Aspects of Realism in International Relations

Topic: International Relations
Words: 1768 Pages: 6


Realism in international relations allows analyzing the threat connected with the existence of armed non-state actors and failed states in the Middle East. Therefore, the countries that belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council (United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia) should ensure that there are no non-state armed actors that influence their political decisions (Al-Marri 2017). It is impossible to talk about a high level of regional security in the Middle East when various radical armed organizations endanger stability.

There are two ways of decreasing the danger from the region’s armed non-state actors that develop in failed states. The first method is forming military alliances with the countries in the area, and the second is using situational unions with non-state actors in the region to pursue the same goal. It is possible to hypothesize that the military enhancement of GCC countries might help to protect peace and stability in the Middle East. It is an adequate decision from the realist point of view on international relations because it does not suppose the presence of other countries and it is not connected with the increased influence of international actors in the Middle Eastern region. Situational use of allies from the armed non-state actors is also the solution that might reduce the potential danger to security in the region.

Discussion and Analysis

Threat Description

Realism is one of the practical approaches to international relations. It supposes that political relationships always reflect the attempts of the state to dominate. As a result, there are no countries that act altruistically, disregarding their national interests. It makes altruism impossible in international relations from the realist point of view. It is critical to remember that all countries pursue their political decisions, and no one consciously acts in the interests of another country without real profits (Jørgensen 2022). National security and the country’s interests are the most vital things the government should pursue in its decisions.

At the same time, it is impossible to state that the realist approach is peaceful by its essence. When the situation requires increasing the military presence in the region or expanding the country’s influence, it is acceptable to ensure the pursuit of the national interests of the state. Anti-realist ideas are famous among ordinary people because they associate this approach with war and military tension. Their position is justified because realism in international relations supposes political and military pressure that is the main consequence of competition (Kelly 2019). It explains the attempts of politicians to deny their realist approach to foreign policy, even though they continue following this pattern in international affairs.

In all cases, it is crucial to remember that conflicts are inevitable in international relations, and the realist perspective supposes that politicians should regard them as an indispensable part of foreign affairs. The attempts of the international community to abolish wars are attempts to make foreign affairs a more objective sphere where emotions cannot be applied. It supposes that reason is more important than emotions and ignorance in it (Kelly 2019). It allows us to conclude that international organizations are pacifist according to what they promote, which coincides with the anti-realist views of ordinary people.

Thus, the realist approach acknowledges that all countries try to guard their national interests and fight for the expansion of their spheres of influence. In this situation, cooperation leads to mutual benefit. This approach emphasizes the importance of such principles as absolute confidence of all actors in each other, the focus on mutual benefit, rationality in decision-making, reciprocity, and acknowledging that international relations tend to have anarchic inclinations (Jørgensen 2022). The realistic approach should emphasize the pursuit of national interests by all parties and recognize the competition for regional dominance that are an integral part of international relations.

It is possible to define non-state actors as organizations utterly autonomous from the government but with enough economic, political, ideological, and military power to compete with the centralized authorities (Blecua and Ollivant 2020). In the Middle East, these organizations are connected with radical Islamic ideology and are the armed force that endangers the stability of GCC countries. The vital detail is that non-state actors often form alliances with the government, but their agreements are sometimes situational. For instance, the Turkish government cooperated with the jihadists and rebels who fought against the Syrian National Army in 2016 because the jihadists promised to help fight against the armed militia of Kurdistan in 2018 (Blecua and Ollivant 2020). This example shows that failed states, in the Middle East, including Kurdistan, and the armed non-state actors, including the jihadists, form tactical alliances with the governments and influence the political situation. Therefore, it is essential to pay attention to their activity for the government of GCC countries.

Armed non-state actors and failed states in the Middle East pose a significant threat to regional security and the GCC countries in particular. The Arab Spring uprisings that started in 2011 showed that various non-state actors could give a vital role in the political life of the Middle East and their security (Ahram 2017). It is possible to mention such organizations as different Islamic movements, such as the Islamic State or ISIS, that attracted international attention in recent years (Ahram 2017). At the same time, fewer known organizations have political value in the countries of the Middle East. Among them are the Muslim Brotherhood and Ansar Bayt Maqdis, which are political and military action in Egypt, al-Murabitoun is the Islamic non-state group that functions in Algeria, and the Shai Zaydi’ Houthi movement is active in Yemen and Syria (Ahram 2017). In other words, non-state actors in the Middle East are typically radical Muslim organizations that use not only political appeals but also military power.

ISIS is among the most well-known and numerous armed non-state organizations in the Middle East. It had relationships with other radical Islamic organizations, including Jabhat al-Nusra, depending on the political situation in the region. In 2014, the number of members of ISIS was more than 110 thousand armed people, which made it a significant danger to security in the Middle East (Ahram 2019). The conflict in Syria showed that it is critical to estimate the threat from armed non-state actors adequately. Syria could not cope with the aggression of ISIS and required help from the international community to fight the armed Islamist militia (Ahram 2019). This case shows the importance of establishing tactical and strategic alliances with the countries that can help eliminate the danger from armed non-state actors and failed states.

Failed states lead to the creation of non-state actors that become dangerous for the centralized government. Among them are such armed non-state actors as Guothi, Hizuallah, and ISIS that are active in the Middle East. When the central government cannot control the situation in the region and dominate these non-state actors, military conflicts and terrorist attacks to seize power begins. From the realist perspective, the central government should preserve its authority and security.

Ways to Address the Threat

It is necessary to combine several international organizations’ actions to ensure regional security. Throughout history, realists emphasized the idea that the international community is anarchic by its essence. Every nation wants to promote its interests from the realist perspective. In this geopolitical situation, the center cannot encourage and regulate joint decisions, to make balanced agreements that would satisfy everyone in the international community. It explains the movement towards the decentralization of power in international politics. For instance, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which has military functions, has several centers of decision-making in Arab countries (Al-Marri 2017). It is the opportunity to control the situation with security better when there are several decision-making centers. Though, the main authority is in the Middle East, which ensures the pursuit of independence principles.

The Gulf Cooperation Council was initially established as the economic and financial organization that unites the countries of the Middle Eastern region. It is traditionally led by the representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two wealthiest economies in the area (Al-Marri 2017). They are connected with similar goals and religious and cultural identities based on the Islamic faith. At the same time, the documents that describe the functioning of the GCC emphasize the military cooperation and planning of the defense strategy of the states that are its members (Al-Marri 2017). In other words, economic cooperation is connected with military interaction, reflected in these countries’ opposition to the armed non-state actors in the Middle East.

Among the examples of cooperation in the questions of security is the creation of the Peninsula Shield Force in Saudi Arabia, where the representatives of all armies of the organization participated. The Shield was formed in 1984, and it functioned from that moment. The organization signed the document that was supposed to share intelligence information between the members of GCC, and this practice has existed since 2004. The first serious chance to test the effectiveness of the Peninsula Shield Force happened in Bahrain in 2011 during the Arab Spring national protests (Al-Marri 2017). The military successfully protected the state infrastructure during the riots and avoided destruction.

This information shows that the members of GCC can protect themselves on the basic level, but still, the investigation shows that they cannot solve the problems with the armed non-state actors that appear in failed states. It allows us to hypothesize that forming a situational alliance with these non-state actors in the region might increase the chances of the Middle Eastern countries making the area more stable. Therefore, the cooperation results might also be better, and the realistic aim to pursue the national interests of security in the region might be achieved easier.


Military governance in the Middle Eastern region is executed by different actors, meaning that the governmental authority should be the most influential in supporting stability. When the government loses control, armed non-state actors appear and make everything possible to seize power in the country. The work of GCC countries in the military sphere might enhance the stability in the region and minimize the risks of armed conflicts. Moreover, forming situational allies with non-state actors might minimize the risks of assault on the government. I there is a chance to compromise with armed non-state actors that are active on a particular territory based on mutual consent, it is necessary to avoid conflicts. At the same time, politicians should understand that most alliances with armed non-state actors have a tactical character, meaning their interests can change depending on the situation. It is logical from the perspective of realism in political relationships that value the country’s interests above the agreements.


Ahram, Ariel I. “Armed Non-State Actors and the Challenge of 21st-Century State Building.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs 20 (2019): 35–41. Web.

Ahram, Ariel I. “Territory, Sovereignty, and New Statehood in the Middle East and North Africa.” Middle East Journal 71, no. 3 (2017): 345–62. Web.

Al-Marri, Fahad Hussain M A. “The Impact of the Oil Crisis on Security and Foreign Policy in GCC Countries: Case Studies of Qatar, KSA and UAE.” Arab Center for Research & Policy Studies, 2017. Web.

Blecua, Ramon, and Douglas A. Ollivant. “A More Crowded Stage: America and the Emergence of Non-State Actors in the Middle East.” Horizons: Journal of International Relations and Sustainable Development, no. 17 (2020): 94–111. Web.

Jørgensen, Knud Erik. 2022. What Is International Relations? Bristol University Press.

Kelly, Phil. “Rescuing Classical Geopolitics: Separating Geopolitics from Realism.” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 11, no. 1 (2019): 41–58. Web.

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