Understanding interstate and intrastate wars during and after the Cold War through “Levels of Analysis”
Three levels of analysis have been identified in the study of international politics: (a) the system level, which is also identified as the Inter State level or the macro world view, which may also be classified as a “top down” approach to studying world politics (b) the state level analysis which may be classified as intrastate analysis and examines the internal processes within countries as causal factors in war (c) individual level analysis which identifies how individual idiosyncrasies have influenced the course of world politics [Rourke].
Applying these levels of analysis to the Cold War, world politics may be viewed from the level 1 perspective as purely the battle between the forces of communism and capitalism. Therefore, changes in the international system that were caused after the IInd World War caused a change in State behavior and two powerful players emerged in a bi-polar system with two opposing ideologies– capitalist countries that proclaimed themselves democracies and Communist states headed by the USSR. During the Cold war period, nearly all conflicts that arose between countries may be explained on this basis. Democracies rarely went to war with each other [Ma’oz and Abdolali, 1989] and there were a multitude of smaller nations that aligned themselves with the United States or with Russia – the most notable Communist country was China. After the Cold War however, a unipolar system exists where there is only one superpower and war on a global scale is largely conditioned by this unipolar power – the United States.
On a State level, the foreign policy behavior of every country is a cultural characteristic, conditioned by its own belief systems. Democracies don’t go to war with each other, but on a state or individual level, they do enter into civil or intra state wars on other pretexts. For example, the Iran Iraq war during the Cold war era led to both US and USSR wooing those countries, however these nations were at war with each other for religious reasons. Similarly, from a State level view, the United States has an idealistic system of Government with a strong belief in democracy and after the Cold War, its continuing desire to instill democracy in all other countries has led to its intervention in Iraq. Civil wars within and between countries occur of a variety of reasons, which could be moral, ethnic or territorial disputes. As far as the probability of involvement in war is considered, most countries – democracies or not – still show a tendency to go to war, even after the crumbling of the erstwhile Soviet Union.
On an individual level, wars have often been caused by the idiosyncrasies of leaders. Communism was established as a world force through people such as Stalin and the Cold War was set in place after the IInd World War. It was Gorbachev’s role that altered world equations after the Cold War, even as Hitler’s role defined world balances of power in the years leading up to and immediately after the IInd World War. To a large extent, it was Hitler’s role in World war II that created two distinct world blocs – the Axis and Allied powers, with Russia emerging as a strong force in the Asian region that both powers sought to attract. In the present war with Iraq, the role of Presidents George Bush Sr and Jr have contributed to advancing the cause of war. The United States as the major world player after the Cold war has pushed hard for a joint United Nations initiative against Iraq, largely through the efforts of Presidents George Bush Sr and Jr.
- Rourke, John. International Politics on the World Stage, 10th, McGraw Hill Publishers, retrieved July 16, 2005 from URL: http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072890363/student_view0/chapter3/
- Ma’oz, Ze’ev and Nasrin Abdolali. (1989). “Regime Types and International Conflict, 1816-1976.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 33 (March):3-35