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When reading the book “Man, the State and War” by Kenneth Waltz, the main driving thesis behind the book immediately presents itself in the form of a question which is: “what is war?”. Waltz answers this question by postulating the the origin of war comes from “within man, the inherent structure of separate states and due to the very state system itself” (Waltz, 2001).
He refers to the aforementioned causes of war as “images of international relations” and views them from either a singular or collective perspective from which he ascertains how each “image” interacts with the other which ends up resulting in the occurrence of war.
Waltz claims that it is this interaction between the various “images” which is the main cause of war due to variances in methods of thought, thinking, relations and other variables which create either positive or negative effects. It is at this point that Waltz attempts to analyze whether it is possible to create a world that is devoid of war or if war itself is an inherent aspect of mankind which will never truly go away (Waltz, 2001).
Upon further reading it can be seen that the ideas of Waltz are heavily influenced by the ideas of realism and neo-realism wherein he states that the anarchic international system combined with self interested states (which is one of the claims of realism) actually prevents the creation of a peaceful global environment due to factors related to competition and mutual distrust.
In the end Waltz states that the only method of resolving the current dilemma of war is if a single world government was to be created which addresses the individual concerns of each state. Unfortunately such a situation requires each state to give up their much vaunted “sovereignty” which would be highly unlikely resulting in peace being applicable in theory however being unattainable in practice (Waltz, 2001).
Examination of the Veracity of the Sources Utilized
When going through the entirety of the text it can be seen that Waltz synthesized the views of Hobbes, Mills, Rosseau, Kant, Spinoza, Kant, Smith and a variety of other known experts in the field of international relations in order to formulate the arguments present within his book.
The sheer amount of views and in-text lifting from other authors lends the work a certain degree of veracity in terms of the accuracy of the arguments and how they conform to current methods of thinking regarding the current state of conflict within international relations and its origins. As such, in terms of its use of sources I find that there are no problems whatsoever.
Critique of the Text
The main strength of the work of Walsh comes from its use of prolific body of historical knowledge and thoughts from various experts in international relations tht formed the foundation of his work. Yet, despite this abundance of literature it must be noted that Waltz fails to “think out of the box” so to speak when it comes to examining the causes of war and instead single mindedly focuses on the “images of international relations” that he had brought up at the start of the text as the main causes of war.
There are other factors that he neglected to take into consideration such as religion (which was why the historic crusades were started and one of the contributing factors behind the ongoing conflict between Israel and several Arab states), ethnicities (as seen in the current ethnic conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims which has led to various uprisings in the Middle East), economic factors (as seen in the case between the U.S. and Japan when the U.S. cut of supplies of much needed resources to Japan which sparked the bombing of Pearl Harbor and brought the U.S. into the Pacific theater), historic alliances (seen in the case of World War 1 wherein the balance of power system and historic alliances in effect brought numerous nations into the war) (Vassalo, 2003).
Lastly, the fight for resources has been an ongoing theme within human history which Walsh neglected to elaborate on yet has been growing in relevancy due to factors related to growing population rates, global warming and an assortment of other factors which has further exacerbated this growing point of contention (Betts, 1999).
Furthermore it must be noted that Walsh had a habit of framing the motivation of man in relatively “black and white nature” (i.e. good or evil) which is an over implication of how people thinking and act. While the book itself is great basis from which one can learn about the origins and causes of war, it focuses too much on the various arguments of historical thinkers without sufficiently examining other factors which influence the start of wars.
Overall, it can be stated that the work of Waltz is a great attempt at explaining the origin of war yet, based on the critique of the text, it can be seen that the concept of war is too broad to be defined within the parameters defined by Walsh and constitute far more factors than what was elaborated on.
Betts, R. K. 1999. Must War Find a Way?. International Security, 24(2), 166-198.
Vassalo, A. W. 2003. Man, the state and war: A Theoretical Analysis (Book). Military Review, 83(1), 68.
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Waltz, K. 2001. Man, the state, and war: A theoretical analysis. (pp. 1-284). New York: Columbia Press.