Predictive models, which includes forecasting models, are used to study all types of conflict and political violence, including civil wars, international conflict, terrorism, genocide, and protests. These models are defined as those where the researcher explicitly values predictive performance when building and analyzing the model. This is different from inferential models, where the researcher values the accurate operationalization of a theory, and experimental or quasi-experimental designs where the focus is on the estimation of a causal effect. Researchers employ preditive models to guide policy, to assess the importance of variables, to test and compare theories, and for the development of research methods. In addition to these practical applications, there are more fundamental arguments, rooted in the philosophy of science, as to why these models should be used to advance conflict research. Their use has led to numerous substantive findings. For example, while inferential models largely support the democratic peace hypothesis, predictive models have shown mixed results and have been used to refine the scope of the argument. Among the more robust findings are the presence of nonlinear relationships and the importance of dependencies in all types of conflict data. These findings have implications for how researchers model conflict processes. As predictive models become more common and more integrated into the study of conflict, it is important that researchers understand their underlying components to use them appropriately.
Kristian Skrede Gleditsch, Kyle Beardsley, and Sara M. T. Polo
Conflict data sets can shed light on how different ways of measuring conflict (or any other international relations phenomenon) result in different conclusions. Data collection procedures affect our efforts to answer key descriptive questions about war and peace in the world and their relationship to other features of interest. Moreover, empirical data or information can answer some pointed questions about world politics, such as, “Has there been a decline in conflict in the international system?” The development of data on characteristics relevant to the study of international relations has undeniably allowed a great deal of progress to be made on many research questions. However, trying to answer seemingly simple descriptive questions about international relations often shows how data rarely speak entirely for themselves. The specific ways in which we pose questions or try to reach answers will often influence our conclusions. Likewise, the specific manner in which the data have been collected will often have implications for our inferences. In turn, proposed answers to descriptive questions are often contested by other researchers. Many empirical debates in the study of international relations, upon closer inspection, often hinge on assumptions and criteria that are not made fully explicit in studies based on empirical data.
Timothy J. A. Passmore
UN peacekeeping serves as the foremost international tool for conflict intervention and peace management. Since the Cold War, these efforts have almost exclusively targeted conflicts within, rather than between, states. Where traditional peacekeeping missions sought to separate combatants and monitor peace processes across state borders, modern peacekeeping in civil wars involves a range of tasks from intervening directly in active conflicts to rebuilding political institutions and societies after the fighting ends. To accommodate this substantial change, peacekeeping operations have grown in number, size, and scope of mandate. The increasing presence and changing nature of peacekeeping has sparked great interest in understanding when and how peacekeeping is used and how effective it is in delivering and sustaining peace. Significant advances in peacekeeping data collection have allowed for a more rigorous investigation of the phenomenon, including differentiation in the objectives, tasks, and structure of a mission as well as disaggregation of the activities and impact of peacekeepers’ presence across time and space. Researchers are particularly interested in understanding the adaption of peacekeeping to the unique challenges of the civil war setting, such as intervention in active conflicts, the greater involvement and victimization of civilians, the reintegration of rebel fighters into society, and the establishment of durable political, economic, and social institutions after the fighting ends. Additional inquiries consider why the UN deploys peacekeeping to some wars and not others, how and why operations differ from one another, and how the presence of and variation across missions impacts conflict countries before and after the fighting has stopped.