Kenneth Waltz also employed a nifty analogy between states and men, when he wrote: “States in the world are like individuals in the state of nature. They are neither perfectly good nor are they controlled by law. Consequently conflict and violence among them are inevitable.” And in large part, what explains the inevitability of conflict and violence is the imperfection of man. As Waltz wrote: “If men were perfect, their perfection would be reflected in all of their calculations and actions. Each could rely on the behavior of others and all decisions would be made based on principles that would preserve a true harmony of interests.”
The challenge, or problem, is such that: “If harmony is to exist in anarchy, not only must I be perfectly rational but I must be able to assume that everyone else is too. Otherwise there is no basis for rational calculation.” Thus, due to the basic imperfection of men and the irrationality which arises from such imperfection, conflict and violence are inevitable, and as a result, states must engage in “self-help” in order to survive an anarchical state of affairs in international society. And as has been implied before, conflict and violence occur even with the establishment of states whose aim is to bring people out of a “Hobbesian state of nature” and anarchy.
In essence, the same “state of nature” which existed amongst regular people before the advent of the state also exists amongst states in the international system, given the basic analogy between individuals and states. Add to the “state of nature” the fact that the preferences, goals, and interests of states do not align, and conflict and violence become a sure bet. As Waltz wrote:
“The nation may proclaim, and mean, that its aspirations are legitimate from the point of view of all states; but, despite the intent, each country’s formulation of its goals will be of particular rather than of general validity. Since this is the case, the absence of an authority above states to prevent and adjust the conflicts inevitably arising from particular wills means that war is inevitable.”
As mentioned before, in the overwhelming majority of cases, particular or specific groups who wield outsized power and influence seek to define their parochial and selfish interests as the “national interest.” It is not the nation per se which is acting on the international level, but rather, it is particular and specific groups who are advancing their parochial and selfish interests on the international level under the guise of the “national interest.” Also, given the basic structure of the international system, the lack of an enforcement mechanism for international law which overarches the international system, and the imperfect nature of man, states are essentially left to the devices and operations of the “balance of power” principle when all is said and done.
In essence, it is the balance of power principle which will ultimately determine the result or outcome of the current anarchy and conflict which has engulfed international society. It is hoped that the balance of power will result in equilibrium between the conflicting parties. But as mentioned before, this equilibrium will be favorable to some, but unfavorable to others, given that the equilibrium is bound to be an imperfect one.