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Simplistic argument, so crude as to be absurd
on 1 May 2001
Waltz's central argument is that the world is comprised solely of states (which are autonomous and rational) bouncing off each other in a billiard ball model. After reading this book, I was surprised that so many people accepted it so uncritically. In Waltz's analysis, there is no room for nationalism, ideology, bureaucracy, guerilla's, media or even capitalism. Take for example the Vietnam war. The fact that a communist guerrilla group had a good chance of gaining power (through the ballot box), was deemed a threat to the US. The US bueaucracies (the CIA being the exeption), being in the whole culture of the cold war, argued that this was a huge threat, yet could be easily quashed. The US believed that they needed a rightwing quasi-fascist regime because they would be more open to capitalist exploitation by western companies. After years of fighting, US public opinion shifted, influenced heavily by the American media. In other words, the nature of the domestic state changed, and had an effect on international politics - something which Waltz maintain could not happen). Indeed, everything about why the Vietnam war began and why it ended, is an example of society affecting international politics.
Waltz's dichotomy between orderly internal politics and disorderly international politics is absurd. From the third world perspective (where 80% of people live) its domestic politics which is disorderly and international politics that is structured, orderly and controlled. The whole theory would be more realistic if it was turned on its head.
Waltz's theory is borne out of positivism, which believes that truth and knowledge is seperate from the world, and objective knowledge is achievable. In other words, Waltz's believes that a fundamental Rabbi and a Hamas guerilla can agree on whats 'really' going on in Israel, and what is the most appropriate solution to the problem. This is obviously absurd. Nazi Germany is probably the most studied period in history, yet historians still argue (and will continue to do so) what 'really' caused the second world war. They all depend on facts, its just that their interpretation of the fact is subjective. History is about selecting facts, so how can it be anything but selective? Many will disagree with my analysis of the Vietnam War, but that in itself proves the point that knowledge is subjective.
In short, there are over six billion people in this world, each with their own sexuality, gender, nationality, ethnicity, class, identity, ideology, religion etc,etc. There are power agents other than states e.g. corporations, media, institutions, guerilla's, capitalism. Waltz's analysis can't incorporate any of these things, yet any realistic theory of what the world is like must do just that