Essay, Research Paper: Anarchy


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Anarchy is seen as one end of the spectrum whose other end is marked by the
presence of a legitimate and competent government. International politics is
described as being spotted with pieces of government and bound with elements of
community. Traditionally, international-political systems are thought of as
being more or less anarchic. Anarchy is taken to mean not just the absence of
government but also the presence of disorder and chaos. Although far from
peaceful, international politics falls short of unrelieved chaos, and while not
formally organized, it is not entirely without institutions and orderly
procedures. Although it is misleading to label modern international politics as
anarchic, the absence of a universal international law prohibits well-regulated
behavior. But, international regulation is not completely absent from world
politics. With the end of the Cold War, the ground seems ready for an
acceleration of this century’s trend in increasing international regulation of
more issues once typically seen as part of state domestic jurisdiction. But as
international law embraces new actors and a growing range of forms, topics, and
technologies, and as it moves further away from strictly "foreign"
concerns to traditionally domestic areas, its proponents must increasingly
confront new obstacles head-on. Traditionally, most rules of international law
could be found in one of two places: treaties or customary law (uncodified, but
equally binding rules based on long-standing behavior). But as new domains from
the environment to the Internet come to be seen as appropriate for international
regulation, states are sometimes reluctant to embrace any sort of binding rule.
Today all but the most doctrinaire of scholars see a role for so-called soft
law-precepts emanating from international bodies that conform in some sense to
expectations of required behavior but that are not binding on states (the World
Bank’s Guidelines on the Treatment of Foreign Direct Investment, for example).
Soft law principles also represent a starting point for new hard law, which
attaches a penalty to noncompliance. Whether in the case of hard or soft law,
new participants are making increased demands for representation in
international bodies, conferences, and other legal groupings and processes. They
include both recognized and unrecognized substate entities (Hong Kong and Tibet,
for example); nongovernmental organizations; and corporations. Scholars accept
that these other actors have independent views that do not fit neatly into
traditional theories of how law is made and enforced. Most states comply with
much, even most, international law. But without a mechanism to bring
transgressors into line, international law is "law" in name only. The
traditional toolbox to secure compliance with the law of nations consist of
negotiations, mediation, countermeasures, or, in rare cases, recourse to
supranational judicial bodies such as the International Court of Justice. For
many years, these tools have been supplemented by the work of international
institutions, whose reports and resolutions often help "mobilize
shame" against violators. But today, states, NGO’s, and private entities
have striven for sanctions. And the UN’s ad hoc criminal tribunals for the
former Yugoslavia and Rwanda show that it is at least possible to devise
institutions to punish individuals for human rights atrocities. Nonetheless, the
success of these enforcement mechanisms depends on the willingness of states to
support them. When global institutions do not work, regional bodies may offer
more influence over member conduct in economics, human rights, and other areas.
In addition, domestic courts increasingly provide an additional venue to enforce
international law. Even with a defined international law and a “world
government” to enforce it, cooperation in general, in international politics,
is troubled. Research on international regimes moved from attempts to describe
the phenomena of interdependence and international regimes to closer analysis of
the conditions under which countries cooperate. How does cooperation occur among
sovereign states and how do international institutions affect it? Indeed, why
should international institutions exist at all in a world dominated by sovereign
states? This question seemed unanswerable if institutions were seen as opposed
to or above, the state but not if they were viewed as devices to help states
accomplish their objectives. The new school of thought argued that, rather than
imposing themselves on states, international institutions should respond to the
demand by states for cooperative ways to fulfill their own purposes. By reducing
uncertainty and the costs of making and enforcing agreements, international
institutions help states achieve collective gains. This new institutionalism was
not without its critics, who focused their attacks on two perceived
shortcomings. The counterargument focused on the absence of a world government
or effective international legal system to which victims of injustice can
appeal. Second, theorists of cooperation had recognized that cooperation is not
harmonious: it emerges out of discord and takes place through tough bargaining.
Nevertheless, they claimed that the potential joint gains from such cooperation
explained the dramatic increases in the number and scope of cooperative
multilateral institutions. Critics pointed out, however, that bargaining
problems themselves could produce obstacles to achieving joint gains.
Cooperation requires recognition of opportunities for the advancement of mutual
interest, as well as policy coordination once these opportunities have been
identified. Transaction and information costs are high. The complexity of
international politics militates against identification and realization of
common interest. Avoiding nuclear war during the Cuban missile crisis called for
cooperation by the Soviet Union and the United States. The transaction and
information costs in the crisis, though substantial, did not preclude
cooperation. By contrast, the problem of identifying significant actors,
defining interests, and negotiating agreements that embodied mutual interests in
the case of 1914 was far more difficult. There was no common procedure to handle
the situation or resolve it in an efficient manner. In international politics,
the likelihood of autonomous defection and of recognition and control problems
increases. Cooperative behavior rests on calculations of expected utility -
merging discount rates, payoff structures, and anticipated behavior of other
players. Nations dwell in perpetual lawlessness, for no central authority with a
defined law limits on the pursuit of sovereign interests. This common condition
gives rise to diverse outcomes. War and concert, arms races and arms control,
trade wars and tariff truces, financial panics and rescues, competitive
devaluation and monetary stabilization mark relations among states. At times,
the absences of centralized international authority preclude attainment of
common goals. Because, as states, they cannot cede ultimate control over their
conduct to a world government, they cannot guarantee that they will adhere to
their commitments. The possibility of a breach of promise can impede cooperation
even when cooperation would leave all well off. Yet, at other times, states do
realize common goals though cooperation under lawlessness. Despite the absence
of any ultimate international law, governments often bind themselves to mutually
advantageous courses of action. And, though no international sovereign stands
ready to enforce the terms of agreement, modern states can and do realize common
interests through tacit cooperation, formal bilateral and multilateral
negotiation, and the creation if international regimes.
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