The study of international relations has been considered as a complex phenomenon. This does not necessarily mean that it is beyond understanding. The way states tend to act has been thoroughly studied and one of the prominent approaches is termed as Realism. This serves as one of the versions of the "script" states are supposed to follow. Within this approach, two schools of thought have evolved. The first, Classical Realism, served as the precursor to the second school of thought - Structural Realism.
This paper aims to discuss and analyze Classical and Structural Realism. It compares and contrasts these two branches of Realism. With the use of relevant examples and appropriate analysis, it is hoped that the differences and similarities between the two can be thoroughly discussed. In this analysis, the US behavior was used as a model due to the fact that it is the world's lone superpower and is thus the main actor in the play called international relations.
Before discussing Classical and Structural Realism, it is appropriate and proper to first define what Realism is. This approach provides a rational and realistic view of how international affairs are acted. It is based on the way things are done and not on the way things should be done. The way it views the world's international affairs utilizes that of a scientific method - based on facts and not in abstract ideas, based on the analysis of the causes and consequences of the events. It is logical and not imaginary. Machiavelli captured the essence of Realism with the following statement (Machiavelli, 1515):
"But since my intention is to say something that will prove of practical use to the inquirer, I have thought it proper to represent things as they are in real truth, rather than as they are imagined. Many have dreamed up republics and principalities which have never in truth been known to exist; the gulf between how one should live and how one does live is so wide that a man who neglects what is actually done for what should be done learns the way to self-destruction rather than self-preservation. The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous. Therefore if a prince wants to maintain his rule he must learn how not to be virtuous, and make use of this or not according to need."
An example of an international event that is viewed as using the "imaginary" and "utopian" approach is that of the Kellogg -Briand Pact which outlawed any more wars (Kellogg and Briand, 1928). This was a consequence of the bitter experience of World War I. The proponents unrealistically assumed that war would never happen again and that the signatories would comply with what they have agreed upon.
An example of a realistic view was provided by Waltz when he viewed the spread of nuclear weapons in a positive light. His contention was that the spread of such weapons actually ensures that countries can co-exist peacefully because they know the horrific damage that can be inflicted on them. Rogue leaders, in fact, are tamed with the knowledge that their regimes can be destroyed any time. (Hollander, 2000)
Realism had its roots in Thucydides (5th century BC) when he commented on the Peloponnesian War stating that the real reason why Sparta and Athens collided was because of Sparta's fear of