U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Releases > 2004

Revisiting Waltz's Man, the State and War: New Images for a New Century

Mitchell B. Reiss, Director, Policy Planning Staff
Remarks to the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy
Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts
October 6, 2004

Thank you very much, Dean Bosworth, for that kind introduction. It’s a real pleasure to be introduced by my old boss--and introduced in such flattering terms. As I recall, back when Steve was negotiating nuclear issues with the North Koreans, they did not have nearly such nice things so say about him. And I bet they still don’t.

It’s great to be back at Fletcher, my Alma Mater. Being here on campus brings back all kinds of memories--memories of my first weeks in the program, walking around in a daze with a pile of books under my arm, struggling to keep up with the reading, and falling behind my classmates. I was worried that Fletcher had accidentally admitted the wrong kid. More troubling yet, I could sense that Fletcher was thinking the same thing.

But I pressed on and made it through, just as all of you will. As a matter of fact, I even remember what I learned here, which shows you what a timeless education Fletcher provides. So today I would like to share with you a framework for understanding international politics, one that helps to explain the Bush Administration’s approach to foreign policy. This framework is drawn from a book I read here by Kenneth Waltz, entitled Man, the State, and War.

As many of you know, Waltz began his study with a timeless question: "Why do human beings go to war?" This is a question that became very real for our country on that Tuesday morning in September, just over three years ago. And ever since then, we’ve been asking ourselves Waltz’s second question: "Is there anything we can do to make our future more peaceful than our past?"

Waltz identified three sources of conflict. The first was rooted in man himself--what Christian theologians call original sin, or the imperfect and imperfectable nature of man. In a world of evil men, those who wish to live in peace must prepare for war, whether they like it or not. Goodness is not self-evident, nor is it necessarily natural. Peaceful people cannot reason, negotiate, or appease the wolves and predators in their midst--the Hitlers, Stalins, and bin Ladens of the world. Violence must be checked by violence.

Waltz realized that this explanation was true but insufficient. Human behavior is just as much a product of society and nurture as it is of choice and nature. Human beings create communities and regimes, but we are also defined by them. Fascist or totalitarian states ruled by elites behave differently than democratic governments accountable to their people. Thus, a second source of conflict is the internal character of the state--the public beliefs and practices, opinions and expectations, political systems and institutions of government, that frame human behavior.

But Waltz goes further. If the structure of the state and its system of governance shapes human behavior, then the structure of the international system must also shape state behavior. International politics is different than domestic politics, though, because no entity possesses a legal monopoly on the use of force. The countries of the world inhabit a self-help system, competing freely and independently to secure their own interests and promote their national security. There is no global structure capable of preventing one state from attacking another. This is the third source of conflict--a condition of anarchy that does not make war inevitable, only possible. Waltz argued that states must be prepared to use military force if necessary to protect themselves. No one else will do it for them.

Considering these three sources of conflict, which one should we focus on: man, the state, or the international system? Not surprisingly, Waltz argued that we need to consider all three. What I would like to suggest to all of you today is that this is exactly the type of comprehensive approach the Bush Administration has adopted.

With regard to "evil-doers," in the President’s memorable phrase, we believe the only responsible course of action is to resist them by any means necessary. The Islamic extremists who attacked us on September 11, and their desire to attack us again with the most destructive means available, cannot be deterred or appeased. They cannot be reasoned with or diplomatically engaged. These evil men must either be captured or killed before they can murder innocent men, women, and children.

President Bush’s approach to bad regimes is less stark, because it can afford to be. With a remorseless state sponsor of terrorism, like the Taliban’s Afghanistan, or a brutal regime desirous of weapons of mass destruction, like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, there is no recourse but regime change. Other states, however, can be pressured to change their behavior through measures short of war. With countries like Iran, North Korea, and Syria, President Bush is pursuing this patient diplomatic approach to changing regime behavior, not the regime itself. Libya is a case in point, a country that has renounced weapons of mass destruction and been allowed back into the community of nations.

President Bush’s approach to these first two sources of conflict, bad men and bad regimes, is clear. And it receives the most attention by critics and the media, often in the caricatured form of "unilateralism." At the same time, there appears to be little recognition of what the Bush Administration is actually doing to reduce the conflict inherent in the international system. This is unfortunate, because we’re doing a lot. And contrary to popular opinion, our strategy isn’t unilateral: it’s based on bilateral and multilateral partnerships.

When we look at the international system in 2004, we see a world stage set much differently than when Waltz wrote his book in the late 1950s. Most importantly, the Soviet Union is gone, the Cold War is over, and the United States finds itself in an unrivaled position of military, economic and diplomatic power. When problems arise in the world today, people don’t call Tokyo, Moscow, or Brussels. They call Washington.

In addition to our status as the world’s only superpower, the hard competition between nations has markedly diminished. President Bush has described this new era as one in which "states compete in peace rather than prepare for war." The post-WWII era has seen a dramatic spread of international institutions to help regulate interstate behavior, and these regimes, treaties and organizations have gone some way towards moderating the security dilemma that Waltz wrote about. Clearly, this does not mean that we have achieved Kant’s state of perpetual peace, where all rivalries between and among states have disappeared. But it does mean that threats to international peace and security tend to arise from different sources than when Waltz was writing nearly 50 years ago.

The 9/11 attacks demonstrated that, in today’s international system, threats are defined more by the fault lines within societies than by the territorial boundaries between states. This is an important point, because it turns on its head one of the major presuppositions of Waltz’s argument--namely that the governments of nation-states are the only credible instruments of applying power in the international arena. Thus, in Waltz’s view, competition between states is the cause of war.

Today, this is less true. Instead, our greatest challenges possess more of a transnational and subnational character than an international one. Terrorism, loose nukes, chronic poverty and infectious disease, genocide and gross human rights abuses, fragile regions and failing states--these are all the defining threats of a new era.

The transnational and subnational nature of these threats also forces us to redefine what we used to call "clear and present dangers." In today’s world, dangers are not always so obviously clear and present. In the days when heavy armies mobilized and massed on a country’s borders, preparing to attack, it was easier to see "imminent threats." But now we must contend more with what President Bush calls "gathering threats," those troubling trends that simmer for years in the shadows and then mutate into catastrophic dangers.

One such trend is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. For decades, the Non-Proliferation Treaty was the keystone of our non-proliferation efforts. But this agreement is only effective between states that deal with one another in good faith. The treaty is not equipped to handle rogue states that cheat on their obligations, outlaw scientists who sell nuclear secrets to the highest bidder or terrorists trying to buy bombs on the black market.

We must thus shore up the Treaty by strengthening nuclear safeguards under the International Atomic Energy Agency. To this end, we pressured the United Nations to dramatically increase the IAEA’s budget--the first increase in real dollars in decades. And the United States did its part, giving the IAEA over $68 million in additional funding this year.

We are also encouraging countries to adopt the Additional Protocol, which broadens the nuclear-related technology and information that states must declare, and provides greater latitude for IAEA inspectors to examine undeclared facilities. President Bush has urged all nations to make the Additional Protocol a requirement for a country’s receipt of nuclear technology. And today, 86 countries have signed the agreement.

But in this world, treaties aren’t always good enough. Sometimes we need to go on the offensive against nuclear traffickers. We are doing this through a flexible multilateral partnership called the Proliferation Security Initiative. Under PSI, states form ad hoc coalitions--operating at sea, on land, or in the air--to interdict the illicit trade in weapons of mass destruction and related materials. More than 80 countries have indicated support for PSI. And President Bush is now working to expand our cooperation to target the factories, bank accounts, middlemen, and criminal networks that make WMD proliferation possible.

Our non-proliferation efforts are just one of the ways we are tailoring our policies to new sources of international conflict. But we cannot think of our nonproliferation efforts in a vacuum. Indeed, the worst security threat we face does not come from any one source, but from a convergence of trends: WMD proliferation, terrorism, and rogue regimes. In today’s world, our security cannot be isolated from broader, global trends. Security, democracy, and development are interwoven like the threads of a complex fabric.

This new reality forces us to address what goes on within the borders of sovereign states. The transnational and subnational nature of today’s threats elevates the quality of regimes to the level of global importance. As a result, the United States cannot remain neutral about the internal structure of states. We must take a clear stand on the dynamics at work within foreign societies. We must help the governments of weak, corrupt, or failing states become effective, responsible, and successful.

Nowhere is this challenge more pressing than in the broader Middle East. Throughout that region, decades of political and economic corruption have produced resentment, humiliation, and hopelessness. Needless to say, this psychology does not mean that the people of this region will all become terrorists. But it does mean that the siren song of fanaticism sounds more appealing in their ears.

To help Middle Eastern governments begin the journey to greater political, economic, and social openness, the United States has joined with the G-8 nations and the countries in the region to launch the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative. The impulse for reform must come from the region itself. Each unique society will need to cope with change in its own way. But the world’s advanced democracies have an important role to play in encouraging, advising and protecting those in government, the private sector and civil society who press the cause of reform in their own nations. This partnership will empower reformers in the region to create jobs, increase access to capital, improve literacy and education, protect human rights, and make progress toward democracy.

The need for reform in the broader Middle East is great, and the stakes could not be higher. But our commitment to political and economic freedom extends beyond this region. Our vision of a better world is defined more broadly than victory in the war on terrorism. We do not know where tomorrow’s threats and challenges might emerge. But we do know that promoting good governance and international development will help to preempt those threats that may currently be gathering without our knowledge.

This thinking underlies President Bush’s Millennium Challenge Account, a revolutionary reconsideration of international development. With this new approach, the U.S. government will target new foreign assistance to those countries that govern justly, reform their economies, and invest in the health and well-being of their people. Furthermore, the money is distributed in the form of grants, not loans, so that we do not add to the crushing debt that shackles so many developing countries.

To implement the vision of the Millennium Challenge Account, President Bush created the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a government program that operates like a private business. The Corporation, in which Secretary Powell serves as Chairman of the Board, establishes specific contracts between the United States and developing countries. Our assistance is conditional on their good performance.

So far, we have signed contracts with 16 countries. The initial funding for the MCC was $1 billion dollars, and we intend that figure to ramp-up to $5 billion dollars by 2006. Just recently, we notified seven new countries that they are eligible to apply for MCC grant money. With the money earmarked for the MCC, President Bush has increased our country’s official development assistance by over 50 percent. The Millennium Challenge Account represents the largest international development initiative the United States has undertaken since the Marshall Plan. And we expect it to be equally successful and transformative.

This innovative program represents an entirely new paradigm of international development assistance for our country and for the world. Indeed, the principles underlying the Millennium Challenge Account formed the basis of the international consensus that developed and developing countries reached at the International Conference on Financing for Development, held in Monterrey, Mexico in 2002. Clearly, America can lead the world through cooperation and partnership.

Encouraging humane, efficient governance presumes that governments control all of their territory. But in many places that is just not the case. The CIA has identified 50 "stateless zones" around the world, areas within states where governments exercise no jurisdiction. These zones can become breeding grounds for terrorism, infectious disease, international crime, and other nefarious activities that frequently overlap. In these areas, the United States is working with our partners to build the capacity of local government to subdue these lawless zones within their borders.

One of the greatest examples of this partnership is currently on display in Africa. We are helping our friends all across the continent build new institutions and strengthen existing ones, expanding the reach of state or international authority into previously unstable or ungovernable areas. Our partnership efforts with the African Union are a case in point.

Through the African Union, member-states are taking cooperative action to head off subnational violence and transnational instability. In order to integrate and expedite its response to these threats, the AU has created a Conflict Management Center. To increase its peacekeeping capability, the AU is creating five "standby brigades," one for each of the continent’s five sub-regions. The United States has helped: Along with our partners in the G-8, we are training African militaries to do their jobs more effectively and professionally. And when peacekeeping or police action is necessary, as it was in Liberia, Burundi, and Darfur, Sudan, the United States has contributed substantially.

As we strengthen state capacities, we are also moving to assist countries recovering from conflict. Tragically, half of the countries emerging from violence slide back into chaos within five years. And as we learned in Afghanistan, internal chaos in foreign lands can threaten our own security here at home. That is why Secretary Powell last month authorized the creation of a new State Department office to guide and coordinate U.S. Government efforts to stabilize and reconstruct war-torn countries. This will give us the standing capacity we need to prepare for and respond to state failure, and to assist recovering states in building a foundation for lasting peace, good governance, and sustainable development.

Shoring up weak and failing states, supporting democracy and good governance, promoting economic reform--these are all worthy and humane goals that will also make us safer. But they are all for naught unless we take action against the other ills that plague societies. After all, what good does it do to give someone a vote or a job if his community is ravaged by HIV/AIDS? Why keep a person safe from violence if he is also endangered by famine, contaminated drinking water, or humanitarian disaster? Our integrated political, economic, and security goals must, in turn, be linked to our broader initiatives to alleviate human misery and improve human lives.

We are fighting this battle with many tactics. For one, President Bush has reinvented the United States Agency for International Development and sharpened its mission. Greater attention is now given to supporting fragile states, providing humanitarian relief, and meeting basic human needs. Our administration has also created a Global Development Alliance, composed of more than 200 public-private partnerships among governments, businesses, and civil society. Using $500 million in U.S. money, USAID has leveraged more than $2.5 billion from the private sector to stimulate economic growth, to address health and environmental issues, and to expand access to education and technology.

We are doing even more. At the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, we helped to turn the focus away from a negotiation of lofty rhetoric to the implementation of concrete development projects that make a real difference in the lives of long-suffering populations. We announced a score of results-oriented partnerships to meet basic human needs, setting firm targets. Through our Water for the Poor initiative, we have provided over $873 million to improve access to clean water and sanitation for more than eight million people. Our Global Village Energy Partnership has already given 16 million new people access to reliable energy supplies. Our Africa Education Initiative will train 420,000 teachers, develop and distribute almost 5 million textbooks, and provide more than 250,000 scholarships for African girls. Our Congo Basin Forest Partnership unites twelve other governments, three international organizations, and ten civil society organizations--all behind the goal of protecting the world’s second largest tropical forest.

To complement these humanitarian efforts, President Bush has also made the United States the world’s leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. President Bush understands that global pandemics are more than health risks; they are international security challenges. HIV/AIDS destroys the members of society who generate income, raise children, and ensure social stability. Without these people, societies can become unmoored from their traditions, governments can grow weak, and--at worst--states could even implode.

With strong bipartisan support from Congress, President Bush created the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This new program commits billions of dollars to build partnerships with governments, businesses, faith-based organizations, NGOs, and local communities to save millions of lives. With this new program, and other funding already devoted to fighting infectious disease, the United States is now spending twice as much money as the rest of the world combined to combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Our goal is to prevent new infections, to treat those already suffering from the disease, and to care for the orphaned children and families that HIV/AIDS leaves in its wake. We have already contributed over $800 million to these ends in 15 of the hardest-hit countries, 12 of which are in Africa. Freeing people from this horrible disease will enable them to begin working to build stable, free societies.


The September 11 attacks did not change the fundamental nature of world politics. But they made clear that we are living with new threats, threats that emerged after the end of the Cold War. In this new era, threats are more subnational and transnational in nature than international. And President Bush has led our nation to adopt its thinking to this new reality--and to adopt a strategy of bilateral and multilateral partnerships to achieve our objectives.

Contrary to the cowboy caricatures of President Bush’s foreign policy, our entire approach to security, democracy, and development is predicated on partnerships, creating new ones and strengthening existing ones. America may possess an unrivaled position of power in the contemporary era. But we cannot meet the challenges of the 21st century alone. We need real partners who are committed to these goals.

What we Americans can do on our own is assume the global duties commensurate with our unique position in the world. As Spiderman tells us: "With great power comes great responsibility." Now, costumed superheroes are not usually the best sources of foreign policy advice, but in this case Peter Parker is onto something. The United States has unique responsibilities as a global leader. And we are committed to working with our friends and allies to address the problems that confront us all.

But as my boss, Secretary Powell, often says: "Multilateralism cannot work without leadership." And in the absence of a world government, that leadership must come from a nation dedicated to building a future that is more peaceful than our past. This, not the total elimination of war, was how Kenneth Waltz defined success in international politics.

Like it or not, our status as the sole superpower obliges us to lead in world affairs, for the simple and compelling reason that good things are not possible without American leadership. I encourage all of you to bear this in mind as you finish your time here at Fletcher and move back into the wider world. This education is preparing you to think in the broad manner our world demands. Politics, economics, history, sociology and law are more bound up together than ever before. Today’s policymakers, businessmen, educators, and students of foreign policy must think in terms of the relationships between disciplines.

Fletcher prepared me to succeed in the old bipolar world, but also how to think critically and adapt to the profound changes we have witnessed in the international system over the last 13 years. This school is preparing all of you in the same way. If not now, all of you will soon realize how valuable a Fletcher education is, and how fortunate and well-prepared you are. Until then, good luck with your course work. You’ll need it. Thank you very much.

Released on October 7, 2004

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.