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May 16, 2012

International Relations:
Methods Concepts and Challenges - Part II

by Syed R. Mahmood

In this twenty first century, the seven billion people on this planet earth have enormous responsibilities and challenges for a peaceful co-existence among nations and civilizations. Today the world is very closely knitted with each other: economically, politically, socially and culturally. These seven billion people are living in a global village, where every nation knows everybody’s business. In this contemporary global society, every citizen of the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the people from other parts of the globe are dependent upon each other for their commercial, industrial and security needs.

Science and technology have produced an un-precedent quantity of weapons of mass-destruction. The question is:  Is humanity going to use these weapons to bring peace or will they be used to destroy each other. Every day in every country, the military- industrial complexes are busy day and night in manufacturing weapons of mass- destruction. Every nation desires to acquire more weapons to provide security for their citizens. Their claim is to promote “peace.”

Are people willing to live in peace with each other? The leaders of nations are not able or willing to get along. The greed for power, control and lust for hegemony also has played a very destructive role among nations in the past. The scholars and philosophers agree with each other that the welfare of human society depends upon the promotion of positive attitudes and sharing resources with each other.

The practice of international relations among nations has existed for several thousands of years formally or informally. The European countries and the United States did not have a formal study on the subject of International Relations until World War I. In the year 1900, Professor, Paul S. Reins lectured on world politics at the University of Wisconsin. [1]

After the effects of World War I, more attention was paid to the subject of International Relations. More articles and courses were offered in the American universities and colleges. After 1945, during the era of the cold war, more attention was paid toward the area of International Relations. More books, papers and articles were published. Professors and scholars of political science have contributed in developing this new field. These scholars and experts of International Relations are constantly in search of new methods and concepts to deal with the challenges of international Relations. Their objective is to promote cooperation and avoid conflicts. Scholars from the other fields of philosophy, geography, sociology, psychology, history, economic, social work and International law have also contributed to developing this field. A great number of academicians believe that the field of International Relations is an extension of political science. Scholars also consider this field as an on-going emerging discipline.

“International Relations are a social science, concerned with certain aspects of human behavior in the international arena. Our task is constructing a conceptual framework to devise a scheme to help us understand that behavior.” [2]  A head of a state or his authorized secretary of foreign affairs is an official spokesperson and he makes important decisions regarding the foreign policy. How these leaders behave, depends on their motivations, their political ideology, intellectual capacity and their understanding of international affairs. A good leader could use reason to deal with an international issue or a hard- headed leader could use his emotions and overestimate his power, resources and military assets. For example, Hitler -- in 1941, decided to attack the Soviet Union. He had the confidence to achieve a quick victory. His poor judgment was his very serious mistake. The personality of a leader can bring peace, security or disaster for his countrymen.

In October, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. President John F. Kennedy was able to avoid any military confrontation with the Soviet Union or Cuba. He was calm and emotionally in control of his behavior. Due to the firm attitude of Kennedy, the United States was not going to allow Soviet Union to deliver offensive missiles onto the Cuban soil. Finally, Soviet Union’s Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the Soviet missiles in Cuba and send them back to the Soviet Union.

In World War I, the main members of the allied forces were Great Britain, Russia, Italy, France and Japan. United States also joined them in 1917. In Paris, in January, 1919, the thirty two members of victorious powers waited to see the result of the war and how it will affect peace in the future. It was the general expectation that it will follow the “Wilsonian Code,” Which was based on moral principles, self-determination of people and democracy. These were the criteria to promote peace. President Wilson believed that by denying self-determination to the people was also the main cause of wars between nations. An Italian patriot, Mazzini, regarded that the universal brotherhood could not be promoted without the freedom of full expression of nationalism. Some scholars also believe that nationalism, in the form of extremism, could also cause group hysteria. The causes and effects of nationalism, is different from nation to nation. The main desire and characteristics of a nation is to have freedom for political expression.

In a global society, human beings are interconnected with each other politically, socially, economically and culturally for their needs. Isolationism is not an option in our contemporary society.  Some societies are very advanced and progressive; they are technologically and economically in comparison to others. Both groups of people have a very strong sense of belonging towards their nations. The sense of nationalism also causes wars between nations and states. A nation is formed by a group of people; they have a strong bond of solidarity with each other and they have some type of distinctness in them -- historically, culturally and socially. Religion and languages also have played a role in the development of nationalism. Christianity and Islam, on the basis of religion, could not always prevent the break--up of nations.  Authors and writers have expressed that a strong sense of belonging also promotes and arouses strong feelings and sentiments of nationalism among people. It also identifies people with a nation.

Some scholars are also in agreement that language plays a very important role to nationalism. A common language could be an important factor to unify a nation, but often it has proven that it can not guarantee to keep a nation together. A common language, at best, may bring people socially and culturally together.

Economic System and its Affects on Foreign Policy

The United States is a capitalist society. Her behavior in International Relations at various times had been isolationist, imperialist and expansionist. The leaders of a capitalist society claim that capitalism does not advocate war; they work for peace. In a capitalist society, people are democratic, rational and peace loving. They are against trade barriers and believe in market competition. The late economist and sociologist, Joseph A. Schumpeter, said that from the foreign relations point of view, whether it is a socialistic or capitalistic economic system, he sees a capitalistic society as more peaceful. 

In every society or nation, economic conditions play a very important role in their international affairs. The present world is very much interdependent on each other for their economic needs. The business community is always looking to move their merchandise from one country to another to make a profit. Normally, the countries that have the stronger manufacturing base or grow an abundant amount of agricultural products are in a very dominant position to export their produce

There was a time when the United States had a very strong manufacturing base for high-tech and consumer products. Now, most of those manufacturing jobs have shifted primarily to China and other foreign countries, due to their lower labor cost. This trade imbalance has created some political tension recently between the United States and China. Ironically, China is also striving hard to become a strong military power in order to bridge the gap of military imbalance between us.

Sometime, the economic relationship between a rich nation and a poor one is changed for political reasons. The wealthier nation tries to look like she is trying to help an underdeveloped society. In fact, the rich and powerful nations offer economic aid to poor or weaker nations to use them for political leverage. Some nations are hesitant to accept their aid, because they fear that it will affect their independence.  Economically strong country’s manufacturers like to establish manufacturing plants of their products in economically backward countries for their own reasons: to increase their global market share. These results in less cost of production and helps the host country to provide job opportunities for the local work force. It is also an effective tool to promote International Relations.

National Security

Every nation strives to increase her security. Does security mean a strong defense? Should they have a strong military budget? Should the purpose be to have a strong military to destroy other nations or it should be a deterrent to protect itself? In International Relations, the concept of security is abused by many nations. It is often used by the big powers in the process of expansion of their imperialistic agenda. If the measure of security is taken at the expense of other nations, it could create insecurity for all the nations in the region. If a powerful nation imposes her national security agenda on weaker nations and does not have consideration about the internal and external ramifications of the results, it could jeopardize the peace in the region. This action of a stronger country creates resentment and therefore radicalizes the population of weaker neighbors.    

The national security policies and their implementation are the essential procedures of a political process. The moral aspect in dealings with other stronger, smaller and weaker nations should not be compromised. Otherwise, in the long run, the human and economic cost will be very high. The main objective of International Relations is the survival of the country and also preservation of its integrity, culture and political infrastructure. The main focus of the foreign policy of a nation is to promote their international interest. The success of the United States foreign policy is dependent upon the elements of “common interests” with other countries. According to experts of national security, if the security of a nation is designed at the expense of other countries, that security arrangement could become a cause of insecurity in the area for other states.

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