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Article

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.

Article

Chandra Lekha Sriram, Olga Martin-Ortega, and Johanna Herman

The relationship between human rights and armed conflict is rooted in historical debates among religious, philosophical, and international legal scholars about the nature of a just war, and appropriate conduct in war, which also have come to underpin and international humanitarian law. An understanding of the links between human rights, war, and conflict can begin with conflict analysis, as human rights violations can be both cause and consequence of conflict. In the most general sense, grievances over the denial or perceived denial of rights can generate social conflict. This may be the case where there is systematic discrimination based upon race, ethnicity, caste, religion, language, gender, or other characteristics. Alternatively, human rights abuses can emerge as a result of violent conflict. A conflict may have been undertaken by the parties primarily out of concern to promote a political or ideological agenda, or to promote the welfare of one or more identity group(s), or over access to resources. Human rights are also potentially transformative of conflicts and may make their resolution a greater challenge. Thus, conflicts that begin as conflicts over resources, religion, or ethnic or territorial claims, may, as they progress, create new grievances through the real and perceived violation of human rights by one or more parties to the conflict.

Article

Studying the initial steps of the militarized conflict process may help to better uncover regularized patterns that produce dangerous encounters and decision processes in world politics. An understanding of armed conflict short of war is essential if the international community hopes to prevent conflict escalation and contagion. Interstate war is increasingly viewed as the outcome of a complex decision-making process rather than of a single policy choice that commits a nation from peace to war. In this vein, examining lower-level violent conflict offers three immediate benefits. First, it increases the number of observations for empirical analysis. The second reason for is that wars typically begin as nonviolent disagreements over contentious issues. Third, examining low-level militarized conflict helps avoid, or at least helps to minimize, selection effects. In addition, recent scholarship on foreign policy decision making resulting in violent interstate conflict goes in two very different and possibly incompatible directions. First, theoretical and empirical attention to enduring rivalry suggests that lasting perceptions of threat between states establish an environment of mistrust and fear, which inhibits the resolution of contentious issues. A second research program defines the use of force as part of a larger bargaining process over the allocation of scarce resources.

Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

More than twenty years ago, feminist scholars began challenging conventional approaches to the study of war that they accused of being gender blind and excluding women’s involvement and experience of conflict. This feminist critique was articulated by Cynthia Enloe in her question “Where are the women?” in reference to the study of conflicts. Since then, numerous scholars have produced works that not only include women in existing accounts of war but also offer radical alternative approaches to the study of war. This body of feminist scholarship has sought to deconstruct and challenge three foundations of mainstream scholarship on armed conflict: equating gender with women or women’s issues; conflating women and children together as victims of war; and narrowly defining war as a masculine, public activity with a clear time frame. Feminist scholars such as Judith Butler theorized the concepts of gender and sex in order to complicate feminism beyond “women’s studies.” Despite these inroads into the way conflict is conceptualized and researched, mainstream approaches to the study of war in the past decade remain resistant to systematic and comprehensive considerations of gender. Recent scholarship presents a broader picture of women’s relationship to international conflicts. Feminist scholars demonstrate women’s multiple roles within, and impacts on, war; disrupt stereotypes and gendered norms associated with “women’s place” during war; and highlight some of the many different ways that women—as soldiers, rebels, and as perpetrators of violence—perform in, and influence war.

Article

The evolution of conceptions of insurgency and counterinsurgency can be traced across three periods: pre-Maoist, Maoist, and post-Maoist insurgency. The first and, arguably, the most influential theorist of insurgency was T.E. Lawrence, whose insights stemmed from his almost certainly exaggerated exploits in the Middle East in World War I. Lawrence described insurgency as a moral contest and not a physical one. Presaging later theorists of insurgency, he spoke of the necessity of a cause to motivate the insurgents. When analysts speak of “classical” insurgency they are referring to Maoist insurgency, whose strategic essence was the substitution “of propaganda for guns, subversion for air power, men for machines, space for mechanization, political for industrial mobilization.” Post-Maoist insurgency focuses on the “War on Terror” and its major campaigns. Three themes have emerged in insurgency research, which have gained more theoretical prominence and empirical grounding. The first is the notion that sound counterinsurgency depends upon good cultural understanding of the society in conflict. The second is the issue of reconstruction and development which is increasingly seen as the sine qua non of counterinsurgency. The third is the evolution of insurgency into the “virtual territories of the mind” caused by the advent of humanity in general into the Information Age.

Article

As human tragedies—such as armed conflicts, humanitarian crises, crimes against humanity, and genocide—continue to occur, early warning and conflict prevention are essential comprehensive subjects in any crisis and conflict prevention architecture. Early warning refers to the collection and analysis of information about potential crisis and conflict situations for the purpose of preventing the onset and escalation of such situations, preferably through appropriate preventive response options. Indeed, qualitative approaches to early warning and prevention have produced an impressive list of preventive mechanisms and tools, ranging from non-military—such as political and economic inducements, fact-finding, dialogue, and negotiations—to military ones, such as preventive missions. Meanwhile, a more theoretical and empirically guided approach has made extensive use of quantitative methods to create data-based predictive models for assessing risks of complex humanitarian crises, political instability and state failure, intrastate and ethnopolitical conflicts, and genocide and politicide, as well as other massive human rights violations. There are three types of analysis of risk assessment: the first makes use of structural indicators, the second of sequential models, and the third of inductive methods. However, there are challenges in early warning and conflict prevention posed by the warning-response gap and the issue of “missed opportunities” to prevent. At present, there is no U.N.-wide coordinated early warning system. Nevertheless, several efforts in establishing operational early warning systems on the level of regional and subregional organizations can be identified.

Article

According to the democratic peace theory, democracies are hesitant to engage in armed conflict with other identified democracies. Contrary to theories explaining war engagement, it is a “theory of peace” outlining motives that dissuade state-sponsored violence. The proposition that democracies are more peaceful than autocracies has spawned a huge literature. Much of the relevant quantitative research has shown that democracies indeed rarely, if ever, fight each other, although they are not necessarily less aggressive than autocracies in general. Although, statistically, the probability of war between any two states is considerably low, the absence of war among liberal democracies across a wide range of different historical, economic, and political factors suggests that there is a strong predisposition against the use of military violence between democratic states. According to scholars, the democratic peace theory can elaborate on the empirical phenomena previously explained by the earlier dominant research program, realism in international relations; in addition, the initial statement that democracies do not, or rarely, wage war on one another, has been followed by a rapidly growing literature on novel empirical regularities. This democratic peace proposition not only challenges the validity of other political systems, but also the prevailing realist account of international relations, which emphasizes balance-of-power calculations and common strategic interests.

Article

International law and armed conflict have a rather contentious history together. One the one hand, armed conflict implies and absence of law, and yet, on the other, international law plays an important role in codifying the use of force. The UN Charter’s restrictions on the use of force, drafted in the waning days of a second cataclysmic world war, were intended to radically transform the centuries-old ideology of raison d’état, which viewed war as a sovereign prerogative. More precisely, Article 2(4) of the Charter forbids not just war but force of any kind, or even the threat of it. On its face, the Charter system is a model of simplicity, consisting of a clear prohibition and two exceptions to that prohibition. The apparent simplicity is misleading, however. Article 2(4) is violated so often that experts disagree about whether it should even be considered good law. The Chapter VII enforcement exception is rarely used, and the meaning of self-defense under Article 51 is the subject of contentious disagreement. Moreover, even some UN bodies have supported creating another exception (humanitarian intervention) that coexists uneasily with the organization’s foundational principles. In addition, there is yet another exception (the use of force by national liberation movements) that may be as significant as the others, yet is little discussed by contemporary commentators.