Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas,

Perspectives on International Relations

The reading this week presented interesting views from the three different perspectives. The first being Ronald Steel, who is a professor at the University of Southern California, wrote that the attack on 9/11 was “’a war in which the weak turned the guns of the strong against them…showing…that in the end there may be no such thing as a universal civilization of which we all too easily assume we are the rightful leaders.’ Steel interprets the attacks by Al Qaeda as weak actors rebelling against strong actors, with the weak actors rejecting the notion that the strong ones can dictate what is right and therefore universally valid in international affairs” (Nau, 2017, 16). This is an example of the realist perspective. Two days after Steel’s comment, Journalist Caryle Murphy wrote, “September 11, 2001, was a result not of the weak striking back against the strong but of unresolved diplomatic disputes, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that created unfairness and grievances between the feuding parties” (Nau, 2017, 17). This was an example of the liberal perspective. Finally, a year later, “Jim Hoagland, a columnist for the Washington Post, suggested…that the problem was one of nondemocratic governments in the Middle East” (Nau, 2017, 18). The final example is that of an identity perspective.

All perspectives present some strengths and weaknesses. One strength of the realist perspective is that it works well in situations of threat, however a weakness of the realist perspective is that is may embellish threat. The liberal perspective gives the opportunity to work together and unite but a downside to this perspective could include exposure to unexpected peril. Finally, the identity perspective is helpful in establishing allies and foes, but a weakness may be the fact that this perspective can become ideological if powers do not fully agree.

Using my judgement in context with the attacks on 9/11 I believe that the identity perspective relates the best. The Middle East did not provide the representative democracy that citizens of the United States have. I believe that this caused a “rebellion” of sorts because of the lack of listening to the peoples’ concerns and wishes. I agree with Jim Hoagland when he said that negotiations or a shift in power would not suffice to change the political climate in the Middle East. Overall, I feel I closely relate with the identity perspective.


Nau, Henry R. Perspectives on International Relations: Power, Institutions, and Ideas, 6th Edition. CQ Press, 20180130. VitalBook file.

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