International Relations (IR) mainly focuses on the aspect of comprehensively understanding the various developments that transpire across the globe, mainly from theoretical perspectives. It is under this context that the IR perspectives seamlessly elucidate on the factors that led to the withdrawal of the United States from the World Health Organization (WHO) under the leadership of the 45th President, Donald Trump. The two main IR theoretical perspectives that this paper will take into account when explaining the developments behind this scenario are liberalism and realism frameworks. Baylis, Owens, and Smith (2020, pg. 23) state that the liberalism perspective mainly takes into consideration the fact that international organizations like the WHO play an integral role in enhancing cooperation among various states across the globe. However, the realism perspective emphasizes the fact that all nations across the world are often motivated by their national interests which are always disguised in the name of moral concerns. This essay will largely explain why the realism IR theoretical perspective is best suited to clarify the political event in question as compared to the realism theoretical perspective.
Realism Theoretical Perspective
The move by Donald Trump to withdraw the United States which is the world superpower from the international organization, WHO drew condemnation from almost every section of the world. Vasilaki (2012, pg. 15) notes that the realism perspective brings to the fore the main motives that triggered POTUS to make such huge decisions in the aftermath of the global pandemic, coronavirus. The arguments of the president were based on the fact that the world health body failed to put in place measures that would have curbed not only the outbreak but also the spread of COVID-19 which detrimentally hampered the performance of the global economy. the proponents of the move saw it as one which would make WHO to be more accountable for its actions moving forward but the critics of the move made by the president saw it as a reckless initiative that would plunge the world into even more serious health problems. According to Hobson, and Sajed (2017, pg. 567), this is for the reason that the US government made this move in the middle of the pandemic which required collective efforts of all countries to make the fight against COVID-19 successful. Nevertheless, the US is one of the most important countries that contribute billions of dollars to the international body every financial year to aid in containing health matters across the globe, and her withdrawal from the international body at a time when her support was most needed was a major blow to the establishment. However, the realism perspective pinpoints a situation that might have made the US government make such a decision.
Burchill et al. (2013, pg. 29) recognize that the realist theory makes a broad assumption which was evident in the move made by the President. This is because the United States as a country was more concerned about the health issues affecting its citizens as compared to the health of the rest of the world. This is in line with the obligation entrusted in the constitution to the US government to give priority to the safeguarding of the rights and wellbeing of its citizens above everything else. Thus, it was the need and desires to first of all secure the lives of the Americans that drove the government to withdraw from the WHO. The Trump administration felt that the resources the government has been wiring to the international body had not been properly utilized to hinder the outbreak of the virus and to equally contain its spread to various parts of the world. It is based on this argument that the Trump administration opted to pull out of the organization and direct the resources to more constructive activities. Moreover, Baylis, Owens, and Smith (2020, pg. 17) point out that the US government was in dire need of the necessary financial resources that would not only aid in curbing the spread of the virus in the country but also cushion her citizens against the detrimental economic effects that have been caused by COVID-19. It is based on such factors that one can categorically argue that Trump mainly applied the realism international relations perspective in making the political decision to withdraw the nation from the WHO. The bottom line is that every country is much concerned about her gains in making any form of a contribution to the international bodies as opposed to being concerned with the plights of the global citizens. It is for this purpose why realism perspectives create a clear picture that shows that countries like the US are always motivated by national interests whenever they make any political decision of international magnitude.
The realists strongly hold the notion that international organizations like WHO cannot stop the powerful nations like the United States from making decisions that they want irrespective of whether they are in line with the guidelines of such bodies or not. This is for the reason that the powerful nations usually put their national interests first above the international recommendations. Bettiza (2020, pg. 19) notes that the realists are also cognizant of the fact that powerful nations play an integral role in the running of a significant number of international organizations and this makes them make critical decisions that greatly influence the less powerful ones. It is based on this factor that the reality of international politics has over the years shaped the operations of the international bodies. It also implies that the main objective among the realists in a country is to secure the survival of the state as opposed to the plights of the global citizens. It is for this reason why the actions of the state are often judged following the ethics of responsibility as opposed to the aspects of moral principles. The movers and shakers in the administration gauge how the move would first of all impact the country and her citizens before they ascertain the potential impacts it would have on the globe. According to Ikenberry (2009, pg. 82), this implies that all countries are always motivated by national interests. It is the need to address the national interest that countries like the US tend to focus on more while disguising themselves that they are trying their level best to meet their moral obligations. This was best manifested when the US opted to pull out of the WHO in the middle of a global pandemic and the leadership of the nation was not apologetic about the move. Whiskey and IR Theory Podcast (2020) infers that the tenets of realistic perspectives on international relations are the best ones that can explain the developments that transpired in making the aforementioned political decision.
Liberalism Theoretical Perspective
Tickner (1988, pg. 436) states that the liberalism international relations perspective strongly holds the belief that international institutions play a significant role in the attainment of seamless integration among nations. It is based on this notion that the liberals believe that states across the globe can effectively work together to augment the living standards among citizens in various countries when they put in place proper international institutions that are functional at all times. Nevertheless, the liberals acknowledge that it is only through coordinated cooperation and working together among nations that the world will realize maximum prosperity and be in a position to amicably attain the goals and objectives that they set to attain meaningful progress. The move made by the US government to withdraw from the World Health Organization was against the principles dearly held by the liberals. Weber (2014, pg. 17) state that this is evident from the fact that liberals always advocate for the need to solidify understanding and integration among individual states across the globe. It is worth stating that what Donald Trump’s administration did was aimed at weakening one of the most important international organizations that are entrusted with the role of addressing critical health matters. It is a scenario that placed the future of the WHO and other recognizable international bodies in serious jeopardy.
Liberals believe in the spirit of resolving conflicts that arise diplomatically. However, this is an option that the US government did not consider before pulling out of the WHO. This pinpoints the fact that the United States is not so much concerned about the well-being of citizens across the world as it purports to be. On the contrary, Taw (2020) points out that the US government was in a hurry to make decisions without considering how it would adversely affect the citizens, principally those from the developing states that are highly dependent on the support of the WHO, especially at times of pandemic like the one that has been brought by COVID-19. It is for these motives why the liberals opposed the withdrawal of the United States from this distinguished world body. Moreover, it would have been prudent for the US government to minimize the conflict that emanated between her and the WHO following the poor handling of this virus by adopting diplomacy as the best way to understand each other and reach an amicable solution on the way forward as opposed to making decisions that would detrimentally impact on others. Liberalism is a school of international relations theory that normally appreciates the need to bring all states together in diplomatic ways by aiming at understanding the unique problems that might have caused specific challenges and then encouraging the relevant stakeholders in the world bodies to develop policies that will address such problems. Richardson (1997, pg. 28) acknowledge that it is in such ways that the liberals believe that meaningful progress will be attained in contemporary society. this infers that the liberals across the world were not happy with the move that the Trump administration made concerning withdrawing from the WHO as it placed the lives of millions of people in jeopardy at times when people needed it most. Chowdhry, and Nair (2003, pg.2) implies that this demonstrates that liberals have always encouraged the need to exercise not only liberty but also equality before the law which is meant to improve the standards of living among individuals in various parts of the world. Moreover, it is a perspective that majorly recognizes the need to seek the consent of others when making vital decisions that affect their lives in one way or the other.
Whereas the realists think that the interests of individual countries need to be given the top priority when making key decisions in a nation, the liberals encourage the need by all nations to come together and provide the necessary support to the international bodies to help them achieve maximum progress. This implies that the liberals were strongly opposed to the decision that the Trump administration made of pulling out of the WHO while the realists supported the move because it took into account the interest of the Americans first before ascertaining the negative impacts it would bring to other countries across the world. Also, the move was made in bad faith as it primarily aimed at punishing the international body for not acting quickly to curb the outbreak of the virus as opposed to finding lasting solutions to the global pandemic.
April 2020, Aspenia, https://aspeniaonline.it/the-pandemic-and-the-end-of-the-liberalworld- order-as-we-knew-it/
Bilgin, P. (2008). Thinking Past ‘Western’ IR?. Third World Quarterly, 29(1), 5-23.
Chowdhry, G. and Nair, S. (2003) Introduction: Power in a postcolonial world: Race,
gender, and class in international relations, In Chowdhry,G. and Nair, S (eds). Power,
postcolonialism and international relations: Reading race, gender and class. New York,
Routledge, pp. 1-3.
Bettiza, Gregorio. (2020). The pandemic and the end of the liberal world order as we knew it, 19.
Hobson, J. M., & Sajed, A. (2017). Navigating beyond the Eurofetishist frontier of critical
Ikenberry, G. J. (2009). Liberal internationalism 3.0: America and the dilemmas of liberal
International Relations 8th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.
International Relations, 3 (1), 5-33.
- Baylis, P. Owens & S. Smith, The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to IR theory: Exploring the complex landscapes of the non-Western agency. International
- Baylis, P. Owens & S. Smith. The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations 8th edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020. A clever textbook was full of interesting facts and the integration of non-Western perspectives throughout.
Taw, Jennifer. (2020). Critical Race Theory in International Relations and Security Studies,
Richardson, J. (1997) Contending Liberalisms: Past and present European Journal of reformulation’, Millennium-Journal of International Studies, 17(3), 429-440.
S.Burchill et al., Theories of International Relations. 5th edition. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillian, 2013. Studies Review, 19(4), 547-572. theory. Millennium, 41(1), 3-22.
Tickner, J.A. (1988), Hans Morgenthau’s principles of political realism: A feminist
Vasilaki, R. (2012). Provincialising IR? Deadlocks and prospects in the post-Western IR
world order. Perspectives on Politics, 7 (1), 71-87.
Weber, C. (2014). International Relations Theory: A Critical Introduction. 4th edition. London and New York: Routledge. Accessible textbook with a sophisticated discussion of IR theories, drawing on films.
Whiskey & IR Theory Podcast (2020). Episode 9. Race and Securitization Theory, part 1, https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/whiskeyindiaromeo/episodes/2020-05- 21T14_58_46-07_00