Why Do Wars Occur between States Essay

Submitted By Sali-Miftari
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ATS 1873: Diagnostic Essay

Sali Miftari

In considering the state system as a cause of war, scholars in the discipline must entertain the idea of how a highly organised sovereign state (as most states are) has to exist and operate with a need to survive, prosper and develop. History has shown that this very notion of self-protection and organisation has ultimately transpired into engagement in war and conflict; however, it is incumbent to question the reason why war can occur between states. Is it the absence of legally binding resolutions and consequences set by international society that acts as a check-and-balance on state power, growth and outreach? Indeed, in a scenario where the state resorts to war against another state in order to protect its individual interests (or further establish itself); it is not the state system that provides the mechanism for conflict to occur. In fact, the ability for a state to engage in said conflicts denotes that it is the anarchical nature of international society that causes war; for no real or binding measures that prevent the ultimate outbreak of war exist at an equally forcible level.

In an environment where the state is held legally accountable of their actions to a higher body, the absence of war is conceivable. However, the fact that international-bodies like the United Nations and International Court of Justice have no actual capacity to defuse tensions proves that it is not the state system that causes war, rather, it is the nature of international society as an unruled system creates an environment conducive to the creation of war. The paradox between the highly organised state, and the lawless international theatre extrapolates strength in states that have great militaristic, economic or social power; thus creating an international milieu in which power is wielded in order to maintain their own security at any cost.

Furthermore, the distribution of power between states substantially influences the creation of war. The cause of war does not arise out of the state’s individual decision and capacity to engage in war, rather, it is through the existence and practice of large powers that are able to influence the state-of-affairs at a given moment. In a pure state-system where a state has total control over their own domestic affairs; the concept of war is made irrational by the fact that to engage in war is to advance national interests by interfering in external affairs. 

The outbreak of World War One acts as a case in point of the impact of external