According to Kenneth Waltz in his "The origins of war in Neorealist theory theory cannot explain the accidental or account for unexpected events; it deals in regularities and repetitions and is possible when these can be identified. A theory indicates that some factors are more important than others and those define the relations around them.
Neorealism maintains, while defining a theory, the tenets of realpolitik, but is sees different causes, ends and effets. Where realists view power as an end, neorealists see it as possibly useful means. They say that in ultimate situations, when wars are threatening for example, states choose for security over power. This is an important revision.
Also important is the shift in causal relations. Realism thinks as causes moving in only one direction, from the interaction of individuals and states to the outcomes that their acts and interactions produce. Morgenthau acknowledges that power arises when people want things, not because it is in their evil human nature.
Neorealism contends that international politics can understood only if the effects of structure are added to the unit-level explanations of traditional realism. By emphasizing how structures affect actions and outcomes, neorealism rejects the assumption that man’s innate lust for power constitutes a sufficient cause of war in the absence of any other. It reconceives the causal link interacting units and international outcomes.
To compose a theory: states are unitary actors wanting at least to survive, and are taken to be the system’s constituent units. The essential structural quality of the system is anarchy. It deals with an international focus (black box thinking). Systems theories are theories that explain how the organization of a realm acts as a constraining and disposing force on the interacting units within it. We can predict how units will act within the system.
System theories explain why different units behave similarly and, despite their variations, produce outcomes within expected ranges. Conversely, theories at the unit level tell us why different units behave differently despite their similar placement in a system.
Neorealism states that within an anarchy, states need to provide their own security to protect themselves from threats. The security dilemma is a good example of how this goes. Wars occur. This depends on situations and characteristics of states. Not because states want to have war.
Multipolar vs. bipolar.
-alliances are made and allies need to appeal to the other allies.
- alliances are made because there is some common interest.
- Interest is most of the time fear of the others.
- Competing blocks. One state can not let his weaker ally be destroyed (WOI).
- In alliances among equals, the defection of one member threatens the security of the others.
- Dangers are diffused, responsibilities unclear and definitions of vital interests are easily obscured.
- More flexibility of strategy and greater freedom of decision
- Alliance leaders can design strategies in their own interests.
- The only have to cope with the other.
- Never doubt about who brings danger to who.
- Loss for one, is gain for the other.
- Action leads to reaction.
- Miscalculation is greater evil because it can lead to worse unfolding events that threatens the status quo.
- Economies are less interdependent.
Multipolar: diffusion of dangers, interdependence of partners and confusion of responses.
Bipolar: self dependence, clarity of dangers, certainty about who has to face them.
Another great force in a bipolar world is of course nuclear weapons. War becomes less likely because the costs are not less than the benefits of it. The accumulation of power by conquest is no longer possible because of nuclear weapons. With states wanting to have security, a war won’t happen with nuclear weapons. Since the US and Russia can encounter a second strike attack. War still happens, but involvement of states with nuclear weapons is less likely.
In a bipolar world each of the two great powers is bound to focus its fears on the others, to distrust its motives and to impute offensive intentions to defensive measures. The proper question is what started the cold war, not who. Cold war remained cold because of nuclear weapons and this creates an uneasy peace.