Primarily, the issue that needs to be well-thought-out, prior delineating the levels of analysis and the causes of war is initially to define what is war? Owing to the various definitions of war, it is imperative to scrutinize war by looking at the distinctive metaphysical and political definitions that has been made by the different political scientists and other sociologists.

On the other hand, without incredulity, most people portray war same as how the English dictionaries define the term war, which is to say ‘’armed fighting between two or more countries or groups, or particular meaning of this; nuclear war, military war, airstrikes and infantry attacks between groups or troops’’ (Cambridge Dictionary 2013).

Nonetheless, there are other political and social theorists, who define war otherwise. Thomas Hobbes was among the philosophers who outlined war as an attitude ‘’By war is meant a state of affairs, which might exist even while its operations are not continued’’ (Hobbes, 1981). In Hobbes terms of definition, war is more natural and biological, and it is always there for humans to go to war, even if there are no signs of war between states and groups at the time.

Since, humans are hardwired in a state of nature. On the contrary, there are others like Rousseau, who explicate and describe the term of war differently. Rousseau argues the reason why war materializes, is not because of the relations between men, but the relations between two things, ‘’ War is constituted by a relation between things, and not between persons… War then is a relation, not between man and man, but between State and State…” (Rousseau, 2012). In that case, people should be very meticulous when defining war, especially not to narrow it into one single unequivocal definition.

Therefore, this academic article will generally discuss the levels of analysis and the causes of war, it will also illustrate whether it is the humans, the states or the international system that causes war. The article will later expound which level of analysis cause war. it will cherry-pick that humans are the most important level of analysis that cause war. But, on the other hand, the the academic will compare/contrast and define the different levels of analysis and their causes of war.

In International Security, levels of analysis were generally pigeonholed into three different classifications. These levels of analysis are the humans, the states and the international system. Thus, in a state of war, which level of analysis is the most important cause of war? Is it the humans, as Hobbes argued that they are selfish and brutish?  Or is the state as Rousseau claimed since the structure of the states are the main important cause of war, and i.e. for the relations of things, but not by the humans.

Moreover, is it conceivable to be argued that the country’s economic, political and security interests are what matters most to the individual countries of the world? And finally, is it the international system, which is anarchic, for the reason that there is no existing world government above all states. Hence, this is what compelled the individual countries to take care of themselves in terms of security and self-dependency.

To riposte the above three queries, we need to fathom how these levels of analysis are somehow interrelated. Consequently, it is crucial to study the individual and state power analysis in particular, since both individuals and states are power seekers. To start with the individual level of analysis, humans are power seekers, whether that is a wealth or a power to rule. The lust and the desire of power for humans turn to instigate war as humans are avaricious and power seekers.

According to Thomas Hobbes, the life of mankind when in a state of war ‘’war of every man against every man’’ (Hobbes, 1981). This refers that humans are the main important cause of war, as they are the ones who run the state itself. When defining the human actors on the world stage, it is always the human desire and human aversions that decide what actions is to be taken. In that sense, one can argue that humans are responsible for the causation of war. As some theorists argue, man is the product of his environment, while others argue that man also posses the power to change his environment. In that case, these theorists also claim that war is the product of man.

Though, this is not the expiration of the story, there is a whopping enquiry that needs to be countered by those who argue, that it is always the individuals who create war. Of course it is infinitely the humans who go into war with one another. But, there are other thinkers from various schools of thought, who are more inquisitive about the nature causes of war, yes, they are the humans who go into war, but what cause them to do so. Because, in a state of peace we all experience that humans are peace aficionados, especially women. This phenomenon is worth to consider, since women are humans as well as men.

For example, Fukuyama stated, ‘’Phenomena like aggression, violence, war, and intense competition for dominance…are more closely associated with men than women”(Fukuyama, 1993). This refers that man does not represent humans, but only the masculine gene of the humans. Even though, women help men when preparing to fight. According to Van Creveld, ‘’the real reason why we have wars is that men like fighting, and women like those men who are prepared to fight on their behalf” (Van Creveld, 1991). Henceforth, women cannot be excluded when war is taking place, for the reason that they provide support to men, examples are; the first and the second World Wars.


However, when it comes the levels of analysis and how states cause war, it seems more logic than the individual causes of war pattern. For instance, regarding the phenomenon of the structure and the agency we all know that the individual’s ability to make choices in society is very limited. According to Debra Marshall (2012) ‘’does the structure or do those social forces that exist outside of the individual have any impact on the decisions that individuals made, as well as their choices and wishes’’. This refers that whether the individual citizens choose to go to war when their country attacking another state.

One good example is the Iraq war in 2003. What were the causes of the war? Was it the governments of Britain and United States, or the people of these countries that attacked Saddam Hussein’s regime? Or in other words, whether the Iraqi people invaded Kuwait in 1991, or the authority of Iraq fulfilled that invasion, and that was determined by the autocratic state of Iraq.

In a way, the level of analysis can be interpreted as an individual level of analysis. Meanwhile, the individual leaders, such as Saddam Hussein and Tony Blair or George W. Bush were the immediate circle of the decision makers. Bush and Blair, in particular induced their Legislative Houses that Saddam has Weapons of Mass Destruction, while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that there were no signs of chemical weapons in Iraq.

In addition to this, humans are the main actors of the state, it is always their decision whenever states going to war, they have the ultimate decision of their states. But on the contrary, other International Security theorists such as Clausewitz argue ‘’ The political object is the goal, war is the means of reaching it, and the means can never be considered in isolation from their purposes’’ (Clausewitz, 1997). This ‘’political means’’ refers that the state or the domestic level of analysis determine the interest of its people. Even if the interest of the state is to go to war against another state, or a group of people.

Thus, the causes of war are predominantly the states, because states can be aggressive sometimes. This could happen when state institutions fail to provide services to its people, so it is a new tactic to create a common enemy for its people so as to unite them. North Korea is a good example, as it bears all the hallmarks of a failed state. Its people live under constant unemployment, fear and lack of human rights, while the state is advancing and procuring more technological weapons and military power.

But, the big question still lies who has the legal authority to declare war? The answer is short and sharp. It is always the state leaders, or if it is a civil unrest the opposition leaders. In addition, these leaders have the consent of their people, and they are declaring war on their behalf. Consequently, in that sense, they have the legitimacy to declare war. As Thomas Hobbes stated ‘’ The condition of man… is a condition of war of everyone against everyone’’ (Hobbes, 1981). Therefore, in this terms the causation of war is the nature of humans, whether it is biological, rational or cultural merits.

In conclusion, the most important level of analysis when explaining the causes of war are the humans as the above examples suggested. Because, the definition of the human nature, wars and political actions are the products of the humans. For instance, states do political actions that determine peace and war, meanwhile individual leaders make the prime decision of whether the states go to war or sign a peace deal agreement with their opponents.

On the contrary, the argument of that the international system level of analysis, and the anarchic system of the world, is the causation of war. Because, subjects (states) can do whatever they want to do, and that is why states go into war as there is no world government above individual states is rather unjustifiable.

It shows that the above argument is not really convincing, because the absence of world government cannot be justified in the cause of war, while the world has experienced civil wars, genocides and the huge massacre of our contemporary politics within the states that have their governments in place. In what way can possibly be assumed, despite the fact of the different cultures, race, languages and religions of the universe in which a world government can entirely secure the peace and the stability of the biosphere.

On the other hand, the argument of the domestic individual level of analysis is not as strong as the individual level of analysis. Because, it argues that self-dependency and survival of the fittest is the core element of causation of the war, as states are too much care about their economic and political survival.

Consequently, we see states waging war against others. However, the above arguments cannot easily be accepted as states are not only the most important causes of war. For instance, the Gulf War in 1991, it was Iraq that invaded Kuwait, but the role of Saddam Hussein cannot be ignored. We also see the total aggression from North Korea to Japan and South Korea in the mainstream media.

At the same time, Kim Jong-un has the main political power in hand to dictate as he wishes. Therefore, the case that states can generate wars and conflicts by their own choice is not real, because self-determination have never been made by the both people of Iraq and North Korea, but rather were led by individuals. And of course this is nothing more than individual choices and interests, which is a sign of human thirsty for power.

Finally, the anarchical system or the absence of the world authority could not be interpreted the causation of war, because the phenomenon of war also occurs within the states themselves. This means that states go into war within. Syria, Somalia, Congo and Rwanda are vital examples of world civil wars. It is always the individual level of analysis that creates war. Because, individuals are the main actors of the states, even the international system of the world could be individual actors if necessary.

Mohamed Hagi Mohamoud. Department of Politics and International Studies. The University of Warwick. Email:m.hagi-mohamoud@warwick.ac.uk,mohamedomar1@hotmail.com.


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