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The False Promise of International Institutions Summary Essay

For the past two centuries the world has seen the emergence of international institutions, which are not state-based organizations but rather non-state actors who have the power to regulate and enforce norms. One would think that the development of these types of institutions would reduce conflict between states, but this is not always the case. This essay will explore the false promise inherent in relying on international institutions to resolve conflicts.

Essay 1

The author attempts to debunk the notion that institutions such as the European Community and North Atlantic Treaty Organization push nations toward conflict and peacemaking (Mearsheimer, 1995). To achieve this goal, the author compares and contrasts both realist and institutionalist perspectives.

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1. Realists consider that international institutions have little effect on the prospects for world peace and stability because they are a reflection of the distribution of power in the world, and are based on self-interested paradigms of great power states. (Mearsheimer, 1995).

But Institutionalists recognize that institutions have the ability to move countries away from war and conflict not just by changing their inclinations and therefore influencing state action, but also by discouraging countries from pursuing self-interest behavior based on how every move affects their relative power positions (Mearsheimer, 1995).

3. The author asserts that institutionalism has no place in today’s political environment, and it was actually utilized by dominant Western states after the Cold War to oppress other countries or achieve relative advantage.

The conclusion of the book is that, after World War II and the birth of UNRRA in 1945, realists were not credible: Their theories were wrong and their prescriptions would only lead to more conflict (ibid). After further study, I found myself agreeing with them.

4.To further emphasize his point, the author states that contemporary governments operate in both an offensively-oriented and a defensively-oriented paradigm, in line with realist thought.

5. According to a realist viewpoint, contemporary nations should not only seek for opportunities to benefit from one another, but they must also work to assure that other countries are not exploited in line with the needs of realism (Mearsheimer, 1995).

6.He claims that contemporary states are more concerned with relative gain when considering forming partnerships with other nations (Mearsheimer, 1995).

Finally, the author says that in modern times, many nations are hesitant to sign cooperation agreements with other countries due to worry of being cheated. (Mearsheimer, 1995)

He thus believes that the world’s most powerful nations establish and create institutions not to preserve global peace and stability, but rather to safeguard their geopolitical power distribution, or even enhance it (Mearsheimer, 1995). These claims, in my view, are influenced by a realist approach.

6. The notion that institutions are a major cause of peace and stability is debunked by the author, who points out that it’s difficult to link cooperation and stability. He claims that the assertion cannot be correct because the liberal institutionalists refuse to accept that relative-gain anxiety is the main barrier to interstate cooperation (Mearsheimer, 1995).

7. To sum up, the author claims that liberal institutionalism provides no sound groundwork for understanding international relations, and that institutions do not contribute to world peace or power as thought by liberals (Mearsheimer, 1995).

8. From his critique of realists and institutionalists views, the author concludes that institutions have little impact on state behavior and offer minimal assurance for improving peace and stability in today’s society.

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Essay 2

Summary Introduction and Definition of Terms

After the conclusion of the Cold War (1947–91), Western leaders have increased their efforts to promote institutionalism. According to Mearsheimer, this viewpoint represents a departure from traditional balance-of-power politics in favor of the “neo-Wilsonian view,” which emerged as President Bill Clinton (b. 1946) took office.

The idea that organizations like the European Community (EC), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and the Western European Union (WEU) may collaborate effectively to help nations avoid conflict with one another while also helping nations move beyond war is at the heart of this new vision of worldwide politics.

According to Mearsheimer, organizations have “minimal influence on state action and thus little promise for promoting stability in the post-Cold War world.” Mearsheimer’s objective in this piece is to look at three prominent international relations theories and examine their treatment of institutions as the key idea. He defines “institutions” and “realism” as they will be utilized throughout the essay in the two parts that follow the introduction.

What Are Institutions?

Mearsheimer starts his essay with a definition of key terms. “Institution” is the first word Mearsheimer defines, and he claims that it is not defined anywhere in the “international relations literature.” To assist readers understand how he intends to employ this term, Mearsheimer offers the following definition of institutions: “A collection of norms dictating how states should cooperate and compete with one another.”

What Is Realism?

According to Mearsheimer, realism is a political theory that “portrays a rather bleak picture of world politics.” The realist viewpoint considers international relations in the arena of daily life to be “a battle for power, where each country strives not only to be the most powerful but also to prevent any other country from surpassing it.” This competition is driven by the need for improvements in state security, which can always lead to war. Under these circumstances, cooperative action among countries is restricted by concerns over national security rivalry. According to realism, world peace is improbable.

Institutionalist Theories

The third part of the essay covers the three main institutionalist theories: liberalism, collective security, and critical theory. Liberal institutionalism is the least ambitious of these schools; i.e., it provides the least evidence to show that institutions can act to prevent war. Collective security is the most ambitious of the three, followed by critical theory. Each school’s analysis is discussed in further depth.

According to Mearsheimer, liberal institutionalism “does not address head-on whether institutions cause peace, instead focusing on the less ambitious aim of explaining cooperation in situations where state interests are not fundamentally opposed.” This theory focuses more on economic and environmental concerns than military and security ones.

Mearsheimer reviews the criticisms leveled against this theory and its modifications, as well as a number of theoretical criticisms. Collective security theory is more ambitious than liberal institutionalism because it goes further in challenging realist assumptions, according to Mearsheimer. The balance-of-power politics of realist theories, according to this theory , are undesirable.

Collective security theory claims that this problem may be handled. Mearsheimer once again analyzes the logic of collective security theory and its flaws, as he has in previous theories. He concludes that assertions regarding the theory’s potential efficacy do not have enough historical backing.

Finally, Mearsheimer looks at critical theory. “This idea directly considers how to achieve peace and… makes strong claims about the prospects for altering state behavior.” The objective of this very ambitious idea is “to put security rivalry and war on the trash heap of history,” according to Mearsheimer, who examines it by analyzing its causal logic, flaws in its logical structure, and evidence from history.


Mearsheimer argues that his study has exposed why institutionalism will not supplant realism. Mearsheimer’s logical analyses of liberal institutionalism, collective security, and critical theory reveal the flaws in each theory’s causal logic, none of which has been addressed by its proponents.

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The historical record, on the other hand, does not provide any substantial evidence to back up theories that any of these organizations may have a major impact on how countries interact with one another. Mearsheimer also offers an explanation for why policymakers’ continued faith in institutionalism’s ability to alter the course of international relations is perplexing, even though overwhelming evidence debunks this theory.

Analysis Examining the New World Order

A debate about the effectiveness of international organizations in changing state behavior has been raging since the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Mearsheimer champions realism as a competing perspective to institutionalism. He intends to demonstrate his argument by looking at three theoretical ideas. Mearsheimer identifies “institutions” and “realism” before going into detail on several versions that have been proposed by others.

Liberal Institutionalism

The problem is that, according to this concept, “cheating is the major deterrent to international cooperation.” Rules may be used by institutions to regulate state activity and fix this issue. This idea does not refute realism’s basic claims about states being self-interested actors; rather, it complicates them. Its causal chain fails to address relative-gains issues because it does not consider gains from trade.

The main idea behind absolute-gains concerns is how much a state can benefit from any given cooperative relationship. Relative-gains worries focus on whether the benefits will put a state in a better or worse position than competing states. This fault violates the basic idea of economic and security concerns being considered separate. Finally, Mearsheimer claims that historical data does not bear out assertions that liberal institutionalism can be successful.

Collective Security

The notion of collective security was first proposed by the Woodrow Wilson administration, which implemented policies that resulted in the founding of the League of Nations, an organization for international cooperation established in 1920. Collective security “acknowledges that military force is a critical aspect of international politics,” but it is “explicitly anti-realist.”

Realism endorses balance-of-power politics as the norm. Collective security theory considers balance-of-power politics to be undesirable and suggests an institutional management approach. Thesis: States must accept three fundamental conditions laid down by collective security theory:

They must “renounce the use of military force to alter the status quo.” “With the international community’s broader interests in mind,” they must align their national interests. They must be able to trust one another. Mearsheimer criticizes this notion’s causal logic on a number of different fronts. First, it does not explain how states can develop a sense of trust one another. Second, it does not propose any solutions to at least nine potential barriers that would prevent international collaboration in such a structure.

Finally, “the historical record offers little evidence for [the claims of] collective security.” The League of Nations eventually fell apart, and the United Nations has never been put to the test. Collective security is thus not a realistic option for governing international relations in general.

Critical Theory

According to Mearsheimer, critical theory is very ambitious because it challenges the basic assumptions of realism. Critical theory does not offer methods for resolving international disputes; instead, it provides a method for achieving peace by “directly address[ing] the problem of how to achieve peace.” Critical theory also “makes big claims about the prospects for influencing state conduct.”

The goal of this idea is to overhaul international politics by eliminating realist thinking. Critical theorists are adamant about their objective of “changing the … norms of the international system so that states no longer rely on realism.” The theory, though, offers little information regarding whether or not it is desirable or feasible to achieve such an end. Realism is distinguishable from critical theory in many ways.

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The realist view is that there is an “objective and knowable world,” whereas critical theorists believe knowledge is impossible. This theory also has numerous flaws in its causal argument. Most significantly, the explanation of how change happens is at best incomplete, and at worst internally contradictory. Furthermore, while the historical record corroborates many of its assertions—especially since the end of the Cold War failed to produce the spectacular changes predicted by supporters—critic theories must be viewed as a fringe topic.


Professor Mearsheimer restates his thesis that there is little evidence that international organizations can help to maintain peace. The logic of causation and a lack of empirical evidence refute the claims of institutional theories. The paradoxical booster for institutionalism might be traced back to “essentials of American political ideology” that are more readily satisfied by institution than by realism. Realism is gloomy, which contributes to its unpopularity.

“The United States has a long history of thumbing its nose at realism,” says U.S. citizen David Nacin, who lives in England. “It’s largely foreign to American culture.” Institutionalism’s optimism offers “a message that Americans desire to hear.” However, institutionalism will continue to be a bad foundation for policymaking if it is not abandoned after this election cycle.

Essay 3

The University of Chicago’s John Mearsheimer is one of the most prominent minds in contemporary international relations theory. The controversial essay “The False Promise of International Organizations” by Mearsheimer focuses on deception in international organizations and offers a lot of political flak. This paper aims to highlight important issues addressed by Mearsheimer in his work on international institutions.

A lie is defined as a direct statement that includes false information in order to persuade others to accept the falsity of the claim. Creating and spreading fraudulent data in international organizations, as well as denying truths that have occurred, are examples of acts of lying.

The lie is evaluated pragmatically by Mearsheimer, who excludes its ethical ramifications from his thinking (17). He likewise purposefully restricts the research to instances in which decision-makers mislead not for their benefit or near environment, but rather in the nation’s strategic interests.

The author of the article examines the many forms of lies that are prevalent in international politics. There are several sorts of interstate lies, according to Mearsheimer (23). The example criticizes deceitful threats to utilize military force during intergovernmental organizations, despite the fact that the state does not wish to start a war. The idea is also explained when a lie is utilized as a provocation at the outset of war.

When states try to guarantee the best terms possible for themselves in negotiations, one of the most frequent forms of interstate fraud is encountered. The author analyzes international political events as anxiety-inducing situations and cover-ups from international organizations due to the fact that, in reality, deceptive occurrences lead to larger conflicts.

All sorts of lies are thus addressed not just to the external audience, but also to the internal one. A lie intended for people is also much more prevalent. Humans tend to put their faith in political leaders, which makes it far simpler to deceive them than foreign governments who are always suspicious. Mearsheimer has criticized international organizations for putting too much emphasis on democracy, suggesting that democratic nations are frequently deceived by misleading people about foreign policy concerns.

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