A Review of “Kenneth N. Waltz’s Structural Realism after the Cold War”

A Review of “Kenneth N. Waltz’s Structural Realism after the Cold War” 
	Kenneth Waltz has easily been one of the most influential scholars for the world of international politics.  Waltz has been turning out articles and books for nearly fifty years and has become well established and highly respected.  In the one of his more recent papers, published in 2000, Waltz defends his Realistic political views against a new generation of political analysts who claim that these “new times call for new thinking,” (JSTOR p. 5) and these changing conditions require new and revised theories and even entirely original ones.  Waltz cites fellow Realistic thinkers like Immanuel Kant and Susan Strange to back up his arguments and pick apart the main guidelines that hold the Democratic Peace Theory together.  I feel that Waltz approached the argument in a very civilized manner and kept himself from being biased towards his own opinion.  In general I agree with Waltz’s defense of the Realists’ point of view.  It might be the optimist in me that wants to force myself to agree with the Idealist, but the Realist in me keeps me in touch with what I feel is the truth.  
	The question that Waltz is focusing on in the paper is, “Is structural realism as true in today’s political world as it has been in the past, or has the world reached a point were war is truly obsolete?”  His work is well organized and begins by first attacking the Idealists’ idea that Structural Realism is on the decline and will continue to follow in this direction.  He asks, “what changes, would constitute turning international politics into something entirely different?” (p. 7)  Waltz realizes that the typical answer is that as democracy extends its sway and as interdependence grows stronger, states will grow more docile and peaceful.  
	The belief that a group of democracies will ensure an area of peace between them is based on a supposedly high association between forms of government and international outcome. Many Idealists have proclaimed that democracy will save our world because a democracy has never gone to war with another democracy.  I personally do not accept the theories of people claiming that because two governments are both democracies they will not go to war with each other.  To me, this theory seems as plausible as the comical “McDonald’s Peace Theory,” which states that any two states that have a McDonalds within their borders have not gone to war with each other.  Obviously there is no correlation between McDonalds, the form of government, and simple human nature.  
	The biggest problem with analyzing democratic peace theory, is the definition of what constitutes a democracy.  John Owen attempted to amend this problem by stating that democracies that perceive each other to be liberal democracies will not fight. (p. 6)  Is it just me, or does it seem that the Idealist’s theory is becoming less and less applicable to political history?  History shows us that some possible wars that might fit the idealist’s theory were not prevented due to states’ reluctancy to fight other democracies, but they were averted due to a fear of a third party coming into the picture.  Waltz uses the example of Great Britain and France avoiding conflict at the turn of the century with Germany lurking in the background.  I think that this is a much more plausible reason and it is also provides great support for the Realist’s argument.  Waltz does agree though that a conformity of countries to a certain governmental structure will eliminate some of the causes of war, but is sure that it could not eliminate them all (p. 8).  This is good example of why I agree with Waltz’s stance on the Idealists’ views.  If it were possible for a worldwide uniformed political stance to exist, many causes of war would be left in the past.  Yet, this is simply not enough to keep states from feeling insecure, and with that the Realistic point of view on politics will always be around.  
	“The natural state is the state of war.”  This claim was first stated by Kant and has become a widely accepted statement among Realists (p. 8).  Under the conditions of international politics, war has occurred and will continue to occur.  So naturally, the only true was to abolish war is to abolish the entire system of international politics.  Of course, everyone knows that interdependence among states has become far too widespread.  When one is asked to think of and describe a perfect world, a utopia, he or she will generally give the example of a secluded island, cut off from the rest of the world.  I feel that anything short of complete political and communicational seclusion will not end wars between nations.  
	Even if it is completely true that democracies live in relative peace with fellow democracies, I think the structure of international politics will remain anarchic.  Internal changes to states, however widespread, cannot change the mistrust between nations that comes along with human nature.  Without an external, omnipresent authority, a state cannot fully trust that an ally today will not be an enemy tomorrow.  These factors, I think are enough to eliminate any thoughts in my mind that a predominantly democratic world would remain stable, no matter how nice of an idea it is.
	Waltz continues to emphasize democracys’ tendency to fight wars, even if not with each other.  After first hearing the Democratic Peace Theory, one might be lead to believe that these democratic states are completely docile and would not instigate wars unless directly threatened.  This, of course, is not true, and Waltz uses the example of America’s policy with South American governments (p. 9).  In both Chile and the Dominican Republic, the U.S. intervened in the governments because they felt that the citizens of these countries did not know what was best for themselves.  So, of course, the U.S. did know what was best for the people.  As Henry Kissinger put it: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people,” (p. 9).  This view of superiority is usually shared by citizens of democratic states which are considered politically superior to others surrounding it.  Citizens of democratic states also tend to make uneducated and unfounded decisions that undemocratic states are inferior and bad simply because they are not democratic.  Waltz quotes Walter Hines Page, an American ambassador to England, who claimed during World War I that there “is no security in any part of the world where people cannot think of a government without a king and never will be,” (p. 12) just to show the ignorance that could be associated with the citizens of countries that are democratic.  I agree with this assumption based on my personal experience of hearing people’s opinion on this very subject.  Although, I have to consider it to be understandable when the citizens of the U.S. have been raised always being told that America was the world’s lone “Superpower” nation.  This self righteous attitude about spreading democracy can be frightening.  These “crusades” that countries like the U.S. feel compelled to embark on are frightening because these “righteous causes” are defined for themselves and are being imposed on others without respect for their views, politically or culturally.  Waltz shares my concern that states may not realize the consequences of their actions.  Like Waltz, I also share his opinion that these Idealists are the same ones who might promote democratic crusades (p. 12).  Yet, if I am wrong, and this is a sure way to spread peace around the world then, by all means, they should continue (of course any thought that this could be true is absurd).  After all, if the world is now safe for democracy, is democracy safe for the world?  Granted, these countries do have good intentions, but as the saying goes, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.”  Even thought the desired end result is noble, it comes down to a matter or what is right and what is wrong.  Kant stands firm that such action is very wrong and no state has the right to intervene with the internal arrangements of another state (p. 13).  
	If countries worldwide became democratic, what other problems could arise from such a newly formed, close-knit world.  While interdependence is some ways promotes peace by adding contacts between states, it also adds occasions for conflicts that would promote resentment and even war.  If so many countries came together in such a way, little movement could occur without the consequences being felt by the rest of the world society.  With closer social bonds more extreme effects would be felt and states would not be able to pursue an interest without taking other states’s interests into account.  
	My political views, although young and immature, agree largely with those of Kenneth Waltz.  I chose this article because I felt that my own views and Waltz’s saw eye to eye along with our ways of approaching the thoughts of others.  Waltz considered the opinions and theories that others had even though they sharply contrasted to everything that Waltz has written about throughout his entire career.  Yet, after studying the subject his entire life, Waltz can look at other theories with relative confidence in his own thoughts.  Waltz addresses the points of view from both sides of the argument and gives credit where it is due.  He stated that if it was possible for a worldwide democratic system, it would eliminate some causes of war. But this is not realistic, and Waltz counters with his own reasons why Anarchic Realism will continue to dominate the world of international politics.  I agree with Waltz’s general theory that the world will probably remain anarchic, and that anarchy and war go hand in hand.  These aggressive moves to spread democracy and instill global peace hold potential to do great things or continue to due damage for a cause that is impossible.  I am afraid that I see the latter as the only possibility.  But I guess that both beauty and what is best for the world lie in the eye of the beholder.
Works Cited

Waltz, Kenneth N. "Structural Realism after the Cold War." International Securtiy 25 (2000):     5-41. 11 Oct. 2005 . 

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