Great powers have traditionally played a major role in the study of foreign policy. From a variety of work on foreign policy analysis, it is known that great powers are more active in their foreign policy than other states in the international system are. Whether the actions are disbursing foreign aid, creating alliances, conflict involvement, or others, studies will often control for great power status, with the underlying expectation being that major powers will be more likely to utilize these foreign policy tools. In fact, when considering relevant dyads in quantitative studies of foreign policy analysis, states have to be contiguous for the dyad to be considered relevant, but an exception is made for dyads containing at least one major power, given the ability of great powers to project their power beyond their borders. Key literature on the foreign policy behavior of great powers discusses different ways of defining great powers. In particular, the debate over defining great power status has focused on whether a great power should be defined solely on its physical capabilities, or also on intangible factors, such as its foreign policy interests or whether the state is recognized as a great power by others in the international system. Further, there are questions of whether great powers have to be military powers or whether economic superiority is enough to classify a state as a great power. There is also the issue of regional powers: states that are clearly military, economic, and political leaders within a limited geographic region, but not at the global level. Should these states be considered great powers, or should that classification be reserved for global powers? The literature on great-power foreign policy also discusses cooperative and conflictual behaviors of great powers in the international system. It addresses great power war, focusing on how they are more conflict prone than minor powers, and reviews the issues that drive great powers to engage in conflict, such as positional issues and the intent to shape the international system to their liking. It also discusses a variety of foreign policy actions, both coercive and cooperative, that major powers are more likely to engage in than their minor-power counterparts. In addition, there is much work done on the relationships between great powers and between great powers and minor powers, stressing the competitive nature of major-power interactions and the trade-off between economic and military security and policy concessions that defines major-minor power interactions.
Carla Martinez Machain, Rebecca Kaye, and Jared Oestman
The explanation of the variations in war and peace patterns across different regions, and transitions between war and peace in the same region, is based on the introduction of the state-to-nation imbalance in a certain region—this imbalance is a key substantive underlying cause of regional war propensity. Variations in this cause account for some of the major differences in the level of war and peace among different regions. Different strategies of addressing this problem (based on global or regional/domestic factors) then produce different types and levels of regional peace. The relative influence of global versus regional/domestic factors on regional war and peace is notably addressed. The study distinguishes between “hot” and “cold” (i.e., more or less intense) types of regional war and peace, and argues that global factors (i.e., the involvement of external powers) may at most bring about the less intense cold phenomena (“cold” war and “cold” peace), whereas the more demanding hot outcomes that constitute the two extremes of the regional war-peace continuum (“hot” war and “warm” peace) depend on domestic/regional causes. The key domestic/regional factors are the level of state capacity and of national congruence (both internal and external) in the region. Each of the regional outcomes is related to the combination of independent variables affecting it. This should make it possible to examine the proposed integrated effects of the state-to-nation balance and the international system on regional war and peace.
Narratives of interesting, remarkable, or exemplary diplomatic and military events have traditionally occupied a prominent place in historiography. Addressed to actors shaping foreign policy, educated elites, or a more broadly conceived public, and varying widely in geographical and chronological coverage, histories of foreign policy pursue two goals. One is to provide comprehensive information, allowing readers to obtain an overview of past decisions and actions in the expectation that this will enhance the understanding of their short-, medium-, and long-term consequences. The second goal is to offer an analysis of factors determining foreign policy and its success or failure either generally or in more specific settings. In doing so, they offer orientation or concrete advice based on an authority acquired by profound knowledge of the past and the recognition of recurrent patterns (or “laws”). The fact that these goals are not entirely compatible contributes to problems that accompany this intellectual pursuit, and which are distinct from empirical and conceptual difficulties involved in reconstructing past foreign policy. Any presentation of historical developments contains (debatable) hypotheses on causal relationships, even if they are only expressed via the selection of facts and the literary structure of a historical narrative. There are various interpretations of any major turning point, and it is never easy to choose between them. Furthermore, the identification of patterns in the past has rarely resulted in the accurate prediction of future events; in fact, misconceived historical analogies or trust in supposed perennial rules governing foreign policy can contribute to exacerbating political crises. This problem has created an enduring and perhaps increasing divide between a persistent demand for large-scale interpretations of the history of foreign policy (or the interaction of “great powers”), which make their contemporary relevance explicit on the one hand, and skepticism from parts of the historical discipline toward any form of applied foreign policy history on the other. In particular, it is called into question whether contemporary “states” can be identified with their predecessors—which is a precondition for identifying longer-term “national interests”; whether the focus on a limited number of determinants of foreign policy permits the formulation of general insights valid across time and space; and whether foreign policy can be said to exist in premodern settings at all. Though there are approaches that can reduce such problems, many practical difficulties are likely to remain.
Zachary C. Shirkey
Military intervention into interstate and civil wars is both common and important. It lengthens wars, makes them more severe, and shapes how they are fought. Even the mere possibility of intervention can alter the course of a war as belligerent powers alter their strategies to either encourage or dissuade potential interveners. These effects of military intervention are found in both civil and interstate wars. Yet, is state intervention into interstate and civil wars essentially one phenomenon or are they distinct phenomena? By looking at which states are likely to intervene, why and when they intervene, and which wars are most likely to experience intervention, it becomes clear the similarities between state military intervention into civil and interstate wars are more significant than are the differences. In other words, despite some important differences, they are subsets of the same phenomenon. In both types of wars, allies, geographically proximate states, and great powers are more likely to intervene. Also, information revealed by events within both types of wars prompts intervention and explains its timing. Last, wars in which international organizations become involved, both civil and interstate, are more likely to experience intervention. There are, however, important differences notably in the areas of cross-border ethnic ties, the presence of great powers in the war, the use of non-state proxies, and wars caused by commitment problems.