A significant, if minority, current in contemporary international relations scholarship places regions at the center of analysis. In practice, the shift to the regional level of analysis serves several purposes within international relations scholarship. Within the sociology of the discipline, regionalism provides a theoretical justification for work that in earlier periods would have been associated with traditional area studies. Within the broader international relations literature, a regional focus allows for a more nuanced analysis of war and peace outside of the core great power conflicts at the center of traditional analysis. In particular, regional approaches remind us that conflict at the regional level is driven more frequently by local than by global concerns while providing a framework for studying important conflicts that are not simply a manifestation of great power rivalries. Finally, this approach is essential for answering questions that can be couched only at the regional level of analysis. At a narrow level, regional approaches are particularly useful for specifying the dangers of conflict spillover and the actors who are most vulnerable to such spillover. At the broadest level, regional conflict systems become the unit of analysis for work examining why some regions are more peaceful than others and how violent regions may transition to peace. A good understanding of these questions has implications both for policymakers seeking to advance national interests and for peacemakers seeking a solution to violence.
The relationship between civil war and religion is a complex one. Civil wars are influenced in many different ways by religiously based factors. Different religiously based factors influence the onset, dynamics, and termination of civil wars. Religious factors have been examined both as causes of war and their dynamics and as factors behind how violence is prevented, conflict is managed, and peace is built. Whereas research on peace and conflict has often tended to neglect religiously focused explanations in favor of explanations based on strategic, economic, or other factors, research on religion and conflict has seen a resurgence in recent years. Research can be organized based on three different levels of analysis: (a) explanations relating to the religious group level, (b) explanations relating to the level of interrelationships between different religious groups, and (c) explanations relating to the level of the group’s relationship to the state. On the group level, religious beliefs, religious practices, religious constituency, and religious institutions play a role. On the intergroup level, two main debates center around the “clash of civilization” and religious demography. On the state-religion level, religious grievances and state favoritism can be seen as explanations for civil wars. As religiously defined conflicts are becoming more common, understanding more about the conditions under which religious factors influence civil wars’ onset, dynamics, and termination is vital.
Diversionary explanations are a key FPA approach to understanding how domestic politics shape foreign policy and, in particular, the resort to force and risk of war, arguing that increasingly vulnerable leaders manipulate foreign policy in order to enhance their domestic political position. This literature has emerged in major ways since Levy’s early critique in which he noted wide disparity between the lack of theoretical rigor and empirical findings in political science research and the richness of qualitative research by historians offering compelling cases of diversionary wars such as the First World War. Nearly three decades later, however, this situation has significantly changed. A vibrant political science literature has emerged that provides significant empirical evidence based on, first, longitudinal studies of mostly the U.S. case and the presidential use of force since World War II (WWII); and, second, cross-national studies that capture variance in the diversionary resort to force across regime types (and subtypes) and different international contexts. In contrast, historical literature on the origins of World War I (WWI) has come to view the German case as more complex and has placed it into comparative perspective with the other four great powers. Historical research suggests that leaders in all five powers faced rising domestic opposition in the prewar decades; that they subsequently adopted new (yet varied) political strategies for containing opposition; and, at the brink of war, that diversionary and other political motivations played out in indirect and different ways. This article reviews these literatures and suggests that there has been some convergence of themes in the research of political scientists and historians. Consistent with FPA approaches, these literatures point to complex patterns of domestic oppositions across different institutional arenas, contingencies affecting the willingness and ability of leaders to resort to diversionary force, the role of agency stemming from leader beliefs about political stability and the consequences of risking war, and the importance of decision making dynamics in the ultimate resort to war.
Michael J. Lee and William R. Thompson
Major powers appear to behave differently from other states in the international system. They are more active and less constrained by distance than other actors. The common approach of testing conflict (and other) hypotheses across relevant dyads builds this fact into the architecture of quantitative IR. However, we argue that the dominant operationalization of major power status actually conflates two different kinds of states—global powers and regional powers. Global powers are those with both a strong interest and a capacity for long-distance engagement in IR: they build strong navies and air forces and seek to control access to the global commons. In contrast, other states have predominantly local interests and lack much capacity to project force over distance (e.g., 19th-century Austria-Hungary). Here, we develop a new, historically robust measure of power projection capability by examining the naval and air power of states from 1816–2013. We illustrate the face validity of our model by illustrating the important ways in which global powers differ from other states. Not only are global powers more active internationally, they also have fundamentally different concerns than other states. One of the strongest findings in quantitative research in conflict is the idea that states often fight wars with neighbors (either because of the importance of territorial conflicts, proximity, or both). Yet even this powerful result is nullified in dyads where one or both participants have high levels of power projection capability. Global powers are behaviorally different from other states—even many of those considered “major powers” by the Correlates of War (COW) project. We need to consider these distinctions carefully when modeling conflict behavior—particularly when declaring particular dyads to be “relevant dyads.”