A diplomatic row between Africa, specifically the African Union (AU), and the International Criminal Court (ICC), regarding accountability for mass atrocities exists. Critics accuse the ICC of bias on account of its African caseload, while the ICC counters that it has a mandate to afford justice to victims of heinous crimes—war crimes, crimes against humanity, war of aggression, and genocide—whenever domestic courts cannot do so. This article problematizes the relationship between the AU and the ICC, which was initially cordial until the indictment of former Sudanese autocrat, Omar Al-Bashir. The indictment of six Kenyan suspects, the “Ocampo Six,” among them, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, who subsequently ascended to power, worsened the Africa–ICC relationship. The article contends that, although flawed, the ICC is significant in addressing impunity. However, the ICC stands accused of favoritism, imperialism, erosion of the sovereignty of already weak African states, and escalation of conflicts. Historically, international criminal justice is steeped in controversy. Africa has suffered humiliation by the West, which evokes suspicion toward the ICC, perceived to be a stooge of Western powers. The ICC as a court of last resort, ought to afford justice to victims of mass atrocities whenever national judiciaries fail them. Crucially, however, domestic courts in Africa need capacity and political will to hold to account masterminds and perpetrators of mass atrocities. Thus, the choice between justice and peace or retributive and restorative justice preponderant among ICC critics in Africa is false. There cannot be peace and reconciliation in Africa without justice. Truth telling and retribution are complementary processes in combating impunity and realizing justice, stability, and prosperity.
Africa and the International Criminal Court
Westen K. Shilaho
Alliances and War
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.
Annexation refers to both the unlawful and the lawful incorporation of a territory and its people into another state. In contemporary international law, unilateral annexation of a territory is unlawful. It was not always so. Previous international law recognized a right of conquest and other modes of acquiring territory without popular consent. Unification of territories accomplished through authentic processes of consent may, however, lead to annexation that is lawful, both domestically and internationally. The subdisciplines of international law, international relations, and comparative politics respectively have distinct literatures on annexation. International law addresses its normative appropriateness, international relations examines whether the incidence of unilateral annexation has declined because of legal prohibitions or for other reasons, and scholars of comparative politics address why governments may annex territories—among other options.
Bipolarism and Its End, From the Cold War to the Post-Cold War World
Bipolarity was viewed both as an empirical condition and as a central explanatory concept, albeit contested, during the Cold War (1945–1989), when two superpowers dominated the international system. The United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) confronted each other as military and ideological rivals heading competing alliance systems—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), founded in 1949, and the Warsaw Pact established in 1955. Nuclear weaponry added a new wrinkle to the global superpower competition, particularly after the Soviet Union broke the American nuclear monopoly in 1949. A rich literature around these themes emerged as scholars sought to grapple with the explanatory dynamics propelling state behavior under the systemic constraints of bipolarity and the technological challenges presaged by the nuclear age. Such an academic focus meant that the study of international politics, particularly in the United States, was largely refracted through the prism of U.S.-Soviet competition and centered on the nature and implications of polarity, power, alliances, and nuclear deterrence. When the Soviet Union imploded, bipolarity in the sense of two predominant powers ended, as did the division of the world into two opposing blocs. In the post-Cold War period, scholars turned their attention to investigating questions regarding the impact on the nature of system structure and the international order of the collapse of one of the poles. Accordingly, during the Cold War, scholars debated the conceptual and empirical understandings of bipolarity as well as its implications and the causal factors on which the expectation of bipolar stability was based. In the post-Cold War period, scholars reflected over whether the end of ideological (capitalism/democracy vs. communism/single party authoritarianism) conflict presaged the end of history or inaugurated a clash of civilizations, with some questioning the salience of the concept of polarity and the viability of the state system in the face of rising subnational and transnational pressures.
The Causes of War
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.
Markus K. Binder and Gary A. Ackerman
Although comprising only a tiny proportion of all terrorist plots and attacks, the prospect of terrorists employing chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons has raised substantial concerns among both policymakers and the general public. While CBRN terrorist events do represent a real, asymmetric threat (with at least 558 incidents recorded in extant databases), most of these incidents would not constitute the use of genuine weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is because, to form a viable weapon, the toxic chemical, biological pathogen, hazardous radioisotope, or fissile material must be combined with an effective delivery system; as the scale of the intended effects of such a weapon increases, so generally does its sophistication and the difficulty of acquiring or producing it. The threat of CBRN terrorism can be parsed into a consideration of both the motivations underlying its pursuit and the capabilities required to successfully deploy a CBRN weapon. A wide variety of factors can prompt terrorists to pursue a CBRN weapon. These can be usefully categorized into ideological or psychological drivers, operational and instrumental purposes, and organizational motives. At the same time, while terrorists can conceivably acquire a CBRN capability via state or nonstate sponsors, theft, or purchase, the most likely avenue is internal development of a weapon or an attack on a nuclear, chemical, or biological facility. Historically, there have been over 200 actual uses by terrorists of CBRN agents, with chemical incidents being the most common type. Most incidents have not resulted in many casualties, although there are a handful of mass-casualty incidents of CBRN terrorism. Past perpetrators reflect a diverse array of ideologies and have selected a wide range of delivery methods. Yet, past trends may not be a reliable indicator of the future threat. While low-end CBRN terrorism events will likely continue to predominate, and the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to appreciably increase the threat of bioterrorism, emerging technologies that facilitate acquisition efforts and the precedent set by groups like the Islamic State indicate that the potential for CBRN terrorism to result in a genuine WMD event will persist and might even increase over time. Therefore, while authorities must be careful not to exaggerate or amplify the threat of CBRN terrorism, CBRN terrorism is a phenomenon that requires continued attention, with efforts to prevent it that remain commensurate with the extant level of the threat.
Children in Violent Movements: From Child Soldiers to Terrorist Groups
Mia Bloom and Kristian Kastner Warpinski
While the use of child soldiers has declined in recent years, it has not ended entirely. Children remain front-line participants in a variety of conflicts throughout the world and are actively recruited by armed groups and terrorist organizations. Reports of children involved in terrorism have become all too common. Boko Haram has repeatedly selected women and girls as their primary suicide attackers, and, in Somalia, the United Nations reported that al-Shabaab was responsible for recruiting over 1,800 children in 2019. In Iraq and Syria, children were routinely featured in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) propaganda, and the group mobilized children as “cubs” to fight for the so-called Caliphate. Unfortunately there is a myriad of reasons why terrorist organizations actively include children within their ranks: children can be proficient fighters, and they are easy to train, cheaper to feed, and harder to detect. Thus, recruiting and deploying children is often rooted in “strategy” and not necessarily the result of shrinking numbers of adult recruits. Drawing from the robust literature on child soldiers, there are areas of convergence (and divergence) that explain the pathways children take in and out of terrorist organizations and the roles they play. Focusing on two cases, al-Shabaab in Somalia and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we argue that there are three distinct but overlapping processes of child recruitment, including forced conscription (i.e., kidnapping), subtle manipulation and coercion (i.e., cultures of martyrdom), and a process of seemingly “voluntary recruitment,” which is almost always the result of intimidation and pressure given the children’s age and their (in)ability to provide consent. The concepts of consent and agency are key, especially when weighing the ethical and legal questions of what to do with these children once rescued or detained. Nonetheless, the children are first and foremost victims and should be awarded special protected status in any domestic or international court. In 2020, countries were seeking to balance human rights, legal responsibility, and national security around the challenge of repatriating the thousands of children affiliated with ISIS and still languishing in the al-Hol and Al Roj camps.
Civilian Victimization During Conflict
Alexander B. Downes and Stephen Rangazas
Since the end of the Cold War, scholars have increasingly sought to explain the causes of civilian victimization—the intentional use of violence against noncombatants—during armed conflict. The question of the effects and effectiveness of violence against civilians, in contrast, has received less scholarly attention. One strand of research examines the impact of wartime civilian victimization on postconflict political behavior and outcomes. A second strand investigates the effectiveness of violence during the war itself. The principal question this literature asks is: Does civilian victimization “work”? Put more precisely, can intentionally targeting noncombatants help belligerents achieve their wartime objectives, whatever those might be? Civilian victimization takes different forms and serves different purposes in different kinds of conflicts; scholarship on its effectiveness is thus divided into work on irregular (predominantly intrastate) wars versus conventional (predominantly, but not exclusively, interstate) wars. No matter what its particular form or in which type of conflict it is used, however, civilian victimization tends to follow two broad logics: coercive and eliminationist. Most scholarship on irregular wars examines the effectiveness of coercive victimization, whereas studies of conventional war look at the efficacy of both. For example, a key debate in the literature on civilian victimization in irregular wars concerns whether selective or indiscriminate violence is more effective at deterring civilians from shifting their allegiances to the adversary. A broad consensus holds that violence is effective only when selective, but new studies have found that indiscriminate violence can also work under certain circumstances. Similarly, there is broad agreement (with some notable exceptions) in the literature on conventional war that coercive civilian victimization—which is almost by definition indiscriminate—is ineffective. In contrast, scholars have yet to assess systematically the effectiveness of eliminationist victimization in conventional war.
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.
Civil resistance is a way for people—often those who have no special status or privilege—to wield power without the threat or use of violence. It consists of a range of acts of protests (e.g., mass demonstrations); noncooperation (e.g., strikes, boycotts); intervention (e.g., blockades, mass demonstrations); and the development of new relationships, behavior patterns, and organizations (e.g., alternative institutions). Diverse people from societies worldwide have engaged in civil resistance for millennia. Individuals can initiate acts of civil resistance spontaneously, and many have done so at some point in their lives, for example, by defying or reducing their cooperation with institutional policies as students or employees. However, the study of this field has focused on collective acts of civil resistance through popular movements and campaigns that are organized to achieve shared goals and involve some degree of strategic planning. While civil resistance can be used to advance an array of causes, much of the research has focused on efforts within societies to overcome authoritarian rule and advance democratic change. Scholarship in the field has developed at an accelerating pace in the early 21st century, as civil resistance becomes increasingly recognized as a powerful driver of political change and democratic development worldwide. The field concerns itself with a range of questions, including: How do ordinary people self-organize against powerful and oppressive adversaries? What is the interplay of structure and agency in determining the emergence and trajectories of civil resistance movements? What kinds of strategies increase a movement’s prospects of success? What counter-strategies are most effectively employed against movements? How do movements manage the repression used against them? What is the success rate of civil resistance movements compared to violent insurgencies? What kinds of long-term impacts do civil resistance movements have on societies? How is civil resistance effectively employed for a range of different causes? What is the relationship between civil resistance and other forms of addressing conflict such as electoral politics, negotiations, and peacebuilding? Why and how do civil resistance movements induce defections among their adversary’s supporters? How should international law regard civil resistance movements? What role can external actors play in supporting or inhibiting such movements?
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.
Civil Wars and Displacement
Ayşe Betül Çelik
The growing number of civil wars in the post-Cold War era has been accompanied by a rising number of forcibly displaced people, who either stay within the borders of their own countries, becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), or cross borders to become refugees. Although many studies have been conducted on the reasons of conflict-induced displacement, various questions remain of interest for the scholars of international relations, especially questions pertaining but not limited to the (a) gendered aspects of conflict, displacement, and peace processes, (b) predicting possible future displacement zones, and (c) best political and social designs for returnee communities in post-civil war contexts. Most studies still focus on the negative consequences of forced migration, undermining how refugees and IDPs can also contribute to the cultural and political environment of the receiving societies. Considering that there is a huge variation in types of conflict, motivations for violence, and the resulting patterns of displacement within the category of civil war, more research on the actors forcing displacement, their intentions, and subsequent effects on return dynamics can benefit research in this field. Similarly, research on return and reconciliation needs to treat displacement and return as a continuum. Paying attention to conflict parties in civil war bears the potential for new areas of exploration whose outcomes can also shed light on policies for post-civil war construction and intergroup reconciliation.
Civil Wars, Scientific Study of
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.
The Conduct and Consequences of War
Alyssa K. Prorok and Paul K. Huth
The academic study of warfare has expanded considerably over the past 15 years. Whereas research used to focus almost exclusively on the onset of interstate war, more recent scholarship has shifted the focus from wars between states to civil conflict, and from war onset to questions of how combatants wage and terminate war. Questioned as well are the longer-term consequences of warfare for countries and their populations. Scholarship has also shifted away from country-conflict-year units of analysis to micro-level studies that are attentive to individual-level motives and explanations of spatial variation in wartime behavior by civilians and combatants within a country or armed conflict. Today, research focuses on variations in how states and rebel groups wage war, particularly regarding when and how wars expand, whether combatants comply with the laws of war, when and why conflicts terminate, and whether conflicts end with a clear military victory or with a political settlement through negotiations. Recent research also recognizes that strategic behavior continues into the post-conflict period, with important implications for the stability of the post-conflict peace. Finally, the consequences of warfare are wide-ranging and complex, affecting everything from political stability to public health, often long after the fighting stops.
Conflict Analysis and Resolution as a Field
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.
Conflict Analysis and Resolution as a Field: Core Concepts and Issues
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.
Conflict Analysis and Resolution: Development of the Field
Joyce Neu and Louis Kriesberg
The field of conflict analysis and resolution (CAR) is primarily defined as ideas about and applications of ways in which conflicts can be addressed constructively. The boundaries of the field cannot be sharply drawn. There are scholars, practitioners, and outside analysts who sometimes apply conflict resolution ideas and methods but who do not self-identify as belonging to the field. They do, nevertheless, contribute to the field. The field also refers to people designated or self-identified as conflict analysis and resolution scholars and/or practitioners. This article focuses on the development of the CAR field as an interdisciplinary social science endeavor within the broad international relations domain. The major periods covered include (1) development of the field and its preliminary beginnings from 1914 to 1945; (2) emergence of CAR as a field between 1946 and 1969; (3) expansion and institutionalization from 1970–1989; (4) diffusion and differentiation from 1990–2008; and, (5) advances and challenges 2009 through 2017. From 1914 to 1945, as a result of World War I, there was a rise in pacifism. The creation of the United Nations in 1945 following World War II was intended as a means to prevent war and maintain peace. CAR research focused on analyzing the causes of violent conflicts. Researchers drew on psychoanalytic tools to examine, for example, attributes of leaders and social movements. From 1946 to 1969, as a result of the Cold War and national liberation struggles, the world experienced an increase in the number of conflicts. Governmental organizations worked to avert a possible nuclear war and to limit conflict escalation through the United Nations and by the creation of forerunners to the European Union. In the nongovernmental sector, high-level unofficial meetings began taking place to build peace and reduce tensions. CAR research grew and included the use of game theory and rational models. The period of expansion and institutionalization (1970–1989) saw the growth of alternative dispute resolution that positively affected the creation of new CAR institutions. Nongovernmental CAR organizations grew in number and effectiveness offering dialogue and problem-solving workshops to disputing parties. Research focused on nonviolent means of resolving conflicts as well as how conflicts can be waged constructively. From 1990 to 2008, the field witnessed a period of diffusion and differentiation. The end of the Cold War gave way to a period with fewer armed conflicts. Nongovernmental organizations and university programs in CAR increased. Intergovernmental organizations such as the UN and the African Union began to focus on professionalizing their mediation and peacemaking efforts. The period from 2009 through 2017 saw the field continue to grow. New challenges included the quashing of nonviolent resistance movements in the Middle East and North Africa, the impacts of climate change, the rise in terrorism, and the widespread use of technology for both positive and negative impacts on peace. This period saw a dramatic increase in the application of CAR research and experience in governmental and intergovernmental organizations’ work.
Conflict and Nationalist Frames
In the context of nationalist and ethnic struggles, framing refers to strategic communication aimed at changing perceptions and behavior, such as persuading members of a group to unite and fight or their opponents to demobilize. The concept and theory behind framing stem from sociology, and in particular American social movements theory, where they have helped reconcile an interest in the construction of identities and “meaning work” with the study of structures that favor participation in collective endeavors. Framing not only unpacks the processes behind this form of strategic communication through notions such as alignment and resonance, but it has also produced extensive scholarship on types of frames that foster mobilization and the socio-psychological keys they play upon in so doing. Framing theory has also focused on some of the elements contributing to the success—or lack thereof—of communication aimed at persuasion. Considering that participation in crises and conflicts is an extreme form of mobilization, framing has, since the mid-2000s, made headway in conflict studies, where scholars have turned to framing processes to shed light on how people can be convinced to rally around the nationalist or ethnic flag and even take up arms in their group’s name. More recently, framing-centric approaches have been used to shed light on frames deployed in conflicts of a religious nature, as well as in the study of radicalization and the ideological or ideational framing behind it. The future of framing theory with regards to identity-based conflicts depends, however, on scholars’ ability to produce framing concepts and theoretical insights specific to conflict studies able to federate the community or researchers adopting the approach to study armed violence. As growing research on armed conflict turns to understanding the links between national and local realities, framing theorists may in addition benefit from greater attention to local frames and framing dynamics, and how they relate to the broader, elite-driven frames more commonly focused on in the study of armed violence. Finally, though so far little explored, framing proponents may stand to gain from engaging with literature using survey experiments or other promising quantitative approaches that have also sought to generate insights into ethnic relations or government representation and policy regarding crises and war.
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.
Conflict Forecasting and Prediction
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.