Patricia A. Weitsman
Military alliances predate even the state system as a form of international cooperation, and they take on many forms. The motivations of states seeking to join, the commitment levels formalized in the alliance agreement, and degrees of institutionalization all take different forms in the literature, but these scholarly perspectives can be boiled down to a few approaches: the realist, the rationalist and formalist, the liberal or institutionalist, and finally, the constructivist arguments on alliance identities. Moreover, a common thread among the literature on military alliances is an understanding that alliances provide a wide range of services to their members, and contain more than one motivation for forming and maintaining the alliances. Given that the motivations for forming alliances are varied, especially during different threat environments, it is important to ask what the consequences are. In this vein, scholars consider two primary issues: if these alliances can fulfill their intended missions, and if there are unintended consequences which may arise and lead to undesirable results. A related issue to the study of what motivates alliances is in how well they perform in terms of cohesion. Cohesion is, roughly speaking, the capacity of an alliance to effectively carry out its goals. Finally, there are the coalitions—ad hoc multinational understandings that are forged to undertake a specific mission, and dissolve once that mission is complete. They are not wholly analytically distinct from wartime alliances, although the latter may have a greater degree of institutionalization and may predate a specific wartime operation.
Karen Ruth Adams
The scientific study of war is a pressing concern for international politics. Given the destructive nature of war, ordinary citizens and policy makers alike are eager to anticipate if not outright avoid outbreaks of violence. Understanding the causes of war can be a complex process. Scholars of international relations must first define war, and then establish a universe of actors or conflicts in which both war and peace are possible. Next, they must collect data on the incidence of war in the entire universe of cases over a particular period of time, a random sample of relevant cases, a number of representative cases, or a set of cases relevant to independent variables in the theories they are testing. Finally, scholars must use this data to construct quantitative and qualitative tests of hypotheses about why actors fight instead of resolving their differences in other ways and, in particular, why actors initiate wars by launching the first attack. Instead of taking the inductive approach of inventorying the causes of particular wars and then attempting to find general rules, it is necessary for scholars to approach the problem deductively, developing theories about the environment in which states operate, deriving hypotheses about the incidence of war and attack, and using quantitative and qualitative methods to test these hypotheses.
Mackubin Thomas Owens
Civil–military relations is an interdisciplinary area of research, reflecting the work of political scientists, military, sociologists, and historians. History and culture, the constitution of the state and the statutes and practices arising therefrom, changes in the international security environment, technology, the character of conflict, and the changing concept of “soldier-hood” all influence the civil–military relations of a state. There are many possible patterns of civil–military relations that provide different answers to the questions of who controls the military and how, the degree of military influence appropriate for a given society, the appropriate role of the military in a given polity, who serves, and the effectiveness of the military instrument that a given civil–military relations produces. Moreover, there is no “general” or “unified field” theory that successfully explains all of these patterns. For a variety of reasons, Samuel Huntington's institutional theory remains the dominant paradigm for examining civil–military relations. When it comes to the question of civilian control of the military, Peter Feaver’s agency theory corrects some of the flaws in Huntington’s theory. Morris Janowitz and the military sociologists also provide useful insights, especially regarding the question of who serves and related issues. In the case of concordance theory, critics argue that the definition of military intervention sets the bar too low to be meaningful. Ultimately, the patterns of civil–military relations affect national security because of their impact on strategic assessment.
Stathis N. Kalyvas and Paul D. Kenny
A civil war, also known as intrastate war, is a war between organized groups within the same state or country. It is a high-intensity conflict that often involves regular armed forces. One of the reasons for the lack of consensus in the study of civil war is disagreement over what exactly civil war means. Theoretically, civil war overlaps with other categories of armed conflict, particularly revolution, political violence, ethnic conflict, and terrorism. Civil wars since the end of World War II have lasted for over four years on average, a considerable rise from the one-and-a-half-year average of the 1900–1944 period. While the rate of emergence of new civil wars has been relatively steady since the mid-19th century, the increasing length of those wars has resulted in increasing numbers of wars ongoing at any one time. Since 1945, civil wars have resulted in the deaths of over 25 million people, as well as the forced displacement of millions more, along with economic collapse. According to scholars of civil war research, the causes of civil war include economic motivations or greed, and political or social grievances. Greed-based explanations focus on individuals’ desire to maximize their profits, while grievance-based explanations center on conflict as a response to socioeconomic or political injustice. A third concept, opportunity-based explanations, talks about factors that make it easier to engage in violent mobilization.
Idean Salehyan and Clayton L. Thyne
Civil war is an armed conflict between the state and another organized domestic party over a contested political incompatibility, which results in a number of casualties exceeding a certain threshold for both parties. Attempts to operationalize these criteria have produced many data sets, which conceptualize civil war as distinct from one-sided violence, organized crime, and communal fighting. Civil wars are devastating for states experiencing them, their neighbors, and the entire global community. Combatant and civilian deaths, rape, massive refugee flight, negative impacts on economy and infrastructure, spread of infectious diseases, global spread of illegal narcotics, and the promotion of terrorism are all consequences of civil wars. Theories explaining why civil wars occur focus on objectives of the rebels, ability of rebels to successfully challenge the government, influence of external actors on interactions between the government and the opposition, external financing of potential rebel groups, and impact of a state’s neighbors on the likelihood of civil conflict or how neighboring conflicts and refugee communities serve as breeding grounds for cross-border rebel movements. Conflicts persist until neither side believes that it can achieve unilateral victory and continued fighting is costly. Governments are more likely to win early when they have large armies, but time to government victory increases when they are faced with secessionist rebels and when external parties are involved. Meanwhile, external mediation diminishes informational and credible commitment problems during bargaining and reduces conflict duration. Promising directions for future research on civil war include geographic disaggregation, survey research, and computational/agent-based modeling.
Paul K. Huth and Alyssa K. Prorok
War is merely an outward expression of an inward state, an enlargement of a daily action. It is bloodier, more spectacular, more destructive, but it is the collective result of humans’ individual activities. The law of war is a legal jargon that refers to the aspect of public international law concerning acceptable justifications to engage in war (jus ad bellum) and the limits to acceptable wartime conduct (jus in bello). Among other issues, modern laws of war address declarations of war, acceptance of surrender and the treatment of prisoners of war; military necessity, along with distinction and proportionality; and the prohibition of certain weapons that may cause unnecessary suffering. It has often been commented that creating laws for something as inherently lawless as war seems like a lesson in absurdity. However, based on the adherence to what amounted to customary international law by warring parties through the ages, it was felt that codifying laws of war would be beneficial. But while most analytical attention is devoted to explaining why wars and militarized disputes occur, there is also some need to focus on what effects or consequences wars and disputes generate. Wars and, to a lesser extent, disputes have had exceptionally strong influences on the way the world works, and previous wars and disputes are likely to strongly influence the subsequent probability of more wars and disputes.
Conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) is defined by a set of ideas about avoiding, minimizing, and stopping violence that often is mutually destructive. CAR relates to all domains of conflicts, whether within or between families, organizations, communities, or countries. The CAR field emerged between 1946 and 1969, as numerous wars and crises erupted, associated with the Cold War and the national liberation struggles of the decolonization process. Many doctrines, theories, and research appeared to explain and influence those conflicts. New governmental and nongovernmental actions were also undertaken to prevent future wars by building transnational institutions and fostering reconciliation between former enemies. The rapid expansion and institutionalization of CAR began in the early 1970s, when many American pioneers in the field became discouraged by their failure to accomplish more during the 1950s and 1960s. The end of the Cold War in 1989 and collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 profoundly changed the world environment. Several developments contributed to limiting destructive international and domestic conflicts. These include the increasing economic integration of the world and the intensification of global communications; the growing adherence to norms protecting human rights; increasing number of democratic countries; and growing engagement of women in governance. Core CAR concepts include conflict analysis, conflict fluidity and subjectivity, and multiplicity of actors.
Louis Kriesberg and Joyce Neu
Core concepts of the interdisciplinary social science field of conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) are discussed. Work in the field is based on numerous generally accepted ideas about the nature of conflict and constructive approaches to conflict. These ideas include ways of waging conflicts constructively, tracing the interconnectedness of conflicts, and assessing the multiplicity of actors. Other important core concepts relate to stages of conflicts: emergence, escalation, de-escalation and settlement, and sustaining peace. Finally, current and future issues regarding CAR conceptualizations and their applications are examined.
Even though most conflicts in everyday life manifest themselves as cursory bagatelles, there are conflicts that end up in situations of organized, collective violence (e.g., armed conflict). To understand how trivial contradictions can become meaningful conflicts in a broader societal context, it is crucial to examine the process of conflict escalation. Conflict escalation can be understood as an intensification of a conflict with regard to the observed extent and the means used. An escalating conflict represents a developing social system in its own right, having the legitimization of violence as a key feature. Here, a broader social science perspective on the concept of conflict escalation is offered, outlining its intellectual history, explaining its major perspectives and current emphases, and exploring newer avenues in approaching social conflict.
Sara McLaughlin Mitchell and Patrick M. Regan
The issue of armed conflict management was first mentioned in the inaugural issue of the Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1957, when Quincy Wright wrote that the resolution of international conflict can be facilitated by national government efforts “to prevent tensions for arising and aggravating disputes […] among nations. Such resolution can also proceed through the application of appropriate methods of negotiation, inquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement […] and the coordination of measures to prevent aggression.” However, there was remarkably little emphasis on studies of negotiation, mediation, or interstate bargaining before the mid-1970s. A more concerted focus on managing armed conflict began in the mid-1970s, and the 1990s and 2000s saw an explosion in the number of published quantitative studies on conflict management, driven in part by the significant growth in data collection projects on interstate conflict management. Over the past half-century, quantitative studies have identified the factors that promote the use and success of interstate conflict management. It should be noted that a lot of the usual suspect variables in the conflict literature, such as power parity, democracy, rivalry, and contiguity, appear in conflict management analyses as well. Yet the dialogue between these two literatures is often limited. On the other hand, conflict management courses typically organize themselves around the dependent variable, examining different forms of conflict management techniques (good offices, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, adjudication, etc.). Progress will be made on both fronts when we start thinking about these processes in a unified framework.
The academic study of conflict resolution was born as as a critique of mainstream International Relations (IR), which explains why feminist theory and conflict resolution share many things in common. For example, both feminists and conflict resolution scholars challenge traditional power politics grounded in realist or neorealists analyses of conflict. They also share the core belief that war is not inevitable and that human beings have the capacity to resolve conflicts through nonviolent means. In the past two decades, with the expansion of feminist scholarship in IR, feminist interventions in conflict resolution have gained more currency. This essay reviews feminist scholarship in conflict resolution, with particular emphasis on five elements: critiques of the absence and/or marginalization of women in the field and an effort to include women and to make women visible and heard; articulation of a unique feminist standpoint for approaching peacemaking and conflict resolution, which is essentially different to, and qualitatively better than, mainstream (or male-stream) perspectives; feminist theorization of difference in conflict resolution theory and practice (challenges to essentialism, intersections, power and privilege, culture); feminist redefinition of central concepts in the field, especially violence, power, peace, and security; and original feminist research and theorizing, including field research in conflict areas, designed to transform rather than just reform the field. This essay argues that in order to further expand and institutionalize conflict resolution studies, mainstream scholars must be willing to engage seriously the contributions and critiques of feminists.
For more than four decades, advocates of consociationalism and their opponents have been engaged in a debate over about how to design institutions to achieve sustainable peace in divided societies. In general, existing theories acknowledge the importance and usefulness of institutional design in conflict resolution, but offer rather different prescriptions as to the most appropriate models to achieve stable conflict settlements. Three such theories are of particular significance: power sharing in the form of its liberal consociational variant, centripetalism, and power dividing. Consociationalism, centripetalism, and power dividing offer a range of distinct prescriptions on how to ensure that differences of identity do not translate into violence. They often go beyond “politics at the center” and also provide arguments on territorial dimensions of ethnic conflict settlement. Practitioners of conflict resolution recognize the need to combine a range of different mechanisms, giving rise to an emerging practice of conflict settlement known as “complex power sharing.” None of the three theories of conflict resolution fully captures this current practice of complex power sharing, even as liberal consociationalism appears to be the most open to incorporation of elements of centripetalism and power dividing. A theory of complex power sharing would need to explain why there is empirical support for a greater mix of institutions than existing theories recommend.
Janice Gross Stein
A relatively recent phenomenon in international politics is the study of crisis, which began in the twentieth century, when scholars looked back at two world wars and the interwar period that was shaped by the Great Depression. Today, the challenges to effective crisis prevention and management have become broader and deeper. During the Cold War, leaders were prone to escalate to force in crises over the classic currency of international politics—territory. In the contemporary global system, territorial disputes continue to matter and are most likely to escalate when the land is highly valued for its strategic importance, economic potential, or symbolic significance. An important part of the explanation of crisis escalation, and of an inadvertent slide into wars or violent confrontations, are theories emphasizing “miscalculation” and “misperception.” These theories have been used as a mediating variable between external and domestic attributes, and the way leaders perceive and process information about these factors, and then make choices. However, arguments on “misperception” and “miscalculation” are built on the assumption that accurate perception and calculation are possible. That leaders are “rational” and capable of “accurate” perception and utility-maximizing choices. The challenge lies in the understanding of error and the model of human reason. Research in the last several decades has revolutionized that understanding.
Cultural homogenization is understood as a state-led policy aimed at cultural standardization and the overlap between state and culture. Homogeneity, however, is an ideological construct, presupposing the existence of a unified, organic community. It does not describe an actual phenomenon. Genocide and ethnic cleansing, meanwhile, can be described as a form of “social engineering” and radical homogenization. Together, these concepts can be seen as part of a continuum when considered as part of the process of state-building, where the goal has often been to forge cohesive, unified communities of citizens under governmental control. Homogenizing attempts can be traced as far back as ancient and medieval times, depending on how historians choose to approach the subject. Ideally, however, the history of systematic cultural homogenization begins at the French Revolution. With the French Revolution, the physical elimination of ideological-cultural opponents was pursued, together with a broader drive to “nationalize” the masses. This mobilizing-homogenizing thrust was widely shared by the usually fractious French revolutionary elites. Homogenization later peaked during the twentieth century, when state nationalism and its attendant politics emerged, resulting in a more coordinated, systematic approach toward cultural standardization. Nowadays, there are numerous methods to achieving homogenization, from interstate wars to forced migration and even to the more subtle shifts in the socio-political climate brought about by neoliberal globalization.
Religion and culture have historically been neglected in international relations (IR) theories and in political science more generally. It was only recently that IR began to consider the role of culture and religion in war and peace. Several main scholarly trends in the study of culture, religion, conflict, and peace can be identified, starting with the definitional problems that IR scholars had to deal with as they tried to incorporate culture and religion. The first major attempt in the IR field to understand war almost exclusively through the religious prism was that of Samuel Huntington, who in his Clash of Civilization (1993, 1996) identifies two main reasons why religion can cause war: first, religion can be considered as a primordial and immutable identity; and second, religion is a form of ideology rather than identity. The scholarly literature has also addressed themes such as religious fundamentalism and violence, the role of religious actors in international conflict, the practical use of religion and culture to promote peace via diplomacy, and engagement of religion and culture in existing peace theories such as democratic peace theory. Avenues for future research may include the relational and constantly changing aspects of religion; what, when, and how various religious interpretations receive political prominence in promoting conflict or peace; how religion can be used as an independent variable across cases; and the hidden set of assumptions that are embedded in the cultural and religion labels.
Paul Sharp and Robert Weiner
Scholars acknowledge that there is a close connection between diplomacy and war, but they disagree with regard to the character of this connection—what it is and what it ought to be. In general, diplomacy and war are assumed to be antagonistic and polar opposites. In contrast, the present diplomatic system is founded on the view that state interests may be pursued, international order maintained, and changes effected in it by both diplomacy and war as two faces of a single statecraft. To understand the relationships between diplomacy and war, we must look at the development of the contemporary state system and the evolution of warfare and diplomacy within it. In this context, one important claim is that the foundations of international organizations in general, and the League of Nations in particular, rest on a critique of modern (or “old”) diplomacy. For much of the Cold War, the intellectual currents favored the idea of avoiding nuclear war to gain advantage. In the post-Cold War era, the relationship between diplomacy and war remained essentially the same, with concepts such as “humanitarian intervention” and “military diplomacy” capturing the idea of a new international order. The shocks to the international system caused by events between the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 have intensified the paradoxes of the relationship between diplomacy and war.
Will H. Moore and Ahmer Tarar
A significant shift has taken place within the study of international relations (IR) generally, and within the domestic-international conflict linkage literature specifically. This shift has helped to address a number of important weaknesses that used to be observed within the literature on the domestic sources of foreign policy. Initially, political science was largely focused on macrostructural analyses of “political systems” and institutions (understood as formal-legal documents and rules). The research that eschewed the paradigmatic separation of domestic and international politics had a strong macrostructural bent to it, rather than a theoretical focus on microfoundations and causal processes. The field later went through a “behavioral revolution,” which brought an emphasis on data collection, hypothesis testing, statistical inference, and a focus on political behavior (especially as recorded in survey research). Hence, in recent years, much more emphasis has been placed on examining the precise microfoundations for how domestic politics might affect international relations, and vice-versa. The contemporary literature that earlier scholars have called the “domestic-international nexus” is largely engaged in debates about five important causal processes, each of which is best understood as being caused by strategic interaction among utility maximizing actors: principal-agent dynamics, informational asymmetries and uncertainty in bargaining situations, signaling, credibility, and coalition politics.
Caroline A. Hartzell and Amy Yuen
With wars—not just global, but civil wars and other domestic infightings—still being rampant in the modern world, scholars have begun to develop interest in identifying the conditions that can help establish a durable peace. Peace is a lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence between social groups. Commonly understood as the absence of war or violent hostility, peace often involves compromise, and therefore is initiated with thoughtful active listening and communication to enhance and create genuine mutual understanding. The study of the durability of peace has greatly evolved through the years, and one of its implications is that recent empirical work on this topic has focused on civil war. Most of this study has been tailored in response to the model of war, a theory of armed conflict which presents war and peace as stages of a single process. Furthermore, this analysis on peace duration revolves around for main themes: the characteristics of conflict and conflict actors, belligerent-centered dynamics, the role of third parties, and the developments in the measurement, estimation, and the study of peace duration. Under the conceptions of peace, sustainable peace must be regarded as an important factor for the future of prosperity. Throughout the world, nurturing, empowerment, and communications are considered to be the crucial factors in creating and sustaining a durable peace.
The theoretical and empirical literature on the reciprocal topics of economy and war have developed a fertile debate. Most contributions examine the liberal hope that growing economic bonds between or within nations reduce the risk of violent conflict, while an increasing number of studies also examine the destructive and redistributive effect of war, terrorism, and genocides. The article argues that most studies in the field do not provide clear microfoundations for the opportunity-cost arguments that are typically made to justify the deterring effects of increased economic interactions. To move the field forward, contributions need to focus more on how the relationship between business leaders and the government shapes decision making in periods of crisis. Recent advances have been made to understand the economic impact of massive political violence that can only be fully understood through the use of temporally disaggregated data.
During the Cold War, bipolarity represented a systemic condition wherein two superpowers—the US and the USSR—were locked in an attitude of confrontation for over four decades. In this contest, the spatial geopolitical battles over spheres of influence were supplemented on both sides by universalist claims based on socioeconomic doctrines. As Soviet leaders sought to make the world safe for a communist revolution, and their American counterparts attempted to make the world safe for markets and democracies, the world became the stage for these rival claimants to gain adherents for their respective causes. The collapse of the USSR in December 1991 definitively ended the era of bipolarity but opened the page on a new series of unresolved questions relating to the nature and shape of the post-Cold War era world. Debates have generally clustered around three questions: the likelihood of great-power competition or cooperation; the salience of culture and identity; and the preeminence of economic imperatives in a globalizing world associated with the end of the bipolar order. The initial hopes for a new world order marked by cooperation among major powers eventually settled into a cold peace in which the United States orchestrated its global strategy and policies on the basis of issue-based coalitions predicated on a shifting cast of supporters, detractors, and challengers among other major powers.