Essay: The Political Balance of Power

The most critical and obvious feature of international affairs is its state of anarchy. The international stage features many indepent actors each seeking their own best interest and security . With no sovereign body to govern over these actors it would seem that the system would never be capable of attaining any control. However this is not the reality of the system, we have seen in history that it is possible to restrain the players. It is said to be as a result of the concept of the Balance Of Power, which dictates the actions of states and provides a basis of control that states use when dealing with each other.

This essay is aimed at investigating the concept of the balance of power and will in turn discuss the following points. The use of the B.O.P. concept to explain the behaviour of states . The ideal behaviour of states in the B.O.P. system and the problems of B.O.P. analysis.

The concept of the B.O.P. can be a useful tool in explaining the behaviour of states. Mostly because it is founded on the theory that all states act to preserve thier own self interest. If they are to do this they must prevent domination by any other state, which leads to the assumption that they must build up power and form alliances. Throughout history we can see the B.O.P. concept in action. The clearest example of the B.O.P. concept can be found in the Cold War. In the Cold War the two superpowers the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. held a stable world balance between them. Both states sought to deter domination by the other through a build up of arms and through the creation of strong alliance systems. Under the B.O.P. theory the logic of the Cold War stratagies and alliances seems apparent, with the best method of security being strength.

In an ideal system of B.O.P. all states would 1. act in relatively the same fashion and 2. would make decisions as individual structures. However it can be seen that in the real world the system is composed of of various types of states. States can vary in their types of regimes and in their level of internal stability. States goals vary depending on these factors and hence all states will not make similar decisions as the B.O.P. theory would suggest. In assuming that states make decision as individual, rational actors the theory neglects the fact that though most states are run by an autonomous executive there are also many other complex bodies involved in a states decision making. When we veiw the individual members of these decision-making bodies we see many different motives, hence when a decision is made it may not be the unitary rational response that the B.O.P. theory suggests. From this we can see that states are not run as individuals and so cannot be expected to make decisions that way.

The major flaws of the B.O.P. theory appear to all converge at one point: the theory itself is oversimplified. It is difficult to suggest alterations to the theory because its main problem is also its main goal, to give a simplified model of international relations. It is not then suggested that the theory be abandonned, because it does offer helpful insight into inter-state relations, instead it is suggested that it not be used as the sole analytical tool. The B.O.P. theory because of its nature offers general explanations about international relations which is very useful. However when studying world affairs one needs to dig deeper to view the many variations of states.

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