The state is fundamental to understanding international relations and is likely to remain so for a long time. The policies of a state are the most frequently analyzed since the state decides on war, trade, international agreements, and whether or not to abide by them. As a discipline, international relations is primarily concerned with the actions of states on the global stage and the effects of such actions on other states.
The manner of a state’s interaction with foreign states is its foreign policy. This often involves self-centered sets of tactics chosen by the country to protect its national interests and attain its objectives (Bojang, 2018). A state’s foreign policy set standards through which its organizations, corporations, and citizens interact with their counterparts. Due to the significance of national interests, governments design foreign policies through top-level processes of decision-making. In the contemporary era, most states employ diplomacy, foreign aid, and military force to pursue their foreign policy objectives.
A state deals with another through discussions and negotiations in the process of diplomacy. Diplomacy involves the intervention of professional diplomats in matters relating to war, environment, human rights, trade, and peace. It is the first method that states prefer to employ to achieve their interests (Bojang, 2018). Diplomats often negotiate international agreements and alliances before national lawmakers endorse them. Diplomacy is often referred to as soft power used by countries to protect themselves and their citizens. For instance, the United States uses diplomacy with other countries to handle threats and challenges that exceed national borders.
Such threats include terrorist attacks, weapons of mass destruction, infectious diseases, drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and environmental deterioration (U.S Department of State, 2017). The majority of diplomacy occurs behind closed doors as diplomats hold talks to discuss important issues. Presidents and national leaders also host other countries’ leaders to enhance diplomatic relations among their countries.
Military force or confrontations are often inevitable when negotiations prove unsuccessful. Scholars believe that a state should possess the military capacity to forcefully support its diplomacy when necessary (Bojang, 2018). Since war is understood as just another means of continuing politics, military force is regarded as the ultimate tool of international relations. Whether employed as an offense or defense mechanism by a state, military force provides it with a certain amount of international freedom of action (Bojang, 2018). Thus, countries such as the United States spend billions of dollars yearly to strengthen the power of their military and support their foreign policy.
States possessing significant military power have greater initiative and leverage on the global stage. Thus, until another international order radically transforms and replaces the nation-state system, military force and its ability to sustain armed coercion will likely remain a key player in international politics (Bojang, 2018). An example is the case of North Korea and Israel. These countries carry on with their precarious existence in spite of the united opposing efforts of allied states since they possess the capacity to back an assertive foreign policy (Bojang, 2018). Their military power, resourcefulness, and industrial development are closely linked.
Many countries around the world engage in foreign aid activities as donors or recipients. Donor states provide foreign aid to recipient states as a reward for behavior or to induce a behavior change. Therefore, a state provides aid to strengthen a friendly foreign government and terminates aid to create economic hurdles that debilitate an unfriendly regime (Apodaca, 2017). Foreign aid primarily serves to achieve the donors’ strategic and commercial objectives. The provision of aid is an incentive and recipient states see it as such while withdrawal of aid acts as an effective deterrent.
The donor states decide the destination of the aid, the quantity, and the time frame to provide the aid. Foreign aid can be disbursed through bilateral or multilateral methods. Although bilateral disbursement gives the total donor control over the donation, multilateral allocation offers more benefits (Apodaca, 2017). Multilateral aid is less expensive, spreads accountability, and is usually considered to be less politically partial.
Traditionally, foreign aid was exclusively used as a foreign policy by the rich and powerful states such as the United States and France. Recently, middle-income states have also provided aid even though they have different motives for their actions (Apodaca, 2017). The primary difference between traditional and contemporary aid donors is the absence of conditionalities on loans provided by non-traditional aid donors.
As a foreign policy, foreign aid work is often successful even though there are challenges involved. Recipient governments sometimes use the donation for purposes other than initially intended (Apodaca, 2017). The recipients can also free up funds for non-productive projects since donor funds cover most of their budgets. For instance, most African states’ military budget is covered by donor aid. Some of these countries are corrupt and poorly governed, thus increasing the ability of the governments to redirect funds (Apodaca, 2017). To ensure that funds are used for intended purposes, some donors bypass recipient state institutions and disburse their donation through non-state development actors.
Apodaca, C. (2017). Foreign aid as foreign policy tool. Oxford University Press. Web.
Bojang, A. S. (2018). The study of foreign policy in international relations. Journal of Political Sciences & Public Affairs, 6(4). Web.
U.S Department of State. (2017). Diplomacy: The U.S. Department of State at work. Web.