Political Theories of the Causes of War

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Discuss one cause of war for each level of analysis (structural-systemic, state, and individual).

From time immemorial human beings have sought to find a logical way to explain the causes of the tragedy of war. Political theorists have provided researchers with an important tool—the levels of analysis. Attributed to Waltz, the levels of analysis are an analytical tool to simplify and more thoroughly understand the workings of the causes of war. The levels are: structural systemic, state, and the individual, each offering a unique theoretical insight into the causes of war. The structural-systemic approach offers a very broad, “bird’s eye” approach of analysis of the causes of war. Waltz argued that the individual image reduces the causes of war to an unreasonable measure, and that anarchy explains the causes of war in the international system. The anarchical state of affairs causes states to be unsure of intentions. In the midst of this, states are constantly battling to shout intentions and read intentions among a cacophony of messages. In this forum acquiring weapons is the most sensible course of action, and as Schelling emphasizes, the nuclear option allows for the “diplomacy of violence.” The mere threat of force is a poignant example of the effects of anarchy, and state attempts to balance power. The structural-systemic approach posits that wars are usually the result of imbalances and rapid changes of power. The Democratic Peace Theory explains that democracies are less likely to fight one another since democratic states have a norm of compromise for negotiation. Democratic states are transparent and stable, and civilians direct military, helping to solidify this stability. Democratic states have system provided checks and balances to avoid a rush to war since constituents will hold politicians accountable. However, criticism remains as this theory leads one to the conclusion that democratic states would provide us with the absence of...
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