In his 2004 article, “One World, Rival Theories”, Jack Snyder asserts how the theories outlined in Stephan Walt’s article, “One World, Many Theories”, failed to predict events like the 9/11 attack. Even though the theories have their own way of “shaping both public discourse and public analysis”, they don’t suffice the power needed in today’s world as it is changing constantly (Snyder 53). Snyder outlines how one theory is not prevalent over the others, each one is needed to maintain a check on what the other misses to explain.
International relations shapes how people think and how decisions are made. The theories offer a perspective. Snyder explains each theory as a “filter for looking at a complicated picture” (Snyder 55). Realism focuses on the power of the states, liberalism focuses on political and economical gains and promoting democracy, and idealism focuses on the “changing norms of sovereignty, human rights, and international justice, as well as the increased potency of religious ideas in politics” (Snyder 54).Order now
Realists believe that they are secure if they are in power. They believe that power means a peaceful world. As China is making its way to be more powerful by making its military and economic powers stronger, they are doing so without confronting the U.S. powers (Snyder 55). Military power is what dominates how strong and powerful the state is. Realism succeeds “in its ability to explain the United States’ forceful military response to the September 11 terrorist attacks” (Snyder 55). Realists find it harder to explain why the U.S was the only one to announce a war on terrorism. When a state becomes the most powerful, they start using their power to expand “its sphere of domination” and that is what the U.S. did by using their military powers (Snyder 55). One of the concept of the realists is the balance of power. European nations started combining their powers and a realist would view that has smaller states trying to protect themselves from the more powerful states, but in reality, none of the states combined can stand up against the U.S. military power. Realists try to fill this hole with the distance of the U.S. and how some states see U.S as help.
Liberals, on the other hand, believe that cooperation is the key to increase prosperity. They believe that the democratic states should work together and see each other as nonthreatening to each other’s power. Liberalism had its success when the “U.S. National Security Strategy 2002, famous for its support of preventive war, also dwells on the need to promote democracy as a means of fighting terrorism and promoting peace” (Snyder 57). Another victory for the liberals was when “The White House’s steadfast support for promoting democracy in the Middle East – even with turmoil in Iraq and rising anti-Americanism in the Arab world – demonstrates liberalism’s emotional and rhetorical power” (Snyder 57). Countries that don’t have democracies are more likely to invoke struggles between countries who have “warlike authoritarian regimes” which can cause the countries to have troubles with powers like the U.S. (Snyder 57).
Countries transitioning to democracies have more violent incident that are mostly “caused by ethnic groups’ competing demands for national self-determination” and show that democratic policies fail to settle the debates that occur (Snyder 58). Snyder suggests “Democratic regimes make attractive targets for terrorist violence by national liberation movements precisely because they are accountable to a cost-conscious electorate” (Snyder 58). The U.S is trying to affect the world through its powers and that is shown through their decision of invading Iraq even though they were at opposition at the United Nations (Snyder 58). The liberals fail to explain how democracies can only remain if their military and security are strong enough. The liberals don’t realize that countries transitioning to democracies often end up causing violence and that democratic peace is stronger after they become democratic, not during the transition (Snyder 61). Even though the U.S. is a democracy, it has failed to work with other democracies (Snyder 59). One of the reasons 9/11 occurred, from a liberal point of view, was because of U.S. increasing intervention in world affairs as a democracy. Liberalism believes that the spread of democracy will add to world peace, when in fact, the U.S. has declared a war against terrorism because of the 9/11 attack.
Idealism has been updated to be called constructivism because it “emphasizes the role of ideologies, identities, persuasion, and transnational networks is highly relevant to understanding the post-9/11 world” (Snyder 60). Both U.S. and Europe have significantly developed the constructivist theory. “Whereas realists dwell on the balance of power and liberals on the power of international trade and democracy, constructivists believe that debates about ideas are the fundamental building blocks of international life” (Snyder 60). Even though the constructivist and liberal theories overlap, this distinction by Snyder explains how different they are. Constructivists go deeper than the liberals and realists and study the changes from the norms that occur, such as the Arab nationalism or the Islamist extremism (Snyder 60). Even though the constructivists explain the importance of transnational political networks, the constructivists fail to explain why human rights abuses continue despite the activism (Snyder 59). Constructivists are “weak on the material and institutional circumstances necessary to support the emergence of consensus about new values and ideas (Snyder 61).
Moreover, “None of the three theoretical traditions have a strong ability to explain changes – a significant weakness in such turbulent times” (Snyder 61). The world needs IR theories because the different theories offer different perspectives on situations, the changing world, and how events are shaped. Even though the theories weren’t as accurate, they didn’t fail completely. Instead, one theory completes the other’s.