Stephen M. Walt’s main purpose in his work is to assert his explanations for the actions done by states in the international arena with regard to their alliances as a response to a certain factor or condition that affects or influences the very well being and situation of a state.
The entire point of Stephen M. Walt revolves around the reaction of states when engaged or met with external threat. His analysis illustrates the possible behavioural patterns of states by explaining what kind of actions these states make and why.
He thus caters two concepts; balancing and bandwagoning, stating that states tend to either balance or bandwagon depending on where these states perceive that they best fit or may benefit from. Therefore, he develops his analysis by proposing that the states two primary options or actions are to either ally in opposition of an external threat or to ally with the external threat itself. Stephen M. Walt holds that these two concepts are dependent upon the type and level of external threat manifested to them.
This is not to discount the fact that the state’s influence, power or how the international community perceives it must also be taken into consideration; whether a state is considered as a strong state or a weak state.
In a nutshell, Stephen M. Walt submits that a state may ally with other states in the face of an existing threat or it may arrange itself with this threat. He thus primarily asserts that as part of the natural behavioural pattern of a state, other theorists may say that balancing shall be the more convenient or expected action by a state rather than bandwagoning.
It is fundamental to hypothesize that a strong state shall have the automatic tendency to balance. While the weak states may also choose to balance but this is only as a response to other weak states. When the conflict is between a weak and a strong state, it is another story.
It is but natural in such a situation for a weak state to bandwagon when responding to a threat posed by a strong state. Stephen M. Walt’s alliance theory explains that a state’s action when responding to an external threat is the phenomenon of knowing when will such a state form an alliance and what will influence the state’s choice in making an alliance.
This phenomenon is an expected behavioural pattern and a normal reaction. The focal area of concern with regard to this phenomenon is focused mainly on the each state’s duty and responsibility to protect itself. As a means of security, the state will be expected to put its safety as the first priority when an external threat is lurking around.
The decision that follows shall take in consideration the state as a whole and how it is perceived by the international community. Primarily, the argument that pushes the theory of Stephen M. Walt falls largely on the shoulders of the two concepts of balancing and bandwagoning.
As mentioned earlier, balancing is about allying with other states against the external threat. In other words, states form an alliance against another state or group of states that pose the dominant and greater threat.
This is simply a way for a state to deal with another state which is a threat because of its greater aggregate power. A determining factor here is hinged on a state’s capability, particularly its military capability. However, the type of military capability that is in question is on a state’s offensive capability which poses the threat to other states.
The defensive military capability is not much given attention due to the fact that such capability will not be a threat unless provoked or initiated by another state. But having a strong and threatening offensive capability is not the only distress and apprehension of other states.
The level or aggressiveness of a particular state is definitely taken into account. Each state regardless of their capabilities has their own way of responding and not responding to threats and issues they encounter. Moreover, alliances formed under the concept of balancing are somewhat situational or circumstantial.
Although alliances are forged heavily to answer the call of threat, these alliances change dramatically when that threat is conquered or disposed of. Wars seem to be the common cause of most states to form an alliance but the moment the war ends, the alliance breaks as well. As much as alliance through balancing is very much evident and supported by past occurrences, the opposite concept of bandwagoning is as much evident and present as seen during the Cold War. It is therefore asserted that bandwagoning is most likely to happen than balancing.
Stephen M. Walt even stresses that any need for a legitimate justification to be involved in international territories or issues can be covered by bandwagoning. Furthermore, bandwagoning is also used as a means of increasing a state’s military capacity.
Proponents of bandwagoning see the logic in this concept by simply knowing that the greater a state’s aggregate capability and offensive capability the more likely it is for other states to form an alliance with it. Even the geographical location is taken into consideration.
The states that are located near a powerful state shall have a greater tendency of forming an alliance with the powerful state. The location of states geographically in relation to another state particularly with the stronger state is very important especially in times of conflict.
This because the issues on borders and the time it takes to send help and information to an ally will largely depend of their positions. And being the opposite of balancing, the states will not align against the powerful state because of its aggressive perceived intentions.
And also, the alliances formed against the greater state will disintegrate as a response to a serious obstacle that they realize is already beyond them. Stephen M. Walt states his theory by deducing it from rational and historically based assumptions and behavioural patterns which states have already done to point out that what states will most possibly be doing. The past shows times of numerous instances in international relations which act as an example or as a guide in predicting not necessarily the end result but the processes of interactions between states.
Stephen M. Walt cites numerous occasions and incidents in the World War and the Cold War as an example for proving his theory. He thus bases his conclusions and hypotheses knowing that there are only limited possible steps or actions that a state can actually make.
The assertion of Stephen M. Walt’s theory by quantifying and qualifying a state’s action to form an alliance as a response to an external threat through balancing and bandwagoning as supported by historical bases makes it logically sound.
The argument that is proposed takes root in the rational and natural assessment of how exactly a state will respond to the situation presented. In other words, the theory is an anticipation of an expected probable outcome.
The explanation is implicated in the concepts of balancing and bandwagoning which are two polar manifestations that show that for every action taken or not taken, there is also another option which is the alternative or opposite action taken or not taken.
For example, as stated earlier in balancing, the greater the threatening state’s aggregate power, the greater the tendency of others to align against it. While in bandwagoning, the greater the threatening state’s aggregate power, the greater the tendency of others to align with it.
The cause and effect implication is simply related to the relationship between one state’s relation with another, a state’s capability and the other state’s capability and most importantly, one’s external threat confronted by a state as manifested by another state.
The threat is the absolute indicator or the absolute cause of how a state will react. The level of threat will influence every consideration that a state will take into. Technically speaking, in consideration of the cause and effect analysis, it becomes quite obvious that this theory of Stephen M. Walt is a primary response or a better description and explanation of the forming of alliances of states. It is asserted by other theorists that the overlying source for the alliances formed by states is founded on the power relations between states.
Thus, the balancing or bandwagoning of states are simply actions to balance the power in the prevailing status quo of the international sphere. But Stephen M. Walt sees that the states do not seek security from power but rather, states seek security from threat.
Power can be threat but it can also not be threat. Power is a neutral factor and cannot be seen as a threat unless used as one. While threat on the other hand is a concept that poses danger and concern to a state making it more definite and ideal to thoroughly and greatly influence the state’s actions.
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