What limited to, to Iran. Regarding military power,

What makes a state powerful

the centuries, after the establishment of the notion of the state (which is
defined after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648) there have been several factors
determining the power of each state in correlation with the others.  In this essay, I shall examine three of them and
refer to examples which validate each case. In specific, the factors which,
according to my research and judgement, make a state powerful are religion,
military power and the economy. For the first case, I shall refer to the
Vatican and theocratic states such as but not limited to, to Iran. Regarding
military power, I will examine the cases of World War II and specifically the
battle of Stalingrad and the USSR’s victory over the Axis power and several
military interventions. On the economy, Naomi Klein’s approach on her book “The
Shock Doctrine) explains how a state (and especially the US) can expand its
power by establishing neoliberal policies to unstable states after a war, a
political crisis or a natural disaster. Moreover, I shall examine the case of
USA’s imposition of sanctions to Venezuela and the power which enforces on a
political and economic level.  What is
more, I shall analyze how two or more factors may be interconnected or even
interdependent to an extent that the one presupposes the other.

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Religious power

power has been dominant in the conduct of politics in terms of forming the
norms and culture of a state. In specific, by expressing a certain ideology
which defines the codes of conduct and shapes the ethics of a society, it is
consequential that the political life of a state is highly influences.
Religion, functioning as a cultural mechanism in power distribution,
consequently dominates the political expression of people, parties and states in
a way that it determines to significant extent political situations (Lease,
1994). It is a widely held view that religion affects politics and subsequently
shapes the actions of a state, which may determine its power to, or over other
states due to its coercive essence. In other words, religion persuades people
in supporting political ideologies, measures and laws in a way that the
political culture of a state concludes to acquisition or loss of power in the
international arena and moreover expand its influence in other states resulting
to a political control over them.

A case to
examine is the Vatican which is the oldest state in European history, stemming
its existence centuries ago. Considering the influence of the Vatican from the
Holy Inquisitions up until its observer seat in the United Nations which has
contributed to the overall policy-making processes, the Vatican, despite its
negligible in number population has managed to determine the cultural conduct
of other states, redefine borders, determine the European social inequalities
and legitimize political actions and obedience to authority while sustaining
its independency and continuing to highly influence other states (Shelledy,

influential factor affecting the power of a state is theocracy. For example,
the Iranian Revolution in 1979 deeply secularized the Iranian society. Specifically,
the Khomeini government, excluding the left-wing sections that participated in
the revolution, abandoned the Family Act (which protected women’s rights) and
enforced a strict and deeply religious code of conduct to the people and
especially women. Up until today, Shiite Iran has managed to legitimize its
political actions according to its theocratic essence and further (allegedly or
not) influence other Shiite parties or groups among the Middle East promoting
its interests (Kazemipur, A. Razerai, A. 2003).


Military power

significant factor to a state’s power is its military strength. Specifically,
military power can firstly ensure internal stability within a state and its
harmony with other institutions which is necessary for the overall flourishment
of a state. Secondly, a significant military strength is presupposed in order
to empower within the international arena and dominate other states. Moreover,
through the militarization of the society and the existence of a powerful (and
intimidating for the Cold War era) arsenal, military power may serve and fulfil
political purposes on a global scale. In other words, military power is
necessary both for sustaining and developing a state’s internal and
international power. (Paret, P. 1989)

operations against other states (without a highly significant purpose) may be a
means of demonstrating a state’s power through its military strength. For
instance, the Falkland Wars in 1982, when Margaret Thatcher deployed troops in
Argentina under the accusation that the Falkland Islands (which are part of the
commonwealth) are unjustifiably occupied by Argentina, many considered the UK’s
military operation excessively serious, fact that caused commentary on how
Thatcher wanted to demonstrate her power and revive the national sentiment among
people to compensate her strict financial policies. (Klein, 2008) Another
example is the US invasion in Grenada in 1983, where the Reagan administration
intervened with US military because it opposed Maurice Bishop’s socialist
policy (Zunes, 1983). Moreover, the Soviet Union’s intervention in Hungary in
1956 and in Prague in 1968 reveal the state’s need to demonstrate its power and
repress potential enemies to sustain it.

Yet it is
also through wars that state may demonstrate and gain power; the idea of a
potential victory promises state power over others. The winner of the war not
only gains prestige internationally but ”sets” the penalty for the losers.
For instance, the battle of Stalingrad, even though the losses were devastating
for both parties, the USSR gained ideological power of the soviets over Nazism
and fascism (Roberts, G. 2006). It is also when a state incites internal
movements in another state that can lead in ensuring its interests and make it
powerful within another state by having leaders loyal to the external party.
For example, the US’s involvement to the Guatemalan coup d’etat and the
overthrow of the socialist government headed by Jacobo Árbenz, was aiming at
the ideological victory of the US over communism and the protection of the
United Fruit Company’s interests in the region. (Fraser, A. 2005)

Economic power

a state can be powerful due to its strong economy which allows it to tackle
internal issues more efficiently and ensure its people’s flourishment but also
make other states dependent on it in a way that the economically powerful state
can control and pressure the dependent ones. Especially after the second half
of the 20th century, economically powerful states, and especially
the US, have managed to dominate over states that face a political crisis or
natural disaster in the form of aid or post-conflict economic sustainability
and development of policies that actually benefit the powerful state than support
the weak one. A case in point is the US’s involvement in the 1973 Chilean coup
d’état which overthrew S. Allende and its further consultation on neoliberal
economic policies suggested by Milton Friedman to the illegitimate Pinochet
government which aimed at the strengthening of the US’s economic and
ideological scopes in the region. (Klein, N. 2008)

It is also
through imposing sanctions that states can control and pressure economically
other states to an extent that it may cause internal confusion and unrest.
Especially when a state is dependent on another state’s trade and their
economic relations are of vital importance for it, the imposition of sanctions
may be destructive for the state measure. A case in point is the US sanctions
imposed on Venezuelan officials in the spectrum of being a national threat for
the US.  This has caused economic
problems in the Venezuelan state and an overall unrest between the government
and its supporters and social groups opposing Nicolas Maduro. (Jeff M., Roberta
R., 2015)

Where the three factors meet

it should be noted that in most cases the aforementioned factors are
interconnected and interdependent. It is impossible for a state to have a
strong military power without having a significantly prosperous economy because
military expenditures, especially during the cold war and the post-cold war era
demand a major part of a state’s budget. For instance, Germany economy was
devastated after the treaty of Versailles, and under the despair and difficult
conditions due to the declining economy, Hitler’s populist approach misguided
the people into Nazism and an economic program which developed the German
economy in the scope of sustaining an intimidating arsenal and military force
which later were used for the World War II (Overy, J.R., 1994).  Moreover, it is the need to sustain a state’s
strong economy that may demand the use of military forces to geographically and
subsequently politically expand in other states in order to exploit their
natural resources and profit in their expense. This has been the case for the
African continent (the scramble of Africa) and some Asian and Latin American regions
for centuries due to the colonial powers (e.g. Dutch colonialism in Indonesia,
Britain’s dominance in India, Belgium in Democratic Republic of Congo) whereas
the colonial states dominated over the indigenous people, exploited their
natural resources and subordinated them to forced labor in the scope of their
economic development and cultural expansion. This is the point where religion
meets colonialism, since many African and Latin American states adopted the
religion of their colonizers, meaning that they were admitted to their cultural
beliefs and behavior to an extend that they embraced new religions. In the DR
Congo the 50% of the people are Roman Catholics (C.I.A. World Factbook) since
they were highly influenced by the Belgian Colonialism. This allowed to a
significant extent the Belgian colonial powers to sustain their presence in the
country since they were more homogenized with the indigenous people and could
more easily exploit their land and labor force for their benefit.

It is
noteworthy that when all three factors meet in one state (strong economy,
military strength and close relations with religion) the outcome is radical.
More analytically, when a state develops a strong economy or have sufficient
funds for at least a strong military power and arsenal, then it is a
significantly intimidating force in the international arena. If the state has
close ties with religion under such circumstances, it may connect the people
under religious notions and more easily succeed unanimity. For instance, the
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, having as a scope to establish a
radically theocratic state in the Middle East has recruited aspiring of the
ISIL state citizens all across the world and is an international concern for
all the rest major states and organizations (e.g. UN). Holding a strong
military and having the economic funds from oil extortion, trafficking and
alleged support from other Muslim states, ISIL is one of the most intimidating
states (not diplomatically recognized) currently in the world.

To my
opinion consequently, the most significant and
necessary factor that determines the power of a state is the economy. In
specific, if the economy is strong, then the state has the capacity to sustain
a dynamic military and be a considerable power within the international
arena.  In other words, a state cannot
maintain or develop its power if it does not have a strong economy. In
contrast, religion can contribute in a state’s power, nevertheless, it cannot
easily be the major factor contributing to a state’s international development
unless it is combined with an economic prosperity. 


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