Goals of states
There are three main goals that states strive towards: security, power, and prosperity.
For a state, security involves securing its territory and preventing its encroachment. This
also helps to ensure state sovereignty. (see
There are two ways in which a state might be concerned with power. For one, states
seeks to preserve their power; this might be accomplished, for instance, by laying down
rules to govern the use of violence within its territory. However, states might also want
to expand their power in some way. Greater economic power, for instance, could
contribute to security, because it provides the means of acquiring more advanced
This is not to say that it is disadvantageous to be a less powerful state, since their actions
are less likely to be scrutinised. They could also manipulate stronger states into helping
them meet their own needs, as Laos has done with Vietnam and China.
The third goal, prosperity, will enable a state to improve its citizens' standard of living. It
is true that material wealth might not be sufficient to ensure happiness. However, as with
greater economic power, it could provide the means to acquiring other ends.
The goals of states are important to international relations because it demonstrates how
states have similar aims. This could give rise to tension, as with the security dilemma, or
to greater stability, as when states engage in collective security.
For a state, security involves securing its territory and preventing is encroachment.
Security is important in international relations because of the anarchical international
system. Without a central authority, every state is entitled to govern its territory, but is
simultaneously responsible for its own security. This gives rise to the security dilemma,
where states worry about (1) how to interpret the behaviour of other states, and (2) how
other states view their behaviour, since defensive behaviour is potentially offensive.
Security is one of a state's three goals, the other two being power and prosperity.
Arguably, though, both power and prosperity can also serve as means to bolster a state's
The security dilemma arises from a state's difficulty in deciding how o defend itself. The
state has to ensure:
It does not appear too weak. While this means it does not pose a threat to other
countries, it is also dangerous to appear as an easy military target.
It does not appear too strong, since this might antagonise other states, inciting them
to attack peremptorily
The security dilemma is a result of the decentralisation of power in the international
system. While every state possess the independence to act as it pleases, the same is true
for other states, so the flip side of this independence is that states live under an
anarchical self-help system where they are fully responsible for their own survival. This
might encourage states to adopt a pessimistic view of inter-state relations, where