More possession of these elements does not determine a nation’s power; hence they should not be termed as the determinants of power as many scholars call them. What determines power is the proper and efficient utilization of these elements. At best, they can be called elements or factors, or components of national power.
Elements Of National Power:
Before discussing these elements in detail, one should consider and assume certain facts regarding them.
- First, all elements are interrelated and interdependent.
- Second, these cannot be measured with a high degree of accuracy. These can simply be estimated.
- Third, even a precise estimate of these elements is not always possible as they are undergoing constant structural and relative changes due to natural and technological reasons.
- Fourth, national power is never based on any single factor but a combination of all these elements under a set of circumstances.
- Fifth, these can be broadly classified based on their nature, such as stable and unstable, tangible and intangible.
Noted authors of international relations have clarified these elements differently. Morgenthau has divided them into two categories permanent and changeable. Relatively stable elements are geography and natural resources. In contrast, constant change elements are military preparedness, population, national character and morale, diplomacy, and government 1
Organski classified them into natural and social determinants.
The natural determinants are geography, natural resources, and population social determinants: economic development, political structure, and national morale.2
Carr gave three categories:
- Military power.
- Economic power, and
- Power over opinion.3
Mahendra Kumar broadly divided them into three categories: natural, social, and ideational. The first covers geography, resources, and population, while the second includes economic development, political structure, and national morale. The third category consists of ideas, intelligence, and wisdom of leadership.4
Palmer and Perkins divided them into tangible and intangible. Geography, raw material, natural resources, and population are tangible, whereas morale and ideology are intangible.5
Many other scholars have also preferred to classify them into tangible and intangible elements. These scholars are Lerche and Said 6
Coulombs and Wolfe 7,
Adi H. Doctor 8,
Anam Jaitly 9, etc.
But in the following paragraphs, these elements will be comprehensively divided into five categories. These are:
- Natural Elements. Geography, natural resources, and population.
- Scientific and Technological Elements. Technology and industrial capacity, agricultural capacity, and military strength.
- Political Elements. Type of government, bureaucratic organization, efficiency, leadership wisdom, and quality of diplomacy.
- Social and Ideological Elements. Ideologies, national morale, national character, social structure, and social cohesiveness.
- External and other Elements. Reputation and image, foreign support, international strategic position, and intelligence.
The above elements are examined in detail below.
They are so-called because they are endowed by nature and not human-made. These elements are:
Since time immemorial, the most stable element upon which a nation’s power depends is geography. Geographical factors such as climate, topography, location, and size influence the power potential. For example, climate acts as one of the determinants of the culture and economy of a country. If the climate is good, there would be a better work culture leading to more productivity.
Great powers of modern times have been situated in those regions blessed with a temperate climate. Topography plays an important role in defense of nations. Topographical features such as mountains, valleys, rivers may determine natural boundaries between nations and set limits to their natural expansion.
Mountains like the Himalayas, the Alps, and the Pyrenees and rivers like the Rhine, the Rio Grande, and Yale served as guards on the boundaries between nations. The Chinese aggression on India in 1962 shattered this belief and necessitated a rethinking of the question of whether topography is important as a natural guard or not. Location determines the extent of a country’s vulnerability to invasion. It is a major determinant of whether a country is a sea-power or a land-power.
The achievements of England and Japan on the seas have been due to their being islands. Land-locked countries like Austria, Hungary, Nepal, Bhutan, etc., are at a disadvantage compared to states having outlets to the sea.
States that are located far away from the fiction zones of power can pursue an independent or neutral policy in world affairs, but the same is not true with those close to the epicenter of world politics. Size is yet another natural and tangible factor of power though it is the most deceptive of power’s physical foundations.
A large territory, if hospitable and fertile, can accommodate more people and give more natural resources. In the past, the vast size of a state’s territory was of great help to its security. It was difficult for the enemy to win and occupy a large territory. But size matters very little nowadays. Japan, for instance, even though comparatively small, defeated China and Russia. Moreover, larger territories’ utility has also diminished due to the technological revolution and the invention of Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles.
A new discipline has emerged that enables us to understand the application of political geography to statecraft. It is known as Geopolitics. It is the study of geography as it may influence foreign policy and political phenomena.
2. Natural Resources:
Natural and quantifiable, and stable elements of power are natural resources that include raw materials, agricultural products like food and fiber, forests, minerals, waterfall, soil fertility, etc. It is evident that the possession of resources such as coal, iron, uranium, oil, rubber, bauxite, manganese, other ferrous and non-ferrous metals, non-metallic minerals, and natural gas is essential to industrial and defense production in nation-states. More recently, it has been proved that the availability of petroleum at reasonable prices is important to industrial nations’ good economic health. The contemporary prosperity of many Arab countries is due to the availability of plenty of oil there.
However, it may be said that the mere possession of natural resources does not automatically generate power. Their proper utilization through advanced technology is also essential. Secondly, the rigid raw material theory of international politics was prevalent, but its popularity is now on the decline.
The invention of synthetics and other new industrial processes, the development of synthetics, and the unexpectedly high capacity of embattled populations to endure chronic shortages have all served to liberate states from the more absolutes of the theory.10
Despite these limitations, natural resources and raw materials continue to-serve a nation in its economic and military development.
It seems a large population is an asset to the state. But it is not really so. For example, with the largest population globally, China is not as powerful as the United States and the Soviet Union are. On the other hand, Israel, Japan, and Germany are powerful despite their small population.
That is why the quality of the population is as important as its quantity. From a quantity three points of view, it is a tangible element whereas it is intangible qualitatively. Thus population can serve both as an asset and as a liability. If people are well-fed, educated, and properly trained, they are a great source of power.
But if they are ignorant, poor, and illiterate, they are a big burden on the state. Many qualities of population, such as unity, literacy, loyalty, character, and spirit of love, sacrifice, and duty, are crucial for making a country powerful, but they are difficult to measure. A good population serves as good military personnel, civilians, workers, producers, and consumers.
Workforce, according to Lerche and Said, is a more useful notion for purposes of national power. It is that part of the population available for broadly defined foreign policy objectives. All politically useless individuals and those needed simply to keep the society functional (such as food producers) must be subtracted from the gross total. The remaining is the workforce quotient that can contribute to the defense, the productive, administrative, diplomatic, and political strength of the state with proper direction, leadership, and administration.11
Scientific and Technological Elements:
As stated above, the industrial capacity, agricultural capacity, and military capacity of a nation depend on the one hand on the availability of natural resources and raw materials and, on the other hand, on scientific and technological development. Elements related to the scientific and technological advancement of a country are as follows:
1. Industrial Capacity:
Technology may be said to be a nation’s capacity to convert the endowed resources into actual power. It can be applied in the economic and industrial sphere, which means better machines and better and abundant products. No nation in the present world can become a great power unless it has the capacity to produce tremendous quantities of goods and services.
If a country does not have the technology, industry, and markets to efficiently process natural resources, it is reduced to the position of a weak raw material exporting state. On the contrary, a country with developed technology but without natural resources is greatly dependent on importing raw materials from other countries. For example, many Western countries, except the US, are critically dependent upon the Middle East oil supply.
They do not have any firm control over its supply and price fluctuations. It can be safely said that those countries which have both important raw materials and developed technologies for processing are fully developed and powerful countries.
Technology helps a nation have a stronger economy, stronger industrial base, stronger transport and communication system, stronger military, greater capacity to win the war, and influence nations during peace. Industrial capacity contributes towards the production Of weapons that are required for modern warfare.
It provides international rewards in the form of consumer goods and the shape of markets for foreign goods. It enables a nation to persuade other nations by providing technical and economic assistance in soft loans, aid, grants, etc. The industrial capacity of a nation thus is a great source of wealth and power.
2. Agricultural Capacity:
Agriculture is a crucial component of national power. It is more relevant for developing countries where agriculture tends to be the national economy’s major sector. In the words of Couloumbis and Wolfe, “This is also a tangible element of power. Countries that can feed themselves, especially over the course of a long war, will be relatively more powerful than countries that are not self-sufficient.”12
International trade of a developing country heavily depends upon agricultural products and products manufactured with agricultural content (e.g., jute, cloth, and sugar). These become goods for export, facilitating imports of machinery and raw material for the industrial sector. In India, agricultural products constitute about fifty percent of the total. Indian exports while goods manufactured with agricultural content constitute another twenty percent of the total exports, constituting nearly 70 percent of the total Indian exports.13
Thus India being an industrially less advanced country, relies greatly on agriculture and allied products. Agriculture contributes about 35 percent of the national income and provides livelihood to about three-fourth of the population. In 1950 India was faced with the food problem and suffered from agricultural backwardness.
For food, it depended On Western nations and particularly the US, which through PL 480 pressurized India off and on. But with the help of modern technology, India succeeded in Green Revolution and became self-sufficient in food. Its dependence on the US for food ended, and it became more self-confident in diplomatic activities. Scientific and technological methods can thus increase the agricultural capacity of a nation that further enhances a nation’s power.
3. Military Strength:
Scientific and technological development is the sustaining factor for the armed forces, without which the military strength cannot be dependable and self-reliant. Indigenous capacity to produce different kinds of modern and sophisticated weapons is necessary; otherwise, the nation cannot sustain prolonged warfare.
Consequently, notwithstanding their technological backwardness, many countries have acquired military strength by buying weapons from the advanced countries, which have contributed to their military might. In the beginning, most states increase their strength in this way and later on build up their technological capability for defense production and forces.
Military strength is relevant both in war and peace. No one can win a war without a strong military base. In peacetime, diplomacy is also significantly affected by the leverages that rivals wield due to their respective military might. Military strength involves two main things-armed forces and weapons. To analyze their role in national power, one has to consider their size and quantity, quality and technological sophistication, mobility and deployment, leadership, and morale.
The size and number of armed forces are of great importance. Even the age of space battles and push-button warfare has not undermined the general importance of numbers. Therefore, a country with large size of defense forces will always be relatively in a better position. Equally important is the weapons and equipment’s supplied to them. A state with a small armed force but armed with sophisticated weapons and quality equipment can easily defeat another state with a much larger armed force using old weapons. Thus the quality of the army and arms ammunition is also very crucial along with their quantity. The quality of forces depends on the training’s nature, physical endurance, and the troops’ morale. Next is the question of mobility and deployment. It stands for a state’s ability to deploy its armed might in locations inside and outside its territory.
The chief indicator of mobility is a state’s ability to transport and effectively support military Operations on land, sea, and air. Military leadership also plays a great role in the actual military Operations during a war. By their skill, military commanders can jolt a superior enemy and term the defeat of his side into victory.
The morale of forces, i.e., their willingness to sacrifice for the nation, is no less a factor contributing to military strength. The military alliances and bases also contribute to an important aspect of the military element.
A state with several such alliances and bases is potentially stronger. Lastly, the military component of national power is dependent upon the nation’s financial resources and its technological, industrial, and economic development.
Political elements consist of government, bureaucratic efficiency, political leadership, and quality of diplomacy. All these are important parts of the political system of a state and contribute towards its power. These are discussed as follows:
1. Type of Government:
States formulate and conduct their foreign policy through their governments. If a government’s foreign policy is unified, specific, representative of the popular will, stable, and at the same time flexible, it can do wonders for the nation and its power position. The government also regulates social discipline based on the coordination of all efforts in its community. Good rapport between the government and people bring greater allegiance of people towards the country. Such allegiance is a prime factor in the development of national power.
It is not easy to say which type of government is the most powerful. The relationship between the type of government and national power has not been resolved since Aristotle’s times. There are various forms of government in the present world, such as communist, democratic, authoritarian, etc. Past international relations prove that both democratic and authoritarian types of governments have successfully regulated the behavior of other states, and, therefore, to that extent, both of them have been powerful nations. Authoritarian regimes can make swift and flexible foreign policy decisions as their decision-makers are few and relatively Unaccountable. But we should think whether quick decisions by unaccountable decision-makers are necessarily wise decisions.
The features of checks and balances of democratic governments subject decisions to greater scrutiny and presumably guard against whimsical and hasty decisions. The yardstick to measure a type of government’s superiority can be its efficiency to achieve set national goals and the ability to mobilize people’s support.
Democratic and constitutional government is based on a consensus of fundamentals; it is likely to operate with sustained popular support. In this way, it will be better positioned to impose greater discipline and persuade people to make sacrifices for achieving national objectives and national growth.
2. Bureaucratic Efficiency:
If the bureaucracy is impartial, honest, clean, and efficient, it will generate more power for a nation. Corruption and inefficiency will always cost a nation much both in peace and war. In peace, it will stall development and progress. In war, it will set at naught all coordinated efforts and prepare the ground for eventual capitulation.
Rich, well-armed, and even wisely governed countries cannot work effectively unless they have efficient bureaucracies to execute their policies. There are four views regarding the proper role, method of operation, and adequate functioning of bureaucracies.
- First, communist states believe in large-scale bureaucratization in politics and economic and social sectors. But by now, it has been realized that over bureaucratization in communist countries has proved counterproductive.
- Second, democratic, competitive countries seek to encourage private initiative and limit government bureaucracies’ role to defense, taxation, and other regulatory functions.
- Third, some argue for the complete detachment of politics from professional bureaucracies.
- Fourth, few people are interested in having political control over the bureaucracies, plug leaks, and ensure that political decisions are carried out faithfully by the professional bureaucrats.
Each of these theories has its own advantages and disadvantages; we do not intend to discuss them here. But it can be realized that to assess the exact impact of a given bureaucratic theory upon the power of a state is an uphill task.
Leadership is of great significance to any national power analysis because it is leadership that utilizes the national resources to build up power. The morale of the people also revolves around leadership. There can be no integrated technology sans leadership. It is important for many reasons.
- First, leadership utilizes the other national power components like geography, resources, population, industrial capacity, technology, etc. This does with the qualities that it possesses.
- Second, it coordinates other elements of national power.
- Third, it allocates resources between military and civilian programs.
- Fourth, it decides the nature of relations with other states and declares war and peace. Decisions and actions of leaders have a direct bearing on the power of the state.
Couloumbis and Wolfe rightly observe: Undoubtedly, greatness or incompetence, wisdom or irrationality, effectiveness, or impotence in leadership considerably affects the power that a country has. Leaders such as Napoleon, Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin, Mao, Gandhi, Kennedy, de Gaulle, Khrushchev, and Nixon have impacted world history.14
An able leadership serves as a source of great inspiration to people. Such inspiration is crucial in the realization of national development programs and the assumption of initiative in foreign affairs.
4. Quality of Diplomacy:
Another significant component of national power is the quality of diplomacy. It embraces all the power resources of a nation to bear in such a way as to make the most of them, rattling. The saber here, offering rewards there, bringing forth arguments at another point timing actions and concessions in such a way as to persuade one’s enemies and allies to act as one wishes them to act of all the elements that play a role in gaining national power, the most important, though unstable and intangible, is the quality of diplomacy.
All other elements are like raw materials, and the state having them may be a potentially great power. However, it becomes an actual power when it follows an effective foreign policy towards this end through diplomacy. According to Morgenthau, “The conduct of a nation’s foreign affairs by its diplomats is for national power in peace what military strategy and tactics by its military leaders are for national power in war”15
If morale is the soul of national power, then diplomacy is its brain.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, France and Britain were proud of their diplomatic skill. It was the art of diplomacy that gave Britain the relative consistency of power from Henry VIII to the First World War. During the inter-war period, the USA was politically powerful but played an insignificant part in world politics as her diplomacy was weak.
After the Second World War, the US pursued a great power policy, shouldered commensurate economic, military, and diplomatic responsibilities, and transformed the potential into actual. There are also some diplomats in third world countries who have earned a name for their negotiating ability.
New factors such as the rapid increase in the means of transport and communication, increasing appreciation of the importance of public opinion, and the practice of Open diplomacy have greatly affected the character of diplomacy and contributed towards its decline.
But it is not fully correct. Though it may have suffered a few setbacks yet high quality of diplomacy still plays an indispensable role in a nation’s power. It is the only peaceful alternative to protect and accomplish national interests. On the last one must remember that high-quality diplomacy must also possess the element of consistency.
Social and Ideological Elements:
The social environment of a nation influences its power making. These elements are concerned with society’s ideals, ideas, attitudes, sentiments, slogans, morale, character, social traditions, and customs. All these are parts of the social system and structure of a nation. These are explained as below:
Ideology has remained a vital aspect of a nation’s power, especially in the twentieth century. An ideology is a body of ideas and beliefs concerning certain values and usually suggesting a certain political and economic order to accomplish these values. Richard Snyder and Hubert Wilson present a comprehensive definition of ideology.
In their own words, it is a cluster of ideas about life, society, or government, which originate in most cases as consciously advocated or dogmatically asserted social, political, or religious slogans or battle cries, which become the characteristic beliefs or dogmas of a particular group, party or nationality 16
Ideologies can be of different types-social, political, economic, religious, racial, and so on.
Morgenthau has given three main types :
- Ideologies of the status quo.
- The ideology of imperialism.
- Ambiguous ideologies (e.g: self-determination).
Other important ideologies of the twentieth century are liberalism, constitutionalism, Nazism, fascism, communism, socialism, nationalism, internationalism, etc.
Experience reveals that ideologies have provided a tremendous philosophical, psychological, and moral power for the policies and programs mes of men in the past. They have gradually been a guiding force for policy goals and activities of nations. Often nations have utilized ideologies as a source of moral justification for the pursuit of their policy goals. As an element of national power, these can boost people’s morale.
If it is followed by a majority of citizens or is indoctrinated into them, an ideology can act as a powerful factor making for unity and power. It can be used either to reconcile man to his conditions or to stimulate him to improve them. Ideology is thus a significant element strengthening the power-base of a state as also its foreign policy.
Ideologies have their own merits as well as demerits. They give strength to worthy causes, unity to the nation, and a sense of common interest to peoples in many parts of the world. The objective of human brotherhood and world peace can be realized by ideological motivation. 17
On the other hand, experience demonstrates a good part of the evils and miseries characterizing international relations is brought into existence by ideologies as initiators and determinants of a nation’s policies and efforts. Ideologies sometimes act as part of national egos and lead various nations into confrontation and wars. Different nations pursuing conflicting ideologies have tended to add to the modern world’s tensions, particularly before and after the Second World War. The task of peace-makers is generally made difficult by the opposing ideologies.
The impact of ideology on international relations is fastly diminishing, especially after the advent of the Gorbachevian phenomenon and the subsequent collapse of communism in the Soviet Union and East Europe. It belongs to the past as the fire of ideology once burning in Europe seems to have been extinguished as new ideas and feelings are being accepted to suit the changing times.
Ideology, in fact, is not the end for which the states resort to war, instead of an instrument for concealing the interests of the states. It is either used to attract people and gain their support or convince them of the state’s ideals’ superiority. In this sense, it is still relevant as an element of national power.
2. National Morale:
National Morale and national character are the historical, psychological, sociological element of national power. These are unstable, intangible, and cannot be measured easily. Lerche and Said used this term “to describe the mass state of mind in action, with particular reference to the extent to which the society feels committed to the government’s policy “18
In Morgenthau’s words, “National morale is the degree of determination with which a nation supports the foreign policies of its government in peace or war. It permeates all activities of a nation, its agricultural and industrial production, and its military establishment and diplomatic service.
In the form of public opinion, it provides an intangible factor without whose support no government, democratic or autocratic, can pursue its policies with full effectiveness if it can pursue them at all.”19
Palmer and Perkins define it as a thing of the spirit made up of loyalty, courage, faith, and the impulse to preserve personality and dignity. It can make men and women work harder, sacrifice more, and fight harder.20
Mahendra Kumar observes that willingness to sacrifice is the core of the national morale of the armed forces and the people at large. In his own words, the total of men’s individual qualities in a nation in the form of their willingness to put the nation’s welfare above their own personal welfare.21
High national morale or willingness to sacrifice contributes to building national power in peacetime, in a national crisis, and wars. It directly impacts the vigor and human dynamics with which government mobilizes and utilizes the other tangible elements of power.
National morale is significantly influenced by national character and the cultural background of the individuals. For instance, the German character can be said to impart efficiency and thoroughness to German soldiers’ morale. The Russian character provided doggedness and endurance to Russian soldiers’ morale, while the American character gave inventiveness and resourcefulness to the morale of American soldiers. An advanced nation’s morale is likely to be higher than the morale of a background nation due to the difference in cultural background.
National morale is never permanent and static. It changes with time and conditions. Sometimes, there comes the point when it breaks. Generation and maintenance of morale often depend upon technological advances, the development of the means of transport and communication, the flow of information and ideas, the exposure of the people to them, etc. It can also be stimulated by the techniques of propaganda and the qualities of leadership.
3. National Character:
National character is the trait of people towards all walks of national life. It is the outcome of the evolutionary process and the previous generations’ attitude, which is transmitted to the next generations. Each nation has a distinct character. It is also a product of a specific social environment.
National character determines people’s attitude to international trends and events and the resolution with which they will back up foreign policy in peace or war. The national character consists of the intellectual and moral qualities of the people who leave their imprint on a nation’s foreign policy.
Nicolson rightly observed national policy is colored and even governed by national character, and I would say that unless we understand that character, we cannot understand the policy.22
Thus, the people of a nation have some common traits and features with which the sociologists generally identify them. As we generally perceive Chinese in terms of cosmic unchangeability, of the Germans in terms of thoroughness and discipline of the Russians in terms of relentless persistence and tenacity, of the English in terms of undogmatic common sense of the Americans in terms of pragmatism and informality, of all Latins in terms of esthetic instinct and volatility and the Indians in terms of detachment on the verge of indifference.
The relationship between national morale and character is positive e but, at the same time, ambiguous. Jointly, both demonstrate the national will to further the national cause in a particular situation or time. As an element of national power, national character is broader than morale. Their relationship can be summed up in Palmer and Perkins’s words: National character may be thought of as climate, morale as the weather.23
4. Social System and Cohesiveness:
This social element is also unstable, as well as intangible. If society is integrated and coordinated, it will be capable of a unified effort to consolidate its power further. On the other hand, if it is disintegrated and suffers from internal dissensions, it will dilute its power and prestige.
Lerche rightly observes:
“that social system is best for power purposes which is the most homogeneous and united behind the political leadership of the country and which embodies the minimum amount of stress and strain.”24
A society stricken with communal tension, rural-urban tension, or dissatisfied minorities will have low morale and will adversely affect the nation’s power status. Many scholars believe that internally unified nations are strong, whereas divided ones are weak.
The reasons for disunity or unity can vary from ethnic, linguistic, racial, and religious diversity all the way to economic, political, ideological, and foreign-inspired divisions. Some plausible indicators of disunity are terrorism, several political prisoners, riots, demonstrations, paralyzing strikes, media censorship, insurgency, and even civil war.25
The most recent example of this factor is the Soviet Union, a victim of internal tensions, disunity, and ethnic problems. All these factors have adversely affected its power position in the world. India, too has been riddled with communal tensions, terrorism, casteism, riots, strikes, violence for the last many years. That stood in its way to become a powerful nation.
Sometimes accidents and unforeseen events also put spoke in the wheel of power. For instance, “the sudden death of a great leader, an earthquake, a famine, an epidemic of a dread disease such as the plague, a misunderstanding or a breakdown in communication during a crisis, and many other unforeseen events may deeply affect the power relationship of nation-states.
Since accidents cannot be predicted in any other but aggregate statistical sense, they remain at the summit of the pyramid of intangibility.”26
African countries ravaged by drought and cyclone-prone Bangladesh cannot think of becoming powerful.
Most political scientists have stressed the internal factors discussed above, ignoring external elements completely. These external factors are in no way less significant than the internal ones in determining a nation’s power. Couloumbis and Wolfe,27
Lerche and Said,28
have discussed the same in their works.
1. Image and Reputation:
If a state has a favorable image, its voice would be heard at the international level. For example, India under Nehru had a good image, albeit with its backwardness and military weakness. It enjoyed a good prestige-owing to Gandhian heritage, the policy of non-alignment, and Nehru’s dynamic leadership. Both the super-powers tried to befriend it. Many third world countries sought guidance on important international issues. After Nehru, there was some setback to this image.
Similarly, the reputation of a state also matters. If some state has the reputation of being a good fighter, the rival would think hundred times before attacking it. Reputation acts as a deterrent and enables a state to achieve some power position. In various wars, Israel has subdued Arabs and won the reputation of a tough fighter. This reputation deters potential Arab invaders and is a strong diplomatic card for Israel vis-a-vis Arabs.
Couloumbis and Wolfe rightly say,
“Power, therefore, should be evaluated not only in terms of each country’s ability and willingness to use its capabilities when challenged but also in terms of its reputation for action in response to previous challenges”.29
2. Foreign Support and Dependency:
Another element that is not being touched upon by scholars is foreign support and dependency. This factor comprises international connections such as alliances, foreign economic and military aid, leasing or granting strategic bases to the great powers, and participation in a regional and universal international organization and action.
To overlook these aspects would leave us measuring Syria and Israel’s power, for example, without considering Soviet and American aid and commitments to these two countries. Too much support from outside render a country totally dependent.
When this happens, the sovereignty and strategic flexibility of the dependent nation-state vis-a~vis its supporter become seriously limited in this way; foreign support and dependency remain crucial, although intangible element.
3. International Strategic Position:
If the state apprehends great: and constant danger, it will naturally channelize its available power to defend its territory, leaving a limited role tor the world’s sin too. Any revision in a state’s assessment of the dangers it faces automatically affects its power in other spheres. An estimation that the threat has diminished enables the state for more free action elsewhere if the threat is colossal, adequate responsive action requires contraction of activity at other points.
Lerche and Said aptly remarked, ” familiarly and paradoxically, the very objectives a state selects for itself, and the way it interprets the situation in which it must operate, have a major influence on its capability to achieve those objectives and to function in the situation. A state’s international strategic position is to a large measure determined by itself a state is, to a great extent, the architect of its own capability.” 30
Intelligence in this context implies complete knowledge of the strength and weaknesses of external foes and friends. Different nations employ various secret agencies and spies to obtain this knowledge. Sherman Kent explains the idea is to produce “the kind of knowledge our states must possess regarding other states to assure itself that its cause will not suffer nor its undertakings fail because its statesmen and soldiers plan and act in ignorance.”31
This knowledge and information serve the purpose of power. Such information can be useful both in times of war and peace. In war, advanced information about the enemy’s strength and strategy greatly helps deal with the eventuality effectively.
During peacetime, prior knowledge about the other party’s plus and minus points enables a country to extract maximum benefit to itself on the bargaining table. Keeping in view the significance of this element, different nations have their own network of intelligence agencies and spies such as the USA’s CIA, USSR’s KGB, and India’s RAW.
Measurement Of National Power:
Notional Power cannot be measured or weighed physically in meters, liters, kilograms, tonnes, etc. No measuring tape or balancing scale, or the barometer has since been invented to measure one nation’s power vis~a-vis another.
The measurement problem lies both in the subjective limitations of the analysis and in the very characteristics of the elements themselves. The analyst’s subjectivity, values, and prejudices may distort the true picture of the national power.
Besides, the very nature of the elements is to make this measurement all the more difficult. Some of these elements are stable, while others are unstable. Some are tangible (e.g., Geography, population, natural resources, industrial capacity, military strength), whereas others are intangible (such as national) morale, national character, social cohesiveness, intelligence, reputation, etc.
It has been admitted by the noted scholars of international relations such as Morgenthau, Palmer, and Perkins, Hartmann, Organksld, etc., that national power cannot be measured precisely owing to reasons mentioned below.
Relativity of Power:
An evaluator may ignore the relativity of power by erecting one particular nation’s power into an absolute. France after 1919 and Germany after 1936 was considered as absolute power, but subsequent history established the falsity of this Opinion. Power is never absolute.
In international relations, power is relative and essentially relational as it cannot be measured in a vacuum. A state is more or less powerful relative to some other state. Palmer and Perkins elaborate, “Fifty divisions, three hundred war vessels, two thousand planes all these may represent overwhelming might against one opponent and miserable inadequacy against another.”32
Its relativity has been further increased by the development of nuclear energy and the emergence of the weak’s power. In the contemporary world of nuclear deterrence, the national power is to be assessed not in terms of the first attack’s capacity but in terms of surviving retaliatory strength. The weak’s power is linked with the emergence of new nations that restrict the dominant nature of power and makes it further relative.33
Changing Nature of Power:
Morgenthau points out that the second typical error impairing national power evaluation singles out a particular power factor or power relation, basing the estimate upon the assumption that this factor or relation is immune to change.34
While evaluating power, one must bear in mind the changing nature of power. One cannot take for granted the permanency of a certain factor that has played a decisive role in the past, thus neglecting the dynamic change. The Soviet Union was treated as inherently powerless between 1917 and 1943, but Stalingrad’s epic repudiated this version. Similarly, at the beginning of the First World War, Britain was the mistress of the sea, but at the close of the Second World War, she was reduced to a second-grade power, as the significance of sea war-fare had diminished.
Some geopoliticians have wrongly erected the element of geography into an absolute. Take the example of Heartland theory, which is now exploded. Thus for many reasons, a nation’s political and economic status and power may change basically over a period of time. The rise and fall of nations is a common phenomenon in history.
Single Factor Determinism:
The third typical error, according to Morgenthau, in measuring the national power is giving one single factor a decisive role to the disregard of all other factors. Sometimes, an evaluation is made based on geopolitics or nationalism, or militarism.35
One should avoid any single factor determinism. No one factor is absolute. One state may have excellent geographical features, and others may have a strong military but are lacking in other elements. If both these states’ assessment is based on a single factor, i.e., geography and military, this assessment will be proved wrong and erroneous.
Moreover, all factors are not of equal importance. In the Opinion of Organski, national morale, resources, and geography are comparatively less important than population, political structure, and economic productivity. Simple possession or rich resources is not a major element in the absence of a high economic productivity rate. India can be cited as an example of this.
Similarly, with the development of nuclear weapons and inventions of different means of delivery, geography’s importance has declined. Modernization of political Structure and industrialization can enhance power. By regular economic development, the government’s efficiency, and by joining political alliances, a nation can gain more power.
The Estimate and Reality of Power:
The gap between the estimate and the reality of power also makes measurement difficult. The possibility of underestimating or overestimating one’s power and that of the opponent is always there. It is correct that a nation’s power relies not merely on its genuine ability to influence other states’ behavior but also on the estimation of its ability as also on the estimation of its power as made by other nations.
For instance, during 1930, Italy was not so great as was generally estimated, and Germany’s French fear was based on overestimation. Thus, underestimating or overestimating one’s own self or others reveals a lack of an exact evaluation of power. Underestimating one’s own power and overestimating that of others result in peace and status quo policies. In contrast, overestimating one’s own power and underestimating that of others paves the way for war and change policies.
Actual and Potential Power:
While calculating power, an observer must be aware of the actual and potential power of the states. The state’s potential power is the possibility it possesses of developing into a powerful state based on natural resources, etc. Evaluation of potential power helps in chalking out long-term plans involving the commitment of power. The actual power is the power that a state really has. The measurement of this power is useful in forecasting short-term developments and in making immediate commitments of power.
If a state has adequate immediate power to press for an advantageous decision, it will do so before the rival can mobilize his greater potential superiority. Germany did this twice. But in 1917 and 1941, she miscalculated the swiftness with which the USA could arm herself. It is evident that a state with lesser potential but which keeps a larger part of it in readiness all the time may prove effective and be able to supply greater pressure in a given situation than a state with a larger potential but which it is reluctant or unable to utilize.
The organization and military elements are very significant in transforming potential power into actual power. Without proper organization and leadership, and military equipment, the national power may not develop and express itself in any positive manner.
The specificity of Power:
The problem of a proper evaluation of power is intimately linked with the credibility of power. A threat that is not credible has no meaning in the game of power. But the problem of the credibility of power is further linked with the specificity of power. That is to say, that no particular type of power can be such that it can be applied in any form and any condition.
Even the huge stock of nuclear weapons will be a meaningless deterrent if the rival thinks that these weapons will not be used, while less destructive weapons can be proved fearful for the opponent if it considers that those weapons will be used against it. If all the above errors are sought to be avoided assiduously, then national power cannot be measured exactly. At best, it remains a matter of conjecture.
Limitations On National Power:
Howsoever powerful a county may be and possess one of as many elements of power as possible, it ca of arbitrary and authoritative manner at int National power operates within certain Limitations. These act as restrictions on state action. The major limitations of national power are as follows:
Though many thinkers like Machiavelli and Hobbes deny international morality, yet many others accept the existence of international morality. Men profess to follow certain moral rules whether they act as individuals or as statesmen and seldom make any distinction, at least in principle, about the nature of these binding rules. But in reality, they do draw such distinction.
For example, when they Work as statesmen, they claim an exemption for certain acts on the ground of necessity, which they would never justify in their private capacity. Therefore, in fact, there exists a contradiction between moral command and the requirement of successful action.
Meaning. International morality or ethics is the combination of the standards, norms, and values that nation-states and international organizations think they should observe in their relations.
These norms or values may originate from desires and attitudes, from social customs and traditions the developments regularly influence them in the sphere of science and technology.
One of the most crucial and clearly understood items in this code is the obligation not to harm others or delict unnecessary suffering on other human beings except for some higher objective held, rightly or wrongly, to justify a derogation from this general obligation.37
Operation of International Morality:
Had the struggle for power taken the independent course, it would have converted the world into the Hobbesian state of war and might have been right. In practice, moral norms operate in the civilized world, and in their presence, power struggles cannot go unbridled.
To preserve society, in the words of Morgenthau, certain moral precepts have been put forward which the statesmen and diplomats ought to take to heart to make relations between nations more peaceful and less anarchic, such as the keeping of promises, trust, in other words, fair dealing, respect for international law, protection of minorities, repudiation of war as an instrument of national policy.38
Morgenthau further explains how international morality operates to protect human life and check the occurrence of war. First, international morality protects human life in peace by renouncing the assassination of the leaders of the opponent countries, the technique of giving poison, treachery, etc. Such policies may still be desirable and possible, but morally these are rebuked and difficult to execute.
“Moral limitations of the same kind protect in times of peace the lives not only of outstanding individuals but also of large groups, even of whole nations whose destruction would be both politically desirable and feasible.”39
Second, similar moral limitations Operate in times of war. They protect civilians and those combatants who are unable or unwilling to fight. Both statesmen and army leaders admit that, as only the armed forces participate in combat activities, it is undesirable to make the civilian population the major target of their attack If the army commanders isolate this moral principle of not attacking the civilian population unnecessarily or beyond reasonable limits and indulge in ruthless civilian killings, they have to face a condemnation at home and abroad.
Similarly, morality prohibits that those who were no longer engaged in actual warfare because of sickness, wounds, disability, or because they have become prisoners of war should not be harmed. Such a humanitarian approach towards the prisoners of war and disabled soldiers was developed during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in Europe. It culminated in adopting certain treaties in this respect by many states in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The Geneva Convention of 1864, 1906, 1929, and 1949 and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 laid down certain specific conditions regarding treating the sick and wounded soldiers by the other side. Third and final, there is a moral condemnation of war in the present century.
War as an instrument of foreign policy has been repudiated on moral grounds, and all nations are keen to avoid it as far as possible. The eschewing of war itself has become an aim of statecraft only in the last half-century. The two Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, the League of Nations of 1919, the Briand-Kellogg Pact of 1928, the League of Nations, and the United Nations in the present times all have the avoidance of war itself as their final goal.
After the Second World War, many powerful states avoided war even at the huge cost of their political and military advantage. The desire to eschew war outweighed all other considerations of national policy.
The attempts of all the great powers to confine the Korean War to the Korean peninsula and thus prevent it from developing into a third world war and the self-restraint practiced by all of them during many international crises (e.g., Cuba, Suez, Kuwait, etc.) since the end of Second World War are striking examples of a basic change in the attitude toward war.
Morgenthau sums up, “Thus, while the moral limitations upon killing in times of peace remain intact, the moral limitations upon killing in war have proved to be largely ineffective.”40
Moral precepts act as restraint Owing to the following reasons or sanctions as explained by Frankel. The first is found in the sanctions imposed for violating the internationally accepted moral standards of conduct, which is in social disapproval.
However powerful, all countries are sensitive to the dangers of losing the reputation and prestige of acting morally. All countries are expected to abide by the generally accepted standards of conduct and are fully aware of the disrepute arising if they are disobeyed.
Since all political actions come under public scrutiny and are nearly always morally evaluated, the moral principles frequently professed as a veil for selfish national policy assume a momentum of their own to avoid the unwelcome reputation of hypocrisy and duplicity, however insincere they may have been in their protestations, politicians usually find it more convenient to obey the professed norms than to violate them. In other words, domestic as well as world public opinion compel leaders to follow certain ethical standards in their international dealings.
The Second sanction behind restraint can be found in the moral sentiments and consciences of the statesmen or ruling elites themselves. In the nineteenth century, both Great Britain and the United States enjoyed an unequaled moral opportunity by being exceptionally secure; moreover, international moral rules closely approximated their domestic moral codes internalized by their statesmen.
These statesmen preferred to act morally rather than otherwise, unless, of course, a really vital national interest appeared to be at stake similarly. However, it can be said about politicians in other times and places to a lesser extent.
Finally, moral restraint operates much more effectively in the relations among friends and allies than among rivals and enemies. The principle of reciprocity can explain this. Good behavior, which is expected to be reciprocated, is good in moral terms and beneficial to all concerned.41
Thus international morality limits the use of power a country possesses to achieve the desired goals. States do not pursue certain ends and use certain means because of moral limitations. But as Frankel says, “Even an extreme idealist would not assert that moral restraints actually prevail over what states consider to be their vital interest.”42
World Public Opinion:
The nation’s policies or activities directed to pursue their objectives can be influenced, modified, or even halted under the pressure of world public opinion. No nation can generally dare to use the power at its disposal to achieve selfish ends in violation of the world public opinion. But as a concept, it is more elusive and lacks analytical precision.
World public opinion was considered to be the force behind the League of Nations. International law, the decision of the Permanent Court of International Justice, the Briand-Kellogg Pact, etc., were to be executed through world public opinion. The great weapon we rely upon is world public opinion, and if we are wrong about it, then the whole thing is wrong, 43
Declared Lord Robert Cecil in the House of Commons on July, 21,1919. Before the beginning of the Second World War, Cordell Hull, then American Secretary of State, said that “a public opinion the most potent of all peace forces is mo strongly developing throughout the world.44
The United Nations is an important instrument of the world public opinion and vice versa. The General Assembly of the United Nations is decorated to be the Open conscience of the world. “45
To understand world public opinion, we will first define the term public opinion. According to Bryce, “This term is commonly used to denote the aggregate of the views men held regarding matters that affect or interest the community. Thus understood, it is a congeries of all sorts of discrepant lotions, beliefs, fancies, prejudices, aspirations.”46
On the other hand, Lowell defines it by saying that, “Public opinion tot re worthy of the name, to be the proper motive force in democracy, must be really public. A majority is not enough, and humanity is not required. Still, the opinion must be such that, while the minority may not share it, they feel bound, by conviction and not by fear, to accept it. If democracy is complete, the submission of the minority must be given unstintingly.”47
In Morgenthau’s words, “World public opinion is obviously a public opinion that transcends national boundaries and that unites members of different nations in a consensus about artiest certain fundamental international issues. This consensus makes itself felt in spontaneous reactions throughout the world against whatever moves on the chessboard of international politics is disapproved by that consensus.”48
Whenever a state acts against humanity or does a wrong thing, humanity will react, regardless of national affiliations, and try to mend it through spontaneous sanctions upon the erring state. In this way, the international society will either compel it to abide by its standard or shut it out from society for its erring behavior.
Existence and Operation:
Whether world public opinion really exists and operates or not, there are two different views. One is negative, and emphatically denies its existence. The other positive one admits its existence and effectiveness. Notwithstanding world public opinion, it could not operate as a restraint in the following instances, according to the negative viewpoint supported by Morgenthau.
These instances are the Japanese aggression’s against China in the thirties, the German foreign policies since 1935, the Italian attack against Ethiopia in 1936, the Russian suppression of the Hungarian revolution in 1956, the Czechoslovakian revolution in 1968 and intervention in Afghanistan in 1980, China’s annexation of Tibet in 1959, Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait in 1990, etc.
Morgenthau has made mention of some developments which give rise to a myth regarding the existence of world public Opinion whereas, in fact, there is no such thing. First is the psychological unity of the world. Today, all human beings want to have security, liberty, freedom, peace, and order.
These are Some of the minimum set of standards, which all human beings seek. Morgenthau remarks, “Any violation Of the standards of this world public opinion, against and by whoever committed, would call forth spontaneous reactions on the part of humanity forgiven the hypothetical similarity of all conditions, all men would fear that what happens to one group might happen to any group.”49
But in actual life, these set standards have different meanings in different environments and countries.
Peace, liberty, justice, democracy, etc., are interpreted differently by different nations. Another appreciates an action condemned by one group as immoral and unjust like the opposite. Thus Morgenthau observes, “the contrast between the community of psychological traits and elemental aspirations, on the one hand, and the absence of shared experiences, universal moral convictions, and common political aspirations, on the other, far from providing evidence for the existence of a world public opinion, rather demonstrates its impossibility, as humanity is constituted in our age.”50
Second, in the modern age, the world’s technological unification has also created an impression of world public opinion, if it has not actually created it. A world public Opinion tends to develop because Of the extension of the radius and rapidity of communication by inventions in ocean, land and air transportation, and the press, postal service—telecommunication and satellite communication system.
Quincy Wright observes that animals are guided mainly by instinct, primitive man by custom, civilized man by conscience,e and modern man in the age of abundant communication by public opinion. With more and more international communication means between governments and between people, a world public opinion tends to develop and influence government actions.51
But Morgenthau points out that even if we lived in a world actually unified by modern technology with men, news, and ideas moving freely regardless of national boundaries, we would not have a world public opinion.52
The third is the barrier of nationalism and national bias. The particular nationalism molds and directs men’s minds, which infused their particular meanings into the good words of democracy, freedom, security, and peace, paint them with their particular color, and makes them symbols of their particular aspirations. In such a situation, how world public opinion can exist and operate effectively.
The same issue agitates the public mind in many countries, but public opinion formed about them in different countries is not the same. It is mainly due to the national bias of different peoples. For example, public opinion in various capitals on the Indo-Pak war in 1971 was not similar. The US and China supported Pakistan, whereas the USSR was with India.
But at times, on some burning issue, different countries of the world express a similar public opinion in one voice, albeit national bias and national conditioning. One such example was of the Vietnamese War when large-scale destruction of life and property by US involvement aroused strong public opinion against the US. Ultimately, she had to retreat from Vietnam. These two examples of the Indo-Pak war and the Vietnam war reveal the ambiguity and the complexity of world public opinion in certain circumstances as well as its uniformity in many other ”situations.”
If the issue is severe and the attitude of a particular power is clearly unjust and provocative, it does arouse world public opinion in favor of the victims and influences foreign policies in various capitals to some extent. Despite the national bias, it would be incorrect to deny its existence altogether like Morgenthau.
It has played a crucial role in shaping policies in the countries where the press and other mass media organs are free compared to those countries where they are government-controlled. After the introduction of Glasnost (openness) Soviet Union’s foreign policy has witnessed a notable change.
International morality and world public opinion have been discussed in detail as above. The other limitations on national power, such as international law, the balance of power, international organizations, and disarmament, are briefly touched upon.
International laws are rules that regulate the conduct of nations at the international level. Most nations endeavor to be known in the eyes of the world as law-abiding nations. In achieving this goal, they accept the obligations of limitation entailed by international law. If each nation uses its power in unlimited ways against its rivals, the world society will perish. There would be no peace or stability. It would be a perpetual state of war.
To avoid this, a code of conduct like international law is essential to limit national power. Strictly speaking, international law is not a true law as it suffers from many shortcomings such as the absence of a common law-making, law-enforcing, or law adjudicating body. Its execution is dependent upon the will and convenience of the states. The execution of these laws by consent or use of external force restricts the use of national power by any state.
The Balance of Power:
The balance of power implies containing power with power. Like checks and balances in domestic politics, in the Sphere of international politics, the power of one nation or a group of nations is used to prevent a particular nation from imposing its will upon others. When a state has a preponderance of power, it must be balanced or checked by other states’ combined power.
The balance of power’s common patterns is direct opposition to the other state to preserve the status quo. In the second one, two nations compete with each other to establish control over the third nation. The other common methods used to maintain the balance of power are divide and rule, compensation and acquisitions, armaments and intervention, alliances and counter alliances, and buffer state formation.
The coming into existence of international organizations like the League of Nations and the United Nations has also kept the states’ power within limits. At present, the member states are expected to act following the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. It is correct that the United Nations cannot intervene in any state’s internal affairs except when they pose a threat to peace. Still, it certainly acts as a check on the unfair and unlimited use of power by the states and is a limitation on power.
The UN Charter incorporates the theory of collective security, which also has a deterrent effect on the states’ power ambitions. Since its formation, the UN has done remarkable work not only in preserving peace but also in limiting the superpowers’ ambitions.
Disarmament efforts in and outside the UN have also restricted the national power. The steps towards disarmament have acquired much significance in our times. An effort has been made through several agreements, treaties, and conventions to control the use of nuclear and conventional weapons that have the potentialities to destroy the entire world. To some extent, this also helps in the reduction of power.
I. Hans J. Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Pace (Calcutta, 1973, 5th and. Indian ), pp. Ii-149.
2. AFK. Organski, World Politics (New York, 1958), p. 117.
3. EH. Carr, Twenty Years Crisis, 1919-1939 (London, 1949), p. 109.
4. Elements of National Power Mahendra Kumar, T (Agra, 1972. 2nd ed)
5. Norman D Palmer & Howard C. Perkins, International Relations The Commonalty in transition (Calcutta, 1970, 3rd and., Indian),
6. Charles O.Lerche jr: Abdul A sad, Concepts International POW New Dell 4, 1972, 2nd and, Indian), pp.67-68.
7. Theodore A Couloumbis James H. Wolfe, Introduction to International relations Power and justice (New Delhi, 1986, 3rd exit 2. ad Indian Reprint), pp 95-103.
8. Adi H . Doctor, International Relations An introduction/ Study (Delh: 1969), p p. 24-54.
9. Anarr Jaitly, International Politics Major Contemporary Trends, and Issues (New Delhi, 1984). p. 86.
10. Lerclce and 5, id, 1. 6, p.
11. Ibid., p. 70.
12. Supra n. 7, p . 99,
13. Rudder Dut and K.P.M. Sundaram, Indian Economy (New Delhi, 1977), p. 80.
14. Supra n. 7, p.101.
15. Supra n. 1, p. 141.
16. Richard C l. Snyder and H. Hubert Wilson, Roots of Behavior (New York, 1949), p. 511.
17. Palmer 2nd Perkins, n. 5, p. 75.
18. Supran . 6, p. 74.
19. Supran. 1. p. 135.
20. Safran. 5, p. 76.
21. Supra. n.4, p. 185.
22. Harold Nicolson, National Character and National Policy, excerpts in F .H. Hartmann, ed., Readings in International Relations (New York, 1952), p. 48.
23. Supra n. 5, p. 78.
24. Charles o. Lerche, Principles of International Politics (New York, 1956), p. 85.
25. Coulombs and Wolfe, n. 7, p. 102.
26. Ibid. p.103.
27. Supran. 7.
28. Supran. 6.
29. Supran. 7, 102-103.
30. Supran. 6, p. 75.
31. Sherman Kent, Strategic Intelligence for American World Policy (Princeton, 1949), p. 3.
32. Supra n. 5, p. 80.
33. Mahendra Kumar. n. 4, p. 192.
34. Supran. 1, p. 156.
35. Supran. 1. p. 158-64.
36. Supran. 2, p. 216.
37. Addi. H. Doctor 11. 3, p. 76.
38. Supran. 1, p. 230.
39. Ibid, p. 232.
40. Ibid., p. 241.
41. Joseph Frankel, International Politics: Conflict and harmony (London, 1969), pp. 186-33.
42.IBd, p. 187.
43. The Parliamentary Debates: Official Report. Fifth Series, V03. 1 1: House of Commons, 9. 992.
44. New York Times, April 18, 1939, p. 2.
45. Leland M. Goodrich and Edward Hambro, Charter of the United Nations (Boston, 1949), p. 151.
46. Bryce, Modern Democracies, Vol. 1, p. 173.
47. AL. Lowell, Public Opinion and Popular Government New York, 1914), p. 14-15.
48. Supran. 1, p. 258.
49. Ibid, p. 259
50. Ibid, p. 260.
51. Quoted by Narinder Mehta in Theory and Practice of International Politics (Jullundur, 1971, 2nd edn) p. 156.
52. Supran. I, p. 262.