Militarity And Multipolarity: War

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Peh Hong Leng A0131231A Tutorial group: E2 Word count before citation and question: 899 Topic One: Why does Waltz believe that bipolarity leads to peace, and multipolarity to war? Explain the processes he describes as relevant. Do you believe him? If not, why not? If so, why so? Neorealism encompasses the following foundational assumptions – anarchy as the structural feature in international politics and in it, every state shares the wish to survive (Hopf Lecture 27 Jan). To survive in an anarchic world, “self-help is necessarily the principle of action” (Waltz 1979, p.108) . These assumptions apply to every state, resulting in functional similarities as states strive for survival. Only one variable exist among states: the distribution of…show more content…
With more than two states having equal distribution of power and influence, multipolar systems are lined with unpredictability and ambiguity because states will miscalculate others’ intentions and misidentify threats (Goddard 2008 - 2009, p. 118 – 119). When one state’s power increases, other states may under-calculate and wait too long before balancing it, or accept its legitimation strategies and not balance against it. Unwilling to utilize resources that may be wasted in balancing, states have the incentive to buck-pass an emerging power (Goddard 2008 – 2009, p. 118). Working on the foundational assumption, to survive, states must engage in self-help that is usually external in a multipolar system. External self-help through alliances involve high interdependence among members, requiring states to go to war for their allies in a process called chain-ganging to prove their reliability. A state that renounces its obligation will consequently be deemed as unreliable by other states, discouraging potential allies from cooperating with it in future, thus jeopardizing its survival as it will be left alone to face other powers. Chain-ganging leads to more wars because many other allying states of the two original opposing states will be involved (Hopf Lecture 27 Jan). Unlike multipolarity, bipolarity engages in internal self-help through improving military and economic capabilities that does…show more content…
The characteristic of having lesser ambiguity leads to stability in a bipolar system. However, this characteristic can also contribute to instability. As aforementioned, the two superpowers tend to overreact (Hopf Lecture Jan 27). When one’s power increases, the other will definitely act to balance it as evident from the nuclear arms race between the two powers of the United States (US) and Soviet Union (USSR) during the Cold War. The security competition between them and the contest for nuclear supremacy led to the development of nuclear weapons to such massive levels that there was ‘stability’ because neither wished to directly fight each other to evade incurring the tremendous costs of nuclear warfare. Proxy wars thus ensued, exemplified by the Vietnam War and Korean War. The asymmetrical distribution of power between the US and USSR resulted in hegemonic rivalry as the US sought improvements in non-economic aspects, causing USSR to perceive it as a threat (Wohlfort 1999, p. 27). Their rivalry resulted from each other’s pursuit of hegemony. The presence of proxy wars and tension between USSR and US affirms the idea of bipolarity being able to lead to

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