Assuming That States Are Rational Actors, Explain the Outbreak of War?

Topics: Vietnam War, South Vietnam, Cold War Pages: 8 (2988 words) Published: September 25, 2012
Assuming that states are rational actors, explain the outbreak of war? Part 1 
            Assuming that states are rational actors, why do states fight over valued possessions rather than negotiating peaceful terms, which would avoid the costs of war? For the most part, it is widely agreed that one of the most fundamental causes of war is having anarchy in the international system. The lack of a united international government system can be very problematic because each state believes itself to be sovereign and will act according to their interests. Since there is no international government to regulate states, competition between states will most likely occur, often leading to conflict over desired possessions. This leads to a struggle for power between states, each state seeking to achieve the ultimate goal of becoming the international hegemon.             States in the international system act according to national interest, seeking to obtain possessions that will grant them more power over other competing states. Since there is no supreme ruling authority in the international system, states are encouraged to maximize their power via other states to become the hegemon. States often hold possessions that are praised and highly coveted by their rivals. These possessions can include territory, natural resources or other valuable items that could increase the power of rival states.  A state that has highly desired possessions is not always willing to give up or compromise their valued possessions to other states, which can in turn cause tensions between states for control over the assets. Tensions for commonly desired assets frequently lead to war, and since all states follow the logic that taking advantage of others will secure that others do not take advantage of them. With logic like this, war will sometimes seem like a rational choice to make when confronted with the idea that otherwise others will take advantage of them. The unequal amount of power held by each state in the international system allows the stronger states to dominate the weaker ones, since the weaker ones do not have the military capability to deter the stronger ones from doing so. Hans J. Morgenthau’s is another author who shares a similar perspective to Mearsheimer, in that he also credits the outbreak of war due to states seeking to expand their own power. Power in the international system is measured according to the amount of armaments that a nation has at its disposal.  The states that posses superior armaments are better able to exert their power on to other states, for this reason states with more power tend to have more incentives to go to war and conquer other states. The ability of stronger states to conquer weaker states promotes an overall imbalance of power, which causes fear among the weaker states due to their inability to compete with the stronger states in a war. The reason why war would be disadvantageous to weaker states is because losing a war would mean that the weaker state would have to submit to the winner. This type of imperialistic behavior is often employed by stronger states to take advantage of the weaker states without their consent. Imperialism can also be used by stronger states for the purpose of keeping defeated nations weak and incapable of competing. This is due to the stronger state continually extracting valuable resources from a weak nation that would otherwise use its own resources to strengthen itself. For this reason, war is used as a tool by the strong in order to avoid being weakened by others; this is because their loss of power would mean the gain of others, leading to inferiority for themselves.  Despite war bringing benefits to the victor, it is still very costly to execute and maintain for the states that are involved in the war.             If alternative solutions to fighting can be negotiated between states, then why do states continue to choose war? James D. Fearon offers various arguments to...
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