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Complete Theory of the Origins of War

Wars refer to armed confrontations that occur between conflicting countries or within a country when conflicts erupt between different groups of citizens. There exist various forms of war that are mainly determined by the involved parties. For example, a war that involves two countries is referred to as an inter-state war. Intra-state wars occur within the boundaries of a given state as evident in situations when different groups within a particular state are involved in conflicts. Additionally, there are revolutionary wars. Several factors lead to emergence of wars. This discussion is based on the theories of the origins of war that help in understanding issues that lead to war.

In most cases, international relations are analyzed through application of a realist theoretical approach. The theory of realism is divided into three main categories, namely the modern, neo-realism, and classical. Classical realism is based on the concept of states’ primacy besides making references to human characteristics like greed and egoism. It is based on the perception that human characteristics have significant influence on states’ character. When referring to Machiavelli, Kindsvatter has stated that politics does not give room for a demonstration of morality and ethical considerations (178). Politicians survive based on their ability to show wickedness whenever circumstances allow such acts. Classical realism is based on self-satisfaction and survival. The concepts depict the extent to which citizens’ personalities influence the nature of a given state. Kindsvatter suggests that the international system’s anarchy imposes insecurity and jealousy among countries (179). Contemporary proponents of realism argue that realist states that operate under anarchy are mainly interested in power maximization (Magagna, “Structural Theory and Institutional Theory” 12). The nature of states that is characterized by the kind of leadership and the characteristics of citizens motivates prevalence of anarchy in international system, hence forming the basis upon which the causes of war can be understood.  

It is a common belief among realists that involvement in war is an act over which states have control. They argue that wars depict a political activity in progress. As such, most states tend to use war as a viable political weapon in situations when they perceive war as the most reliable means by which they can achieve their interest and domination (Magagna “Politics and Warfare” 23). According to Kindsvatter, the organization of the systems within a state provides an essential background in understand the level of exposure or willingness of a state to participate in war (182). The concept is based on Waltz association of occurrence of war with three issues. Another factor is linked to the reasoning of classical realism that war originates from immoral human nature. Based on this reasoning, war is understood to result from people’s immoral acts like selfishness and egocentrism.  

The third aspect that Waltz uses to explain the causes of war is international anarchy (39). He argues that states’ preferences often overlap and they find difficulties in harmonizing the interests due to lack of effective neutral bodies that can help harmonize the interests. Specifically, states’ interest in scarce natural resources is understood to be one of the main causes of international conflicts that lead to war as states resort to the use of power in a move to acquire important resources. States take time to assess the benefits of acquiring given resources; hence they end up sidelining their focus on peaceful coexistence to ensure that they achieve their goals through any possible means (Kindsvatter 180). The idea that is presented by Waltz is in line with the realist perception on the causes of wars.

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Neo-realism is also withdrawn from political regulations that are grounded on human nature and that argue that international relations occur in a structure that is characterized by anarchy due to lack of sovereign authority that can help states live in harmony with each other (Waltz 103). The international system is characterized by bias intentions of states that seek to fulfill their interests because no established body exists to control them. To secure their self- interests, such states have to exert power and authority over others. Great tension is created by the fact that some states are ready to apply force for self-help at any time. It forces states to be on high alert to respond to confrontations so that they do not leave the lives of their citizens at the mercy of their powerful neighbors. The situation is very fragile because states do not trust each other and it is difficult for them to cooperate (Magagna “Poli Sci 142K: Politics and Warfare” 10).

The theory of liberalism presents a different perception on the causes of wars. The theory has its origin associated with civilization era in Europe, and it is mainly attached to the literature by Kant and Locke. Regarded among the masterminds of the theory of liberalism, Kant introduced a theory known as the perpetual peace theory. The theory was anchored on three aspects, namely universal humanity, republican constitutionalism, and free states federation (Dunne 112). The theory proposed by Kant received further development from Doyle who developed a thesis on the relationship between democracy and peace. The argument suggests that taking adequate initiatives to establish free states can help eradicate possibilities of involvement in wars.

 
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States that enjoy the freedom that originates from democracy are unlikely to get into war with each other. The theory of liberalism is centered on pillars of unavoidable human progress, scientific rationality, and freedom. It focuses on the need to uphold human rights and to ensure constitutionalism that fosters democracy (Magagna “Structural Theory and Institutional Theory” 12). The theory of liberalism is similar to realism by looking at the influence of human characteristics on states. However, liberalism differs from realism in that realism gives human attributes a negative connotation while liberalism looks at the positive aspects of human characteristics. Liberalism suggests that humans are capable of having a positive impact on their states. Dune suggests that the theory of liberalism has its focus grounded on initiatives that are taken to ensure that the international community is domesticated (110). Apart from looking at the ability of domesticated states to maintain a peaceful coexistence, it also explains factors that lead to occurrence of wars.

Doyle is the main proponent of the theory of democratic peace. Based on the theory, peace and democracy are two inseparable aspects. It means that a democratic state enjoys peace because citizens in such a state are satisfied with their leadership. It is believed that governments that value citizens’ liberty often focus on ways of creating and sustaining internal peace that extends to their international relations. Principles that are used in advocacy for peaceful coexistence are present in the countries’ foreign policy. The perception leads to the association of occurrence of war with prevalence of authoritarian leadership, aggressiveness, and totalitarian political parties that are in control of the government of the day (Kindsvatter 183). The argument suggests that liberal states that show respect for people’s rights, allow freedom of speech, and legal justice are against participation in war because their citizens often suffer the consequences of war. When they are given the freedom to elect their leaders in a democratic process, citizens will always shy away from any events that can lead them to war. Citizens focus on trade to improve their living standards and to promote economic developments. They are aware that prosperity in trade and commerce can only be realized in peaceful environments. As such, the theory of liberalism views liberal states like the European Union as the advocators of peace (Magagana “Structural Theory and Institutional Theory” 13).

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Doyle claims that a state that promotes its citizens’ liberty are in a better position to enjoy peace and to be strong more than a state that applies authoritarian leadership (220). Liberty is understood to be capable of motivating citizens to be proud of their citizenship and to work hard. Liberty is a technique that states can use to expand their territories because a state that grants liberty to its citizens gives them an assurance that their lives and property are safe. Free citizens are capable of offering moral support to soldiers who dedicate their lives to fight for the good of a country. Liberal states also have citizens who are ready to participate in protection of the country by joining the army. They are keen to ensure that the peace and stability in their country are safeguarded so that their property is safeguarded against any arbitrary seizure (Kindsvatter 186). Therefore, a state that yearns to expand should adopt liberal leadership so that its citizens were set free to enable them to participate in development programs.

Doyle argues that democratic states maintain peace among themselves (297). It means that liberal states are unlikely to get into war with each other. The theory does not guarantee a peaceful coexistence between liberal states and non-liberal states. Therefore, the theory asserts that leadership that is not based on democracy is the main threat for peace. It means that as much as some states fail to embrace democracy, it is difficult to achieve peace. The theory of liberalism can be used to explain the reason why affairs of non-democratic states are intervened. As much as the interventions are done under the pretext that they can help to restore peace, they contravene values of freedom and non-intervention as advocated for by liberalism. Other proponents of liberalism associate wars with absence of power balance that can only be solved through establishment of universal commercial benefit by states (Magagna “Structural Theory and Institutional Theory” 13). Others also link wars to aggressiveness of the elite rulers who wish to accumulate wealth while minority groups are left to suffer from adverse poverty. Based on the varied explanations that the theory of liberalism gives in relation to the origin of war, it is evident that the theory fails to provide a coherent and universally accepted explanation of factors that the lead to war.

Another theory that explains factors leading to war is the Marxism theory. The theory provides a different explanation to the causes of war in comparison to realism and liberalism, although some of its assertions are similar to the arguments given by the earlier theories. Marxism theory has its origin in the writings of Karl Marx. The theory has gone through periodic development. Marxism looks at the world with regards to the effect of economic development that is perceived as the determinant of history. Marxism looks at economic tension between those who own production means who are commonly referred to as the Bourgeoisie and the working class. The two groups have been perceived to be in constant conflict that culminated to revolutionary movements that later led to the creation of socialism after overthrowing the system of capitalism. The earlier version of Marxism did not look at international relations. However, the arguments that the original version of the theory presents in understanding the genesis of war have been adopted in the explanation of world politics.

Marxist theory associates war with capitalism that leads to class conflicts. Class conflicts are understood to be the reason behind revolutionary movements and uprisings that are staged against the owners of production means. A number of events are used to justify the practicality of the theory. For example, the revolution that occurred in Russia in 1917 is linked to class conflicts. Currently, Marxism is related to the idea of capitalism (Kindsvatter 189). The concept refers to the assertion that capitalist powers wage wars against weak nations to retain their monopoly power over ownership of capital (Kindsvatter 186). The theory suggests that the rise of capitalism increases exploitation of peripheral states due to the emergence of imperialist wars that are launched to facilitate the search for resources and markets (McPhearson 143). The theory suggests that developed countries often suppress third world countries as they strive to get access to resources and ready markets for their products. In the process, capitalist countries suppress other states, making imperialist wars inevitable.

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Realism, liberalism, and Marxism are the main theories that are used to understand international relations. All of them give their own perspectives on how international relations operate and explain the factors behind occurrence of wars. According to the realist theory, wars are caused by several interrelated factors. For example, human aggressiveness and international system’s anarchy cause struggles for survival, power, and security, which leads to the occurrence of wars (Magagna “Structural Theory and Institutional Theory”). The liberal theory provides a different notion regarding the reasons behind wars.  The democratic theory is based on the perception that citizens who are given an opportunity to exercise their democratic rights in choosing their preferred leaders in a free and democratic process often show satisfaction with their government. The government grants liberty to its citizens and establishes measures to ensure that they are protected from any aggression.

Liberalist theory acknowledges the existence of anarchies but does not believe that wars originate from such anarchies. Liberalism theory is controversial in that as much as it advocates for domestic freedom, it allows for intervention in the activities of the international community on claims that such interventions can be used for promoting democracy and liberalism. Marxists accept the suggestion given by realists that the international system’s structure can be a push factor for engagement in war. It happens because capitalism makes countries focus on attaining their national interests at the expense of peace. They assess the gains that they can derive from engaging other states in wars and choose to further their interest with little concern about the implications of their acts on their citizens’ security (McPhearson 164). Marxists also support the idea that imperialism is the main cause of wars. Marxist theory gives an extensive view of the push factors for wars by stating that states develop interest in pushing to accumulate power and resources because of capitalism. The theory supports ideas proposed by liberalism and realism but gives additional explanation to the occurrence of wars; hence, it is more comprehensive in analyzing the causes of wars.

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In conclusion, three theories are used to explain the causes of wars. The theories are liberalism, realism, and Marxism. The essay has given an overview of each of the three theories and highlighted the arguments that are given by each of the theories in explaining the causes of war. A comparison of the explanations of the factors behind occurrence of wars leads to the view that Marxist theory is more extensive in explaining the cases of war. Based on the explanations derived from the theories, it is clear that wars originate from the global capitalist economic system.

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