Kenneth Waltz, one of the most influential theorists of international relations, and of war in particular, has paid very little attention to the variety of ways in which war comes about. His main concern is the constant possibility and recurrence of war, rather than the occurrence of any particular war. Wars may be different in terms of their immediate causes, Waltz appears to concede. But, in his judgement, they are all the same with respect to their underlying cause. This is said to be ‘international anarchy’. This chapter attempts to replace Waltz's third-image theory, and his tripartite analysis itself, with a more comprehensive overview, or understanding, of war origins. It presents a theory of war origins that takes more seriously than Waltz has done the fact that wars come about in different ways. It investigates what sorts of thing fall under the categories of the background, chance coincidences, mechanisms, and government actions. These are the four building blocks commonly used in constructing narrative explanations, or stories, of war origins.
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