter of days, the world was in a full-scale war, and it was not until November 11, 1918 that the war was finally over. Soon after, the German Empire, the Russian Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire all ceased to exist. At the outbreak of World War I, Britain and France were the European hegemonic powers - the political and economic rulers of the world. Germany’s goal was to overthrow this balance and come out as the single European hegemon. The theory…show more content…
Anarchy encourages behavior that leaves all actors worse off than they could be. This central idea is known as the security dilemma. The security dilemma is the possibility that a state's actions to provide for its security may result in a decrease in the security of all states. Under anarchy, states naturally struggle for power. Great powers are primed for offense. They will defend balance of power when looming change favors another state but will undermine the balance when direction of change is in its favor. Specifically in World War I, the struggle for power was exacerbated by the three major assumptions of the security dilemma: Absence of central authority (anarchy), States all have offensive military capability, and states can never be certain about other states’ intentions. The result is fear, self-help, and power maximization, and so, the security dilemma ensued and ultimately led to the outbreak of World War I. Thus, the most persuasive theoretical explanation of the outbreak of World War I is the cascading security…show more content…
Even defensively motivated efforts by states to provide for their own security through armaments, alliances, and deterrent threats are often perceived as threatening and lead to counter-actions and conflict spirals that are difficult to reverse.” This is exactly what happened in WWI. Even the defensive actions of Britain and France to maintain the status quo were misinterpreted as offensive actions, which reinforced the security dilemma. At its core, the realist theory argues that the distribution of power within a system, and the actions taken to balance this power, is the primary factor in shaping international

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