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Most historians believe that there is no better event that demonstrates the folly of impractical power than that of the Melian Dialogue. Characterised by the Peloponnesian war in Greece in the 416 B.C., the dialogue is a depiction of the events that surround the tensions between Athens and the Isles of Melos over the latter’s rejection of the Athenian expansionist ideologies into their territories. It is referred to as the dialogue of the deaf and in case, the Melian use the perspective of absolute justice, while Athenians stress on power, expansion and expediency. The ensuing debacle from both sides translates to lack of taking a common ground and the destruction of Melos in the hands of the power hungry Athenians. Questions on how the Athenians would have used their power and the impact of the strategies of the two antagonists on the end result suffice almost twenty centuries after this event.
Thucydides dialogue is often cited as a vindication of the premises of political realism which accentuate the central importance of hard power in shaping the relations between states and determining outcomes in interstate competition. In fact, the Thucydides dialogue has often been referred to as the historical dialogue that validates the realist position. According to Hollis and Smith, “Realism is not a theory of defined by an explicit set of assumptions and prepositions, but is a general orientations and philosophical disposition.” In the academic world, discipline of international relation whose nomenclature indicates a scope of equal (but substantially unequal) sovereign states, the term realism has been saved from its association with ordinary use.
The term attributed to a particular school of thought according to which international politics is an perpetual struggle for security and power among states in an allegedly anarchical environment. The role realism has played in the international relation and political economy has been unique in the sense that historically, the concept of realism was perceived to overlap thereby having in it both the ideals of liberalism and Marxism. However, with historical development and modifications of the concepts over period of time suggest that suggest that both the definitions and concepts of realism have slightly changed in the context of political economy. It has brought up the need for Blanch flower, international regulations, guidelines and policies that govern cross boarder economic activities. This has led to intense struggle to achieve specific goals.
However, the validation of Thucydides dialogue as a realist position revolves around the understanding of the pessimistic assumptions of realism in international politics. Hollis and Smith posit “realists assume that the real issues of international politics can be understood by the rational analysis of competing interest defines in terms of power.” The Melian dialogue validates the realist position because it fails to adopt a mutually desired code of negotiation that translates to low rates of success.
The Melian spokespersons were sceptical about the persuasion of the Athens and the overall impact was the setting of stalemate. Despite having all the necessary resources and capacity such as economic and military power, the Athenians failed to incorporate caution in the use of power. They resorted to coercive techniques and hard positional bargaining characterised by ideologies of realists in international politics.
Realism has two major distinct strands. These are classical realism and neo-realism both of which are fundamentally based on assumptions. First, realists put the assumption that decisions on politics and economy are left in the hands of a few elite members of the society who wield the power to influence. This is demonstrated in the Melian dialogue by the stand and rigid position taken by the Athenian negotiators during the arbitrations. The politics and economy of Athens were under the absolute control of the a few elite leaders who determined the directions of politics. The realism theory hold firm for this case because the Athenians created hostile negotiation environment even before the process began. The settings were defined in a manner that the Melos had either to negotiate according to the pre-determined terms or face the consequence of war.
Despite the fact that realists disagree on the reasons behind the advent of the incompatible objectives which aggravates the competition, they all do agree that world politics is controlled by conflict competition and incompatible goals. The second assumption of realism is the belief that active players in world politics do it in a way that lack neutral authority and only seeks to enforce policies, rules and regulations. This is a direct assumption in the Melian dialogue given the fact that the Athenians lacked neutral authority and only sought to enforce, policies, rules and regulations over Melos by dictating the direction of the negotiations even before they began.
The direct consequences of the above two assumptions takes us to the third realist assumptions that actors must inevitably focus on relative gains, relative power positions and security in order to stage an effective competition. This is inevitable the case of the Melian dialogue. In the aftermath of failed negotiation precipitated by Athenians hard stance, they resorted to force and thereby fulfilling the commitment of application of relevant power to stage an effective competition. In the case of states and countries, this third stance suggests that the judgment of decision makers and leaders of nations are forced to lay their foundations on policy matters. This should be based on their foreign policy and that they must aim at achieving their objectives.
The analysis of the entire dialogue, Melians argue more effectively. This is because they take a liberalist stand that is based on the belief that the existence of men is based on the belief that we are all equal therefore, none is born inferior or superior. Liberalism as depicted in the stand adopted by the Melians in the negotiations posits that there is need to eliminate all forms of discriminations and classification of people based on their social, political, or economic inclinations and capability. Liberalist strongly supports global integration for equality as the path to equality, peace, and political integration.
The moral of the story is that inappropriate use of economic and military power that is devoid of wisdom breed further unnecessary wars, loss of lives and destruction. Furthermore, the story provides a valuable lesson that too much power may become a liability in instances where the power is not appropriately put to use. The story serves as a template for strategic competition for states today because too much power without proper application of it and adopting a tough and unyielding stance, breeds wars and brings to an end reigns of popular rulers.
International political economy and co-existence are fundamental tenets of economic growth and economic development of any individual country. It has been noted that international peace negotiations still use coercive techniques to achieve unfair balance in relations. This template serves as a strategic competition between states today because of the shortcomings that encompass current cross-border negotiations. It is therefore necessary for all the actors to come together in agreement on the fundamental rules, which govern fairly across the board, especially during negotiations. Furthermore, no other state should behave in a manner likely to suggest that it is superior to others.