Neorealist Theory In International Relations

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The field of international relations is broken into three main paradigms that are used by social scientists to explain the interactions between nations in an anarchical system. Of these paradigms neorealist balance of threat has the most explanatory and predictive power, and the fewest gaps in logical analysis. Although a fairly young theory, neo-realist balance of threat has a unique ability to explain the existence of a relatively non-aggressive Unipol and the lack of any balancing action against the Unipol’s vast military capabilities.
In order to examine neorealist theory, one must begin with its parent; realism. Realism is defined by Morgenthau as a school of thought that believes that human nature produces anarchy and that one must work
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In this article in the journal International Security, Walt shifts the focus of neo-realism from power to threat. He argues that amassing force is not, in and of itself, an aggressive action and that states do not balance and/or bandwagon in response to power, but in response to threat. This slight shift in perspective makes realist theory more applicable to the post cold war unipolar system. A classical realist would have a hard time explaining the absence of military forces along the Canada-US border. In a pure power calculation Canada is vastly inferior to the United States and should therefore fear invasion. Even in a historical neo-realist perspective Canada should fear the United States as historical precedent has shown that the United States will and has invaded Canada and Mexico in search of natural resources. Neither gives a satisfying explanation to Canadian apathy in the face of American military might. Walt would use his balance of threat theory to bridge this logical gap in neo-realism. As the United States has been a close ally with Canada for centuries and Canada therefore does not view the United States as a threat to their sovereignty Canada has no reason to balance against a rise in US power. In fact, neo-realist threat theory would argue that they would desire a rise in US power and would balance with a powerful, non-threatening neighbor such as the United States. A critical reader will notice how under threat theory bandwagoning and balancing look very similar. Nonetheless, this is a necessary flaw when attempting to apply international relations theory to a unipolar

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