Revolution and War

Revolution and War

Stephen M. Walt
Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 376
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt32b5tp
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Revolution and War
    Book Description:

    Revolution within a state almost invariably leads to intense security competition between states, and often to war. In Revolution and War, Stephen M. Walt explains why this is so, and suggests how the risk of conflicts brought on by domestic upheaval might be reduced in the future. In doing so, he explores one of the basic questions of international relations: What are the connections between domestic politics and foreign policy?

    Walt begins by exposing the flaws in existing theories about the relationship between revolution and war. Drawing on the theoretical literature about revolution and the realist perspective on international politics, he argues that revolutions cause wars by altering the balance of threats between a revolutionary state and its rivals. Each state sees the other as both a looming danger and a vulnerable adversary, making war seem both necessary and attractive.

    Walt traces the dynamics of this argument through detailed studies of the French, Russian, and Iranian revolutions, and through briefer treatment of the American, Mexican, Turkish, and Chinese cases. He also considers the experience of the Soviet Union, whose revolutionary transformation led to conflict within the former Soviet empire but not with the outside world. An important refinement of realist approaches to international politics, this book unites the study of revolution with scholarship on the causes of war.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7001-1
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Stephen M. Walt
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    In this book I examine the international impact of revolutionary change focusing primarily on the relationship between revolution and war. My chief objective is to explain why revolutions increase the intensity of security competition between states and thereby create a high probability of war. Because war does not occur in every case, my second objective is to clarify why certain revolutions lead to all-out war while others stop at the brink.

    Although major revolutions are relatively rare, this subject is worth studying for at least two reasons. First, revolutions are more than just critical events in the history of individual...

  5. 2 A Theory of Revolution and War
    (pp. 18-45)

    Why do revolutions intensify security competition among states and markedly increase the danger of war? My explanation is laid out in three steps. I begin by setting aside the subject of revolution to consider how states interact in the international system, focusing on those factors that account for security competition and war. To this end, I offer a simple theory of international politics, which I call balance-of-threat theory. I then analyze the revolutionary process in some detail, in order to identify how revolutions affect the states in which they occur. Next, I bring these two lines of analysis together and...

  6. 3 The French Revolution
    (pp. 46-128)

    In this chapter I explore relations between revolutionary France and the other European powers from 1789 to 1799, with particular emphasis on the wars of the First and Second Coalitions. The period illustrates the link between revolution and war in an especially vivid way and provides strong support for the arguments advanced in the previous chapter.

    First, as balance-of-threat theory would suggest, the French Revolution made war more likely by altering the balance of power. France’s apparent weakness invited other states to seek gains either at French expense or in other areas, because they believed France could not oppose them...

  7. 4 The Russian Revolution
    (pp. 129-209)

    The Russian Revolution caused a dramatic shift in the Eurasian balance of power that threatened the interests of the other great powers and pressed them to intervene in the subsequent civil war. The Bolsheviks and the Western powers regarded each other with suspicion if not outright hostility, and the belief that the 1917 revolution in Russia might spark similar upheavals elsewhere led the Soviet government to venture several ill-fated attempts to accelerate the process. The uncertainties unleashed by the revolution made accommodation more difficult, because both sides based their actions on unfounded hopes and fears and were unable to maintain...

  8. 5 The Iranian Revolution
    (pp. 210-268)

    Like the French and Russian revolutions, the Islamic upheaval in Iran confirms that revolutions raise the level of security competition between states. By altering the regional balance of power, the revolution in Iran both threatened other states and created opportunities for them. It also triggered spirals of hostility between the new regime and several other countries, which raised the level of threat even further. The fear that the revolution would spread made the danger seem greater, and lingering opposition within Iran fed the new regime’s fears of foreign plots and gave its rivals the impression that it would be easy...

  9. 6 The American, Mexican, Turkish, and Chinese Revolutions
    (pp. 269-330)

    What were the international effects of the American, Mexican, Turkish, and Chinese revolutions? Although the evidence presented here is not definitive, these four cases support the basic claim that revolutions intensify security competition and increase the risk of war. Each of them exhibited some or all of the destabilizing dynamics found in the three previous cases, and each state approached the brink of war at least once.

    Yet three of these revolutions did not lead to all-out war. The absence of war following the American, Mexican, and Turkish revolutions is best explained by the participants’ awareness that the use of...

  10. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 331-352)

    This book has explored some of the ways that revolutions affect international politics, focusing primarily on the relationship between revolution and war. I argued that revolutions alter the balance of threats between states, leading to more intense security competition and a heightened probability of war. I tested and refined this argument by examining three major revolutions in detail—those of France, Russia, and Iran—as well as four additional cases where the fit between theory and reality was less obvious.

    Four tasks remain. The first is to summarize and compare the results of the seven case studies, in order to...

  11. Index
    (pp. 353-366)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 367-369)