The Foundation of Power and Justice in International Law Essay

The Foundation of Power and Justice in International Law Essay

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The Foundation of Power and Justice in International Law

Thucydides wrote The History of the Peloponnesian War believing that it was a good picture of "the past and which (human nature being what it is) will, at some time or other and in much the same way, be repeated in the future." This paper will present a comparison between the time of Thucydides and how the International system has reflected certain aspects that are contained in the document. It will attempt to address the possibilities of oncoming systemic war, concepts of trust, and the earlier statement of Thucydides. Terms that are important to this argument are anarchy, security dilemma, and balance of powers. Anarchy is the system that world politics works under: with the presence of no prominent authority, any state can do what it chooses on the international stage. The notion of security dilemma rises out of the fear of other states building up their forces and becoming a larger threat to all of the other states. The tie between anarchy, security dilemma, and life in a sovereign state is the balance of powers; which "aims at primarily to preserve peace and the status quo."
Thucydides' balance of power involved two states: Athens and Sparta. After the Persian war, Athens had become a very powerful military state, and began to assimilate other states they had recently saved in the Persian War. Athens justified their actions by suggesting that, having won the war, their rights to become an empire were prevelent. They then built walls around their new territories and continued to increase their military power. This worried the Spartans because i...

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...ainst him. After Frances defeat, the European system brought France back to an equal power and restored the balance of the five powers.
It appears that Thucydides was unable to predict the effects of human nature in a system other than a bipolar one. The same underling concepts of governments in an anarchical system were present but it was dealt with differently in the new order. Europe's five powers were able to develop more trust and have less fear of systemic wars. Is Thucydides work therefore useless in modern international politics? Not at all, as it still clearly underlines the basics affects of anarchy, the importance of self-sovereignty, and the security dilemma.


Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War. Penguin. New York: 1972 Gulick, Edward. Europe's Classical Balance of Power. Norton. New York: 1967

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