Is the pessimism of neo-realists about the prospects for international peace in the post-Cold War period warranted?
Neo Realism is the school of thought on international relations proposed by Kenneth Waltz in 1979. Neo Realists have certain beliefs and assumptions on which they try to explain the actions, reactions and decisions of nations. They believe that the international system is having anarchy which means has no central authority which can regulate or control the actions of nations. Neo Realism also says that survival of states is the most influential driving force which decides the behavior of states and nations are always in state of mistrust or lack of trust with each other as they are always uncertain about the intention of other states. Neo Realism thus believes that the national security is based on this type of international system and also believes that international politics in future will not be peaceful under such an environment (Waltz 1979, pp. 8-15). This theory becomes more relevant after post Cold War times and looking at the current state of international politics it seems that the beliefs of Neo Realists are correct.
Neo Realism was a theory which came into existence in a world which was observing Cold War between United States and Soviet Union. The believers of neo realism feel that the world is more balanced and peaceful when the international system is bipolar that is having two major powers in the world than a system which is uni-polar or multi-polar. During the cold war the world had two superpowers, United States and Soviet Union and thus the international system was a bipolar system (Karlsson, 2010). It was observed during those times that any of the major powers was very thoughtful while taking any offensive decisions as the international system was balanced by the other major power. There was less number of attacks on nations if they went against a major power as they were aligned to other major power and attacking or taking an offensive action against a country of the other camp would have meant war against the other major super power. For example when the 1971 war between India and Pakistan broke out, Pakistan was closer to United States and India was closer to Soviet Union. At the time of war, Pakistan asked for aid from United States and it sent one of its navy fleet to help Pakistan but with Soviet Union signaling that it will come to help India in such a situation, USA decided against helping Pakistan. This avoided the regional conflict getting converted to a conflict between major powers which would have engulfed other nations also (Mearsheimer 2001, pp. 56-78). However after the disintegration of Soviet Union, it was seen that the world had become uni-polar and United States being the lone super power had no other country which could check its offensive actions. The war on Iraq in 1992, war on Afghanistan in 2001, the war on Iraq again in 2003 and attacks on Syria, Lebanon and other gulf countries which are currently going on, give enough proof that the United States is taking unilateral offensive decisions against the nations not acting in its interests. The belief of the Neo Realists that the international system will be more troubled by violence after the cold war has proved to be correct as currently there is no power which can counter the might of United States in the world (Beitz, 1999).