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History and Trajectory of International Relations/Affairs
Conceptually, international relations (IR) define the relationship among nations; the role played by sovereign states, multinational corporations, inter-governmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations. In essence, IR is concerned with understanding the global interactions and other aspects of relations, both in the past and the contemporary world. Contextually, IR is seen as the political, social, economic, cultural, and diplomatic interaction and relations (Dilworth and Shlomo 143). Despite all states seen as sovereign, some are more powerful considered to the others, which elicit adoption of some informal rules that are not necessarily binding. Historically, IR has almost the same time history as the states themselves; however, in the modern world, significant dynamism and developmental milestones have influenced the international system (Williams 46-48).Purposefully, this historical overview of IR is to trace the key trends over time, which explains the emergence of world states and the sovereignty notion. It also gives the perspective of international state system and distribution of power (Cain 79). Notably, the contemporary IR is based on the European experience that commenced in the Westphalian period.The pre-Westphalian WorldMarked, many theorists date the modern IR system from the 1648 when the Westphalia Treaty put an end to the Thirty Years War. The treaty ended the religious authority rule in Europe, particularly the Middle Ages, the Greek, and the Roman Empire (Luke 23-34). The Middle Ages defined the concepts of centralization and decentralization. For example, in the fifth century, the Roman Empire disintegrated which made authority and power to become decentralized in Europe. By 1000 A.D., there was the emergence of three civilizations from Rome’s rubble. The civilizations occurred in the Arabic world, Byzantine Empire, and other parts of Europe. Thereafter, secular trends began to dispute decentralization and universalization of Christianity (Telò 11-14). Also, commerce expanded and there was improvement in international communication and technological exchanges.The Westphalian SystemWestphalian revolution brought the intellectual development of sovereignty; hence many of the ideas were found in writings. For instance, a French Philosopher called Jean Bodin wrote that the sovereignty was a perpetual and absolute power that is vested as a commonwealth. Westphalian Treaty not only put an end to the Thirty Years War, but also embraced the sovereignty notion. Additionally, leaders started to establish permanent national militaries, which made the state become powerful on its own since leaders controlled and financed their military base. However, treaty still established a group of states that were considered as core and dominant. The core states included England, Russia, Austria, United Provinces of the Belgium and Netherlands, and France. Nevertheless, the dominance was only up to the nineteenth century.The Nineteenth CenturyDue to the proliferation of Enlightenment thinking and social contract theorists, the American Revolution and the French Revolution occurred in 1776 and 1789 respectively. The revolutions brought in the core principles of nationalism and legitimacy. Legitimacy attributed power to the people while nationalism brought the sense of citizen unified by their common past, customs, language, and practices. Also, the technological changes facilitated creation of larger armies, which contribute to the Napoleonic war about the twin principles of nationalism and legitimacy.Napoleon Bonaparte used nationalist fervor to fight French invaders in Russia and Spain, where French were defeated in three years. However, Napoleon was defeated in 1825, which led to peace in the core states of Europe. As a result, radical developments happened in the political, technological, and economic sectors. Further, the peace unified Germany and Italy that since then were preoccupied with territorial wrangles. Imperialism and colonialism were also ushered in. Establishment of the “European” identity led to the commencement of colonization. Consequently, European, Christianity, civilization, and the whites spread to the “other” parts of the world. Also, there was balancing of power and solidification of alliances since European dreaded the rise of any predominant hegemon (state). However, the balance of power led to world war one. Particularly, Germany was considered a “latecomer” in the European cores, hence was not given diplomatic recognition. The animosity sunk the continent to warfare.The Interwar Years and World War IIEnd of World War I (WWI) led to critical changes in the IR. For example, three European Empires (Ottoman, Russia, and Austro-Hungary) strained and broke. Germany was still dissatisfied which saw the rise of Adolf Hitler. Further, there was the enforcement of the unsuccessful treaty called the League of Nations in order to prevent future wars. Some states like US refused to join the league (Wight 19).WWII was started by Italy, Japan, and Germany. The power of fascism from the three states led to an uneasy alliance between the liberal states (USA, France, and Britain) and the communist (Soviet Union). The Allies were against the Axis powers, and the former became successful in the end. Therefore, Germany and Japan still dominated; for example, Germany invaded Poland, the Soviet Union, and Baltic States. Many communists, Gypsies, Jews died. Nonetheless, Germany surrendered in May 1945 but the war never ended until August when Japan surrendered. The end of WWII led to immense power redistribution and change of political borders, which led to the cold war (121).The Cold WarTwo superpowers emerged after the WW II; that is USA and the Soviet Union, which led to the decline of Europe as the international politics’ epicenter. Unfortunately, the superpowers were also divided based on the economic, philosophical concepts of Capitalism (in USA) and Socialism (in Soviet Union). The differences heightened by mutual misperceptions. As a result, the Marshall Plan and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) were established to resolve some influential issue (Young and John 152-156). Also, the colonies began to get their independence. Thereafter, the confrontation between the two superpowers changed as they sorted for support from other states and this led to the sprawl of the cold war (MacKenzie 76). Eventually, long peace occurred due to nuclear deterrence, division of power, economic stabilities and liberation.The Post-Cold WarFrom the mid-1980s, political openness and economic restructuring brought in peace. Eventfully, cold war ended when the Berlin Wall fell, which led to the formation of the UN Security Council. However, there have been several international conflicts such as human rights abuses, ethnic conflicts, and civil wars. For example, in Iraq and Kuwait annexation (1990), Rwandan and Burundi genocide (1994), 2001 US terror attack amongst other (Hoffman 211). USA, now the superpower has fought in Afghanistan, Iran and intervened in many peace-keeping.In conclusion, the relation of world states has a defined history which is associated with change of events and the nature of interactions or relationships. Multiple wars have been in the past, and it is explicit that the gradual word peace and diplomatic relationship seep in despite the present rubbles of wars.
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