The Polarity of the International System

Balance of Power Theory

According to the balance of power theory, nations should respond to any threat to their security by banding together with other threatened nations and increasing their military capabilities. According to this theory, there will be significant changes in international status and power in the twenty-first century, particularly attempts by one nation to provoke counterbalancing actions or conquer a region. However, in the absence of a Soviet threat to the United States, the current balance of power poses significant issues. For example, when the U.S decided to invade Iraq in 2003, countries such as Germany, France, Russia, and China all opposed through the diplomatic arena at the U.N, but the U.S continued with its invasion. It is because of the fear of the U.S and difficulties of forming counterbalancing coalitions for security purposes that countries like Iran and North Korea began from 2003 to develop nuclear weapons a move they believe in balancing against the power of the U.S (Nau 15).

Realist Perspective

According to the realist, the current international politics and the behavior of nations towards each other are due to the continued struggle for power, whereby international politics are purely power politics. Therefore, to gain power and reduce its potential abuse, the balance of power is the key to the realist international relations perspective. Also, the realists consider the balance of power to be either a policy or situation. Also, it is the direction of the situation which determines the polarity of the system to be either cooperation or conflict. As the situation, the balance of power cans disequilibrium or equilibrium. In most circumstances, disequilibrium causes conflict, whereas equilibrium causes cooperation. A balance of power in disequilibrium explains a situation whereby the distribution of power between the contending nations is not balanced. In this situation, the central leading hegemony state can abuse power to neutralize other states and remain free as a deciding force. For example, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the U.S became the only world super power country both militarily and economically. A balance of power in equilibrium refers to circumstances where the power of one nation or set of nations is balanced between the equivalent power of another nation or set of nations. For example, during the Cold War, whereby the power between Warsaw Pact, the Soviet Union or NATO, and the U.S remained balanced (Nau 21).

Liberal Perspective

According to liberals the balance of power provides that liberal countries must agree to utilize force and power to support the balance of power against any hostility threat to liberal values and self-interest. For example, President Reagan believed that it was right to counter the Soviet Union threat to cleanse the high emotional resistance against the utilization of the American power for any reason contributed to the U.S experience in the Vietnam. Liberals believe that foreign policy can be established with the cooperation and based on the standard ethics. Moreover, the national interest would be transformed further to guarantee future, commerce, and human relations. Therefore, liberalism believes that the balance of power can be institutionalized for collective security. These world institutions would hold great powers than states. For example, the formation of the U.N, ICC, World Bank, UNEP, and IMF among others. Then, the collective security should be utilized by the international community to confront the aggressors making them have less impact. According to liberals, by doing this, the international system would hold most power leading to cooperation in the international system, since it would be responsible for maintaining peace and thus there would be less conflict (Nau 31).

Globalization and Liberal Theory

Based on the fact that today we live in globalization period and the international market remains the key concept to the majority of countries in the world, I believe the liberal theory has the most persuasive arguments. Although big states like the U.S, Russia, and China still have influence in the world, the majority of the countries including these big nations are members of global institutions like the UN and World Bank among others. Therefore, just as liberal suggest a balance of power can be institutionalized to protect humanity from international polarity (Chan 25).


The balance of power remains the core concept in the practice and theory of the international relations, particularly in understanding the stability or instability of the international system. Even though various variations of the balance of power theory and explanation of the concepts exist, all of them are based on the minimum of a tendency and the maximum of the law like a recurrent equilibrium model. Currently, the great powers still possess mechanisms through which they restore balance, but they are soft and not hard like the traditional methods due to the emergence of globalization, international organizations, and international market (Nau 24).

Weapons of Mass Destruction


A weapon of mass destruction (WMD) is biological, chemical, radiological, nuclear, and other weapons, which can kill and lead to enormous harm to the vast number of people or create immense damage to the biosphere, natural structures, and human-made structures. The threat posed by WMD has nowadays occupied the main stage in the international politics. Although the mass killing of people is not new in the human history of warfare, WMD create an unusual constellation of challenges to security and peace. Many nations have so far created and stockpiled a deadly arsenal of biological weapons, chemical, and nuclear and the materials to manufacture them. Even though countries have officially pledged to officially eliminate all stockpiles of offensive biological weapons and chemical weapons and to try hard to destroy nuclear weapons, 9 states are currently have nuclear weapons \u2013 U.S, Russia, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel, India, France, China, Britain, and other countries believed to possess biological and chemical warfare agents (Curley 11).

Problems with WMD

In addition to the threat posed by the current stockpiles of WMD, huge problems arise from the proliferation or spread of WMD and other related technologies to additional non-state terrorist networks, non-governmental actors, and nations through black-market sales of weapons and related technology and clandestine programs. The fears utilization of WMD continues to increase in the U.S, and other countries all over the world in 2001 after the terrorist used the biological warfare agent anthrax in the American mail and evidence acquired by the U.S military in Afghanistan, which proved that Al-Qaeda was highly looking for nuclear materials. If WMD can fall in the hand of terrorist such Al-Qaeda and Taliban, then the whole world security would be jeopardized (Curley 21).

International Efforts to Control WMD

Various agreements and treaties have been created to control possession, development, and use of particular types of WMD. These treaties and agreement are supposed to regulate weapons under the customs of war (Geneva Protocol, and Hague Conventions), ban certain types of arms (Biological Weapon Convention, and Chemical Weapons Convention), regulate public utilization of weapon precursors (Biological Weapons Convention, and Chemical Weapon Convention), and limit allowable weapons delivery systems and stockpiles (SORT, and START 1) and limit weapon research (Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and Partial Test Ban Treaty). Moreover, the acceptance of the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013 was a great turning point for the global community effort to control WMD. It was an unregulated trade of arms which posed a great danger to the world, and the implementation of this treaty will create a conducive environment for monitoring arms embargoes and sanctions, the promotion of active development, peace building, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance (Avenhaus 19).

Challenges and Future Outlook

All the WMD treaties and agreements have so far achieved a lot of progress since it now possible to monitor the number of weapons possessed by the members\u2019 countries. However, not all nations have signed and pledged to commit to these treaties, especially North Korea and Iran. Moreover, nongovernmental organizations and terrorists are still buying weapons from the black market. Nevertheless, to make these agreements workable, all the countries must pledge affirmative commitment to the destruction and elimination of WMD. To achieve this, states must go beyond their sense of insecurity, which had been fueling possession of WMD (Avenhaus 26).

Outlook on the Use of WMD

Based on my analysis the use of WMD will be less in future. This is because the majority of the countries has signed and pledged their commitment to treaties and agreements that regulate WMD. Moreover, those nations that were less cooperative like Iran are now becoming cooperative after signing a new nuclear deal with the Obama administration. For the threat posed by terrorist groups, many countries are now coordinating an effort to fight the war on terrorism together, making it hard for a terrorist to possess WMD even from the black market (Curley 32).


The potential threat of terrorist possessing and utilizing WMD remains the biggest security challenges facing most of the countries today. For many years countries like the U.S have developed various activities and launched new methods to respond, protects against, and prevent the threat or utilization of WMD. Moreover, other countries and international organizations have now joined the effort to work together on reducing the global risk of WMD (Curley 37).

Works Cited

Avenhaus, Rudolf. Verifying Treaty Compliance: Limiting Weapons of Mass Destruction and Monitoring Kyoto Protocol Provisions. Springer, 2010.

Chan, Stephen, and Cerwyn Moore. Theories of International Relations. SAGE, 2006.

Curley, Robert. Weapons of Mass Destruction. Britannica Educational Pub, 2012.

Nau, Henry R. Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas. 2017.

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