Term Paper: Causes of War by Geoffrey Blainey

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Geoffrey Blainey's The Causes Of War

The Causes of War is a book by the Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey. Blainey is noted for having had an exceptional career in academia in Australia - despite the fact that he was eventually forced to retire due to some controversial comments he made on Australia's immigration policies. Throughout the course of his career, Blainey has published over two dozen books, including the critically acclaimed a Short History of the World. Triumph of the Nomads, another one of his books, is considered to be the classic study on Australia's original inhabitants. Among his numerous theories, Blainey is famous for coining the "black armband view of history" as a label for those historians who feel that Australians committed genocide against the Indigenous Australians. He is thus widely considered to be a right wing historian.

In his academic career, Blainey held numerous chairs at the University of Melbourne. He was also chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University for a while. Between the years of 1994 and 1998, Blainey served as foundation Chancellor at the University of Ballarat. Among Blainey's numerous awards and honors, he was made a knight of the Order of Australia in 1975, and a Companion in the Order of Australia in 2000. His controversial work on war and the history of Australia continues to be the subject of numerous studies.

In the Causes of War, Blainey attempts to shed light on what has caused wars over the centuries. His main objective is to disprove previous theories of the causes of war, as they have come down to us over the centuries. In each chapter, Blainey picks out a particular theme relating to the way war has been conceptualized by historians over the years, and systematically discredits them. Some of the theories are more plausible than others. Blainey's ultimate purpose is to show how there is not one single theory that explains why wars happen. Rather, war is contingent on a number of different factors.

In the first book, Blainey explores the notion of peace. He begins by asking why there have been thousands of pages written on the causes of war over the years, but hardly any on the causes of peace. The inference, says Blainey, is that peace is the normal state of affairs. But statistically, this is not true. Throughout history, there have always been wars. In fact, extended periods of peace have been quite scant, and rarely last more than a quarter of a century. By Blainey's own admission, however, the 19th century did have much longer periods of peace than previous eras. Blainey is uncertain as to why this, but ventures that people during this era were weary of war.

In the next section of the book, "The Web of War," Blainey re-iterates his thesis that "persistent patterns in war and peace have not been found for the simple reason that they do not exist" (35). In order for two countries to go to war, Blainey ventures, each nation must be confident that the war will lead to quick victory on their side; otherwise, he reasons, nations will try to avoid war. For there is no point in engaging in a prolonged battle that will cost millions of human lives, not to mention billions of dollars. Without the confidence that war will result in quick victory, no country is going to go to war. Thus, an overbearing feeling of optimism must be present in each country before a war is to begin.

Blainey then goes on to outline his waterbird theory, which basically explains what he views to be opportunism on the part of warring nations. When two waterbirds are engaged in battle over a fish, oftentimes a third waterbird will swoop in and attempt to grab the fish. As an example, Blainey employs the numerous battles and near-battles that Bulgaria was engulfed in for much of the late 19th century; as soon as they mobilized their army at one border, an army of invaders from another country would invade from an unguarded border. This sort of rampant opportunism in international affairs, argues Blainey, has served as the catalyst for… [END OF PREVIEW]

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