Analysis of Man, the State and War

Analysis of Man, the State and War



Analysis of Man, the State and War

In his article Man, the State and War, Kenneth Waltz presents his argument on the causes of war. He discusses three images that are potentially responsible for the recurrence of war. He identifies man, the state and the state system. He notes that although it is possible to identify areas where the three images are responsible for the conflict experienced internationally, one cannot fully explain the causation of war by looking at one individual image. The images are interrelated and none offers an adequate explanation on its own. Following his depiction of war on the human nature, state structures, and the international anarchic system, it is possible to analyze his discussion from an individual, state, and system level analysis.

The misinformed nature, stupidity and aggression of man direct him to war against others. Any efforts to eliminate the chances of war will include enlightening men and uplifting them. Waltz notes that men are not solely led by pure reason but by their passion, and this leads to conflict. Reasons can help in ending or reducing the conflicts, as it moderates passion. However, reason becomes hard to achieve once people are led by passion. This is clear in the current situation where most wars are caused by religion. People are passionate about their beliefs and they derive pleasure in exercising their religion. It has become hard to reason with people who commit acts of terror, most of which have eventually led to modern wars, as they are often lead by their religious beliefs.

In analyzing man as the possible cause of war, Waltz distinguishes between the pessimist and the optimist. He asserts that wars will always be seen as natural occurrences as long as man remains as he is. Any attempt to end war will therefore result in changing the nature of man. The pessimist believes that there will always be war as man is evil in his nature. They consider man to be the source of all the evil that happens; hence, he is the cause of war. The pessimist believes that it is not possible to reform man’s evil nature. The way to ending war and achieving peace involves the formation of political theories and solutions. Although man’s nature does not change, the political institutions do, and this can be the way of ending wars and ensuring peace.

The optimists believe that man has a capacity to change, once he considers the consequences of the war. Man is a complex being and any attempt made to seek universal change to transforms his evil nature seems naïve at best. He has failed to implement any such changes that will remove any form of evil despite the experiences he has had of war, and the experiences that he has gone through over the years. People have diverse views for the causes of the Second World War. Those who decide to blame man for the events that led to the war would look at an individual or group of people for the action. Thus, one of the main people to blame for such actions would be Adolf Hitler. Over the years, many people trying to understand the causes of the Second World War have considered Hitler as the main cause. They would argue that he was an evil man, who was keen on destroying others for the sake of his own good. Evidence points to this as the formation of the Nazi and its operations led to the death of thousands of innocent people.

States are governed by different ideologies, and this determines the decisions they make and the actions they take. The internal structures of states and the domestic conflicts within them are possible causations of war. States do not always have clear objectives and directions. They have defects and weaknesses, and these are the possible causes of war. Waltz distinguishes between the good and bad states. Good states do not have defects, and have therefore managed to maintain peace. Bad states are flawed and they have defects. Waltz believes that having internal reforms will lead to a reduction of the international conflict. States are guided by different ideologies. Some of them adopt liberal views while others are realists. Some of the nineteenth century ideologists believed that democracies were peaceful. Therefore, any measures to achieve peace would involve turning authoritarian regimes into democracies.

Waltz opposes the interventionists’ ideas of using force in such situations, as this would be going against peace while promoting war. Although democracies are seen as the model for peace, nations that advocate for this level of thought have gone ahead and they have used interventionist principles. They have taken the initiative of ending non-democracies, especially communism, as a way of ensuring that nations become democracies. They have ended up causing war instead of spreading the peace they support. If the non-democracies were living in peace, then there is no reason to use war as a way of changing people’s ideologies.

America used interventionist strategies to promote the idea of democracy. They wanted to prevent the spread of communism, especially in the Asian nations. They ended up joining wars and fighting against different groups. They did not promote the peace that they preached. Those who consider the state as the main cause for war would blame German nationalism and ideals for the Second World War. The German political system at the time was totalitarian and the Nazi party supported and promoted anti-Semitism. Hitler did not work alone. He depended on the cooperation of the German people who shared the same ideals as he did. Advocates of the state structures as causation for war consider their reforms as the solution to the problem. Changing the bad states to good ones will lead to an end to war.  

An anarchic system lacks a centralized authority on which to guide its decision. Waltz posits that this is the main cause of war. The possibility of war occurs whenever states begin competing for power. Every state lives according to its own rules and ideals, and they may conflict with those of the other states. There is no sense of accountability in the anarchic system; hence, there is no one to provide the necessary directions. This makes war possible at all fronts.  The international system lacks the necessary measures to prevent states from attacking each other. This differs from the state system, whereby the people are controlled by the leadership.

In the international system, the nations are sovereign and each of them cares for its own interests. Conflicts are bound to occur wherever each sovereign state is led by its own desires and ambitions. Most of them seek to gain favorable outcomes whenever there is a conflict of interest. Hence, they will depend on the resources that they have. Therefore, nations with the most resources tend to get the most advantage. Individual states are concerned about their welfare, and they are willing to do anything to protect their security. Therefore, the use of military force becomes necessary as a way of enhancing security. This is irrespective of whether particular states emphasize and advocate for peace. They have to be in a position to defend themselves against those who do not share the same ideals of peace.

Individuals and states are responsible for the immediate and efficient causes of war. The individual and state images are responsible for determining the forces that shape the world politics. The international anarchic system is responsible for the permissive cause of interstate wars. Understanding the international systems makes it possible to assess the importance of the individual and state systems. It is not possible to have an understanding of the causation of war, without relating the three images and determining how they interact with each other.

Waltz presents a comprehensive view on why wars occur. He highlights three arguments that try to explain this. Man, state structures, and the international system are all responsible for the happenings of war. Viewing any war in history presents a complex picture and it is not possible to determine the exact cause of the war. Many theories have been put forward concerning the causes of the Second World War. While some people blame Hitler, others blame the Germans pride and nationalism, which helped to explain the support he got from the people. Still, these reasons cannot explain why other far off nations were involved in the war. The international system would help to explain this, as many nations did not want German control. They promoted democracy, as they believed that it was the best approach to take. It is clear that the nations did not want to be controlled by a totalitarian nation. They wanted their own freedom and democracy and they were willing to use the resources they had to achieve it.


waltz, n. k. (1959). Man, the state and war: a theoretical analysis. retrieved from

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