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Human Nature: War and Conflict

It is important to note that Kenneth Waltz is a neo-realist who identifies three major “images” which contribute to the conflict around the world. He concludes that although human nature has a role in the preponderance of war and political conflict, it is ultimately due to the “anarchic” state of international relations.

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The first reason can be found in the image of individuals, where he argues that human nature plays some role in promoting war and conflict. These rather rare cases include Saddam Hussein and Napoleon, who were highly militaristic leaders (Waltz, 2018). The politics of masculine human nature of such individuals showcase the fact that human nature cannot be fully excluded from the reasons for wars and conflict. Machiavellian principles also apply in this argument, where a loved leader cannot be a good leader and vice versa. The reason is that effective leadership requires taking actions, which are not always favored by the masses, indicating the role of human nature.

The second reason involves individual states and their structures, where certain states are inherently designed to be expanding their influence. Waltz gives an example from Marxism-Leninism’s view of capitalistic expansion, which seeks to grow the economy by widening the overall reach to newer markets (Waltz, 2018). In other words, the internal structure of a state needs its intervention in other states for resources and capital.

The third reason is the international system, which is the main root of war and conflict, and it outweighs the previous two by a substantial margin. The primary reason for war and conflict is not human nature or state structure but international relations (Waltz, 2018). The author describes the current international system as “anarchic” due to the lack of a sovereign body, which would supervise interactions between states and enforce international laws.

In conclusion, war and conflict are the results of the international system’s “anarchic” structure and not human nature.


Waltz, K. N. (2018). Man, the state and war: A theoretical analysis (anniversary edition). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

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