Realism is a political ideology that is based upon the role of the state, national interest and power (Bell). Realism was at its peak during the second world war which led to disastrous human and economic losses. To ensure that this ideology of international relations doesn’t repeat the horrific results of the past, the United Nations (UN) was created, which aimed to solve the disputes between nation-states through increased dialogue and diplomacy and ensure that all the countries in the world behave rationally by following the international law i.e. the U.N. Charter. However, since the beginning of the 21st century, realism is gradually raising its ugly head again and with the development of sophisticated conventional and nuclear weapons, it is being feared that the world is bracing yet again for colossal human tragedy.

            The beginning of the current century was marked by the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The invasion of Afghanistan commenced on 7th October 2001, when the U.S. accused the then Taliban government of Mullah Mohammad Omer of aiding the 9/11 attacks (Witte). The Bush administration, believing in the U.S. military might arrogantly believe that this war will result in an easy U.S. victory and the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will be subsequently eliminated. However, what followed was completely unexpected and horrific, both for the U.S. and the South Asian region. The U.S. military which believed to get a quick victory was bogged down in a long guerilla war in the harsh mountainous terrain of Afghanistan. The U.S. military lost 2500 soldiers, 2600 contractors and the U.S. economy suffered a huge loss of $2.3 trillion (Beales, 2021). The neighbouring Pakistan, which was the major non-NATO ally of the U.S. during this war, suffered huge losses as well. Pakistan lost 6500 military losses, 70,000 civilian deaths and economic loss worth $150 billion (Ahmed, 2021). Not to mention, the host country Afghanistan, which had to bear the brunt of the invasion is now in ruins and the U.S., after being militarily defeated left Afghanistan 0n 15th August 2021 with the Taliban returning to power.

            The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan of Iraq started in 2003, with the U.S. invasion accusing the Saddam Hussein-led Baathist regime of Iraq of possessing weapons of mass destruction. The U.S., confident of its military might invaded and toppled Saddam’s government. But what followed was a bloody insurgency that led to the development of Iran-backed Shia militias and the conflict between them and the U.S. has so far resulted in the loss of 350,000 people, both military and civilian.

            The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia is another example of rising realism in the 21st century. The war between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted in the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh, and it ended in an Azerbaijani victory after 44 days of brutal conflict. The war resulted in Azerbaijan gaining the disputed territory and the loss of 7,000 military lives on both sides. Unlike the above two cases, the war ended in a conclusive way, but the eruption of war is a testament to the fact that even the small er countries are now looking to use power and military strength to achieve their geopolitical objectives rather than relying on dialogue and constructive diplomacy.

            The latest example of rising realism is the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict. Although the Russian military has gained substantial military gains, it has not been able to completely subdue the Ukrainian resistance. However, it is now clear that the aim of the Russian military was not to gain territory but to inflict serious losses on Ukraine to ensure that it doesn’t possess a military threat to Russia. However, the economic side effects of this conflict can be felt globally as this conflict has led to a shortage of food and energy supplies globally and this has resulted in skyrocketing global inflation.

            Similarly, the aggressive military posture of China toward Taiwan and India is also a signal of rising realism as China, whose diplomacy is known to be passive and economic now has also started to adopt an aggressive military approach to recover what it calls its province Taiwan and South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh of India).

            Conflict is in human nature and it is naïve to believe that anything is going to stop the nation-states from pursuing conflict-based-aggressive policies to achieve their aims. But this realist approach can be minimized if the international law is implemented equally on all nations states in true letter and spirit and the Global North countries make themselves cognizant of the ground realities of the other countries rather than using brute force to implement their own point of views. Despite all its military might, the U.S. failed to fulfil its objectives due to its lack of respect and knowledge of the local dynamics. Hence, it is necessary that the Western countries should stop pursuing war as a solution to all the problems and the U.N. should implement its laws on merit rather than geopolitics to ensure that world peace is not disturbed.


  1. Realism, Duncan Bell,
  2. Afghanistan War 2001-14, Griff Witte,
  3. Economic case for U.S. Afghanistan exit is clear, Richard Beales, August 17, 2021,and%20nearly%20250%2C000%20lives%20altogether.
  4. ‘War on terror’ has cost Pakistan more than $150bn in losses since 9/11, officials say, KHURSHID AHMED, September 12, 2021