Call Us: US - +1 845 478 5244 | UK - +44 20 7193 7850 | AUS - +61 2 8005 4826

explanation centers on domestic politics,

The second type of explanation centers on domestic politics, especially bureaucratic politics. The war was triggered or hastened by mobilization requirements: war by timetable. Or military leaders adopted offensive doctrines for bureaucratic reasons: autonomy, prestige, and budgets.[7]  See Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine:…[7] Bureaucratic pathologies swayed crisis diplomacy. There may be something to weaker versions of this argument, but it has not found much support of late. We certainly see service chiefs battling for budgets and deference to commanders and “conditions on the ground,” but as a cause of great power war bureaucratic politics has not weathered well. Leaders understood the consequences of mobilization and that there were alternatives to offense à outrance.21

The third type of explanation relates to the security dilemma. Though the concept was intimated by Herodotus and Thucydides and not formally named until after World War II, World War I remains a textbook case. The security dilemma is a “structural notion in which the self-help attempts of states to look after their security tend, regardless of intention, to lead to rising insecurity for others as each interprets its own measures as defensive and the measures of others as potentially threatening.”[8]  See John H. Herz, “Idealist Internationalism and the…[8] The security dilemma is a root cause of war, the essence of arms races, and above all the tragedy of international politics.22

At bottom, the security dilemma is about the moves and countermoves of balance of power politics. Conventionally, there are two kinds of balancing: internal and external. Internal balancing involves trying to offset the advantages of others through domestic policies such as military spending, research and development, and doctrinal innovation or imitation. External balancing refers to blunting rivals’ power through political alignments and alliance portfolios, either siding with the weak against the strong or using wedge strategies to sap the strength of opposing coalitions.