And nearly four decades later, Walt and Mearsheimer (2003) challenged the extended view that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to American interests and that a military intervention was therefore unavoidable; in their opinion, Iraq was ‘an unnecessary war’. 2003. (My joint work with Mearsheimer on the Israel lobby is an exception that does not disprove the rule, as it was not a work of IR theory and working together was essential for withstanding the firestorm of vituperation we knew we would and did receive). 2013. Notwithstanding the foregoing, Schmitt’s representation of sovereignty as the power to decide over the confines of the rule and the exception is particularly enlightening to understand the retrogression of human rights during the so-called War on Terror (see Agamben 2005). Foreign Policy, January (, accessed 31/05/2017). I am thinking here of scholars such as E.H. Carr, Hans J. Morgenthau, Kenneth Waltz, Robert Gilpin, John Mearsheimer, Stephen Krasner (and myself, for that matter). The New York Times, 18 April. The underlying idea, Schmitt taught us, is that society’s enemies should not enjoy the rights and benefits society bestowed upon itself. I do not intend to twist realism to make it say what most realists would not feel comfortable with. London: Palgrave. 1986. “Realist Views of International Law”. support open access publishing. This discourse is still very vivid today, and within it some have justified the use of torture against presumed terrorists, advocated the restriction of the freedom of movement of foreigners, and came up with a new category of fighter, the so-called enemy combatant, to whom international humanitarian law would not apply. This is what Stammers (2009) refers to as the ‘paradox of institutionalisation’, or what Koskenniemi calls the ‘colonisation of political culture by a technocratic language’ (1999, 99). Is Donald Trump a Realist? The first section introduces the conventional view according to which realism, with its focus on the state, material power and international anarchy, would dismiss the idea that human rights could matter at all in global politics. “The Ethics of Realism”. Most importantly, he asks whether relations among states towhich power is crucial can also be guided by the norms ofjustice. “Realists, Too, Can Stand for Human Rights”. 2009. As human rights scholars and practitioners, we should instead focus on engaging with realism if only to get a better sense of the different understandings of the world we intend to change. “The Twilight of International Morality”. World Summit Outcome, 24 October, UN doc: A/RES/60/1. Considering its prudence in international affairs, realism may prove most valuable in making sure that we exhaust all available resources before going to war. ; (And Liberia? Walt, Stephen. Understood as such, realism is frequently perceived as hardly compatible with a genuine moral commitment to normative positions as those reflected in the idea of human rights. Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. For others, however, it would pave the way to other interventions. Mearsheimer, John and Walt, Stephen. Our beliefs about how the world works are also shaped by our life experiences, by whom we happened to meet in college or graduate school, by important real-world events, and even by purely instrumental incentives such as the availability of research funding. On the other hand, international law constitutes an ideal or a plurality of ideals of state behaviour, and it can assert the autonomous normative power of the law; its potential vice, however, is that it risks being ‘unreal’ if it remains too disconnected from actual practice. His most recent publications are ‘The rights we live in: protecting the right to housing in Spain’ (IJHR, 20:3, 2016) and ‘Dear fellow jurists, human rights are about politics, and that’s perfectly fine’ (chapter in edited volume Can human rights bring social justice?, 2015). Carr, E. H. 2001. “International law and hegemony: a reconfiguration”. Moreover, human rights have come to be associated with a number of causes — notably opposition to the death penalty; the closure of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay; and the assertion of a right to health care — that, justifiably or not, are considered liberal causes in American political terms. For Michael Freeman (2002, 131), for example, ‘realism can explain the neglect of human rights by states, but it can explain neither the introduction nor the increasing influence of human rights in international relations’. Liberalism also brings the idea of democratic peace. Realism invites us to reflect on the political reasons why some claims are more salient than others in IHRL. Koskenniemi, Martti. Schulz, William. bandwidth bills to ensure we keep our existing titles free to view. With sporadic exceptions (like Schulz 2001 and Mahanty 2013), for most human rights academics and practitioners realism remains anathema and realists are seen as intellectual adversaries. “A Realist Reply”. Th e third section follows organically from the nar-rative about the human rights story in international relations. Morgenthau, Hans. 2002. States may negotiate, draft and ratify international human rights treaties inasmuch as they do not breach the fundamental tenets of international order, among them the principle of national sovereignty. Edmund is a graduate of The City University of New York: City College has a keen interest in foreign policy and international relations, and is well-versed in research, & data analysis. Schmitt denounced the alleged depoliticisation of liberalism, which pretends that morality is not a debatable issue and proclaims supposedly superior universal values applicable at all times and everywhere. Realist and Liberal Approaches in International Relations ... interpretation of human rights and understanding the principle of equality. 2005. In other words, for realists, either the international human rights regime does not make a difference, so states will not be really bothered about it; or it does make a difference, but only as one more tool at the hands of the strong to impose their hegemonic power over the weak. Taking functional equality as a given, realists are particularly interested in the balance of power. The realists' concepts and views ultimately render a more significant portrayal of U.S.-China international trade in comparison to the liberals' perspective. Schmitt, Carl. Realists seek to explain international politics by examining state-to-state relations within an anarchical system of mutual distrust and suspicion, while liberals consider other international actors, as well as actors and institutions within the state, as the underlying … saw politics as involving moralquestions. Schmitt, Carl. Goldberg, Jeffrey. An E-IR Edited Collection. Koskenniemi, Martti. While some states will resist the expansion of the international human rights regime, some others are willing to promote it to the extent that the norms are sufficiently ambiguous and do not impose heavy burdens. There is no single definition of R2P, but the bottom line is that humanity as a whole has a shared responsibility to protect civilians, militarily if need be, in case of serious human rights violations, like genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. 1994/95. States may also set up independent human rights mechanisms (courts, criminal tribunals, committees, individual experts, etc. Liberal ideas resulted from the breakdown of feudalism in Europe that were replaced by a market capitalistic society. Liberalism in a Realist World / 207 International Studies 46, 1&2 (2009): 203–19 The first ‘great debate’ was triggered by the World War I and its aftermath. Each of the liberal theorists, like the realists, makes some assumption about the interstate system, human nature and domestic society. For some R2P-promoters, this global responsibility would outplay other legal obligations, including the procedural requirements of Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which regulates when and how the UN Security Council can decide on the deployment of armed forces to restore international peace and security. All content on the website is published under the following Creative Commons License, Copyright © — E-International Relations. Also, the Amnesty International, one of the non-governmental organizations, aimed to prevent abuse of human rights and fight for justice for those who have been violated. … on the other. Stephen M. Walt: Nevertheless, institutions necessarily confine the contestation. Classical liberals believe that the list of genuine human rights is quite short. This view is very much spread within and beyond realism. For some, Kosovo would be one case only. Human rights are a vital concern of free men and women, espe cially since the emergence of Before you download your free e-book, please consider donating to 2001. If however, humans are essentially social individuals, individuals will gain fulfilment through society. The same is also true of Nye: Although he has written a number of books on his own, he has also collaborated with Keohane and many others over a long, prolific career. […] A defensible realist ethic is perhaps best seen as a warning against the inappropriate application of moral standards to international political action. Extracting the meaning of human rights from international law is therefore an exercise of ‘hegemonic contestation’, where international actors, including state officials, publicists, international NGOs, etc., ‘routinely challenge each other by invoking legal rules and principles on which they have projected meanings that support their preferences and counteract those of their opponents’ (2004, 199). 1992. In general, realists are strongly sceptical about international law (Morgenthau 1940; Krasner 2002), and about the international proclamation of one ‘moral code’ over potentially conflicting others (Morgenthau 1948). For the most part, realism and human rights have at the very least ignored each other. Atty. If Brussels folds, it will mark the end of the last, best hope for stopping a race to the bottom. 1965. Albeit imperfect, a number of mechanisms have existed for decades to monitor compliance with CPR on individual cases both at the global and regional levels. The English School accepted the realist premise of the logic of anarchy, but claimed that an international society can emerge out of that anarchy. Their ideological power lies in their ambiguity, not in their adherence to liberal values of individual freedom. On the other hand, some advocates may not feel entirely comfortable with the potential trade-offs of working for material equality, fair taxation and collective bargaining within the confines of international law. There are at least three ways in which human rights can survive and indeed flourish in a world guided by classical realist parameters. 2015. This was basically the idea put forward by Hedley Bull and the first generation of the English School of the 1960s and 70s, which Fred Halliday (1992, 438) liked to call ‘English Realism’. Carl Schmitt himself defended this idea in The Nomos of the Earth (2006), where he contended that, at least since the 16th century, international law has derived from the progressive expansion of a Eurocentric notion of nomos, order, from the freedom of the seas, to the international law of armed conflict and the notion of state sovereignty and non-intervention. 2001. For legal realists, the proclamation of human rights in international law has very little connection with the actual improvement of human rights around the world, which has more to do with more interdependent trade relations and with the end of the Cold War. The Twenty Years’ Crisis. Koldo Casla earned his PhD at King’s College London in July 2017, where he has studied why Western European states promote international human rights norms. In their view, it is unwise to judge other states’ actions from a moral perspective (Morgenthau 1979; Kennan 1985). ABSTRACT The pandemic declared by the World Health Organization in March due to COVID-19 highlights the deepening differences between two opposed visions in the realm of international affairs. The Concept of the Political. Lettinga, Doutje, and van Troost, Lars (eds.). Not that far from classical realism, in the English School terminology, IHRL can be seen as the product of a political tension between a certain idea of international order, defended by some states, and a certain view of global justice, advocated by independent UN experts, scholars and NGOs. Ditto Bruce Russett, Michael Doyle, Martha Finnemore, John Ikenberry, Richard Rosecrance, Thomas Risse, and Kathryn Sikkink. An Alternative View: Three Ways in Which Human Rights Could Engage with Realism. Order is not necessarily states’ only goal, but it must outdo justice insofar as its maintenance is the primary goal. Truth be told, I am excited of the seminar considering that this is about learning human rights from a liberal perspective. Other goals can be pursued as long as order is not put at risk. I am also not suggesting that personality is the only thing — or even the main factor — that shapes someone’s theoretical preferences. States’ human rights obligations are not borne towards each other, but towards their own people, or, even more, towards anybody within their jurisdiction. For two decades, part of the human rights community has relied excessively on the military. From the United States, both John Mearsheimer (2014) and Stephen Walt (2016) have sustained that abuses committed by American forces abroad pose a serious risk to national security, and that the best strategy to promote democracy and human rights abroad is to do a better job at protecting them at home. Feminism has provided some new perspectives to the discourse on human rights over the years. “Positivism, Functionalism, and International Law”. And this matters because nowhere are human rights more at peril than on the battlefield. Human Rights and Foreign Policy. This premise is not shared by one of the most influential legal realists of the 20th century, Carl Schmitt. 2003. I cannot imagine how they could explain the high degree of state compliance with the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. In Our Own Best Interest: How Defending Human Rights Benefits Us All. The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, edited by Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal. Stammers, Neil. “We Are Deluding Ourselves in Vietnam”. Realism reminds us that the legal and the political spheres do not match inside out. Commitment to individual freedom, reasoned debate and tolerance. The Nomos of the Earth: In the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europeaum. The paper makes the liberal argument for intervening by force to end or prevent serious human rights abuses. 1993. For realists, normative values and international regimes do not have power in themselves. The Difference Between Realists and Liberals Without a doubt, Schmitt’s anti-Semitism and proactive support of the Nazi regime make him an unlikely reference in any paper on human rights. 2016. One can indeed see international law as part of a certain idea of order in international society. “Morality and Foreign Policy”. Krasner, Stephen. A Realistic Perspective on Human Rights in the School Curriculum When human rights are taught in the context of the values of Western civilization, history and literature become more relevant than a bumper sticker approach to issues. An international regime matters only insofar as it reflects the pre-existing ‘distribution of power in the world’ (Mearsheimer 1994/95, 7), and norms get subsumed ‘in the material structure of the international system’ (Mearsheimer 1995, 91). In fact, the liberal institutionalists focus on human nature, while the commercial pacifists emphasize domestic society, and last but not least the liberal internationalists concentrate on the interstate system. 1985. In other words, legal realism invites us to explore the politics behind international law. Campaigns may lose out if they depend too much on international treaties drafted and negotiated by powerful elites, court rulings concerning individuals and perhaps even isolated cases, and well-intentioned reports by unaccountable UN experts published in Geneva or New York. Since the 1990s, liberal interventionism has taken hold within a big part of the global human rights community. And adjacent to realism, we can conceptualise IHRL as the product of a political tension between order and justice in international society. How business interests prevent Lebanon from rebuilding its infrastructure, government, and economy. Cambridge Review of International Affairs 17(2): 197–218. Although this possibility was envisioned by the ICISS, the UN General Assembly made clear in the World Summit Outcome Document that R2P could not bypass the UN Charter. This chapter appraises Realism from a human rights perspective. Human Rights between Idealism and Realism presents human rights in action, focusing on their effectiveness as legal tools designed to benefit human beings. A Liberal and Realist Perspective of China’s rise By Edmund Balogun. The National Interest, January (available on, accessed 31/05/2017). Koskenniemi, Martti. Realists would not use moral arguments to oppose military interventions, but they can become tactical allies on a case-by-case basis. 1995. London: Pluto Press. Morgenthau, Hans. The 17th century philosopher John Locke is often credited with founding liberalism as a distinct philosophical tradition. One that favors cooperation, multilateralism, and globalization; and another one that inclines towards nationalism and isolationism, while being skeptical of international institutions. Realism advises prudence in the use of military force. Like other classical political theorists, Thucydides(c. 460–c. Order would be highly desirable because it is ‘the condition of the realisation of other values’, including justice (Bull 2002, 93). International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). The National Interest, October. The implications are clear in relation to the two examples given previously. The Finnish legal scholar Martti Koskenniemi (2005) offers interesting insight on this. In short, realists appear to view the academic enterprise as a “self-help” system, where each scholar toils on his or her own and where scholarly standing is mostly the result of individual achievement. Review of International Studies 16(4): 285–303. New York: Columbia University Press. 2014. Find out more about E-IR’s range of open access books here. This is an excerpt from Realism in Practice: An Appraisal. His History of the Peloponnesian War is in factneither a work of political philosophy nor a sustained theory ofinternational relations. For him, international law in general, and IHRL in particular, is a double-edged sword that serves two opposite purposes at once, ‘from Apology to Utopia’, as the title of his book goes. “The False Promise of International Institutions”. ... its Human Rights Council—or even the United Nations itself. 2004. Contemporary feminist scholarship has sought to critique the liberalism on which the conception of formal “equality” in the international human rights laws has been derived on a number of grounds. It is true that liberal democracies keep drafting, signing and ratifying human rights treaties, but in their opinion, this is only because they can do so at a very little cost, and the opposite would make them look like ugly outliers, since most other countries would not disembark from the international human rights regime (Goldsmith and Posner 2005, ch. the Divine Rights of a King. Liberals abandon wars against liberal democracies, but sometimes do not stop the war within illiberal states (Owen 1994: 93). human rights has been set up, its implementation and enforcement is far from being effective. The Twilight of Human Rights Law. As noted by Rosenberg (1990, 299), realists grow stronger when criticised on ethical grounds, because such criticism gives realism the opportunity to proclaim its alleged value-free condition. When it comes to professional standing, status, career advancement, etc., everyone seems to be sensitive to relative gains. I. They are also weaker: the European Court of Human Rights bests the European Committee of Social Rights in budget, number of cases heard per year, level of compliance by states, and pretty much any other possible variable. Realist scepticism towards the international proclamation of human rights has also reached the shores of scholars sympathetic to the idea of human rights, for whom realism would not have much to offer. The Difference Between Realists and Liberals, The Pitiful Endgame of Saudi Arabia's Qatar Blockade, Why the World Should Root for the EU in Brexit Talks, Biden’s First Foreign-Policy Crisis Is Already Here, Turkey’s Luck Runs Out Over Russian S-400 Purchase. Human rights groups have already voiced serious concerns about the plan to move thousands of refugees to an uninhabited island. This means that governments should feel legitimised to send their troops to countries where serious human rights abuses are taking place, even without a clear mandate from the Security Council. Koskenniemi chooses the word ‘hegemony’ in its Gramscian sense to refer to the predominance that requires force as much as consent and is the result of an ideological battle to set a moral direction. Boston: Beacon Press. Although some of these scholars occasionally wrote with others and were important providers of various collective goods, they generally worked alone. International Security 19(3): 5–49. By combining conceptual analysis with an emphasis on procedures and mechanisms of implementation, this volume provides a multidimensional overview of human rights. And Landman (2006, 44) writes that under realism states only allow human rights norms to emerge and develop ‘to gain short-term benefit and raise international legitimacy while counting on weak sanctions and largely unenforceable legal obligations’. This paper is not denying that realists are sceptical of normative values in global politics. In particular, is it possible that theoretical affinities reflect at least in part each individual’s basic personality traits or worldview? Human Rights and Social Movements. Mahanty, Daniel. The reflective exploration of the politics and the hegemonic contestation behind international law can shed light on the international legal distinction between civil and political rights (CPR: freedom of expression, right not to be subjected to torture, fair trial, etc.) “An unnecessary war”. I also believe realists have a hard time explaining why states agree to the creation of independent human rights bodies they have no control over, as weak as these bodies are. Some will always say realism is politics as it is while liberalism is an example of … Foreign Policy, April (, accessed 31/05/2017). However, individual complaint mechanisms on ESCR are newer and more inexperienced: the UN Committee dealing with ESCR issued its first decision in summer 2015, while the one on CPR examined the first cases in the late 1970s. And Afghanistan?)”. London: Palgrave MacMillan. Liberal interventionists pushed the agenda of the use of force to pursue humanitarian goals like democracy promotion. Realism is static, prone to the status quo, suspicious of change. Liberals assume that the legal system regulates behaviour within the political system as a whole. Foreign Affairs 64(2): 205–18. United Nations General Assembly. amount, in any currency, is appreciated. Realism is not well placed to explain the international human rights regime, and at least in their role of interpreters of global politics, realists will not become human rights activists unless they stop being realist first. Human rights are a hybrid of liberal law, morality and politics. Raymond Quiocho Salas, J.D. Cox, Robert. While both sets of rights are recognised in international law, the fulfilment of ESCR is meant to be achieved ‘progressively’ depending on ‘available resources’, in the language of Article 2(1) of the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The New York Times, 7 September ( accessed 31/05/2017). For example, Michael Ignatieff (2003), who had been part of the group of experts that came up with the idea of R2P, publicly defended US and British intervention in Iraq on humanitarian grounds. At the very least, Schmitt should be read by human rights defenders to get a grip of the discourse that rapidly spread throughout Western countries after September 2001. Neorealism and Its Critics, edited by Robert Keohane. “America Unhinged”. More generally, realists cannot account for the existence of an international regime that imposes non-reciprocal obligations on states. The narrative above remains the general view about realist thinking on human rights in global politics. Let us not criticise realism for not doing what it never intended to do. With the Rwandan genocide of 1994 still in mind, a number of observers felt compelled to justify NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, despite the Security Council’s failure to authorise it due to the Russian veto. 1979. ESCR remain second-class rights in international law, and there are not theoretically compelling reasons to explain it. Lastly, I’m not arguing that scholars who work in the liberal tradition are less ambitious, less driven, or less competitive than their realist counterparts. Oxon: Routledge. On the one hand, international law is based on states’ will and has the virtue of concreteness, but when it is too closely related to actual state practice, and fails to create new obligations for states, it becomes ‘apologetic’ of existing power, providing an excuse or a justification for it. 1948. If one defends human rights the liberal perspective today, one is defending a status quo situation of specific types of institutions and more or less defending the highjacking of the theory in the interest of modern power relations. Kennan, George. Several instances which can be classified as realist act in response to the liberalist argument includes the beliefs that human being are naturally fixed, deeply flawed, and crucially selfish. Any Abstract. Echoing the 19th century French anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Schmitt famously warned that ‘whoever invokes humanity wants to cheat’ (2007, 54). The second idea concerns what human rights actually are. Bull defined order as ‘a pattern that leads to a particular result, an arrangement of social life such that it promotes certain goals or values’ (2002, 3-4). Realism attempts to explain the satisfaction of predetermined national interests in an anarchic world based on the autonomy of politics and from a consequentialist ethical perspective. 2005. Define Liberalism. Regardless of their personal beliefs and preferences, as academics, realists would only care about the human rights situation in other countries if that situation may result in regional instability or a shift in the balance of power. Mearsheimer, John. The dialogue is not only possible with authors long gone, like E. H. Carr, who adopted an ambivalent position about the marriage between ideals and power: ‘The characteristic vice of the utopian is naivety; of the realist, sterility’ (Carr 2001, 12). You know: kind of the way realists think about international politics. Realism allows for a nuanced view of international law as the product of a pluralist international society. Available worldwide in paperback on Amazon (UK, USA, Ca, Ger, Fra), in all good book stores, and via a free PDF download. The EU and Human Rights, edited by Philip Alston, 99–116. The American Journal of International Law 34(2): 260–84. As long as international law remains the law states agree upon (apart from the interpretation, over which they do not have full control), it will be by definition limited in terms of emancipatory potential for the powerless and right holders at large. Action, focusing on their effectiveness as legal tools designed to benefit human beings that said, law. 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