Conflict and Peace. Is Conflict Inevitable given the nature and structure of global politics?

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2016

9 Pages, Grade: 16




Balance of Power

Global Interdependence




Over millennial, the world has seen; empires, governments, religions, ideologies and beliefs rise and fall. From the beginning of times the world we live in always seems to contain wars and conflicts. Humanity has encountered endless conflicts, without ever experiencing any actual or real worldwide peace. For years theorists have tried to conceive solutions to achieve international peace with no real achievement.

Joseph Nye (2009) states: 'the world at the beginning of the twenty-first century is a strange cocktail of continuity and change. Some aspects of international politics have not changed since Thucydides. There is certain logic of hostility, a dilemma about security that goes with interstate politics. Alliances, balances of power, and choices in policy between war and compromise have remained similar over the millennia.'[1]

One major topic, political and economics analysts debate on, is whether conflict is inevitable given the nature and structure of global politics. There are countless conflicting views on the matter, with theories dating back to thousands of years ago. As Nye, J. insists on in the quote above, some aspects and structure of global politics have not changed since.

Thus, this report aims at analyzing the quote above, in addition to developing arguments that support that concept, and arguments that reject it, to gain a better understanding on the different views regarding that notion.

Balance of Power

Realist theorists are the biggest advocates of the notion that conflict is inevitable, considering the current nature & structure of global politics. These theorists emphasize on two concepts. First, classical realism states that by nature, humans are aggressive, intent on achieving self-advantage, and desire power over others. One major example would be Joseph Stalin who had a relentless lust for power, resulting in aggressive & catastrophic events. “Stalin ruled by terror and with a totalitarian grip in order to eliminate anyone who might oppose him. He had millions of people killed or sent to the Gulag system of forced labor camps.”[2]

Neo-realism focuses on the distribution of power and the international system. Neo-realists insist that the main goal of state is power & security maximization. All states seek some sort of protection by increasing military power and forming alliances. This results in a Security Dilemma as Collins states: the Security Dilemma is the notion that … perceived external threats (real or imagined) generate feelings of insecurity … thereby leading those states to adopt measures to increase their power and capability to counteract those threats (alliance creation, arms build-ups, and so on).”[3] This security dilemma is directly related to the concept of Balance of Power. To illustrate, in the Cold War era, since the US perceived the Soviet Union (Russia) as a major threat that cannot be trusted, it followed a containment policy building military alliances in all continents. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formed in 1949 with the supervision of the US, was one of the containment and balance of power strategies employed to counter what was seen as Soviet Union expansionism.

In addition to that, “there is the argument that the institutions of international society are weak and that the disjunction between order & justice is greater in international than in domestic politics.”[4] The inability of international systems to manage the persistence of inequality, lack of justice, and excess in differences (interests, ideological…) further justifies the inevitability of conflicts around the world.

One major example to illustrate flaws in international systems is the quotas voting rights for International Monetary Funds (IMF) members. The US stands with 16.73%, China 6.16%, India 2.67%, Italy 3.06%, Japan 6.23%.[5] This shows a clear discrepancy, since Japan, which is a US ally, has voting rights that exceed those of China even though its GDP is estimated to be the third of China’s GDP ($4.729 and 13.39 trillion respectively 2013 estimates). [6] This is one of the reasons that resulted in the formation of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) who grew impatient with the failed reforms of the IMF and questioning its credibility.[7] Their response to the IMF, which is ‘allegedly’ inclined towards the West, BRICS have created the New Development Bank. This demonstrates another example of the concept of balance of power to achieve parity or stability between competing forces.

Other than that, the UN has shown multiple deficiencies when it comes to the application of justice and implementation of measures ensuring that human rights are respected. For instance, according to the Human Rights Watch, in the Syrian conflict, the government and its allies carried out deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on civilians.[8] The UN has strict rules against the violence on innocent civilians and thus has the right to intervene in that case. However Russia (with Veto power), which is allied with the Syrian government, opposed any intervention that the US and its allies proposed to dismantle the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. This shows that the UN has major limitations in applying its principles and regulations.

These illustrations somewhat justify that conflict is inevitable in the current world political structure. However, many arguments can be presented to support that prosperity will be prioritized over political differences.

Global Interdependence

“The starting point for understanding the world today is not the size of its GDP or the destructive power of its weapons systems, but the fact that it is so much more joined together than before, … the deeper reality is one of multiple connections.”[9] International trade has increased immensely, and the world economic structure has changed in the last century. As the main aim of states would be to achieve economic growth and prosperity, it is a prerequisite to avoid conflict simply because in the current economic structure, international commerce is indispensible. This resulted in the notion of interdependency; “International commerce, being a transaction between nations, could conceivably also have a direct impact on the likelihood of peace and war: once again the economic interests might overcome the passions, specifically the passion for conquest.”[10]


[1] Joseph S. Nye, Jr. (2009). Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History New York: Longman

[2] (2016). Joseph Stalin - Facts & Summary

[3] Collins, A. (1997). The security dilemma and the end of the Cold War. New York: St. Martin's Press.

[4] Joseph S. Nye, Jr. (2009). Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History. New York: Longman.

[5] (2016). IMF Members' Quotas and Voting Power, and IMF Board of Governors.

[6] (2016). China vs. Japan - Country Comparison.

[7] Totten, J. (2016). Forbes Welcome.

[8] Human Rights Watch. (2016). Syria.

[9] Mulgan, G. (1998). Connexity. Boston, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press.

[10] Hirschman, D. (1997). Hijacked. New York: William Morrow.

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Conflict and Peace. Is Conflict Inevitable given the nature and structure of global politics?
Grenoble Ecole de Management
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conflict, peace, inevitable
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Andrew Jeffrey El Khoury (Author), 2016, Conflict and Peace. Is Conflict Inevitable given the nature and structure of global politics?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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