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  • The Five Reasons Wars Happen

Christopher Blattman | 10.14.22

The Five Reasons Wars Happen

Whether it is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats of nuclear strikes or Chinese belligerence in the Taiwan Strait , the United States seems closer to a great power war than at any time in recent decades. But while the risks are real and the United States must prepare for each of these conflicts, by focusing on the times states fight—and ignoring the times they resolve their conflicts peacefully and prevent escalation—analysts and policymakers risk misjudging our rivals and pursuing the wrong paths to peace.

The fact is that fighting—at all levels from irregular warfare to large-scale combat operations—is ruinous and so nations do their best to avoid open conflict. The costs of war also mean that when they do fight countries have powerful incentives not to escalate and expand those wars—to keep the fighting contained, especially when it could go nuclear. This is one of the most powerful insights from both history and game theory: war is a last resort, and the costlier that war, the harder both sides will work to avoid it.

When analysts forget this fact, not only do they exaggerate the chances of war, they do something much worse: they get the causes all wrong and take the wrong steps to avert the violence.

Imagine intensive care doctors who, deluged with critically ill patients, forgot that humanity’s natural state is good health. That would be demoralizing. But it would also make them terrible at diagnosis and treatment. How could you know what was awry without comparing the healthy to the sick?

And yet, when it comes to war, most of us fall victim to this selection bias, giving most of our attention to the times peace failed. Few write books or news articles about the wars that didn’t happen. Instead, we spend countless hours tracing the threads of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, America’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, or the two world wars. When we do, it distorts our diagnosis and our treatments. For if we follow these calamitous events back to their root causes and preceding events, we often find a familiar list: bumbling leaders, ancient hatreds, intransigent ideologies, dire poverty, historic injustices, and a huge supply of weapons and impressionable young men. War seems to be their inevitable result.

Unfortunately, this ignores all the instances conflict was avoided. When social scientists look at these peaceful cases, they see a lot of the same preceding conditions—bumblers, hatreds, injustices, poverty, and armaments. All these so-called causes of war are commonplace. Prolonged violence is not. So these are probably not the chief causes of war.

Take World War I. Historians like to explain how Europe’s shortsighted, warmongering, nationalist leaders naively walked their societies into war. It was all a grand miscalculation, this story goes. The foibles of European leaders surely played a role, but to stop the explanation here is to forget all the world wars avoided up to that point. For decades, the exact same leaders had managed great crises without fighting. In the fifteen years before 1914 alone, innumerable continental wars almost—but never—happened: a British-French standoff in a ruined Egyptian outpost in Sudan in 1898; Russia’s capture of Britain’s far eastern ports in 1900; Austria’s seizure of Bosnia in 1908; two wars between the Balkan states in 1912 and 1913. A continent-consuming war could have been ignited in any one of these corners of the world. But it was not.

Likewise, it’s common to blame the war in Ukraine overwhelmingly on Putin’s obsessions and delusions. These surely played a role, but to stop here is to stop too soon. We must also pay attention to the conflicts that didn’t happen. For years, Russia cowed other neighbors with varying degrees of persuasion and force, from the subjugation of Belarus to “ peacekeeping ” missions in Kazakhstan. Few of these power contests came to blows. To find the real roots of fighting, analysts need to pay attention to these struggles that stay peaceful.

Enemies Prefer to Loathe One Another in Peace

Fighting is simply bargaining through violence. This is what Chinese Communist leader Mao Tse-tung meant in 1938 when he said , “Politics is war without bloodshed, while war is politics with bloodshed.” Mao was echoing the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz who, a century before, reminded us that war is the continuation of politics by other means.

Of course, one of these means is far, far costlier than the other. Two adversaries have a simple choice: split the contested territory or stake in proportion to their relative strength, or go to war and gamble for the shrunken and damaged remains. It’s almost always better to look for compromise. For every war that ever was, a thousand others have been averted through discussion and concession.

Compromise is the rule because, for the most part, groups behave strategically: like players of poker or chess, they’re trying hard to think ahead, discern their opponents’ strength and plans, and choose their actions based on what they expect their opponents to do. They are not perfect. They make mistakes or lack information. But they have huge incentives to do their best.

This is the essential way to think about warfare: not as some base impulse or inevitability, but as the unusual and errant breakdown of incredibly powerful incentives for peace. Something had to interrupt the normal incentives for compromise, pushing opponents from normal politics, polarized and contentious, to bargaining through bloodshed.

This gives us a fresh perspective on war. If fighting is rare because it is ruinous, then every answer to why we fight is simple: a society or its leaders ignored the costs (or were willing to pay them). And while there is a reason for every war and a war for every reason, there are only so many logical ways societies overlook the costs of war—five, to be exact. From gang wars to ethnic violence, and from civil conflicts to world wars, the same five reasons underlie conflict at every level: war happens when a society or its leader is unaccountable, ideological, uncertain, biased, or unreliable.

Five Reasons for War

Consider Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. What do these five tell us about why peace broke down?

1. Unaccountable. A personalized autocrat , Putin doesn’t have to weigh the interests of his soldiers and citizens. He can pursue whatever course helps him preserve his regime’s control. When leaders go unchecked and are unaccountable to their people, they can ignore the costs of fighting that ordinary people bear. Instead, rulers can pursue their own agendas. That is why dictators are more prone to war .

2. Ideological. Consider Putin again. Most accounts of the current war dwell on his nationalist obsessions and desires for a glorious legacy. What costs and risks he does bear, Putin is willing to pay in pursuit of glory and ideology. This is just one example of intangible and ideological incentives for war that so many leaders possess—God’s glory, freedom, or some nationalist vision.

Societies have ideological incentives too. Unlike the people of Belarus or Kazakhstan, the Ukrainians refused to accept serious restrictions on their sovereignty despite what (at first) seemed to be relative military weakness. Like liberation movements throughout history—including the American revolutionaries—they have been willing to undertake the ruin and risks of fighting partly in pursuit of an ideal.

3. Biased. Most accounts of Russia’s invasion stress Putin’s isolation and insulation from the truth. He and his advisors grossly underestimated the difficulty of war. This is a story of institutional bias—a system that is unwilling to tell its leader bad news. Autocrats are especially prone to this problem, but intelligence failures plague democracies too . Leaders can be psychologically biased as well. Humans have an amazing ability to cling to mistaken beliefs. We can be overconfident, underestimating the ruin of war and overestimating our chances of victory. And we demonize and misjudge our opponents. These misperceptions can carry us to war.

4. Uncertain. Too much focus on bias and misperception obscures the subtler role of uncertainty. In the murky run-up to war, policymakers don’t know their enemy’s strength or resolve. How unified would the West be? How capably would Ukrainians resist? How competent was the Russian military? All these things were fundamentally uncertain, and many experts were genuinely surprised that Russia got a bad draw on all three—most of all, presumably, Putin himself.

But uncertainty doesn’t just mean the costs of war are uncertain, and invasion a gamble. There are genuine strategic impediments to getting good information . You can’t trust your enemy’s demonstrations of resolve, because they have reasons to bluff, hoping to extract a better deal without fighting. Any poker player knows that, amid the uncertainty, the optimal strategy is never to fold all the time. It’s never to call all the time, either. The best strategy is to approach it probabilistically—to occasionally gamble and invade.

5. Unreliable. When a declining power faces a rising one, how can it trust the rising power to commit to peace ? Better to pay the brutal costs of war now, to lock in one’s current advantage. Some scholars argue that such shifts in power, and the commitment problems they create, are at the root of every long war in history —from World War I to the US invasion of Iraq. This is not why Russia invaded Ukraine, of course. Still, it may help to understand the timing. In 2022, Russia had arguably reached peak leverage versus Ukraine. Ukraine was acquiring drones and defensive missiles. And the country was growing more democratic and closer to Europe—to Putin, a dangerous example of freedom nearby. How could Ukraine commit to stop either move? We don’t know what Putin and his commanders debated behind closed doors, but these trends may have presented a now-or-never argument for invasion.

Putting the five together, as with World War I and so many other wars, fallible, biased leaders with nationalist ambitions ignored the costs of war and drove their societies to violent ruin. But the explanation doesn’t end there. There are strategic roots as well. In the case of Russia, as elsewhere, unchecked power, uncertainty, and commitment problems arising from shifting power narrowed the range of viable compromises to the point where Putin’s psychological and institutional failures—his misperceptions and ideology—could lead him to pursue politics by violent means.

The Paths to Peace

If war happens when societies or their leaders overlook its costs, peace is preserved when our institutions make those costs difficult to ignore. Successful, peaceful societies have built themselves some insulation from all five kinds of failure. They have checked the power of autocrats. They have built institutions that reduce uncertainty, promote dialogue, and minimize misperceptions. They have written constitutions and bodies of law that make shifts in power less deadly. They have developed interventions—from sanctions to peacekeeping forces to mediators—that minimize our strategic and human incentives to fight rather than compromise.

It is difficult, however, to expect peace in a world where power in so many countries remains unchecked . Highly centralized power is one of the most dangerous things in the world, because it accentuates all five reasons for war. With unchecked leaders , states are more prone to their idiosyncratic ideologies and biases. In the pursuit of power, autocrats also tend to insulate themselves from critical information. The placing of so much influence in one person’s hands adds to the uncertainty and unpredictability of the situation. Almost by definition, unchecked rulers have trouble making credible commitments.

That is why the real root cause of this current war is surely Putin’s twenty-year concentration of power in himself. And it is why the world’s most worrisome trend may be in China, where a once checked and institutionalized leader has gathered more and more power in his person. There is, admittedly, little a nation can do to alter the concentration of power within its rivals’ political systems. But no solution can be found without a proper diagnosis of the problem.

Christopher Blattman is a professor at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. This article draws from his new book, Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace , published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.

Image credit: Oles_Navrotskyi , via depositphotos.com

27 Comments

Lucius Severus Pertinax

War, in the end, is about Armed Robbery writ large; whether Committing it, Preventing it, or Redressing it. It is all about somebody trying to take somebody else's stuff.

Hate_me

Peace is the time of waiting for war. A time of preparation, or a time of willful ignorance, blind, blinkered and prattling behind secure walls. – Steven Erikson

Niylah Washignton

That is the right reason, I do not know about the others, but I will give you a+ on this one

jechai

its beeches thy want Resorces

B.C.

Wars often come when a group of nations (for example the USSR in the Old Cold War of yesterday and the U.S./the West in New/Reverse Cold War of today) move out smartly to "transform"/to "modernize" both their own states and societies (often leads to civil wars) and other states and societies throughout the world also (often leads to wars between countries).

The enemy of those groups of nations — thus pursuing such "transformative"/such "modernizing" efforts — are, quite understandably, those individuals and groups, and those states and societies who (a) would lose current power, influence, control, safety, privilege, security, etc.; this, (b) if these such "transformative"/these such "modernizing" efforts were to be realized.

From this such perspective, and now discussing only the U.S./the West post-Cold War efforts — to "transform"/to "modernize" the states and societies of the world (to include our own states and societies here in the U.S./the West) — this, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such things as capitalism, globalization and the global economy;

Considering this such U.S./Western post-Cold War "transformative"/"modernizing" effort, note the common factor of "resistance to change" coming from:

a. (Conservative?) Individual and groups — here in the U.S./the West — who want to retain currently threatened (and/or regain recently lost) power, influence, control, etc. And:

b. (Conservative?) states and societies — elsewhere throughout the world — who have this/these exact same ambition(s).

From this such perspective, to note the nexus/the connection/the "common cause" noted here:

"Liberal democratic societies have, in the past few decades, undergone a series of revolutionary changes in their social and political life, which are not to the taste of all their citizens. For many of those, who might be called social conservatives, Russia has become a more agreeable society, at least in principle, than those they live in. Communist Westerners used to speak of the Soviet Union as the pioneer society of a brighter future for all. Now, the rightwing nationalists of Europe and North America admire Russia and its leader for cleaving to the past."

(See "The American Interest" article "The Reality of Russian Soft Power" by John Lloyd and Daria Litinova.)

“Compounding it all, Russia’s dictator has achieved all of this while creating sympathy in elements of the Right that mirrors the sympathy the Soviet Union achieved in elements of the Left. In other words, Putin is expanding Russian power and influence while mounting a cultural critique that resonates with some American audiences, casting himself as a defender of Christian civilization against Islam and the godless, decadent West.”

(See the “National Review” item entitled: “How Russia Wins” by David French.)

Bottom Line Thought — Based on the Above:

In the final paragraph of our article above, the author states: "That is why the real root cause of this current war is surely Putin’s twenty-year concentration of power in himself."

Based on the information that I provide above — which addresses the "resistance" efforts of entities both here at home and there abroad — might we beg to differ?

From the perspective of wars between nations relating to attempts as "transformation" by one party (and thus not as relates to civil wars which occur with "transformative" attempts in this case) here is my argument above possibly stated another way:

1. In the Old Cold War of yesterday, when the Soviets/the communists sought to "transform the world" — in their case, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such this as socialism and communism:

a. The "root cause" of the conflicts that the U.S. was engaged in back then — for example in places such as Central America —

b. This such "root cause" was OUR determination to stand hard against these such "transformative" efforts and activities — which were taking place, back then, in OUR backyard/in OUR sphere of influence/in OUR neck of the woods.

2. In the New/Reverse Cold War of today, however, when now it is the U.S./the West that seeks to "transform the world" — in our case, so that same might be made to better interact with, better provide for and better benefit from such things as market-democracy:

“The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement, enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,’ Mr. Lake said in a speech at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University.”

(See the September 22, 1993 New York Times article “U.S. Vision of Foreign Policy Reversed” by Thomas L. Friedman.)

a. Now the "root cause" of the conflicts that Russia is engaged in today — for example in places such as Ukraine —

b. This such "root cause" is now RUSSIA'S determination to stand hard against these such "transformative" efforts and activities — which are taking place now in RUSSIA'S backyard/in RUSSIA'S sphere of influence/in RUSSIA's neck of the woods.

(From this such perspective, of course, [a] the current war in Ukraine, this would seem to [b] have little — or indeed nothing — to do with "Putin's twenty-year concentration of power in himself?")

Igor

It’s easy to put the whole blame on Putin himself with his unchecked power . But this is a gross simplification of the reality in case of the Ukraine war. NATO expansion everywhere and especially into the very birthplace of Russia was a huge irritator , perceived as unacceptable, threatening, arrogant with no regard to Russia’s interests. Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 was a clear warning, that was completely ignored. Without NATO’s ambitions there would be no war in Ukraine. Or Georgia .

When the Soviet Union installed missles in Cuba , the democratic and presumably the country with all checks and balances in place almost started a nuclear war with the Soviets. It was a reckless gamble that could end the world Why expect anything less from the modern Russia that feels threatened by NATO encroachment?

word wipe

In the end, whether it's about committing, preventing, or rectifying, war is all about armed robbery. The main plot is around a thief trying to steal from another person.

Brent sixie6e elisens

One of the main causes of war is nationalist garbage. This nationalist site conveniently omits this as they push their preferred chosen nationalist enemy(cold war leftovers in this case) on the reader. What do you expect from OVRA/NKVD reruns?

DANIEL KAUFFMAN

In addition to the reasons explored to further explain the cause of war, there are also self-defeating schema in thought structures that deteriorate over time. They become compromised by the wear-and-tear grind of life of individuals seeking natural causes and solutions collectively and apart. This is particularly relevant to the matter of war dynamics. When energies used to pursue peace are perceived as exhausted, unspent warfare resources appear more attractive. Particularly in the instances of deteriorating leaders who are compromised by psychopathy, war can quickly become nearly inevitable. Add a number of subordinated population that are unable to resist, and the world can quickly find itself following in the footsteps of leaders marching to their own demise. On the broader sociopolitical battlefield, with democracy trending down and the deterioration in global leadership increasing, the probability of both war and peaceful rewards increase. The questions that arise in my mind point to developing leaps forward to the structures of global leadership, particularly for self-governing populations, leveraging resources that mitigate the frailties of societal and individual human exhaustion, and capping warfare resources at weakened choke points to avoid spillovers of minor conflicts into broader destruction. Technology certainly can be used to mitigate much more than has been realized.

Jack

Wow, I could say all those things about the U.S. and its rulers.

A

We don't have a dictator.

R

Trump came pretty close to being a dictator, what with the way people were following him blindly, and the ways that all parties, (Both republicans AND democrats) have been acting lately I wouldn't be surprised if a dictator came into power

Douglas e frank

War happens because humans are predatory animals and preditors kill other preditors every chance they get. The 3 big cats of africa are a prime example. We forget that we are animals that have animal insticts. There will always be war.

Tom Raquer

The cause of war is fear, Russia feared a anti Russian Army in Ukraine would come to fruitinion in the Ukraine threatening to invade Moscow!

robinhood

it takes one powerful man in power to start war and millions of innocence people to die, to stop the war . / answer!,to in prison any powerful person who starts the war , and save your family life and millions of lives, / out law war.

Frank Warner

The biggest cause of war is the demonstration of weakness among democratic nations facing a well-armed dictator with irrational ambitions. In the case of Russia, the democratic world turned weak on Vladimir Putin at a time when both democratic institutions and peace might have been preserved. Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first-ever freely elected president, had given the newly democratic Russia a real chance to enter the community of free nations in 1991. But when Putin was elected in 2000, we saw the warning signs of trouble. Putin already was undermining democracy. In Russia’s transition from socialism, he used his old KGP connections to buy up all the political parties (except ironically the Communist Party, which now was tiny and unpopular). He also declared he yearned for the old greater Russia, with those Soviet Union borders. The U.S. and NATO didn’t take Putin’s greater-Russia statements too seriously. After all, once their economy stabilized after the transition from socialism, the Russian people were pleased with their new and free Russia, the removal of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, and the new openness to the West. There was no popular call for retaking old territory. But Putin had his own plans, and as Christopher Blattman’s article observes, when you’re dictator (and even with ‘elections’ you are dictator if you own all the political parties) you can go your bloody way. Then came America’s ‘Russian re-set.’ As Putin consolidated his power, and forced the parliament, the Duma, to give him permission to run for several unopposed ‘re-elections,’ the U.S. decided to go gentle on Putin, in hopes he’d abandon his authoritarian course. This was the fatal mistake. When the U.S. should have been publicly encouraging Putin to commit himself to international borders and to democracy in Russia, the U.S. leadership instead was asking what it could do to make Putin happy. Putin saw this as weakness, an opening for his insane territorial desires, which focused mainly on Ukraine. He let a few more years go by, prepared secretly, and then in 2014, he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, killing about 14,000 people and claiming Ukraine’s Crimea for Russia. The U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Russia, but the terrible damage had been done. Because the Free World’s leaders had let down their guard, an awful precedent had been set. A new Russian dictator had murdered to steal territory. To him, the price was low. That told him he could do it again someday. And in 2022, again sensing weakness from the West, Putin invaded Ukraine once more. Not only have tens of thousands of Ukrainians been killed in this new war, but the Russian people themselves are now locked in an even tighter, more brutal dictatorship. Peace through Strength is not just a slogan. It’s as real as War through Weakness. My father, who fought in Europe in World War II, said an American soldier’s first duty was to preserve America’s rights and freedoms, as described in the Constitution. He said an American soldier also has two jobs. A soldier’s first job, he said, is to block the tyrants. Just stand in their way, he said, and most tyrants won’t even try to pass. That’s Peace through Strength. A soldier’s second job, he said, is to fight and win wars. He said that second job won’t have to be done often if we do enough of the first job.

moto x3m

I hope there will be no more wars in the world

Boghos L. Artinian

This, pandemic of wars will soon make us realize and accept the fact that the global society’s compassion towards its individuals is numbed and will eventually be completely absent as it is transformed into a human super-organism, just as one’s body is not concerned about the millions of cells dying daily in it, unless it affects the body as a whole like the cancer cells where we consider them to be terrorists and actively kill them.

Boghos L. Artinian MD

flagle

I hope there is no more war in this world

sod gold

war it not good for all humans

worldsmartled

Ultimately, be it engaging in, averting, or resolving, war can be likened to organized theft. The central theme revolves around a thief attempting to pilfer from someone else.

Quick energy

In the end, whether involving, preventing, or resolving, war can be compared to organized theft. The core idea centers on a thief attempting to steal from someone else.

No nation would wage a war for the independence of another. Boghos L. Artinian

Larry Bradley

And I will give you one word that sums up and supersedes your Five Reasons: Covetousness James 4:2, ESV, The Holy Bible.

world smartled

Christopher Blattman offers a comprehensive analysis of the five key reasons wars occur, shedding light on the complexities underlying conflicts and peacekeeping efforts. Blattman emphasizes the importance of understanding the incentives for peace and the institutional mechanisms that mitigate the risk of war. By examining factors such as accountability, ideology, bias, uncertainty, and reliability, he provides a nuanced perspective on the decision-making processes that lead to conflict. Blattman's insights underscore the significance of promoting dialogue, minimizing misperceptions, and strengthening institutions to preserve peace in an increasingly volatile world.

Veljko Blagojevic

Excuse me, but why all the Russia focus? Also, can all these "reasons of war" be applied to Israel also – autocratic rule, biases in information, etc? Finally, most wars in the last 70 years have been started by the US (either directly invading, or by supporting a nationalist faction in bloody coups and civil wars) – do the same reasons apply to those wars, as in the US has essentially autocratic leadership which has biased views and fears competition?

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Article contents

The conduct and consequences of war.

  • Alyssa K. Prorok Alyssa K. Prorok Department of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  •  and  Paul K. Huth Paul K. Huth Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland
  • https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190846626.013.72
  • Published in print: 01 March 2010
  • Published online: 22 December 2017
  • This version: 25 June 2019
  • Previous version

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.

  • interstate war
  • laws of war
  • civilian victimization
  • war termination
  • war severity
  • post-conflict peace

Updated in this version

Updated introduction, subheadings, references, and substantial revision throughout.

Introduction

Over the past 15 years, research by social scientists on the conduct and consequences of war has expanded considerably. Previously, scholarly research had been heavily oriented towards the analysis of the causes of interstate war and its onset. Three simultaneous trends, however, have characterized scholarship on war since the early 2000s. First, studies of the dynamics of civil war have proliferated. Second, war is conceptualized as a series of inter-related stages in which the onset, conduct, and termination of wars as well as post-war relations are analyzed theoretically and empirically in a more integrated fashion. Third, studies have shifted away from country-conflict-year units of analysis to micro-level studies that are sensitive to spatial variation in behavior within a country or conflict.

This article reviews and assesses this body of recent scholarship, which has shifted the focus from war onset to questions of how combatants wage war and what are the longer-term consequences of warfare for countries and their populations. Scholarly research examines the conduct and consequences of both interstate and civil wars.

The analysis is organized into three main sections. It begins with research on how states and rebel groups wage war, with particular attention given to questions regarding war expansion, compliance with the laws of war, and war severity. Section two turns to the literature on war duration, termination, and outcomes. Different explanations are discussed, for when and why wars come to an end; then, the question of how war’s end influences the prospects for a stable post-war peace is considered. In section three, recent scholarship is examined on the consequences of war for post-war trends in political stability and public health. The concluding discussion addresses some of the important contributions associated with recent scholarship on the conduct and consequences of war as well as promising directions for future research.

The Waging of Civil and International Wars

What accounts for the nature of the wars we see? This broad question drives a new research tradition in conflict studies that compliments traditional analyses of war onset by shifting the focus to state behavior during war. This research goes beyond understandings of why states fight one another to engaging questions of why states join ongoing wars, when and why they follow the laws of war, and what explains the severity of wars. Taken together, these questions open the black box of wartime behavior.

Intervention and the Expansion of Interstate Wars

Research on war expansion developed as a natural outgrowth of analyses of war onset: scholars studying why states initiate conflict shifted focus to understand why third parties join ongoing wars. The link between alliances and joining behavior has been central to studies of war expansion, spawning a broad research tradition that focuses on alliances and geography, differences among types of alliances, and the characteristics of alliance members. Siverson and Starr ( 1991 ), for example, find a strong interaction effect between geography and alliances, in that a warring neighbor who is an ally increases the likelihood of a state joining an existing conflict. Leeds, Long, and Mitchell ( 2000 ) also find that the specific content of alliance obligations is critical to understanding when states choose to intervene, and that states uphold the terms of their alliance commitments nearly 75% of the time. Most recently, Vasquez and Rundlett ( 2016 ) found that alliances are essentially a necessary condition for war expansion, highlighting the importance of this factor in explaining joining behavior.

Alliance behavior is also an important topic in the study of democratic wartime behavior. While Choi ( 2004 ) presents findings suggesting that democracies are particularly likely to align with one another, Reiter and Stam ( 2002 ) provide counter-evidence that democracies are willing to align with non-democracies when it serves their strategic interests. Given the tendency to uphold alliance obligations, and empirical evidence showing that war initiators are more successful when their adversary does not receive third-party assistance (Gartner & Siverson, 1996 ), recent theoretical research suggests that states, understanding joining dynamics, might manipulate war aims to reduce the likelihood of outside intervention (Werner, 2000 ).

These studies suggest that war expansion should be understood as the consequence of a decision calculus undertaken by potential joiners. While much of the contemporary literature focuses on alliance behavior, this only indirectly gets at the question of who will join ongoing conflicts. A full explanation of war expansion from this perspective would also require that we explain when states form alliances in the first place. Further, the analyses of Gartner and Siverson ( 1996 ) and of Werner ( 2000 ) suggest that strategic thinking must be the focus of future research on war expansion. Recent research begins to address this issue: DiLorenzo and Rooney ( 2018 ) examine how uncertainty over estimates of third party resolve influence war-making decisions of states, finding that rival states are more likely to initiate conflict when domestic power shifts in potential joiner states (i.e., allies) increase uncertainty over the strength of that alliance commitment. Future research should continue to investigate the links between expectations of third-party behavior and initial war initiation decisions, as this research highlights important selection processes that empirical research has not yet fully explored.

Finally, recent research goes further to connect war initiation and expansion by arguing that commitment problems—one of the key bargaining failures leading to war initiation—also helps explain war expansion. Shirkey ( 2018 ) finds that wars caused by commitment rather than information problems are more likely to expand, as they are generally fought over greater war aims, are more severe, and last longer. These factors generate risks and rewards for intervention that encourage expansion.

The literature on interstate war expansion has made progress in the last decade with much closer attention to modeling strategic calculations by combatants and potential interveners. The result has been a better understanding of the interrelationship between onset and joining behavior and the realization that the timing and the sequence in which sides intervene is critical to war expansion (Joyce, Ghosn, & Bayer, 2014 ).

Expansion of Civil Wars

The analog to studies of war expansion in the interstate context has traditionally been the study of intervention in the civil war context. Research in this field treats the decision to intervene in much the same way as the war expansion literature treats the potential joiner’s decision calculus. That is, intervention is the result of a rational, utility-maximizing decision calculus in which potential interveners consider the costs and benefits of intervention as well as the potential for achieving desired outcomes. Understood in these terms, both domestic and international strategic considerations affect the decision to intervene, with the Cold War geopolitical climate much more conducive to countervailing interventions than the post-Cold War era has been (Regan, 2002a ), and peacekeeping-oriented interventions most likely in states with ethnic, trade, military, or colonial ties to the intervening state (Rost & Greig, 2011 ).

Whether states are most likely to intervene in easy or hard cases is a central question. While Aydin ( 2010 ) showed that states will delay intervention when previous interventions by other states have failed to influence the conflict, Rost and Grieg ( 2011 ) showed that state-based interventions for peacekeeping purposes are most likely in tough cases—long ethnic wars and conflicts that kill and displace large numbers of civilians. Finally, Gent ( 2008 ) shows that the likelihood of success may not affect the intervention decision equally for government and opposition-targeted interventions. He finds that both types of intervention are more likely when governments face stronger rebel groups, thus implying that intervention in support of rebel groups occurs when the likelihood of success is highest, but intervention supporting governments is most likely when states face their most intense challenges.

There are two likely sources of the discrepancies in this literature. First, most analyses have focused exclusively on the intervener’s decision calculus, or the supply side, failing to account for variation in the demand for intervention. Second, there is significant inconsistency in the literature’s treatment of the goals of interveners. Some analyses assume that states intervene to end conflicts, while others don’t make this limiting assumption but still fail to distinguish among interventions for different purposes.

Newer research takes important strides to address these issues. First, Salehyan, Skrede Gleditsch, and Cunningham ( 2011 ) developed a theory of third party support for insurgent groups that explicitly modeled both supply-side and demand-side factors driving the intervention decision. They found that demand is greatest among weak rebel groups, but supply is greatest for strong groups. Second, research by Cunningham ( 2010 ) explicitly measured whether third party states intervene with independent goals, and Stojek and Chacha ( 2015 ) theorized that intervention behavior is driven by economic motivations. Trade ties increase the likelihood of intervention on the side of the government.

Finally, Kathman ( 2010 ) focused on contiguous state interveners in examining motives for intervention. He developed a measure of conflict infection risk that predicts the likelihood of conflict spreading to each contiguous state. Empirically, he finds that, as the risk of contagion increases, so does the probability of intervention by at-risk neighbors. This research develops a convincing mechanism and empirical test to explain a subset of interventions and provides a clear link from intervention research to recent research on civil conflict contagion. While the contagion literature is too broad to review here, mechanisms posited for civil war expansion across borders range from refugee flows (Salehyan & Gleditsch, 2006 ), to ethnic kinship ties (Forsberg, 2014 ), to increased military expenditures in neighboring states (Phillips, 2015 ).

The literature on intervention into civil wars has grown significantly over the past decade as internationalization of civil conflicts has become common and often results in escalatory dynamics that are of deep concern to analysts and policymakers.

Compliance With the Laws of War

Scholars have recently begun studying the conditions under which compliance with the laws of war is most likely and the mechanisms most important in determining compliance. This research shifts the focus toward understanding state behavior during war and the strategic and normative considerations that influence decision-making processes of states. Two key questions drive scholarship in this tradition; first, does international law constrain state behavior, even when the state is threatened by severe conflict, and second, can observed compliance be attributed to ratification status, or is it instead a result of strategic decision making?

Scholars have yet to provide conclusive answers to these questions; while compliance is observed in many circumstances, most scholars attribute observed restraint to factors other than international law. Legro ( 1995 ), for example, found that international agreements had limited impact on Britain and Germany’s use of unrestricted submarine warfare, strategic bombing of civilian targets, and chemical weapons during WWII. In analyses of civilian targeting during interstate war, Downes ( 2006 ) and Valentino, Huth, and Croco ( 2006 ) also found that international law itself has little impact on a state’s propensity for civilian targeting. Downes argued that civilian targeting occurs most often when states are fighting protracted wars of attrition and desire to save lives on their own side, or when they intend to annex enemy territory with potentially hostile civilians. Valentino et al. ( 2006 ) similarly found that the decision to target civilians is driven by strategic considerations and is unconstrained by treaty obligations relating to the laws of war. Finally, Fazal and Greene ( 2015 ) found that observed compliance is explained by identity rather than law; violations are much more common in European vs. non-European dyads than in other types of dyads.

While these analyses suggest that international law has little effect on state behavior and that observed compliance is incidental, Price ( 1997 ) and Morrow ( 2014 ) argued that law does exert some influence on compliance behavior. Price attributed variation in the use of chemical weapons to the terms of international agreements, arguing that complete bans are more effective than partial bans. Morrow ( 2014 ), however, demonstrated that law’s impact varies depending upon issue area, regime characteristics, and adversary identity. Of eight issue areas, he found the worst compliance records on civilian targeting and prisoners of war, which perhaps accounts for the largely negative conclusions drawn by Downes ( 2006 ) and Valentino et al. ( 2006 ). Additionally, Morrow found, unlike Valentino et al., that democratic states are more likely to comply after ratification than before, suggesting that obligations under international law do affect state behavior, at least in democracies. Finally, he demonstrated that compliance increases significantly when an adversary has also ratified a given treaty, arguing this effect is due to reciprocity.

More recent scholarship expands this research, showing that law may affect state behavior through additional mechanisms that previous research had not considered. For example, Kreps and Wallace ( 2016 ) and Wallace ( 2015 ) found that public support for state policies as diverse as drone strikes and torture of prisoners of war are critically influenced by international law. International condemnation of U.S. policies reduces public support most when such condemnation focuses on legal critiques. This suggests that international law influences state behavior in democracies through its effect on public opinion, not through liberal norms of nonviolence. Additionally, Appel and Prorok ( 2018 ) and Jo and Thompson ( 2014 ) showed that external constraints influence states’ compliance behavior. Specifically, Appel and Prorok showed that states target fewer civilians in interstate war when they are embedded in alliance and trade networks dominated by third party states who have ratified international treaties prohibiting the abuse of non-combatants during war. Jo and Thompson showed that states are more likely to grant international observers access to detention centers when they are more reliant upon foreign aid. These findings suggest that international law can influence state behavior indirectly, through pressure exerted by international donors and backers.

Scholarship on compliance with the laws of war in interstate wars has made considerable progress over the past decade. We now know much more about the contingent support of democratic state leaders and publics for compliance with the laws of war. This key finding opens up new areas of research on the strategic efforts of political and military leaders to convince publics of their commitment to international law and whether those strategies are likely to be successful.

Civilian Targeting in Civil War

The mistreatment and deliberate targeting of civilian populations is an active area of research by scholars who study civil wars (Hultman, 2007 ; Humphreys & Weinstein, 2006 ; Kalyvas, 2006 ; Valentino et al., 2004 ; Weinstein, 2007 ; Wickham-Crowley, 1990 ). Most research on this topic treats the use of violence against civilians as a strategic choice; that is, combatants target civilians to induce their compliance, signal resolve, weaken an opponent’s support base, or extract resources from the population. In his seminal work on the topic, Kalyvas ( 2006 ) demonstrated that combatants resort to the use of indiscriminate violence to coerce civilian populations when they lack the information and control necessary to target defectors selectively. Similarly, Valentino ( 2005 ) and Valentino et al. ( 2004 ) found that incumbents are more likely to resort to mass killing of civilians when faced with strong insurgent opponents that they are unable to defeat through more conventional tactics.

More recent analyses have built upon these earlier works, adding levels of complexity to the central theories developed previously and examining new forms of violence that previous studies did not. Balcells ( 2011 ) brought political considerations back in, finding that direct violence is most likely in areas where pre-conflict political power between state and rebel supporters was at parity, while indirect violence is most likely in locations where the adversary’s pre-war political support was highest. Wood ( 2010 ) accounted for the impact of relative strength and adversary strategy, finding that weak rebel groups, lacking the capacity to protect civilian populations, will increase their use of violence in response to state violence, while strong rebel groups display the opposite pattern of behavior. Lyall ( 2010a ) also found conditionalities in the relationship between state behavior and insurgent reactions, demonstrating that government “sweep” operations are much more effective at preventing and delaying insurgent violence when carried out by forces of the same ethnicity as the insurgent group. Finally, Cohen ( 2016 ) advanced research by focusing on wartime sexual violence. She found that rape, like other forms of violence, is used strategically in civil war. Specifically, armed groups use rape as a socialization tactic: groups that recruit through abduction engage in rape at higher rates, to generate loyalty and trust between soldiers.

This large body of research provides many insights into the strategic use of violence against civilians during civil war. However, until recently, little research addressed questions of compliance with legal obligations. With the recent formation of the International Criminal Court, however, states and rebel groups are now subject to legal investigation for failure to comply with basic principles of the laws of war.

Emerging research suggests that the International Criminal Court (ICC) and international law more generally do affect the behavior of civil war combatants. For example, Hillebrecht ( 2016 ) found that ICC actions during the Libyan civil war reduced the level of mass atrocities committed in the conflict, while Jo and Simmons ( 2016 ) found that the ICC reduces civilian targeting by governments and rebel groups that are seeking legitimacy, suggesting international legal institutions can reduce violations of humanitarian law during civil war. These findings should be tempered, however, by recent research suggesting that ICC involvement in civil wars can, under certain conditions, extend ongoing conflicts (Prorok, 2017 ).

Finally, beyond the ICC, Stanton ( 2016 ) and Jo ( 2015 ) both demonstrated that international law constrains civil war actors by establishing standards against which domestic and international constituencies judge the behavior of governments and rebel groups. Particularly when rebels are seeking legitimacy, Jo argues, they are more likely to comply with international legal standards in a variety of areas, from protection of civilian populations to child soldiering. This research suggests that even without direct intervention by the ICC, international law can influence the behavior of governments and rebels engaged in civil war.

While recent research has shown that the laws of war can influence civilian targeting in civil wars, the large loss of civilian life in the Syrian civil war highlights how fragile the commitment to international law can be. It points to important future research questions about when threats of various sanctions by the international community against non-compliance are actually credible and which actors can apply effective coercive pressure.

Losses Suffered in Wars

Recent scholarship has taken up the issue of war severity. Empirical research suggests that the tactics and strategies used by states during war, and the political pressures that compel them to adopt those policies, affect the severity of conflict. Biddle ( 2004 ), for instance, argued that war-fighting strategies influence the magnitude of losses sustained during war, and found that states employing the modern system of force reduce their exposure to lethal firepower, thus limiting losses. Valentino, Huth, and Croco ( 2010 ) examined the reasons behind different strategic choices, arguing that democratic sensitivity to the costs of war pressure democratic leaders to adopt military policies designed to limit fatalities. They found that increasing military capabilities decreases civilian and military fatalities, while reliance on guerrilla or attrition strategies, as well as fighting on or near one’s own territory, increases fatalities. They reported that democracies are significantly more likely to join powerful alliances and less likely to use attrition or guerrilla strategies, or to fight on their own territory.

Speaking to the conventional wisdom that interstate warfare is on the decline, recent research by Fazal ( 2014 ) suggests that modern medical advances mean that, while war has become less fatal, it has not necessarily become less severe. This raises questions about common understandings of broad trends in conflict frequency and severity as well as questions about best practices for measuring conflict severity. Future research should grapple with both of these issues.

Civil war studies have recently begun to focus more on conflict severity as an outcome in need of explanation. Many key explanatory factors in early research mirrored those in interstate war research, making comparison possible. For example, like interstate war, civil war scholarship consistently finds that democracies suffer less severe conflicts than nondemocracies (Heger & Salehyan, 2007 ; Lacina, 2006 ; Lujala, 2009 ). Regarding state military strength, research by Lujala ( 2009 ) demonstrated that relative equality between government and rebel forces leads to the deadliest conflicts, as rebels with the strength to fight back will likely inflict more losses than those without the ability to sustain heavy engagement with government forces. Finally, recent research by Balcells and Kalyvas ( 2014 ) mirrored work on interstate war by focusing on how the military strategies adopted by combatants affect conflict intensity. They found that civil conflicts fought via conventional means tend to be more lethal than irregular or symmetric nonconventional (SNC) wars, as only the former involve direct confrontations with heavy weaponry. While research on conflict severity is still developing, these studies suggest that democracy, military strength, and strategy are consistent predictors of conflict severity, although the mechanisms posited for the effects of these variables sometimes differ between civil and interstate war.

What this research does not provide clear answers on is how battle losses trend throughout the course of conflict, as most factors examined in the above research are static throughout a conflict. As our ability to measure conflict severity at a more micro temporal and spatial level has improved, emerging research is beginning to address these questions. For example, Hultman, Kathman, and Shannon ( 2014 ) find that increasing UN troop presence decreases battlefield deaths by increasing the costs of perpetrating violence. Dasgupta Gawande, and Kapur ( 2017 ) also found reductions in insurgent violence associated with implementation of development programs, though the pacifying effects of such programs are conditional upon local state capacity. Additional research shows that trends in violence in Islamist insurgencies vary predictably, with violence suppressed due to anticipated social disapproval during important Islamic holidays (Reese, Ruby, & Pape, 2017 ). Recent research also suggests local variation in cell-phone coverage affects local levels of insurgent violence, as increasing cell-phone communication improves the state’s ability to gather information and monitor insurgent behavior, thereby reducing insurgent violence (Shapiro & Weidmann, 2015 ). These recent studies represent an important trend in conflict severity research that more carefully examines the dynamics of escalation and de-escalation within given conflicts, both spatially and temporally. We encourage additional research in this vein.

The Duration, Termination, and Outcome of War

What accounts for the duration, termination, and outcomes of interstate and civil wars, and the durability of the peace that follows these conflicts? These questions represent a central focus of contemporary conflict studies, and are closely linked in terms of their explanations. A major innovation in this literature in the past 10 to 15 years has been the extension of the bargaining model of war from its original application in the context of war onset (Blainey, 1973 ; Fearon, 1995 ) to its use in the context of war duration, termination, and outcome.

The turn to bargaining models has placed relative military capabilities and battlefield developments at the center of much of the theoretical literature in this area. This focus, however, has spawned a backlash in recent years, as patterns that contradict the implications of bargaining models are detected and theorized. The bargaining approach and its critiques are discussed in the following sections.

Duration of Wars

Understood within the bargaining framework, war duration is closely linked to factors that influence the relative strength of combatants. Theoretical and empirical research suggests that longer wars occur when opponents of relatively equal strength cannot achieve breakthroughs on the battlefield (Bennett & Stam, 1996 ; Filson & Werner, 2007b ; Slantchev, 2004 ), although this pattern does not hold for wars involving non-state actors where a large asymmetry in power increases war duration (Sullivan, 2008 ).

Additional research suggests, however, that relative military strength may not be the best predictor of war duration. Bennett and Stam ( 1996 ), for example, demonstrated that military strategy has a large impact on war duration, independent of military strength, with attrition and punishment strategies leading to longer wars than maneuver strategies. The type of political objectives sought by a war initiator may also offset the impact of military strength, as war aims that require significant target compliance generally lead to longer wars (Sullivan, 2008 ). Still others argue that domestic political sensitivity to concessions-making increases conflict duration, while domestic cost sensitivity leads to shorter wars (Filson & Werner, 2007a ; Mattes & Morgan, 2004 ). Thus, democracies are expected to fight shorter wars (Filson & Werner, 2007b ), whereas mixed regimes will fight longer wars as they gamble for resurrection in the face of high domestic costs for war losses (Goemans, 2000 ). Research by Lyall ( 2010b ), however, suggests that this relationship is conditional upon conflict type, as he found no relationship between democracy and war duration in the context of counterinsurgency wars.

Biddle ( 2004 ) more directly challenged bargaining models of war duration by comparing the predictive power of models including traditional measures of relative military capabilities to those accounting for combatants’ methods of force employment. Biddle demonstrated that models taking force employment into account generate more accurate predictions of war duration than those assuming an unconditional relationship between military power and war duration. A second important challenge to traditional applications of bargaining models comes from Reiter ( 2009 ). He demonstrated that the argument that decisive battlefield outcomes promote quick termination is conditional upon the absence of commitment problems. When compliance fears dominate information asymmetries, battle losses and the expectation of future losses may not be sufficient to end conflict, as belligerents will continue fighting in pursuit of absolute victory to eliminate the threat of the losing state defecting from post-war settlements. Reiter thus demonstrates that commitment problems and information asymmetries have varying effects on war duration, and both must be accounted for in models of conflict duration and termination.

Despite these critiques, more recent research continues to approach the question of war duration from the bargaining perspective. Shirkey ( 2012 ), for example, argued that late third-party joiners to interstate conflicts lengthen those disputes by complicating the bargaining process. Joiners add new issues to the war and increase uncertainty about relative power among combatants, thus requiring additional fighting to reveal information and find a bargained solution. Weisiger ( 2016 ) similarly focused on information problems, but attempts to unpack the mechanism by focusing on more specific characteristics of battlefield events. Using new data on the timing of battle deaths for specific war participants, Weisiger found that settlement is more likely after more extensive fighting, and that states are more likely to make concessions after their battle results have deteriorated. Finally, recent research has also begun to problematize resolve, considering how variation in actors’ resolve affects their willingness to stay in a fight or cut losses (Kertzer, 2017 ). This represents a fruitful area for future research, as conceptually and empirically unpacking resolve will shed new light on costs of war and how they relate to war onset, duration, and termination.

Scholars studying the duration of civil wars also commonly apply a rationalist perspective. Factors that increase the costs of sustaining the fight generally shorten wars, while those that raise the costs of making concessions tend to lengthen conflicts. Along these lines, research suggests that the availability of contraband funding for rebel groups lengthens conflicts by providing rebels with the economic resources to sustain their campaigns (Fearon, 2004 ). However, additional research demonstrates that the influence of contraband is mitigated by fluctuations in its market value (Collier, Hoeffler, & Söderbom, 2004 ), by how rebels earn funding from resources (through smuggling versus extortion; Conrad, Greene, Igoe Walsh, & Whitaker, 2018 ), and by the composition of state institutions (Wiegand & Keels, 2018 ).

Research suggests that structural conditions also affect civil war duration, such as the stakes of war, ethnic divisions, and the number of combatants involved. For example, ethnic conflicts over control of territory are generally longer than those fought over control of the central government (Balch-Lindsay & Enterline, 2000 ; Collier et al., 2004 ; Fearon, 2004 ). Regarding the role of ethnicity, Wucherpfennig, Metternich, Cederman, and Skrede Gleditsch ( 2012 ) demonstrated that the effect of ethnic cleavages is conditional on their relationship to political institutions. Regarding the complexity of the conflict, Cunningham ( 2011 ) found that civil wars with a greater number of combatants on each side are longer than those with fewer combatants. Findley ( 2013 ), however, showed that the number of conflict actors has varying effects across different stages of conflict, encouraging cooperation early on while impeding lasting settlement.

Third party intervention has also received significant attention in the civil war duration literature, with scholars generally arguing that intervention affects duration by augmenting the military strength of combatants. Empirical findings in early studies are mixed, however; while results consistently show that unbiased intervention or simultaneous intervention on both sides of a conflict increase war duration (Balch-Lindsay & Enterline, 2000 ; Balch-Lindsay, Enterline, & Joyce, 2008 ; Regan, 2002b ), biased interventions generate more inconsistent results.

In a valuable study addressing limitations of earlier research, Cunningham ( 2010 ) focused on the goals of third parties, and found that when interveners pursue agendas that are independent of those of the internal combatants, wars are more difficult to terminate due to decreased incentives to negotiate and a higher likelihood that commitment problems stymie settlements. This suggests that the empirical finding that intervention lengthens war may be driven by a subset of cases in which third parties intervene with specific goals. Ultimately, analyses focused on intervention do not account for the potential selection effect that influences when states will intervene. If Gent ( 2008 ) is correct, biased intervention should be most likely when the power ratio between government and rebel forces is close to parity, a factor which, if ignored, may bias the results of these analyses.

More recent studies have continued to unpack intervention, demonstrating that there are important distinctions beyond the biased versus balanced debate. Sawyer, Cunningham, and Reed ( 2015 ), for example, showed that different types of external support affect rebel fighting capacity differently. Specifically, fungible types of support like financial and arms transfers are particularly likely to lengthen conflict because they increase uncertainty over relative power. Similarly, Narang ( 2015 ) also focused on the uncertainty induced by external support. He showed that humanitarian assistance inadvertently increases both actors’ uncertainty over relative power, thereby prolonging civil war.

Until recently, this literature suffered from a major weakness in that it relied empirically on state-level variables that did not fully capture the dyadic nature of its theoretical propositions. Cunningham, Skrede Gleditsch, and Salehyan ( 2013 ) new dyadic data represents an important contribution to the field, as it explicitly measures the relative strength, mobilization capacity, and fighting capacity of rebel groups and applies a truly dyadic empirical approach. New research in this field should continue to approach questions of war duration and outcome with dyadic data and theory along with more micro-level studies that seek to explain variation in rebel and state fighting across different geographic locations and over time (e.g., Greig, 2015 ).

Ending Wars as a Bargaining Process

Interstate wars rarely end in the complete destruction of the defeated party’s military forces. Instead, new information is revealed through combat operations and negotiating behavior which enables belligerents to converge on a mutually agreeable settlement short of total war. Wittman ( 1979 ) provided the first formal articulation of the bargaining model in the context of war termination. He argued theoretically that war continues until both adversaries believe they can be made better off through settlement. Subsequent analyses have focused on both the battlefield conditions and strategies of negotiations leading states to believe settlement is the better option.

These analyses show that, as a state’s resources are depleted from battle losses, it has incentives to negotiate a settlement more acceptable to its adversary rather than suffer total defeat (Filson & Werner, 2002 ; Smith & Stam, 2004 ). Further, fighting battles reduces uncertainty by revealing information about resolve, military effectiveness, and the true balance of power between adversaries, causing expectations on the likely outcome of the war to converge, and making settlement possible (Wagner, 2000 ). Wartime negotiations provide adversaries with additional information, which Slantchev ( 2011 ) argued makes war termination more likely.

Challenging traditional notions regarding the likelihood of termination in the face of large asymmetries in capabilities, Slantchev ( 2011 ) argued that war termination depends upon states’ abilities to both impose and bear the costs of fighting. If a weaker state can minimize the costs it bears while forcing its adversary to expand its war effort, the benefits of fighting relative to its costs are reduced, and the stronger state may choose termination. The implication of this argument relates closely to Biddle’s ( 2004 ) empirical critique of the bargaining literature, which finds modern methods of force employment can mitigate losses during war, thereby shifting the balance of costs and benefits independent of relative military capabilities. Reiter’s ( 2009 ) critique of bargaining approaches also has implications for war termination. While traditional approaches argue that fighting battles reveals information and increases the likelihood of termination, Reiter suggested that this is only the case if belligerents expect their opponent to comply with the post-war status quo. If commitment problems are severe, information revealed during battles and war-time negotiations will have little effect on termination.

Biddle’s argument that country-year measures of military capabilities are inexact and crude proxies for the concepts advanced in theoretical models is a strong one that should be taken seriously by scholars. We therefore appreciate the contributions of Ramsay ( 2008 ) and Weisiger ( 2016 ), which use more fine-grained battle trend data rather than country-level measures of military capabilities to empirically test the implications of bargaining theories of war termination, and advocate future research adopting this strategy for testing the implications of bargaining theories.

Much of the literature on civil war termination also focuses on how battlefield developments affect the termination of civil wars. Collier et al. ( 2004 ) built on the idea of war as an information revelation mechanism, arguing that the probability of settlement should increase as war duration increases and more information is revealed regarding the relative strength of each side. Others focus on the costs of battle, with research showing that settlements are more likely when the costs of battle are high and the relative payoffs from victory decrease (Walter, 2002 ). Also, a relatively equal balance of power between combatants creates a mutually hurting stalemate, in which neither side can achieve victory, and settlement becomes more likely (Walter, 2002 ).

Empirical results support many of these theoretical predictions. Several scholars show that the longer a civil war lasts, the more likely it is to terminate (Collier et al., 2004 ; Fearon,, 2004 ; Regan, 2002b ), and that the probability of negotiated settlement increases as conflict duration increases (Mason, Weingarten, & Fett, 1999 ). The magnitude of conflict, measured as total war deaths, also correlates positively with the probability of adversaries initiating negotiations (Walter, 2002 ). Finally, Walter ( 2002 ) found that military stalemates significantly increase the likelihood of negotiations as well as the implementation of a ceasefire.

While these results support the theoretical predictions surrounding “hurting stalemates,” Walter’s coding of stalemates does not account for the timing of the stalemate or the number of stalemates that occur throughout the course of conflict. We therefore see great value in more recent research that uses new micro-level data to more closely capture actual battle dynamics and incorporate more information at the conflict and group-level. For example, Hultquist ( 2013 ) used a novel troop strength measure to better capture relative strength between rebel and government forces. He found that relative power parity increases the likelihood of negotiated settlement, while power imbalances extend civil war. Making use of fine-grained data on battle event dates and locations, Greig ( 2015 ) showed that the location, and changes in location over time, of battle events relays information to combatants that, in turn, affects their willingness to negotiate and settle their conflicts. We encourage additional research in this vein moving forward.

Domestic-Level Factors and War Termination

Recent research suggests that domestic political conditions influence war termination. Specifically, domestic political accountability, the domestic audience’s expectations, and cost-sensitivity affect leaders’ decisions to continue fighting versus settling on specific terms (Mattes & Morgan, 2004 ). Along these lines, Goemans ( 2000 ) argued that the postwar fate of leaders influences their choice between terminating and continuing a war. The threat of severe punishment by domestic actors increases the costs of war losses for leaders of semi-repressive regimes, leading them to continue fighting a war they are losing in the hope of achieving victory. Thus, war termination does not follow strictly from battle trends.

Empirically, Goemans ( 2000 ) found that losing mixed regimes suffer significantly more battle deaths than democratic or autocratic losers, and that wars fought against losing mixed regimes last, on average, almost twice as long as those fought against either democratic or autocratic losers. Taken together, these results suggest that mixed regime leaders are likely to sustain rather than terminate a losing war, and more generally, that regime type significantly influences war termination. Croco ( 2015 ) refined Goemans’s work by arguing that the individual responsibility of leaders for involving their country in a war has important effects on war termination patterns, with culpable leaders more likely to fight for victory in order to avoid being punished domestically for poor wartime performance. Croco and Weeks ( 2013 ) refined this logic further, showing that only culpable leaders from democracies and vulnerable nondemocracies face increased punishment risk from war losses. Koch and Sullivan ( 2010 ) provide another take on the relationship between domestic politics and war termination, demonstrating that partisanship significantly affects democratic states’ war termination decisions. Faced with declining approval for military interventions, their results demonstrate, right-leaning governments will continue the fight, while left-leaning executives will be more likely to end their military engagements.

The analog to studying domestic-level factors in interstate conflict would be to examine the effect of internal state and rebel characteristics on civil war termination. Traditionally, civil war studies have focused only on state characteristics, as data on rebel groups’ organization and internal characteristics has been unavailable. Early research argued that state capacity, regime characteristics, and ethnic/religious divisions influenced war termination by influencing the balance of power, accountability of leaders, and stakes of conflict, but empirical results provided mixed support for these theories (e.g., DeRouen & Sobek, 2004 ; Svensson, 2007 ; Walter, 2002 ).

More recent research has made significant strides in understanding how internal characteristics of combatants affect civil conflict termination by using new data to explore how the composition and practices (i.e., leader characteristics, governance, and internal cohesion) of rebel groups influence civil conflict dynamics. This research demonstrates that some of the same leader-accountability mechanisms that affect interstate war termination also influence civil conflict. For example, Prorok ( 2016 ) used novel data on rebel group leaders to show that culpable leaders are less willing to terminate or settle for compromise outcomes than their non-culpable counterparts in civil wars, just like in interstate conflicts. Heger and Jung ( 2017 ) also advanced existing research by using novel data on rebel service provision to civilian populations to explore how good rebel governance affects conflict negotiations. They found that service-providing rebels are more likely to engage in negotiations and to achieve favorable results, arguing that this reflects the lower risk of spoilers from groups with broad support and centralized power structures. Finally, Findley and Rudloff ( 2012 ) examined rebel group fragmentation’s effects on conflict termination and outcomes. Using computational modeling, they find that fragmentation only sometimes increases war duration (on fragmentation, also see Cunningham, 2014 ).

These studies underscore the value of exploring rebel group internal structures and practices in greater detail in future research, as they have an important impact on how, and when, civil wars end.

Victory/Defeat in Wars

Recent scholarship on victory and defeat in war suggests, as in the duration and termination literatures, that domestic politics, strategies of force employment, military mechanization, and war aims mediate the basic relationship between military strength and victory. Empirical results show that strategy choices and methods of force employment have a greater impact on war outcomes than relative military capabilities (Biddle, 2004 ; Stam, 1996 ), that high levels of mechanization within state militaries actually increase the probability of state defeat in counterinsurgency wars (Lyall & Wilson, 2009 ), and that weak states win more often when they employ an opposite-strategy approach in asymmetric conflicts (Arreguin-Toft, 2006 ) or when the stronger party’s war aims require high levels of target compliance (Sullivan, 2007 ). High relative losses and increasing war duration also decrease the likelihood of victory for war initiators, even if prewar capabilities favored the aggressor (Slantchev, 2004 ).

More recent research focuses on counter-insurgent conflicts, using new micro-level data and modeling techniques to address questions of counterinsurgent effectiveness in these complex conflicts. For example, Toft and Zhukov ( 2012 ) evaluated the effectiveness of denial versus punishment strategies, finding that denial (i.e., increasing the costs of expanding insurgent violence) is most effective, while punishment is counterproductive. Relatedly, Weidmann and Salehyan ( 2013 ) used an agent-based model applied to the U.S. surge in Baghdad to understand the mechanisms behind the surge’s success. They found that ethnic homogenization, rather than increased counterinsurgent capacity, best accounts for the surge’s success. Finally, Quackenbush and Murdie ( 2015 ) found that, counter to conventional wisdom, past experiences with counterinsurgency or conventional warfare have little effect on future success in conflict. States are not simply fighting the last war.

An important area of research that has fostered significant debate among scholars focuses on explaining the historical pattern of high rates of victory by democracies in interstate wars. The strongest explanations for the winning record of democracies center on their superior battlefield initiative and leadership, cooperative civil-military relations, and careful selection into wars they have a high probability of winning (Reiter & Stam, 2002 ). Challenging these results both theoretically and empirically, however, Desch ( 2002 ) argues that “democracy hardly matters,” that relative power plays a more important role in explaining victory. This debate essentially comes down to the relative importance of realist-type power variables versus regime type variables in explaining military victory; while scholars such as Lake ( 1992 ) and Reiter and Stam ( 2002 ) argued that regime type matters more, Desch asserted that relative power is the more important determinant of military victory.

Ultimately, we find Desch’s objections to the relevance of democracy to be overstated and his theoretical and empirical justifications to be largely unconvincing. First, Desch’s analysis is biased against Reiter and Stam’s argument because it is limited to dyads that Desch labels “fair fights,” that is, dyads with relatively equal military capabilities. This does not allow Desch to test the selection effect that Reiter and Stam discuss. Second, Desch failed to recognize that many of the realist variables he attributes the greatest explanatory power to are actually influenced by the foreign and military policies adopted by democratic leaders (Valentino et al., 2010 ). Democracy thus has both a direct and an indirect effect on war outcomes, and because Desch ignores the latter, he underestimates democracy’s total impact. Finally, the impacts of power variables may be overstated, as recent research demonstrates that military power’s influence is conditional upon method of force employment and military mechanization (Biddle, 2004 ; Lyall & Wilson, 2009 ).

More recent research examines some of the mechanisms suggested for the unique war-time behavior of democracies, raising some questions about existing mechanisms and suggesting alternatives to explain democratic exceptionalism. For example, Gibler and Miller ( 2013 ) argued that democracies tend to fight short, victorious wars because they have fewer territorial (i.e., high salience) issues over which to fight, rather than because of their leaders’ political accountability. Once controlling for issue salience, they find no relationship between democracy and victory. Similarly, using novel statistical techniques that allow them to account for the latent abilities of states, Renshon and Spirling ( 2015 ) showed that democracy only increases military effectiveness under certain conditions, and is actually counterproductive in others. Finally, new research by Bausch ( 2017 ) using laboratory experiments to test the mechanisms behind democracy and victory suggested that only some of these mechanisms hold up. Specifically, Bausch found that democratic leaders are actually more likely to select into conflict and do not mobilize more resources for war once involved, contrary to the selection and war fighting stories developed by Reiter and Stam ( 2002 ). He did find, however, that democratic leaders are less likely to accept settlement and more likely to fight to decisive victory once conflict is underway, and that democratic leaders are more likely to be punished than autocrats for losing a war. Thus, the debate over the democratic advantage in winning interstate wars continues to progress in productive directions.

Theoretical arguments regarding civil war outcomes focus on state/rebel strength, positing that factors such as natural resource wealth, state military capacity, and third-party assistance influence relative combatant strength and war outcomes. Empirical studies find that increasing state military strength decreases the likelihood of negotiated settlement and increases the probability of government victory (Mason et al., 1999 ). Characteristics of the war itself also affect outcomes, with the probability of negotiated settlement increasing as war duration increases (Mason et al., 1999 ; Walter, 2002 ), and high casualty rates increasing the likelihood of rebel victory (Mason et al., 1999 ).

Debate remains over how third-party interventions affect civil war outcomes. UN intervention decreases the likelihood of victory by either side while increasing the probability of negotiated war terminations (DeRouen & Sobek, 2004 ). This impact is time sensitive, however (Mason et al., 1999 ). Further, the impact of unilateral interventions is less clear. While Regan ( 1996 ) found intervention supporting the government to increase the likelihood of war termination, Gent ( 2008 ) found military intervention in support of rebels to increase their chance of victory but that in support of governments to have no significant impact. More recent research by Sullivan and Karreth ( 2015 ) helps explain this discrepancy. They argued that biased intervention only alters the chances for victory by the supported side if that side’s key deficiency is conventional war-fighting capacity. Empirically, they show that because rebels are generally weaker, military intervention on their behalf increases their chance of victory. For states, however, military intervention only increases their odds of victory if the state is militarily weaker than or at parity with the rebels.

Additional new research by Jones ( 2017 ) also represents an important step forward in understanding the effects of intervention in civil war. By examining both the timing and strategy of intervention, Jones demonstrated that the effects of intervention on conflict outcomes are much more complex than previous research suggests.

Post-War Peace Durability

As with studies on war duration, termination, and outcomes, much of the literature on the stability of post-war peace grows from extensions of the bargaining model of war. For these scholars, recurrence is most likely under conditions that encourage the renegotiation of the terms of settlement, including postwar changes in the balance of power (Werner, 1999 ) and externally forced ceasefires that artificially terminate fighting before both sides agree on the proper allocation of the spoils of war (Werner & Yuen, 2005 ). Building off of commitment problem models, Fortna ( 2004b ) argued that strong peace agreements that enhance monitoring, incorporate punishment for defection, and reward cooperation help sustain peace. Specific measures within agreements, however, affect the durability of peace differently. For example, troop withdrawals and the establishment of demilitarized zones decrease the likelihood of war resumption, while arms control measures have no significant impact (Fortna, 2004b , p. 176).

Postwar intervention is also expected to increase peace duration by ameliorating commitment problems, as peacekeepers act as a physical barrier and reduce security fears, uncertainty, and misperceptions between former adversaries (Fortna, 2004a ). Empirical results support this theoretical prediction, and while the size of the force is not significant, both monitoring and armed forces missions increase the durability of post-war peace (Fortna, 2004a ).

The debate that remains in this literature is whether or not peace agreements can effectively mitigate the influence of relative power variables. Recent research by Lo, Hashimoto, and Reiter ( 2008 ) suggests that they cannot. They demonstrated that cease-fire agreement strength has almost no significant impact on post-war peace duration, while factors encouraging renegotiation receive partial support. While discrepancies in results may be in part attributable to differences in time periods covered, this result essentially confirms Warner and Yuen’s ( 2005 ) finding that externally imposed war termination invites resumption of conflict, regardless of the presence of strong cease-fire agreements.

If, at the end of a civil conflict, each side maintains its ability to wage war, issues of credibility can undermine the peace and cause the conflict to resume. Thus, wars ending in negotiated settlements are more likely to recur than those ending with a decisive victory because both sides have the ability to resume fighting to gain greater concessions and neither can credibly commit to the peace (Licklider,, 1995 ; Walter, 2002 ). More recent research confirms that conflicts ending in military victory are less likely to recur than those ending in settlement (Caplan & Hoeffler, 2017 ; Toft, 2009 ), though Toft suggested that this is particularly true for rebel victories.

This understanding of post-war peace in terms of the bargaining model’s commitment problem has led scholars to examine three primary avenues through which commitment problems might be overcome and peace maintained. First, partition has been advanced as a possible solution to post-war instability. The separation of warring factions is expected to reduce security fears by creating demographically separate, militarily defensible regions (Kaufmann, 1996 ). Empirical evidence generally supports this strategy. Partitions that successfully separate warring ethnic groups significantly reduce the risk of renewed conflict (Johnson, 2008 ), while those that do not achieve demographic separation increase the risk of renewed hostilities (Tir, 2005 ). Further, relative to de facto separation, autonomy arrangements, or maintenance of a unitary state, partition is significantly less likely to lead to war recurrence (Chapman & Roeder, 2007 ).

Second, third-party intervention is expected to play a role in ameliorating the security dilemma arising from commitment problems in post-conflict states (Fearon, 2004 ; Walter, 2002 ). Empirical results confirm that third-party security guarantees are critical to the signing and durability of peace settlements (Walter, 2002 ). Once settlement has been reached, third-party guarantees and international peacekeeping establish punishments for defection (Fortna, 2008 ; Walter, 2002 ), thereby reducing incentives for and increasing costs of renewed conflict. More recent research that employs more fine-grained data on the size and composition of UN peacekeeping forces suggests, however, that this type of third-party guarantee is most effective when it has the military power to enforce the peace. Specifically, Hultman, Kathman, and Shannon ( 2016 ) found that increasing UN troop presence increases peace durability, but the presence of other types of UN monitors has little effect on peace duration. By using more fine-grained data, this study makes an important contribution by allowing us to parse the mechanisms driving the role of third party guarantees in promoting peace.

Third, the incorporation of power-sharing arrangements that guarantee the survival of each side into the postwar settlement is also expected to solve post-civil war commitment problems (Walter, 2002 ). These arrangements allow adversaries to generate costly signals of their resolve to preserve the peace, thus ameliorating security fears (Hartzell & Hoddie, 2007 ). Empirical results indicate that given a negotiated settlement, the agreement’s ability to ameliorate security concerns is positively associated with the preservation of peace. Thus, the more regulation of coercive and political power included in an agreement, and the greater the number of dimensions (political, territorial, military, economic) of power sharing specified, the more likely agreements are to endure (Hartzell & Hoddie, 2007 ).

More recently, scholars have begun to extend this research by focusing more broadly on settlement design. Whereas previous research tended to simply count the number of power-sharing dimensions, newer analyses focus on issues such as the quality of the agreement (Badran, 2014 ) and equality in the terms of settlement (Albin & Druckman, 2012 ). Martin ( 2013 ), for example, found that provisions that share power at the executive level are less effective than those that regulate power at the level of rank-and-file or the public, as elite-level power-sharing is relatively easy for insincere actors to engage in at a relatively low cost. Cammett and Malesky ( 2012 ) found that proportional representation provisions are particularly effective at stabilizing post-conflict peace because of their ability to promote good governance and service provision, while Joshi and Mason ( 2011 ) similarly found that power-sharing provisions that expand the size of the governing coalition result in more stable peace. These analyses suggest that delving further into the design and content of settlement agreements is a positive avenue for future research. Future research should also examine how implementation of peace agreements proceeds, and how the timing and sequencing of implementation affects the durability of peace (e.g., Langer & Brown, 2016 ).

Finally, emerging research on civil war recurrence also shifts focus toward rebel groups and how their composition and integration affect post-conflict peace. For example, new research finds that rebel group fragmentation hastens the recurrence of civil war (Rudloff & Findley, 2016 ), while greater inclusion of former rebels in government improves prospects for post-conflict peace (Call, 2012 ; Marshall & Ishiyama, 2016 ). Emerging research on post-conflict elections also represents an important area for further study, as debate remains over how elections affect conflict recurrence. While some argue that they destabilize the peace (Flores & Nooruddin, 2012 ), others suggest they actually reduce the risk of conflict recurrence (Matanock, 2017 ).

The Longer-Term Consequences of Wars

What are the political, economic, and social consequences of interstate and civil wars, and what explains these postwar conditions? As Rasler and Thompson ( 1992 ) recognized, the consequences of war are often far-reaching and complex. Given this complexity, much of the literature varies significantly in quality and coverage; while post-war political change has received significant attention from political scientists, the social and health-related consequences of war are less well-known.

Post-War Domestic Political Stability and Change

Scholarship on post-war political stability focuses on both regime and leadership change, positing political accountability as a central mechanism in both cases. Interstate war has been theorized to induce internal revolution both indirectly (Skocpol, 1979 ) and directly (Bueno De Mesquita et al., 2003 ; Goemans, 2000 ). Empirical results support the accountability argument, as war losses and increasing costs of war increase the likelihood of post-war leadership turnover (Bueno De Mesquita & Siverson, 1995 ) as well as violent regime overthrow (Bueno De Mesquita, Siverson, & Woller, 1992 ). Related work shows that accountable leaders are also more likely to face foreign-imposed regime change at the hands of war victors (Bueno De Mesquita et al., 2003 ).

A central focus of recent research has been the conditional relationship between war outcomes and regime type. In his seminal study, Goemans, 2000 ) found that leaders of mixed and democratic regimes are more likely to be removed from office as a result of moderate losses in war than are leaders of autocracies. These findings, however, have been challenged by recent scholarship. Colaresi ( 2004 ) finds no difference in leadership turnover rates across all regimes types under conditions of moderate war losses, and Chiozza and Goemans ( 2004 ), employing a different measure of war outcomes and discounting the impact of termination over time, find that defeat in war is most costly for autocratic leaders and has no significant impact on tenure for democratic leaders.

Recently, research in the civil war literature has begun to focus more on post-war democratization, elections, and how groups transition from fighting forces to political parties. Much of the early work in this area focused on the link between war outcomes and the development of democratic institutions in the post-war period, specifically arguing that negotiated settlements facilitate democratization by requiring the inclusion of opposition groups in the decision-making process (Doyle & Sambanis, 2006 ; Gurses & Mason, 2008 ). More recent research, however, challenges this conventional wisdom, showing that the benefits of negotiated settlement are limited to the short-term and that economic factors are better predictors of post-war democratization (Fortna & Huang, 2012 ).

Recognizing that not all negotiated settlements are created equal, scholars have also begun to examine how variation in power-sharing provisions influences democratization. Debate remains on this topic as well, however. While some argue that power-sharing facilitates democratization by generating costly signals that create the stability necessary for democratization (Hoddie & Hartzell, 2005 ), others argue that they undermine democratization by reifying wartime cleavages, incentivizing political parties to seek support only from their own wartime constituencies, and undermining public confidence in governmental institutions (Jung, 2012 ). However, after accounting for non-random selection into power-sharing, Hartzell and Hoddie ( 2015 ) found that the inclusion of multiple power-sharing provisions in peace agreements increases post-civil war democratization. Future research should delve further into this debate, and consider more carefully whether specific types of provisions or institutional designs vary in their ability to promote democracy. Joshi ( 2013 ) represents an important first step in this direction, finding that institutional designs that favor inclusivity (e.g., parliamentary systems and proportional representation) are more successful at producing democracy.

Debate also continues over the effects of international intervention on post-conflict democratization. While some scholars expect intervention to facilitate postwar democratization by mitigating commitment problems and raising the costs of defection (Doyle & Sambanis, 2006 ), others suggest it is used as a tool by interveners to impose amenable, generally non-democratic, institutions in the target country (Bueno De Mesquita & Downs, 2006 ). Doyle and Sambanis ( 2006 ) found multidimensional UN missions incorporating economic reconstruction, institutional reform, and election oversight, to be significantly and positively correlated with the development of postwar democracy. However, Gurses and Mason ( 2008 ) and Fortna and Huang ( 2012 ) challenged this finding, reporting no significant relationship between UN presence and postwar democratization, and Paris ( 2004 ) and Bueno de Mesquita and Downs ( 2006 ) showed that peacebuilding missions and UN interventions actually decrease levels of democracy.

Future research should attempt to reconcile many of these open debates in both the interstate and civil conflict literatures. It should also build upon emerging research on post-conflict elections (Flores & Nooruddin, 2012 ; Matanock, 2017 ) and rebel governance (Huang, 2016 ). Huang’s work on rebel governance, in particular, shows that how rebels interact with civilian populations during conflict has important implications for post-conflict democratization.

Public Health Conditions in the Aftermath of Wars

Social scientists have recently begun to study the consequences of war for the postwar health and well-being of civilian populations. Theoretical arguments developed in this literature generally do not distinguish between interstate and civil war, instead developing mechanisms that apply to both types of conflict. The most direct public health consequence of war, of course, results from the killing and wounding of civilian populations. Scholars argue, however, that more indirect mechanisms cause longer-term public health problems as well. War, for example, is expected to undermine long-term public health by exposing populations to hazardous conditions through the movement of refugees and soldiers as vectors for disease (Ghobarah, Huth, & Russett, 2003 ; Iqbal, 2006 ), damaging health-related facilities and basic infrastructure (Li & Wen, 2005 ; Plümper & Neumayer, 2006 ), and reducing government spending and private investment on public health (Ghobarah et al., 2003 ).

Many empirical analyses, unfortunately, do not directly address the mechanisms outlined above. Overall, findings indicate that both civil and interstate war increase adult mortality in the short and long term (Li & Wen, 2005 ) and decrease health-adjusted life-expectancy in the short term (Iqbal, 2006 ). Conflict severity is also influential; while low-level conflict has no significant effect on mortality rates, severe conflict increases mortality and decreases life-expectancy in the long run (Li & Wen, 2005 ; Hoddie & Smith, 2009 ; Iqbal, 2006 ). Comparing the health impacts of interstate and civil wars, analysts have found interstate conflict to exert a stronger, negative impact on long-term mortality rates than civil war, despite the finding that civil war’s immediate impact is more severe (Li & Wen, 2005 ). Finally, many analysts have found that the negative, long-term effects of war are consistently stronger for women and children (Ghobarah, et al., 2003 ; Plümper & Neumayer ( 2006 ) than for men.

This developing field provides important new insights into the civilian consequences of war, but remains underdeveloped in many respects. First, while some evidence suggests that civil and interstate war might affect public health differently, the mechanisms behind these differences require further elaboration. Research by Hoddie and Smith, represented an important contribution in this respect, as it distinguishes between different conflict strategies, finding that conflicts involving extensive violence against noncombatants have more severe health consequences than those in which most fatalities are combat-related. Second, theoretical models are generally much more developed and sophisticated than the data used to test them. While data availability is limited, efforts should be made to more closely match theory and empirics.

Third, analyses that employ disaggregated measures of health consequences (Ghobarah et al., 2003 ) provided a more thorough understanding of the specific consequences of war and represent an important avenue for additional theoretical and empirical development. Iqbal and Zorn ( 2010 ) thus focus specifically on conflict’s detrimental impact on the transmission of HIV/AIDS, while Iqbal ( 2010 ) examines the impact of conflict on many different health-based metrics, including infant mortality, health-associated life expectancy, fertility rates, and even measles and diphtheria vaccination rates. These studies represent important advances in the literature, which should be explored further in future research to disentangle the potentially complex health effects of civil and interstate conflict.

Finally, recent research has begun to conceptualize health more broadly, accounting for the psychological consequences of wartime violence. Building upon research in psychology, Koos ( 2018 ) finds that exposure to conflict-related sexual violence in Sierra Leone generates resilience: affected households display greater cooperation and altruism than those unaffected by such violence during conflict. Bauer et al. ( 2016 ) similarly find that conflict fosters greater social cohesion and civic engagement in the aftermath of war. This is an important area for future research. As conceptions of conflict-related violence broaden, our conceptualizations of the consequences of violence should also expand to include notions of how conflict affects psychological health, community cohesion, and other less direct indicators of public health.

This final section highlights some of the contributions generated by scholarship on the conduct and consequences of war, as well as some of the gaps that remain to be addressed. First, this body of scholarship usefully compliments the large and more traditional work of military historians who study international wars, as well as the work of contemporary defense analysts who conduct careful policy analyses on relevant issues such as wartime military tactics and strategy as well as weapon system performance. The bargaining model of war has also proven a useful theoretical framework in which to structure and integrate theoretical analyses across different stages in the evolution of war.

Second, a number of studies in this body of work have contributed to the further development and testing of the democratic peace literature by extending the logic of political accountability models from questions of war onset to democratic wartime behavior. New dependent variables, including civilian targeting, imposition of regime change, the waging of war in ways designed to reduce military and civilian losses, and victory versus defeat in war have been analyzed. As a result, a number of new arguments and empirical findings have improved our understanding of how major security policy decisions by democratic leaders are influenced by domestic politics.

Third, this literature has advanced scholarship on international law and institutions by examining questions about compliance with the laws of war and the role played by the UN in terminating wars and maintaining a durable post-war peace. The impact of international law and institutions is much better understood on issues relating to international political economy, human rights, and international environmental governance than it is on international security affairs. As a result, studies of compliance with the laws of war, the design of ceasefire agreements, or international peace-building efforts address major gaps in existing literature.

Fourth, this new body of research has explicitly focused on the consequences of war for civilian populations, a relatively neglected topic in academic research. Research on questions such as the deliberate targeting of civilians during wars and the longer-term health consequences of war begin to address this surprising gap in research. As such, this new literature subjects the study of terrorism to more systematic social science methods and also challenges the common practice of restricting terrorism to non-state actors and groups when, in fact, governments have resorted to terrorist attacks on many occasions in the waging of war.

While this literature has advanced scholarship in many ways, there remain several theoretical and empirical gaps that future research should aim to address, two of which are highlighted here. First, while research on interstate war duration and termination is more theoretically unified than its civil war counterpart, the dominance of the bargaining model in this literature is currently being challenged. Recent research on asymmetric conflict suggests that the basic tenants of the bargaining model may not hold for non-symmetric conflict, while research on force employment and mechanization suggest that traditional power measures exert a conditional impact at best. Additional research is needed to determine the conditions under which bargaining logic applies and its relative importance in explaining wartime behavior and war outcomes.

Second, the accumulation of knowledge on civil war’s conduct and consequences has lagged behind that on interstate war, partially because the civil war literature is younger, and partially because sub-national level data is only now becoming more readily available. While bargaining logic is often applied to civil war, we have little cross-national information on relative capabilities and battle trends, and thus a very limited understanding of the way in which these variables affect civil war duration and outcomes. New micro-level data and studies that are beginning to address these problems represent a promising direction forward for civil conflict research.

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Between War and Politics: International Relations and the thought of Hannah Arendt (Oxford University Press, 2007/2009)

Profile image of Patricia Owens

This is the Introduction to the first book length study of war in the thought of one of the twentieth-century's most important and original political thinkers. Hannah Arendt's writing was fundamentally rooted in her understanding of war and its political significance. But this element of her work has surprisingly been neglected in international and political theory. This book fills an important gap by assessing the full range of Arendt's historical and conceptual writing on war and introduces to international theory the distinct language she used to talk about war and the political world. It builds on her re-thinking of old concepts such as power, violence, greatness, world, imperialism, evil, hypocrisy and humanity and introduces some that are new to international thought like plurality, action, agonism, natality and political immortality. The issues that Arendt dealt with throughout her life and work continue to shape the political world and her approach to political thinking remains a source of inspiration for those in search of guidance not in what to think but how to think about politics and war. Re-reading Arendt's writing, forged through firsthand experience of occupation and struggles for liberation, political founding and resistance in time of war, reveals a more serious engagement with war than her earlier readers have recognised. Arendt's political theory makes more sense when it is understood in the context of her thinking about war and we can think about the history and theory of warfare, and international politics, in new ways by thinking with Arendt.

Related Papers

Patricia Owens

The concepts of power and violence, and politics and war, refer to basically different things. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce and analyse Hannah Arendt’s understanding of them. Power springs up between people as they act together; it belongs to the group, and disappears when the group disperses. It is a collective capacity. Until this coming together, it is only a potential. Violence is an instrument. It is the use of implements to multiply strength and command others to obey. Power can be channelled by the state apparatus. Indeed, this is the necessary precondition for the accumulation of the means of violence by the administrative state.When power and violence are combined, Arendt wrote, ‘the result is a monstrous increase in potential force’. It is for this reason that under modern conditions power and force appear to be the same and why violence and power, which is ‘derived from the power of an organized space’, are combined in modern states (PP, 147). This combination is historically contingent rather than intrinsic and necessary. To illustrate the non-identity of power and violence the chapter takes a number of examples from Arendt’s own writing: the Vietnam War; the Hungarian Revolution of 1956; the argument for a Jewish army to face down Hitler; and the French Resistance. Her analysis of partisan activity and unconventional warfare is distinguished from the ideas of the authoritarian German jurist Carl Schmitt and the revolutionary anti-colonial writing of Franz Fanon. Arendt had more in common with Fanon, but she occupies no liberal ‘middle ground’. This is clear when we come to the distinction between politics and war. What is politics, and can it be distinguished from war? Arendt argued that if Marx was right, and ‘we are essentially moving across a field of violent experience’ then the consequences are ‘fatal’ (PP, 192). There can be no politics and indeed no distinction between politics and war necessary for a political theory of war. Arendt’s goal was to salvage politics from brute violence, to show that it is not as meaningless as it might seem. The meaning of politics is the freedom to act in concert with plural equals. The meaning of war is coercion and being coerced, the force of compulsion. Its end is security or conquest. Arendt criticized the two dominant ways of distinguishing politics from war in the West, the ancient Greek and the liberal. But in contrast to a recent trend in the philosophy of war, she maintained that there was indeed a valid distinction between them.

politics and war essay

Philosophy & Social Criticism

Keith Breen

Hannah Arendt (1906-75) is one of the most important political thinkers of the twentieth-century. She is well-known for her monumental study The Origins of Totalitarianism (1966 [1951]), her diagnosis of modern politics and society in The Human Condition, and for coining the term 'the banality of evil' to describe a Nazi war criminal in her most controversial book, Eichmann in Jerusalem (1968a [1963]). Arendt did not shy away from controversy in her life-time and some of her most controversial and important ideas continue to shape political discourse. The latest surge of engagement with Arendt's writing - coinciding with the centenary of her birth in 2006 - has occurred at a time that has produced moral and political disasters very similar and in many ways related to those she addressed in the various stages of her life. As international theory has returned to the canon of political thought it is not surprising that Arendt's unique and often idiosyncratic contribution is coming to the fore. Like many others discussed in this volume, serious engagement with Arendt in international political theory is belated and welcome.

Since Hobbes, the capacity to govern through providing 'security' has been understood as the way of producing and organising political order and subjectivity. Hobbes' claim that the security of domestic peace is founded on fear of violent death meant that modern individuals must be taught to love life. The discourse of 'security' is arguably the most powerful discourse of the modern age since it has largely set the parameters of modern thinking about politics and war. However, contra Schmitt and his followers, this is not because 'security' is the political discourse par excellence, allowing the sovereign to decide the law and exceptions to the law. Modern security is an exemplary instance of the rise of the social, as understood by Hannah Arendt. Modern discourses and practices of security have provided the justification and mechanism for the expansion of what Arendt described as the 'life process' of 'society' and the liberal view that 'life is the highest good'. Arendt's unwieldy and strange concept of 'the social' is eccentric, but defensible, both in terms of its origins in her unique form of philosophical anthropology and her socio-historical analysis of capitalism and the modern bureaucratic state.

Jessica Felizardo

Hannah Arendt is no straightforward realist. But in her writing we do find a form of 'realism' in which attentiveness to reality itself and the cultivation of a character trait in which to face and enlarge one's sense of reality are ends in themselves with serious ethical implications. She did not develop a systematic theory of reality. Rather she argued that there is a direct relationship between the political, public realm, the necessary condition of all politics, which is plurality, and our ability to comprehend what is real. This is not a question of reality versus ethics. Arendt offers an ethic of reality. Indeed, she points us in the direction of ethical grounds for action in a world in which reality is in danger of being eclipsed. She offers a tough-minded and 'attentive facing up to, and resisting of, reality - whatever that may be'. This chapter sets out Arendt's engagement with, but distance from, realist understandings of politics, power, and ethics. The fundamental divergence between Arendt and Weber's idea of the 'ethic of responsibility' hinges on her rejection of the categories of means and ends in the political, public sphere and her entirely different understanding of the meanings of politics, power, and violence. The chapter then shows how, by Arendt's account, the public world is constituted by a not fully tangible but nonetheless real inter-subjectivity that emerges between individuals as they speak and act in the public realm. As she put it, 'our feeling for reality depends utterly upon appearance and therefore upon the existence of a public realm into which things can appear'. Finally, we move from one of Arendt's case studies in the avoidance of reality, the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, to her distinctive grounds for action against what she took to be the greatest mortal sin of politics, genocide or wars of annihilation. However, the grounds for action are not found in the moral imperative to end massive human suffering as such. The effort to destroy a particular group cannot be countenanced because it is a threat to the reality of the public, political world which requires a plurality of peoples.

This article examines the multiple ways in which Hannah Arendt's thought arose historically and in international context, but also how we might think about history and theory in new ways with Arendt. It is commonplace to situate Arendt's political and historical thought as a response to totalitarianism. However, far less attention has been paid to the significance of other specifically and irreducibly international experiences and events. Virtually, all of her singular contributions to political and international thought were influenced by her lived experiences of, and historical reflections on, statelessness and exile, imperialism, trans-national totalitarianism, world wars, the nuclear revolution, the founding of Israel, war crimes trials, and the war in Vietnam. Yet, we currently lack a comprehensive reconstruction of the extent to which Arendt's thought was shaped by the fact of political multiplicity, that there are not one but many polities existing on earth and inhabiting the world. This neglect is surprising in light of the significant " international turn " in the history of thought and intellectual history, the growing interest in Arendt's thought within international theory and, above all, Arendt's own unwavering commitment to plurality not simply as a characteristic of individuals but as an essential and intrinsically valuable effect of distinct territorial entities. The article examines the historical and international context of Arendt's historical method, including her critique of process-and development-oriented histories that remain current in different social science fields, setting out and evaluating her alternative approach to historical writing.

I would like to focus our discussions on the educational implications of three major themes explored throughout Arendt's work: plurality, promise and natality. Plurality, she argued, defines the human condition, which is characterised by both the freedom of the human agent and the unpredictability that necessarily results from the free interplay of human interaction. She further argued that binding promises – from the inter-personal to the interstate and potentially global – are the ways in which we protect ourselves from the unpredictability of the human condition while at the same time recognising one another as free agents. I shall put forward the view that the prime purpose of the university is to fulfil a particular promise: a promise, that is, to transfer the necessarily provisional and contestable inheritance of one generation to the next. But, in order to fulfil that promise, the university must recognise that each new generation – and each new individual within that generation – speaks back to previous generations with the unpredictability of new beginnings: or, in Arendt's terms, with an assurance of its own natality. The university, in other words, is both a bulwark against discontinuity and a space for the unpredictability of self-realisation.

History of European Ideas

David Bates

Hannah Arendt's existential, republican concept of politics spurned Carl Schmitt's idea that enmity constituted the essence of the political. Famously, she isolated the political sphere from social conflict, sovereign regimes, and the realm of military violence. While some critics are now interested in applying Arendt's more abstract political ideas to international affairs, it has not been acknowledged that her original reconceptualization of politics was in fact driven by her analysis of global war, and in particular, the startling new challenges raised by nuclear warfare. Arendt's early, unpublished manuscript on the nature of politics contains important reflections on the nature of war and empire. Surprisingly, these reflections tentatively explore the relationship between war and political freedom. A close reading of this work on war can help explain both her later, more radical non-violent concept of political action, and the difficulties she faced integrating her existential republicanism within the global context of conflict in the Cold War.

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War: Essays in Political Philosophy

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Larry May (ed.), War: Essays in Political Philosophy , Cambridge University Press, 2008, 325pp., $28.99 (pbk), ISBN 9780521700047.

Reviewed by Helen Frowe, University of Sheffield

1. General Overview

This is a splendid, cohesive collection of extremely engaging essays, bringing together some of the most influential contemporary experts on just war theory. The essays are well-written, mostly well-argued, and address pressing questions across a broad spectrum of issues in the ethics of war, including the ethics of humanitarian intervention, the relationship between jus ad bellum and jus in bello , proportionality, and the moral status of war crimes. The book is divided into four sections: Historical Background (Gregory Reichberg, Nicholas Rengger), Initiating War (Larry May, Jeff McMahan, Cindy Holder, James Bohman), Waging War (Thomas Hurka, David Leftkowitz, Steven P. Lee, Michael Davis, Marilyn Friedman) and Ending War (Trudy Govier, Christopher Heath Wellman, David Luban, Nancy Sherman). I will begin with an overview of the book, before offering a more detailed evaluation of two chapters.

Chapters one and two both offer really very good, focused accounts of the historical roots of key aspects of the just war tradition, sticking firmly to the issues at hand and avoiding digression into matters of general historical interest. In the first chapter, Gregory Reichberg explores the moral equivalence of nations, outlining how theorists have approached the issue of whether a war can be just on both sides, and paying particular attention to the justice of pre-emptive and preventative war. In the second chapter, Nicholas Rengger examines changing perceptions of the relationship between jus ad bellum and jus in bello . Rengger traces the emergence of jus in bello as a matter of international business, rather than a private, internal matter of the discipline of a nation's soldiers, giving a lucid explanation of the current dominance of in bello legislation over the historically much weightier issue of ad bellum justice.

The second section contains excellent essays by Larry May and Jeff McMahan on the topic of just cause, both of which are considered in more detail below. Cindy Holder's essay on humanitarian intervention argues that it is a mistake to think that respect for sovereignty is the bar to solving humanitarian crises. Holder suggests that, "the central problem confronting the international community in humanitarian crises is not the problem of sovereignty but the problem of state" (pp. 98-9). Holder argues that humanitarian crises are typically caused by the injustice that is inherent in all actual states. This injustice emerges partly as a result of the belief that an effective state must assimilate all the rival or alternative systems within its territory. According to Holder, an integral part of tackling crises abroad is tackling injustice at home, since "[j]ustice at home is a prior condition of our being able to trust our diagnoses of what changes are required, both in the international system and in other states, to remedy propensities to abuse and neglect" (p. 103). This claims strikes me as suspect, since even an inherently unjust state can be considerably more just than another state, and one need not be (perfectly) just in order to know what is just. That we are busy rooting out injustice at home is small consolation to those suffering systematic violence abroad.

James Bohman explores the recent fascination with spreading democracy by the distinctly undemocratic means of military force. Bohman suggests that, irrespective of the justness of using war to spread democracy, such wars fail to achieve their goal. Wars preclude the desirable feature of democracy, namely the ability of citizens to organise their social and political systems, since such rights are suspended in favour of security and control. Bohman argues persuasively that by imposing a hierarchal system in which power lies not with ordinary citizens, but rather with those officials representing the invading state, wars of democracy are more likely to undermine democracy than promote it. The spreading of democracy should be focused primarily on encouraging democracy across nations, using transnational institutions like the EU as a paradigm of how multi-state democracies can facilitate democratic goals beyond the reach of individual democratic states.

The third section of the book contains essays on proportionality, collateral damage, weapons of mass destruction, torture and terrorism. Michael Davis supplies the now-obligatory essay on the permissibility of torture, nicely summarising the main arguments in favour of torture in emergency cases before arguing that even in such cases, torture is not morally justified. It is hard to resist the sense, however, that we have reached quite a stalemate in this debate, and whilst Davis's essay works well in the collection, speaking to what has become a central question in just war theory, it retreads what is already pretty familiar ground without really pushing the debate forward.

Marilyn Friedman's wonderfully readable, if somewhat disjointed, essay on the moral status of female terrorists begins with a summary of the debate surrounding the definition of terrorism, and why this matters for our condemnation of terrorism. Friedman then argues that just as soldiers can be excused for performing wrongful actions if they perform them under orders, women might be excused for terrorist actions if they perform them as a result of habitual obedience to male leaders. Indeed, Friedman suggests that the fact that the subordination of women is often much more systematic and extensive than the subordination of soldiers to their leaders, such women might be deemed generally exempt from moral responsibility. Of course, the extent of responsibility will vary with the extent of subordination. But Friedman presents a thought-provoking, if controversial, case for why we may well be justified in treating male and female terrorists differently. This essay is insightful and well-argued, although I'm not sure how much the earlier, more general sections on terrorism add to the discussion of the specific issue of female terrorists.

The final section of the book deals with the growing area of jus post bellum : justice in the aftermath of war. Trudy Govier's essay addresses the issue of reconciliation, urging that aims of retribution must play a subsidiary role to aims of restoration. Interestingly, she stresses the need for reconciliation between those who fought together as well as between those who fought each other. The stigmatising of those deemed to have broken the in bello rules can be significant, even amongst members of the perpetrators' own group. If allowed to persist, this exclusion can lead to yet more violence, and enable other group members to illegitimately deflect blame away from themselves onto the excluded minority.

Christopher Heath Wellman's essay discusses the difficult topic of granting of amnesties for those suspected of war crimes, and requiring that the international community respect such amnesties. Wellman argues that there should be a presumption against amnesties. But, they should nonetheless be respected when they are granted by a legitimate state in the pursuit of suitably significant goods, like long-term national stability or the removal of an oppressive regime. Despite acknowledging that other states or victims might have a legitimate interest in prosecuting all war criminals, Wellman argues that this interest does not establish a right that such prosecutions take place. A state is at liberty to decide against prosecuting an individual for crimes committed within its territory. However, Wellman stresses that, on his account, only legitimate states can grant amnesties. The international community is not obliged to respect amnesties granted by illegitimate leaders that are intended to protect those leaders' own interests, rather than the interests of the state.

David Luban's essay on war crimes argues against the idea that the very nature of war precludes any legal constraints on what may be done. Luban suggests that practical humanitarianism -- a pragmatic project of minimising the transgressions of war that will not always correlate with morality -- underlies the rules of war. We do not hold wars to the standards of ordinary morality, but nor do we cast morality out as soon as wars begin. Luban considers the question of who bears responsibility for war crimes -- the soldier following an illegal order, or his commander for issuing the order -- and concludes that there might not be a universal standard applicable to all armed forces, given the radically different natures and histories of such groups.

The final, and very interesting, essay by Nancy Sherman investigates the role that a desire for revenge plays in war. Sherman argues that despite the generally negative perception of revenge, it is closely connected to emotions like anger and indignation that are often thought to be both warranted and useful when dealing with loss. Revenge is about reasserting oneself after loss, and, Sherman says, can help victims overcome the sense of helplessness that might otherwise persist after the offence. Rather than aim to eliminate the thirst for revenge, we ought to try to mitigate its destructiveness, for example by recognising the role that expressing grief can play in reducing the desire to get one's own back. Sherman's essay offers a novel perspective on this issue, drawing on both Stoic and Aristotelian models of the good warrior to illuminate her view.

2. Some thoughts on May and McMahan

Larry May's own essay tackles the issue of just cause for war, arguing against the conventional separation of jus ad bellum and jus in bello . Questions about the tactics that will be employed to fight a war, for example, are generally conceived of as an in bello issue, irrelevant to whether or not the war itself is just. May presents a convincing case to the contrary, arguing that the justice of the war will depend in part on the tactics that are likely to be employed in the pursuit of that war's goals. If the ends of a war can be achieved only through the use of disproportionate means, we do not have a just cause for war. May claims that we should narrow the category of what counts as a just cause to exclude mere territorial invasion, specifying instead that territorial invasion is a just cause only if it threatens lives or human rights on a scale comparable to the losses of war.

However, despite this narrowing of the number of causes that a state can legitimately cite as cause for war, May thinks we should lessen the standard of proof required from individuals who are being tried for the crime of aggression. May proposes that "just cause be easier to prove, and aggression correspondingly harder to prove, in international criminal proceedings than in discussions of possible sanctions against states for aggression" (p. 64). May's rationale is based partly on the purpose of international criminal trials, namely to discourage state leaders from acting aggressively. But, he says, "the consequence of such trials is that individuals are put in prison not merely that states are encouraged to act more peacefully" (p. 64). May argues that courts must not presume that leaders had knowledge of the illegality of their state's war, since this unjustly finds them guilty by position or association. Even leaders can be ignorant, although May concedes that they must show that their ignorance did not amount to negligence, claiming that, "It is not enough for these leaders to say that they did not know, but rather that it was very difficult for them to find out" (p. 63).

I agree that fairness rules against a presumption of guilt when it comes to the prosecution of individuals. However, there is still the question of what counts as guilt for a person in a high-ranking position. There ought to be a default position of waging war only when one knows that one's war is just. It is not enough that one has not discovered that the war is un just. May argues that leaders need not independently investigate whether or not their state has just cause because such action could be very dangerous. But he also argues that leaders who doubts a war's legality ought not to, "blind themselves to facts that would confirm their suspicions" (p. 63). Surely this too could be very dangerous, not least because May would presumably require some resistance on the part of a leader who discovers that his war is, in fact, unjust. That resistance would have been dangerous, however, would not warrant an acquittal of the crime of aggression in the absence of such resistance. It is thus not obvious why the danger of independent investigation should warrant an acquittal of the same crime.

It is also hard to endorse May's apparent separation of the deterrence of state aggression and the punishment of state leaders. One cannot encourage a state to act more peacefully: it is only state leaders who can be so encouraged. To hold leaders responsible for a failure to investigate the justness of a war is not to fail to respect their rights by presuming their guilt in virtue of their office. Rather, it is to adjust what counts as guilt in virtue of the responsibilities that come attached to that office. To suggest that a state can be found guilty of aggression while the state leaders are found innocent seems not to apply justifiably different standards to different things, but rather different standards to the same thing. To make it easier for leaders to claim or 'prove' just cause will not deter state aggression, since the aggression of a state just is the aggression of its leaders.

Jeff McMahan's essay argues that, properly understood, both aggressive and punitive wars can be justified. McMahan suggests that aggression consists in striking the first blow: in the use of force that is not a response to a prior act of force by the target state. On this account, pre-emptive and preventative wars are acts of aggression, but they are, crucially, defensive aggression. The aim of the force is to defend the state against imminent or future attack. Wars of humanitarian intervention are also examples of defensive aggression, with defence of others as the aim of the aggressive force. If we accept that such wars are acts of defence, and that such wars are at least sometimes justified, then we have wars of aggression -- of striking the first blow -- that are justified.

McMahan also suggests that by distinguishing between the various aims of punishment, and recognising that such aims can overlap with the aims of defence, we can make a case for punishment as a just cause for war. Punishment can be intended as pure retribution. But it can also be intended to deter future wrongdoing, to prevent future wrongdoing, and to enable restitution to the victims of wrongdoing. Imprisonment, for example, acts as both retribution and prevention, where the retributive element rests upon the idea that the prisoner deserves to be imprisoned. War "is too blunt an instrument" to dish out punishment to those (and only those) who deserve it (p. 84). But given the multi-faceted nature of punishment, McMahan argues that acts of war can still be punitive in character even if they lack the element of retribution. We could, says McMahan, have a "practice of punishment that would have as its sole aim the defense of innocent people against those who, by violating the laws, had shown themselves to be presumptively dangerous and simultaneously made themselves liable to defensive action" (p. 81). Thus, "even if we rejected the idea that violators [of laws] could deserve to be punished, we could still insist that only those who had violated the law could be legitimately punished because only they would be morally liable to punishment" (p. 81).

McMahan is surely right that there is a distinction between liability and desert and that there are acts of punishment that are simultaneously defensive. But I'm not sure that these distinctions add up to the claim that there can be a practice of punishment with solely defensive aims. One can be liable to defensive harm that one does not deserve, for example if one innocently threatens someone else's life. But I don't see how one can be liable to punishment that one does not deserve. When we lock up the dangerously insane, the fact that they do not deserve it (despite being liable to it) removes the punitive aspect of detention whilst retaining the preventative aspect. This seems to me a purely defensive act precisely because the diminished responsibility removes the element of desert, and therefore of punishment. Similarly, I don't see why the defence of people against those liable to be preventatively harmed should be labelled a practice of punishment, if the aim is purely defensive and justified on grounds of liability rather than desert. So, even if McMahan has shown that wars of aggression can in fact be justified, I don't think he has (yet) shown that punishment can be a just cause for war.

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Karina Moxon

October 9th, 2018, essay competition 2018 second place: is war and conflict an inevitable feature of global politics.

1 comment | 2 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

“Is war and conflict an inevitable feature of global politics?”

This article was written by Dheevesh Mungroo, year 13 student at John Kennedy College, Mauritius.

War and conflict takes several forms; military or non-military and interstate or state versus organisation. I shall use the steps to war  (Vasquez and Henehan, 1999)   and motivated biases (Mercer, 2005) theories to support my argument that war and conflict may be an inevitable feature of global politics. These theories have been chosen due to their seemingly increasing relevance to modern global politics. As explained by steps to war, many present day states have been fighting because of irresolvable matters of territory. As per motivated biases theory, human psychology at a large scale, some argue, leads to in-group cooperation and out-group discrimination, which often leads to war. On the other hand, I shall use the democratic peace theory – suggesting that democracies do not fight each other – to support my argument that in fact, war and conflict may be avoidable in global politics. At the core, these theories attempt to explain the causes of war. Yet, it is fair to assume that if cause is avoidable, then at some point, effect can be avoided too and conversely, if cause is inevitable, then at some point, effect is inevitable too.

Consensus exists that matters such as territory are irresolvable in global politics. It is impossible to increase the amount of land in the world and to change the fact that our wants are unlimited. This scarcity often leads to disputes. While often, the disputes are limited to legal and economic conflict, in other instances, concerned parties resort to using force, particularly when those parties are geographically close. The steps to war theory in fact suggests that war and conflict can arise owing to such reasons.

An example of the steps to war theory applying to present day global politics is the case of Israel and Palestine  disputing  territory  which  has  often  escalated  to  military  conflicts (The New York Times, 2009).  Another relevant example of violent conflict due to irresolvable matters is the case of Iraq and Syria fighting the Islamic State (IS) terror group to reclaim their territory (The New York Times, 2017; US Department of Defense, 2018; Reuters, 2017). This is evidenced in the following map which shows the significant changes in control of territory, from IS to Iraq and Syria following military conflict (BBC, 2018).

politics and war essay

It is true that irresolvable problems, of territory at least, are an integral part of global politics. It can also be argued that when the perceived cost to parties of starting military war and conflict over irresolvable matters is lower than perceived gains, which is often the case, then this could lead to war and conflict.So, it follows from these premises that war and conflict is possibly an inevitable feature of global politics.

Motivated biases and political psychology provides further insights on the topic. According to Mercer (2005), humans get a sense of identity in groups which provide a sense of belonging (part of the emotion in identity). While this emotion in identity builds trust and allows cooperative problem solving, Mercer argues that this emotion also creates self- esteem and pride which as a result could lead to a feeling of superiority and discrimination of other groups. Accordingly, it follows that discrimination could become violent. Quoting Mercer,  “Emotion  drives  in-group  cooperation  and  out-group  discrimination” (2005, p. 97). At global scale, this could inevitably lead to war.

Examples of motivated biases leading to discrimination, war and conflict could include:

  • several European nations’ invasion and colonisation of countries around the world prior to the 20th century – which implied war, conflict and slavery – possibly on grounds of moral superiority
  • Germany under Nazi control, which fought wars, invaded foreign states and which perpetrated the holocaust, allegedly to “reclaim” the superiority of the Nazi “Aryan race”
  • wars declared by terror groups against states – arguably on grounds of religious, moral and spiritual superiority as in the case of Al-Qaeda versus the USA and more recently
  • several Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, possibly caused by race.

Indeed then, psychology can offer great insight on the inevitability of war and conflict in global politics. Human psychology, generally, may not change much as opposed to the state of politico-economic affairs, tending to be relatively volatile and unpredictable – even for the near future. Hence, predicting human psychology, a relatively easier task, could help answer whether war and conflict is inevitable. While the past may not always be a good indicator of the future in general, because of its seemingly unchanging nature, it seems to be for human psychology. If, then, human psychology remains like it currently is, war and conflict seems inevitable.

However the theory of democratic peace – the belief that democratic nations do not fight each other using force, although they may fight non-democracies – could help argue that war and conflict is avoidable. It may not be democracy, intrinsically, which is the cause of peace between democracies. Rather, the causes of democratic peace are arguably some features of democracy. Such features, according to Russet et al (1993) may include:

  • the sharing of global institutions and economic interdependence (e.g. the operations of large multinationals and trading links greatly increases the cost of war),
  • the fact that democracies tend to form alliances (e.g. NATO) – making lethal conflict between members irrational in a global politics and power standpoint,
  • the commitment of democracies to preserve their political stability and,
  • the mutual feeling of liberal values.

The following table (Russett et al, 1993, p.21) exemplifies democratic peace. Dyads, in this context, is a term referring to pair of states close to each other — geographically, politically and/or economically. As it can be seen, during this time period, in no case did a democratic dyad go to war and the number of disputes (conflicts) was far lesser when the dyads were democratic. This could indicate a causal relationship between the features of democracy and democratic peace.

politics and war essay

Nonetheless, it would be a fallacy to assume that democracies are absolutely peaceful. While democracies do not use military means to start wars and conflicts among themselves, passive means and intimidation are frequently used. For instance and arguably, economic integration like the creation of the European Union (EU) can be regarded as a form of disguised protectionism against the rest of the world, implying conflict in a more subtle sense. A less subtle example involves the recent tariffs on steel between the USA and the EU (Reuters, 2018a), and the USA’s threatened tariffs on EU car imports (Reuters, 2018b). Moreover, “they  (democracies)  often  initiate  international  disputes  during  economic slowdowns or recessions, or if in economic difficulty respond more aggressively when others initiate disputes” (Russett et al, 1993, p.29). Indeed, there seems to be a correlation between the American economic slowdown during the early 2000s and the Iraq invasion of 2003. It is alleged that this correlation is synonymous with causation, rather than mere coincidence.

Limited resources are available to satisfy unlimited wants. Additionally, while ethics change, human psychology seems unchanging. Therefore, humans will never stop fighting over limited resources. Moreover, believing that all nations will become democratic and that democratic peace will end all wars is believing that Earth will be named Utopia. Much sense lies in saying that while it may become less lethal, war and conflict – at present and in the foreseeable future at least – is an inevitable feature of global politics.

Bibliography

BBC. 2018. ‘Islamic State and the crisis in Iraq and Syria in maps ‘ . BBC. [online] <https://bbc.in/2MFgor2>

Mercer, J. 2005. ‘Rationality and psychology in international relations’. International Organisation. 59:1. pp. 77–106.

Reuters. 2018a. ‘ EU states back measures to limit steel imports after U.S. tariffs ‘. Retrieved from https://reut.rs/2tVO9c8

Reuters. 2017. ‘ Iraq declares final victory over Islamic State ‘. Retrieved from https://reut.rs/2AajWXX

Reuters. 2018b. ‘ Trump relents on EU car tariffs, as U.S.-China fight derails Qualcomm deal ‘. Retrieved from https://reut.rs/2C1hBUr

Russett, B., Antholis, W., Ember, C., Ember, M., and Maoz, Z. 1993. Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post-Cold War World . Princeton: Princeton University Press.

The New York Times. 2009. ‘A Brief History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict’. The New York Times . [online] <https://nyti.ms/2wwRe2W>

The New York Times. 2017. ‘Iraq Prime Minister Declares Victory Over ISIS.’  The New York Times.  [online] <https://nyti.ms/2CqSKpp>

USA Department of Defense. 2018. ‘Syrian Democratic Forces Announce Drive to Reclaim Last ISIS Territory’. [online] <https://bit.ly/2PQIywT>

Vasquez, J. and Henehan, M. 1999. The Scientific Study of Peace and War: A Text Reader. Maryland: Lexington Books.

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Interesting Literature

A Summary and Analysis of George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

‘Politics and the English Language’ (1946) is one of the best-known essays by George Orwell (1903-50). As its title suggests, Orwell identifies a link between the (degraded) English language of his time and the degraded political situation: Orwell sees modern discourse (especially political discourse) as being less a matter of words chosen for their clear meanings than a series of stock phrases slung together.

You can read ‘Politics and the English Language’ here before proceeding to our summary and analysis of Orwell’s essay below.

‘Politics and the English Language’: summary

Orwell begins by drawing attention to the strong link between the language writers use and the quality of political thought in the current age (i.e. the 1940s). He argues that if we use language that is slovenly and decadent, it makes it easier for us to fall into bad habits of thought, because language and thought are so closely linked.

Orwell then gives five examples of what he considers bad political writing. He draws attention to two faults which all five passages share: staleness of imagery and lack of precision . Either the writers of these passages had a clear meaning to convey but couldn’t express it clearly, or they didn’t care whether they communicated any particular meaning at all, and were simply saying things for the sake of it.

Orwell writes that this is a common problem in current political writing: ‘prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.’

Next, Orwell elaborates on the key faults of modern English prose, namely:

Dying Metaphors : these are figures of speech which writers lazily reach for, even though such phrases are worn-out and can no longer convey a vivid image. Orwell cites a number of examples, including toe the line , no axe to grind , Achilles’ heel , and swansong . Orwell’s objection to such dying metaphors is that writers use them without even thinking about what the phrases actually mean, such as when people misuse toe the line by writing it as tow the line , or when they mix their metaphors, again, because they’re not interested in what those images evoke.

Operators or Verbal False Limbs : this is when a longer and rather vague phrase is used in place of a single-word (and more direct) verb, e.g. make contact with someone, which essentially means ‘contact’ someone. The passive voice is also common, and writing phrases like by examination of instead of the more direct by examining . Sentences are saved from fizzling out (because the thought or idea being conveyed is not particularly striking) by largely meaningless closing platitudes such as greatly to be desired or brought to a satisfactory conclusion .

Pretentious Diction : Orwell draws attention to several areas here. He states that words like objective , basis , and eliminate are used by writers to dress up simple statements, making subjective opinion sound like scientific fact. Adjectives like epic , historic , and inevitable are used about international politics, while writing that glorifies war is full of old-fashioned words like realm , throne , and sword .

Foreign words and phrases like deus ex machina and mutatis mutandis are used to convey an air of culture and elegance. Indeed, many modern English writers are guilty of using Latin or Greek words in the belief that they are ‘grander’ than home-grown Anglo-Saxon ones: Orwell mentions Latinate words like expedite and ameliorate here. All of these examples are further proof of the ‘slovenliness and vagueness’ which Orwell detects in modern political prose.

Meaningless Words : Orwell argues that much art criticism and literary criticism in particular is full of words which don’t really mean anything at all, e.g. human , living , or romantic . ‘Fascism’, too, has lost all meaning in current political writing, effectively meaning ‘something not desirable’ (one wonders what Orwell would make of the word’s misuse in our current time!).

To prove his point, Orwell ‘translates’ a well-known passage from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes into modern English, with all its vagueness of language. ‘The whole tendency of modern prose’, he argues, ‘is away from concreteness.’ He draws attention to the concrete and everyday images (e.g. references to bread and riches) in the Bible passage, and the lack of any such images in his own fabricated rewriting of this passage.

The problem, Orwell says, is that it is too easy (and too tempting) to reach for these off-the-peg phrases than to be more direct or more original and precise in one’s speech or writing.

Orwell advises every writer to ask themselves four questions (at least): 1) what am I trying to say? 2) what words will express it? 3) what image or idiom will make it clearer? and 4) is this image fresh enough to have an effect? He proposes two further optional questions: could I put it more shortly? and have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

Orthodoxy, Orwell goes on to observe, tends to encourage this ‘lifeless, imitative style’, whereas rebels who are not parroting the ‘party line’ will normally write in a more clear and direct style.

But Orwell also argues that such obfuscating language serves a purpose: much political writing is an attempt to defend the indefensible, such as the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan (just one year before Orwell wrote ‘Politics and the English Language’), in such a euphemistic way that the ordinary reader will find it more palatable.

When your aim is to make such atrocities excusable, language which doesn’t evoke any clear mental image (e.g. of burning bodies in Hiroshima) is actually desirable.

Orwell argues that just as thought corrupts language, language can corrupt thought, with these ready-made phrases preventing writers from expressing anything meaningful or original. He believes that we should get rid of any word which has outworn its usefulness and should aim to use ‘the fewest and shortest words that will cover one’s meaning’.

Writers should let the meaning choose the word, rather than vice versa. We should think carefully about what we want to say until we have the right mental pictures to convey that thought in the clearest language.

Orwell concludes ‘Politics and the English Language’ with six rules for the writer to follow:

i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

‘Politics and the English Language’: analysis

In some respects, ‘Politics and the English Language’ advances an argument about good prose language which is close to what the modernist poet and thinker T. E. Hulme (1883-1917) argued for poetry in his ‘ A Lecture on Modern Poetry ’ and ‘Notes on Language and Style’ almost forty years earlier.

Although Hulme and Orwell came from opposite ends of the political spectrum, their objections to lazy and worn-out language stem are in many ways the same.

Hulme argued that poetry should be a forge where fresh metaphors are made: images which make us see the world in a slightly new way. But poetic language decays into common prose language before dying a lingering death in journalists’ English. The first time a poet described a hill as being ‘clad [i.e. clothed] with trees’, the reader would probably have mentally pictured such an image, but in time it loses its power to make us see anything.

Hulme calls these worn-out expressions ‘counters’, because they are like discs being moved around on a chessboard: an image which is itself not unlike Orwell’s prefabricated hen-house in ‘Politics and the English Language’.

Of course, Orwell’s focus is English prose rather than poetry, and his objections to sloppy writing are not principally literary (although that is undoubtedly a factor) but, above all, political. And he is keen to emphasise that his criticism of bad language, and suggestions for how to improve political writing, are both, to an extent, hopelessly idealistic: as he observes towards the end of ‘Politics and the English Language’, ‘Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against.’

But what Orwell advises is that the writer be on their guard against such phrases, the better to avoid them where possible. This is why he encourages writers to be more self-questioning (‘What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?’) when writing political prose.

Nevertheless, the link between the standard of language and the kind of politics a particular country, regime, or historical era has is an important one. As Orwell writes: ‘I should expect to find – this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify – that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.’

Those writing under a dictatorship cannot write or speak freely, of course, but more importantly, those defending totalitarian rule must bend and abuse language in order to make ugly truths sound more attractive to the general populace, and perhaps to other nations.

In more recent times, the phrase ‘collateral damage’ is one of the more objectionable phrases used about war, hiding the often ugly reality (innocent civilians who are unfortunate victims of violence, but who are somehow viewed as a justifiable price to pay for the greater good).

Although Orwell’s essay has been criticised for being too idealistic, in many ways ‘Politics and the English Language’ remains as relevant now as it was in 1946 when it was first published.

Indeed, to return to Orwell’s opening point about decadence, it is unavoidable that the standard of political discourse has further declined since Orwell’s day. Perhaps it’s time a few more influential writers started heeding his argument?

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9 thoughts on “A Summary and Analysis of George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’”

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YES! Thank you!

A great and useful post. As a writer, I have been seriously offended by the politicization of the language in the past 50 years. Much of this is supposedly to sanitize, de-genderize, or diversity-fie language – exactly as it’s done in Orwell’s “1984.” How did a wonderfully useful word like gay – cheerful or lively – come to mean homosexual? And is optics not a branch of physics? Ironically, when the liberal but sensible JK Rowling criticized the replacement of “woman” with “person who menstruates” SHE was the one attacked. Now, God help us, we hope “crude” spaceships will get humans to Mars – which, if you research the poor quality control in Tesla cars, might in fact be a proper term.

And less anyone out there misread, this or me – I was a civil rights marcher, taught in a girls’ high school (where I got in minor trouble for suggesting to the students that they should aim higher than the traditional jobs of nurse or teacher), and – while somewhat of a mugwump – consider myself a liberal.

But I will fight to keep the language and the history from being 1984ed.

My desert island book would be the Everyman Essays of Orwell which is around 1200 pages. I’ve read it all the way through twice without fatigue and read individual essays endlessly. His warmth and affability help, Even better than Montaigne in this heretic’s view.

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I’ll go against the flow here and say Orwell was – at least in part – quite wrong here. If I recall correctly, he was wrong about a few things including, I think, the right way to make a cup of tea! In all seriousness, what he fails to acknowledge in this essay is that language is a living thing and belongs to the people, not the theorists, at all time. If a metaphor changes because of homophone mix up or whatever, then so be it. Many of our expressions we have little idea of now – I think of ‘baited breath’ which almost no one, even those who know how it should be spelt, realise should be ‘abated breath’.

Worse than this though, his ‘rules’ have indeed been taken up by many would-be writers to horrifying effect. I recall learning to make up new metaphors and similes rather than use clichés when I first began training ten years ago or more. I saw some ghastly new metaphors over time which swiftly made me realise that there’s a reason we use the same expressions a great deal and that is they are familiar and do the job well. To look at how to use them badly, just try reading Gregory David Roberts ‘Shantaram’. Similarly, the use of active voice has led to unpalatable writing which lacks character. The passive voice may well become longwinded when badly used, but it brings character when used well.

That said, Orwell is rarely completely wrong. Some of his points – essentially, use words you actually understand and don’t be pretentious – are valid. But the idea of the degradation of politics is really quite a bit of nonsense!

Always good to get some critique of Orwell, Ken! And I do wonder how tongue-in-cheek he was when proposing his guidelines – after all, even he admits he’s probably broken several of his own rules in the course of his essay! I think I’m more in the T. E. Hulme camp than the Orwell – poetry can afford to bend language in new ways (indeed, it often should do just this), and create daring new metaphors and ways of viewing the world. But prose, especially political non-fiction, is there to communicate an argument or position, and I agree that ghastly new metaphors would just get in the way. One of the things that is refreshing reading Orwell is how many of the problems he identified are still being discussed today, often as if they are new problems that didn’t exist a few decades ago. Orwell shows that at least one person was already discussing them over half a century ago!

Absolutely true! When you have someone of Orwell’s intelligence and clear thinking, even when you believe him wrong or misguided, he is still relevant and remains so decades later.

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Course: US history   >   Unit 8

  • John F. Kennedy as president
  • Bay of Pigs Invasion
  • Cuban Missile Crisis
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Lyndon Johnson as president
  • Vietnam War

The Vietnam War

  • The student movement and the antiwar movement
  • Second-wave feminism
  • The election of 1968
  • 1960s America

politics and war essay

  • The Vietnam War was a prolonged military conflict that started as an anticolonial war against the French and evolved into a Cold War confrontation between international communism and free-market democracy.
  • The Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the north was supported by the Soviet Union, China, and other communist countries, while the United States and its anticommunist allies backed the Republic of Vietnam (ROV) in the south.
  • President Lyndon Johnson dramatically escalated US involvement in the conflict, authorizing a series of intense bombing campaigns and committing hundreds of thousands of US ground troops to the fight.
  • After the United States withdrew from the conflict, North Vietnam invaded the South and united the country under a communist government.

Origins of the war in Vietnam

Lyndon johnson and the war in vietnam, richard nixon and vietnam, what do you think.

  • For more on the origins of US involvement, see Mark Atwood Lawrence, Assuming the Burden: Europe and the American Commitment to War in Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005) and Mark Atwood Lawrence, The Vietnam War: A Concise International History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • See William S. Turley, The Second Indochina War: A Concise Political and Military History (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009); Lawrence, The Vietnam War , 71-73.
  • The exact circumstances of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and the extent to which US officials may have misrepresented the incident, remain in dispute. Tonkin Gulf Resolution; Public Law 88-408, 88th Congress, August 7, 1964; General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.
  • For more on Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, see Michael H. Hunt, Lyndon Johnson’s War: America’s Cold War Crusade in Vietnam, 1945-1968 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1997).
  • Paul S. Boyer, Promises to Keep: The United States since World War II (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1999), 283-284.
  • Lawrence, The Vietnam War , 143.

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Home — Essay Samples — War — Cold War — Analysis of How Did The Cold War Shaped American Politics, Society, and Economy

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Analysis of How Did The Cold War Shaped American Politics, Society, and Economy

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Published: Sep 4, 2018

Words: 714 | Pages: 2 | 4 min read

The essay explores the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, tracing its origins to the aftermath of World War II and the historical backdrop of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The Cold War was a multifaceted conflict encompassing ideology, economics, politics, and military posturing, but it notably never escalated into a direct battlefield confrontation between the two superpowers. Instead, it was characterized by tensions and hostilities on a global scale, marked by a mutual understanding of the catastrophic consequences of direct conflict.

The essay delves into the impact of the Cold War on American society, highlighting the emergence of strong anti-communist sentiments that led to McCarthyism. During this period, the fear of communism and the obsession with identifying and removing communists from American society resulted in various actions, including the establishment of organizations like the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Laws such as the Communist Control Act and the McCarran Act were enacted, leading to questioning, job loss, and even fatalities, as exemplified by the Rosenberg case.

The essay also discusses the pervasive fear that gripped both American and Soviet societies during the Cold War, often driven by the arms race and events like the Cuban missile crisis. Despite the absence of direct military conflict, the constant threat of nuclear warfare loomed large, shaping the psychology of the era.

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politics and war essay

The Awfulness of War Can’t Be Avoided

Western leaders do themselves no good when they avoid confronting hard necessities.

People in Sderot

In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II , the Earl of Warwick warns the king of an impending revolt, which is one of those

main chance of things As yet not come to life, who in their seeds And weak beginning lie intreasured

The ailing but canny king rises to the occasion:

Are these things then necessities? Then let us meet them like necessities.

A brutal war ensues, in which Henry saves his kingdom.

King Henry’s response is a piece of wisdom well suited to a moment when clamoring or nervous politicians, addled demonstrators, and would-be anarchists or revolutionaries have scarcely anything sensible at all to say about the wars of our time.

The case of Israel against Hamas, and specifically the question of a potential invasion of Rafah, Gaza, is particularly striking. Freezing the conflict before the destruction of Hamas as an effective military organization (as a political movement, it may last a very long time) has no prospect of delivering anything remotely like peace. Insisting that the Israelis find a humane way of destroying an enemy, without collateral damage, is absurd when that force is deeply and cunningly dug in and fortified, and indeed prefers for political reasons to see its own civilians suffer. If such an alternative existed, surely someone would have described it for the rest of us.

The fact—the necessity, as King Henry might have put it—is that although any force engaging in urban warfare has a responsibility to limit civilian casualties, city fighting is ruinous. The residents of Mosul, Falluja, or for that matter of Aachen in 1944, would agree.

Elliot Ackerman: A knife fight in a phone booth

Halting the war now, leaving Hamas still standing, is a surefire way to breed more wars. Doing so would encourage Hamas to fulfill its promise of launching many more October 7–style attacks. It would also embolden Iran, which has already gotten away with firing massive volleys of long-range missiles at Israeli cities; Hezbollah, which has ignored a deal requiring it to withdraw behind the Litani River and is waging a low-level war across the Lebanon frontier; and the Houthis, who have been taking potshots at merchant shipping.

The effectiveness of antimissile defenses has shielded governments from treating necessities like necessities. Indeed, it has in some measure obscured the existential nature of the long-running Israel-Hamas war. Western leaders have preferred not to take seriously the eliminationist rhetoric of Hamas, Iran, and their various proxies, just as they preferred not to take Vladimir Putin’s rhetoric denying the existence of a legitimate Ukraine seriously.

The vacuous commitment of Western leaders to stand with Ukraine “for as long as it takes” allows them to avoid defining that awkward word, it . Creeping talk of cease-fires—in which the Ukrainians evince no interest—substitutes for providing Ukraine with the means to win. More hard thinking of a Henrician kind would make clear that a cease-fire would produce only a demoralized Ukraine, a triumphal Russia, a blow to Western prestige—and, in the end, a renewed Russian war of conquest. It would also force other states in the path of Russia’s ruthless imperial ambitions to choose between accommodation and nuclear proliferation.

Read: The war is not going well for Ukraine

In both cases, there is in Western circles a desire to avoid confronting the awfulness of real war—not war waged in far-off lands for obscure purposes, but war waged to save or destroy nations, wars launched with massacre and the promise of more massacre in the event of victory by the side that started them.

There is a deeper civilizational malady here, the kind that manifests in magical thinking about political choice. It was audible in the calls for defunding the police, which did not pause to consider that crime rates might rise when officers cease to keep the streets safe; in the claims that gargantuan deficits would not lead to inflation; and in the assertion that you can keep children completely safe from risks of COVID without paying a penalty in their mental health.

Part of the transition to adulthood lies in accepting that actions have consequences, that money spent on one thing is not available for another, that not all stories have happy endings, that not all good things are compatible. Maturity is, above all, the recognition that reality is reality, and that when it conflicts with your wishes and desires, it always wins.

If a substantial number of members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, act like spoiled teenagers, it is because few penalties exist for adult legislators acting like brats. Indeed, many of their constituents prefer it so. Under such circumstances, it should come as no surprise that student protesters complain when their university fails to feed them even as they occupy its buildings and muscle the janitors, or insist on wearing masks so that, unlike Martin Luther King Jr. or Henry David Thoreau, they do not have to take responsibility for civil disobedience. While there have been some notably adult responses to student unrest—University of Florida President Ben Sasse stands out in his insistence that students are not children and should not be treated as such—for the most part university presidents have flattered and appeased students rather than reproved them, even as some of those students have called for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.

The world has a distinctly 1930s feel to it. Western leaders have offered stirring or at least forceful rhetoric in response to multiple crises. But when it comes to deeds rather than words, the record is less compelling. During the Cold War, countries spent 4 or 5 percent of their GDP on defense, and the United States got as high as 8 percent. Today, even the United States is below 3 percent. There is a broad political consensus that China is a growing threat, that Iran is a violent menace, and that Russia is an imperial revanchist state. Yet no one is seriously calling for the kind of sacrifices that are needed to meet the crisis, such as raising taxes to reverse the shrinkage of the United States Navy or create the kind of industrial base that could sustain the American military should worse come to worst.

With some notable exceptions, Europe is even more lost in its world of wishful thinking than the U.S. is. France’s Emmanuel Macron may talk of stationing Western forces in Ukraine, but unless his and other governments introduce large-scale conscription and create the industries required to sustain armies, they will not have much by way of land forces to do it. Great Britain, a traditional defense stalwart, will struggle to meet a target of 2.5 percent of GDP spent on defense by 2030—as its forces have shrunk to levels not seen, in some cases, since Victorian times.

Thucydides, of whom Shakespeare’s King Henry would have approved, famously said that war is a rough master, a violent teacher. In peace and prosperity, he said, states and individuals do not find themselves “suddenly confronted with imperious necessity.” At a time when war flickers on the borders of a generally peaceful and generally prosperous and generally immature West, we would do well to heed his wisdom, and that of the tired but resolute Shakespearean king.

A heap of twisted metal tubes and rusted machinery

Wars cause widespread pollution and environmental damage − here’s how to address it in peace accords

politics and war essay

Assistant Professor of Environment, Peace, and Global Affairs at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, University of Notre Dame

politics and war essay

Professor of the Practice in International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame

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The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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As wars grind on in Ukraine and Gaza , another location ravaged by conflict is taking steps to implement a historic peace agreement. From the mid-1960s through 2016, Colombia was torn by conflict between the government, leftist guerrilla movements and right-wing paramilitary groups. Now the government and rebels are working to carry out a sweeping accord that addresses many critical sectors, including environmental damages and restoration.

University of Notre Dame researchers Richard Marcantonio and Josefina Echavarria Alvarez study peace and conflict issues, including their effects on the environment. They currently are advising negotiations between the Colombian government and several rebel factions over wartime damage to soil, water and other natural resources. They explain that while Colombia’s transition from war to peace has been difficult, the accord offers a model for addressing the ravages of war in places such as Gaza and Ukraine.

Is it common for peace settlements to address environmental harm?

Few agreements include environmental provisions, and even fewer see them carried out, even though research shows that many drivers of conflict can be directly or indirectly related to the environment .

We work with a research program at the University of Notre Dame called the Peace Accords Matrix , which monitors the implementation of comprehensive peace accords in 34 countries worldwide. Only 10 of the accords have natural resource management provisions agreements, and these typically have not triggered major steps to protect the environment.

Aerial view of a degraded plateau with bare soil

How is the Colombia accord different?

Colombia’s is seen as the most comprehensive peace accord that has been signed to date. It considers issues ranging from security to social justice and political participation, in great detail.

The accord acknowledges that a peaceful postwar society requires not only respect for human rights but also “protection of the environment, respect for nature and its renewable and nonrenewable resources and biodiversity .” More than 20% of the commitments in the agreement have an environmental connection.

They fall into four main categories:

– Adapting and responding to climate change

– Preserving natural resources and habitats

– Protecting environmental health through measures such as access to clean water

– Process issues, such as ensuring that communities can participate in decisions about rural programs and resource management

There also are gaps. For example, many protected areas have been deforested for ranching and coca production in the postaccord period. And there are no provisions addressing toxic pollution, an issue other agreements also neglect .

Often there are power vacuums during transitions between war and peace , when government agencies are working to reestablish their operations. Natural resources and environmental health need protection during these phases.

In Sierra Leone, for example, resource extraction by foreign companies drastically ramped up immediately after the Lome Peace Agreement eventually ended that nation’s civil war in 2002. Companies exploited a lack of governance and support in the rural areas and often mined metals illegally or hazardously without any regulatory oversight. Today these areas still struggle with mining impacts, including contaminated drinking water and fish , the primary protein source in the area.

What is the environmental toll of war in Ukraine?

The damage is vast: There’s air, water and soil contamination, deforestation and enormous quantities of waste, including ruined buildings, burned-out cars and thousands of tons of destroyed military equipment. Russia’s destruction of the Kakhovka Dam flooded villages, destroyed crops and wrecked irrigation systems.

The cost estimates are staggering. A joint commission of the World Bank, the government of Ukraine and other institutions currently estimate direct damages at roughly US$152 billion .

In addition, cleaning up sites, rebuilding infrastructure and other repairs could cost more than $486 billion over the next decade, as of late 2023. That figure rises every day that the war continues .

There’s broad interest in a green and sustainable reconstruction that would include steps like using sustainable building materials and powering the electricity grid with renewable energy. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been adamant that Russia must pay for the damage it has caused. It’s still unclear how this would work, although some U.S. and European lawmakers support seizing frozen Russian assets held in Western banks to help cover the cost.

There is a legal basis for holding Russia accountable. In 2022, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a set of principles for protecting the environment during armed conflicts . Among other existing statutes, they draw on a protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 that prohibits using “methods or means of warfare which are intended, or may be expected, to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment .”

There has been only modest discussion so far of how to integrate these principles into a formal peace agreement between Ukraine and Russia. But a working group that included Ukrainian and European Union officials and former leaders from Sweden, Finland, Ireland and Brazil has recommended a framework for addressing environmental damage and holding perpetrators accountable .

What environmental impacts are known or asserted in Gaza?

Environmental damage in Gaza also is devastating . The U.N. estimated in early 2024 that over 100,000 cubic meters (26 million gallons) of untreated sewage and wastewater were flowing daily onto land or into the Mediterranean Sea .

Gaza’s drinking water system was insufficient before the war and has been further weakened by military strikes . On average, Gazans now have access to about 3 liters of water per person per day – less than 1 gallon.

Thousands of buildings have been destroyed, spreading hazardous materials such as asbestos . Every bomb that’s dropped disperses toxic materials that will persist in the soil unless it’s remediated. Simultaneous environmental and infrastructure impacts, such as water and power shortages, are contributing to larger crises , such as the collapse of Gaza’s health care system, that will have long-lasting human costs.

A man carrying three large plastic jugs walks next to a donkey cart

How can future peace accords address these impacts?

Integrating the environment into peace accords isn’t easy. Resources such as energy, clean soil and water are vital for life, which is precisely why military forces may seek to control or destroy them . This is happening in both Ukraine and Gaza .

Peace negotiators tend to focus on social, political and economic issues, rather than environmental reparations. But leaving environmental damage unresolved until after a peace accord is signed keeps people who have been displaced and marginalized by conflict in precarious positions .

It may even cause fighting to resume. According to the U.N. Environment Program, at least 40% of all wars within states in the past 60 years have had a link to natural resources. In those cases, fighting was twice as likely to resume within five years after conflict ended .

We see some lessons for future negotiations.

First, it’s important for accords to recognize environmental harm as one of war’s main consequences and to acknowledge that a healthy environment is essential for sustainable livelihoods and peace.

Second, connecting environmental provisions with other issues, such as rural reform and political participation, can create better, more sustainable and equal conditions for reestablishing democracy. The Colombia accords are an example.

Third, it is important to clearly define goals, such as what infrastructure and institutions need to be rebuilt, who is in charge of getting those tasks done, and the timetable for doing it. This can help ensure that environmental restoration doesn’t become a secondary goal.

Fourth, the international community has an important role to play in monitoring and verifying environmental restoration and providing financial and technical support. Foreign donors have already pledged $66 billion for rebuilding Ukraine and have said that they will require grantees to follow strict environmental standards in order to receive financing.

Reconstructing nations and simultaneously regenerating communities and ecosystems after wars is a daunting mission, but it’s also an opportunity to build something better . We see Ukraine and Gaza as potential test cases for addressing war’s toll on the environment and creating a more sustainable future.

  • International law
  • Environment
  • Reparations
  • Peace accord
  • Colombia peace agreement
  • Russia-Ukraine
  • Environmental harms
  • Kakhovka dam
  • Israel-Hamas conflict

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Swifties unite after ‘The Great War’ to make a move into politics

Published: May 23, 2024

Author: Tracy DeStazio

Fans stand in a stadium with a huge banner in the background that reads

Scholars say democracy is in danger if people aren’t paying attention to what matters. And if the public doesn’t care enough about politics, then they may not vote or won’t be as informed when they vote, nor will they be able to fulfill their role in a democratic society.

But if anyone can motivate people to pay attention, it’s Taylor Swift.

During the botched ticket presales for Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” in late 2022, the combination of unprecedented demand, arbitrary and unfair purchasing privilege, and Ticketmaster’s website crashes made it nearly impossible for most Swift fans to get tickets. New research from political scientists at the University of Notre Dame found that this pivotal experience forced “Swifties” to pay attention to politics by connecting it to something meaningful and personal in their lives.

By drawing fans’ attention to the issue that mattered most to them — scoring concert tickets — the system failures and ensuing disappointment brought to light the importance of event ticketing politics, namely the lack of market competition, consumer rights and wealth inequality. Those unlucky Swifties who were unable to obtain “Eras” tickets were galvanized to speak out on those issues and hold their elected officials accountable.

‘The story of us’

Professor Rossiter has short brownish red hair and wears a gray blazer over a black shirt.

Notre Dame researchers Erin Rossiter , the Nancy Reeves Dreux Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Jeff Harden , the Andrew J. McKenna Family Professor in the Department of Political Science , tested a political science theory called “issue publics.” This theory suggests that there are small groups within the public sphere that are very passionate about a certain political issue — one that drives their opinion and behavior, keeps them invested for a substantial amount of time and encourages them to engage in the democratic process or participate in political activism.

Through a natural experiment, as documented in their study, “The Development of an Issue Public: Evidence from The Eras Tour,” Rossiter and Harden found that the Swiftie community was one such group. “Swifties are a long-standing, cohesive, passionate and largely apolitical fan base,” they wrote. The fans are very interconnected, especially online, and can coordinate information very well, Rossiter added.

But they are also a socially, economically and politically relevant group that has been credited for an increase in voter registration and a boost in the local economies where “The Eras Tour” concerts were hosted, as well as representing a sought-after constituency in the 2024 presidential campaign, according to the researchers.

“They could become a powerful force in politics,” Rossiter said. “And so, we wanted to test how issue publics form and where they come from, and who joins them and why.”

‘Long story short, it was a bad time’

Tickets for the tour’s first U.S. leg were set to go on sale Nov. 15, 2022. Fans would have access through random selection to purchase tickets; those not selected were waitlisted. When it came time to buy tickets, fans faced an anxiety-inducing and error-ridden process whereby the Ticketmaster website would either crash entirely from the extreme volume, or crash sporadically during mid-purchase.

Ultimately, only about 65 percent of those who attempted to purchase tickets that day found success, according to data collected by Rossiter and Harden.

These presale issues forced Ticketmaster to cancel its public sale planned for Nov. 18, which permanently spiked ticket prices on the secondary market (e.g., StubHub or SeatGeek) — with an average price soaring to $2,183 per ticket by May 2023. This devastated Swifties who could not afford such price tags, leading them to refer to the frustrating process and resulting controversy as “The Great War,” a reference to a track on the 3am Edition of Swift’s 2022 album, “Midnights.”

‘Look what you made me do’

Nine months later, and after the first leg of the “Eras Tour,” Rossiter and Harden fielded a survey of more than 4,000 lucky and unlucky Swift fans from August to September of 2023.

Professor Harden has very short reddish hair and wears a blue suit coat over a white shirt with yellow tie.

They found that fans who were randomly excluded from being able to purchase primary-market tickets had noticeably different attitudes and behaviors in regard to event ticketing politics than those who successfully bought tickets. “These unlucky fans reported agreement that Ticketmaster’s lack of competition and uneven ticket distribution processes were problematic,” the researchers wrote.

Rossiter and Harden used the survey — which was broadly shared across Swiftie social media channels — to measure fans’ behaviors following their experience. According to the study, the unlucky Swiftie respondents were more likely to contact a government agency to file a complaint. The survey provided a link to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should any of the participants wish to lodge a formal consumer complaint.

Harden said that roughly 10 percent of the survey respondents filed with the FTC, meaning approximately 400 of them took the time to go through the questions and complete the online form.

The two researchers concluded that behavior shifts occurred within the fan community that prompted them “to engage more with the politics of the issue,” one way or another.

‘This is me trying’

The researchers also wondered if anyone outside of their study took note of the shifts. “Was anybody listening to these young people — this newly developed group of informed and motivated citizens — who were now becoming more politically engaged about this event ticketing issue?” Harden asked.

The answer was yes. “There were a lot of examples of elected officials being responsive to this issue,” Harden said. Several antitrust bills were introduced in Congress and state legislatures, attorneys general in multiple states launched their own inquiries, and the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it will sue Ticketmaster parent Live Nation , one of the largest ticketing and live events companies in America, for antitrust violations.

“There is a suggested pattern that completes this whole cycle of accountability,” Harden said. “People got motivated about a political issue, went to their government about it, and at least in some form the government actually responded with legislation.”

“We know that people aren’t informed, knowledgeable or invested in every single thing that’s happening, but maybe they can care a lot about one thing, one particular issue that they are passionate about.”

Rossiter said that despite the political polarization and infighting in the U.S. that leaves many people averse to politics, this research gives hope that democracy can still function as it should.

“We know that people aren’t informed, knowledgeable or invested in every single thing that’s happening,” Rossiter said. “But maybe they can care a lot about one thing, one particular issue that they are passionate about.”

Contact: Tracy DeStazio, associate director of media relations, 574-631-9958 or [email protected]

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Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt

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Between War and Politics: International Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt

2 2 Violence and Power, Politics and War

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This chapter sets out and analyses Arendt's understandings of the basic meanings of politics and war, violence, and power. Her definition of power — a collective capacity that emerges between people as they act together — is supported through a number of historical examples. Her position on partisan warfare and the uses and limitations of revolutionary violence are contrasted with the important writing on these subjects by Schmitt and Fanon. Arendt shared with Clausewitz a view of war as an act of force whose essence is violent combat. However, political action, though sometimes occurring during wartime, is fundamentally different. Politics is full of conflict. But it is also limited by plurality, the very condition for speech and political action among equals. In contrast to post-structuralist accounts, Arendt maintained that a distinction between politics and war was indeed possible and necessary for there to be politics at all.

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Essay on Politics and War

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The Ramadan War of 1973 and Its Outcomes

1. introduction.

The war that occurred in October of 1973 and its outcomes must be placed in proper historical and international contexts. We should not repeat what others have written or said. The accuracy and reliability of history writing for contemporaries were primary sources of information that conveyed the battle of information while the war was going on. That was so important in the course of war that the people of the Arab world stopped to gain confidence in the correctness of their goals. However, the victory in the war was the source of the complete dignity of the fighters who stood up against their made-made enemies who were certain of their military superiority but did not outgrow that imposed arrogance. It is understood that not only do victors write their own history but also that in the contemporary world and due to political and social division within the parties engaged in confrontations, history is sometimes written in a manner that serves the victors' object and is rewritten in each generation or when politics require it. The historian, who has to provide the readers with documentary narration, should have the intellectual conviction of the correctness of his goals. There is no guarantee that the writer has not been hypnotized by other historians or by his intellectual and political integration that effectively distorted his understanding of what actually took place. In the era of political divides that can polarize human beings, it is not equally feasible to ingrain those perceptions and objectivity in the nature of the memes shared either by the majority of the nation or by the elite of a nation. Hopes should be directed toward mature minds and powerful political will that would permit opportunities to agree upon such matters in shared research, seminar, and open discussion, despite the occurrence of the awareness of the fact that there shall be no historical absolute truth. Through such debates, we can also achieve the deep-rooted aim of combining our efforts for attaining a modern academic methodology our historical heritage.

1.1. Background and Context

The October War, also known as the Ramadan War, was initiated by Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973, when the two countries launched a coordinated surprise attack during the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. This military initiative, which is sometimes referred to as the Ramadan War in the Arab world, had a considerable impact on the Middle East in the 1970s, as it constituted the final confrontation between Israel and its Arab neighbors. On October 22, 1973, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution reinforcing its earlier ceasefire call. Ceasefire violations continued for the remainder of the day and the fighting did not come to an end until six hours after the newly declared ceasefire time, 1800 hours of that day. Israel replaced Syria in the cease-fire resolution with Egypt in order to keep the ceasefire, a decision that has far-reaching consequences. The Yom Kippur War lasted less than three weeks, but it was characterized by a number of military confrontations and it had significant consequences for the political parties involved. In addition to the fact that the flow of oil shipments to Western countries was halted during the first few days of the conflict, and a number of truces had to be mediated by Soviet and American representatives, the war completely transformed the political landscape of the Middle East. The most notable consequence of the war was the narrow breadth of the circumstances that allowed Henry Kissinger, the United States Secretary of State, and his Soviet counterpart to jointly emphatically assert their political influence over both Israel and the Arab states.

2. Causes of the War

The main cause that ignited the war was the Arab state's defeat in the 1967 June War. This war constituted a traumatic 'shock' that would continue to influence Arab politics for many years. It played a key part in intensifying the conflict among the radical, moderate, and conservative states. Also, the non-resolution of the war's issues, especially what should be done with the occupied territories, soon created new causes for further wars. The Yom Kippur War broke out for several reasons. The normal process of showdown and confrontation of the two sides that usually serve as a warning did not occur. The Doomsday scare over a Soviet-American nuclear war in the earlier Crisis of 1973 had given way to a growing confidence in Moscow's ability to control the Syrian leadership. Neither the American nor Soviet dockets contained an adequate warning of the seriousness of the plight of the Syrian and Egyptian armies during the war. It would be interesting to study the personal factors on both sides in order to seek their own solutions for the serious crises and situations. This war is a typical case of 'Crisis Initiation Tradecraft'.

2.1. Political Factors

Ever since the state of Israel was declared, and prior to that, nationalist movements have been used to spark violence all over the Middle East. Despite that, Arab countries have resorted to certain other means to attain their objectives. For instance, Egypt, after several attempts for war, mounted the 1973 October (Yom Kippur or Ramadan) war, to regain the Arab territories and reassert its role as an Arab leader. It is of great interest to this writer to try and see how Egyptians arrived at the military option and briefly examine Egypt's war aims and the behavior of the two governments during the war. Next, the outcomes of the war will be examined. The whole question is of great significance because it will enable us to analyze the post-war phase and see changes in the behavior, policies, and strategies adopted by the combatants whether in response to changing domestic or international constraints or in response to the costs the war entailed. Certainly, the adoption of war as a strategy for achieving political ends is influenced by many variables. Religion, ideology, and territory are inescapable components of Middle East politics and structure the expectations and attitudes of all the parties concerned. The burden of the Palestinians had been a major factor setting the confrontation between the belligerents. Added to this was the fact that Egypt, by virtue of its land and population size, leadership role in Arab nationalism and its moderate line from an Arab perspective, had always been in a position to act as a mediator in the ambivalent relation between the Arab states and Israel and between the moderate and radical trends of the Arab world.

2.2. Military Factors

In October 1973, the IDF was caught by surprise as the Yom Kippur War policy assessment originated from intelligence information and the strategic concept of the regular Egyptian force concentration in Suez's orders. There was erroneous intelligence evaluation and the lack of Israeli commitment in estimating the timing and purpose of the Egyptian-Syrian offensive was another serious mistake. Through the few days which the Israeli defense forces need to adapt themselves to the Egyptian offensive, Israel, as well as the regional reality, found themselves facing a real existential threat. There were an insufficient number of Israeli forces for the respective southern and Sinai and northern and Golan Heights front astonished against the Syrian and Egyptian overwhelming force. The tactical disadvantages that the Israeli troops encountered in the first few days of the two main fronts were associated with three main factors: a high-speed Egyptian combat breach that took the IDF by surprise, the strong Syrian advance-up on the Golan Heights, operating in areas of limited visibility and alertness, and in extreme ground covered with mine fields in the first line of the forward defense line. The initial unwillingness of the high IDF command to abandon the entrenched orientation, and the reluctance to adopt the maneuverability were among the main objections of the post-tough accounts. Moreover, an intelligent blindness approached both the size and nature and the manner of the two holes. The military capability of the Arab countries even partly discredited by the resulting convenience of an Israeli alert. Similarly, the Israeli military doctrine emphasized the quality of the IDF's trained personnel. Military superiority is assumed to control most of the dimensions to last the initial Syrian-Egyptian assault on 6th and 9th October. These assumptions were weighty and costly in terms of losses made to the IDF at the outset of the war. In the Sitch, the Israeli intelligence forecast was that it would take at least 24 to 48 hours for an Iranian military operation once the Entebbe airport reached in the area. For an unknown period of time, the Syrian commitment was evident in the Arab world.

3. Key Events of the War

The ground war began on the night of October 6, when Egyptian forces crossed quickly through the Bar Levy Line along the Suez Canal and moved rapidly on several different corridors that had been previously considered and carefully studied. The assault began with 2000 pieces of artillery and aimed at the communication systems on which the Israeli army depended for survival. Then the Egyptian forces carried out a sophisticated crossing operation to reach the secured area inside the Bar Levy Line. Within less than two hours of the beginning of the crossing operation, 70,000 soldiers and 600 tanks had crossed the Canal and liquidated the Israeli Bar Levy Line (BL), and reached 5-6 km depth along the Canal. The Egyptian troops continued to advance towards targets such as the Indian and Meteruzz outposts, and the junction located at the southeast of the Jabal Ataka with rapid and precise fire.

3.1. The Egyptian Offensive

The aim of the Egyptian war offensive was to cross the Suez Canal and penetrate the Bar-Lev line. The Egyptians hoped to improve their political and military position, obtain territorial gains, and to change international arrangements in the region. The assumption was that the Israeli response would remain strictly in the vicinity of the Canal line with no involvement of the Israeli Air Force. The political aim was to hope for the United States to apply pressure in order to reach a cease-fire in the circumstances. The Egyptians hoped that at this fragile political situation in the United States, the involvement of the important allies would terminate the prospect of a wide-scale involvement in the War of all parties. Egyptian army operations were very complex and overlapped. According to the plan, there were to be two main forces: the first to cross the canal, head north, and establish a bridgehead across its entire length, and the second to capture the isolated fortified points. Their goal was to move 40 kilometers away from the bridgehead line and 10 kilometers west, and to cut the coastal road from occupied Palestinian territory. In addition, there were local operations deep in the canal's eastern bank.

3.2. The Syrian Offensive

On October 6, 1973, Syrian forces launched an offensive on the Israeli-held Golan Heights. Unlike in the Egyptian theater, the first day of the battle was a success for the Syrians, and their forces advanced until the war's end. The Syrian forces, which were equipped with the most modern versions of Soviet equipment such as the T-62 tanks, BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles, and wire-guided AT-3 Sagger and AT-6 Spiral anti-tank missiles, breached the static Israeli defenses on the heights and advanced quickly. Due to good intelligence and careful planning, the Israeli senior commanders and Defense Minister Moshe Dayan were able to contain the powerful armored Syrian thrust before their troops advanced too far. Despite the fact that after the first day the Syrian operations were plagued with local leadership problems and lack of clear objectives, they managed to move deep inside the Mistoma area. The first Israeli counterattacks failed due to lack of unit cohesion and the lack of clear purpose. However, with time, as the Israelis regrouped and reinforced the units defending the Golan, they were able to defeat the Syrian attempts to consolidate and expand their gains, and by October 11, the Syrians were on the defensive. The counterattacks and the Israeli destruction of the main Syrian reserve prevented the Syrians from expanding the bridgehead around Mistoma and the Israelis managed to form a continuous defensive line. Then, from October 12 to 14, the Syrians launched a series of wild and suicidal attacks with armored and infantry forces on a number of hilltops the Israelis held from the Golan such as Hermon, and from extensive minefields the Israelis placed around the Mistoma area. The siyustar ("intoxication war") by late-phase PLO onward, the attacks failed miserably, and the Israelis were able not only to repulse them but also pushed the Syrians back to the defensive lines from which they launched their offensive.

3.3. The Ceasefire

The military confrontation continued until the 21st day of the war. As agreed by the foreign ministers, Secretary Kissinger invited all parties to send their representatives to Washington to determine the shape of a permanent ceasefire. Eventually, the parties agreed to a permanent ceasefire through the Vice-President of the United States and Foreign Minister Gromyko on October 21, 1973. Such a ceasefire established another ceasefire line, which was imposed on Egypt and on Israel by Washington and Moscow - the two superpowers were present for the first time in Arab-Israeli negotiations. The United Nations Emergency Forces were deployed on the new ceasefire line only on the Egyptian side as determined by the Camp David Accords. The Egyptian forces had only gotten back some territory in Sinai, but the casualties had been high. 7,672 Egyptian soldiers had been killed, 129 captured and 26,680 injured. The Israelis had lost 2,566 lives, 710 were wounded, and 380 soldiers were missing. On the Golan Heights, the Syrian forces were more successful. Before the entrance of Israeli Defense Forces with their American equipment, 90 percent of their modern weapons capabilities could be preserved until the Israeli troops withdrew from the ceasefire line. With this AVIGAV signal intelligence operation, the Syrian forces had also succeeded. The Israelis had suffered 6,000 dead, 12,000 wounded, and 300 soldiers were missing in addition to the loss of two-thirds of their tanks. The 52 Syrian military had been killed, 200 injured, and 25 were missing.

4. Outcomes and Impact

The Silent War, which began on October 22 and ended with Resolution 338 of the Security Council being accepted on October 23, has been recorded as the war that took 19 days in modern history. Owing to Resolution 338, the operations ended and the war reached its conclusion. The critical point here is the fact that the frontline at that time constituted the demarcation line of September 1967. This means that Israel had therefore lost some part of its territories. This war is acknowledged to have brought the first significant and real military success to the Arab world. The foremost outcome of this is often defined as the return of Sinai to Egypt following Resolution 338 of the United Nations Security Council. The timetable for withdrawal had to be six days following Resolution 338, and the border was to be a permanent one. Unfortunately, none of these rules has in fact been implemented as yet. Another outcome is that Resolution 338 calls upon the negotiation of the parties to any treaties with a view to establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East, and the proposal of the implementation of Resolution 242 to help ensure all future negotiations. Additionally, this Resolution points out that the ultimate objective is to establish a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, which should include the application of both two principles: the withdrawal from the territories occupied in return for the right of existence of each state in the region within secure and recognized boundaries. The indirect impact of the October War over the USA is believed to be a tendency to achieve a more balanced policy in the Middle East.

4.1. Military Consequences

Unlike the situation after the 1956 war, the positions of the parties after the 1973 war determined the outcome of the political settlement directly. Indeed, the combatants realized that they would win politically in the diplomatic struggle after the war had ended. They managed to create a balance of forces so that they could negotiate in relative equality and arrive at a political settlement of the conflict. Through the end of the 1973 war, the Arabs had succeeded in putting an end to the status quo that had lasted since the 1967 war, even though the Arab-Israeli dispute had started four years earlier in 1967. The Israelis, for their part, occupied a small territory. The military option, which had loomed large in Israeli policy until the previous war, had now become impossible to carry out. The "military option" as a means of annihilating any possible combination of Arab armed forces, enabling Israel to dictate any solution by force, created a paralysis of Israeli options against the Arab countries.

4.2. Political Consequences

Politically, the war had broad impacts. It was a turning point both in the Zionist displacement project and in the process throughout which Arab nations dissociated from the Palestinian Question that has been continuing ever since the Balfour Declaration and its implementation by way of the British Mandate. While the former led to a series of adjustments in the Arab countries, the latter was to have profound impacts on inter-Palestinian developments and on other states in the Arab world. Whereas Israel only made political trade-offs with Egypt and did what it could to preserve the status quo concerning Syria, the decades-long process of "losing Palestine" and "the missing hand of Arab solidarity" led to greater problems for the Palestinians than they bargained for. The shift of Arab support during the period from 1948 to the present away from Palestinian-alleged "principles," their subservience to "minor goals," and their being subjected to the uncertainties of an open political market produced decades of internal dispute among the Palestinians and put the need for reciprocity and justice into the background of peace and conflict resolution literature.

5. Conclusion

The above analysis gives the possibility of drawing several conclusions. After the 1973 Ramadan War between Israel and the Arab states, political developments in the Middle East experienced significant changes. The most important changes occurred in the Arab world, as well as the relations of the Arab states with the USSR and the USA. The Soviet involvement in the region at the end of the 1960s and during the 1973 war with the arming, training, and support of the Arab states with military equipment were carried out with certain objectives. Both the 1967 Six-Day War and the defeat of the Arab states encouraged further intervention of the USSR in the region. According to Soviet calculations, everything would have proceeded more favorably. Unfortunately, by taking certain factors into account, the USSR made very serious mistakes in the calculations. In fact, it had been clearly stated that the period of the Nine-Day War was of historical significance and the debate was that very few works entered into the question of how, as a result of the blow, a less capable and internally threatened country moved onto the missionary role and took such initiatives on such a great scale. The war was not only unprecedented in conventional and tactical terms; it also launched the state and the region as a whole forth in a manner not at all previously expected from the general international political framework. While dealing with such questions, Israel's political aims of utilizing its military victory of facilitationg a comprehensive peace through negotiations was often brought forward. The most significant view was that Israel appreciated that future American support would be based on the peace agreement with Egypt. The need therefore to end the war quickly and by negotiation was above all the desire of the Israelis. Renewed military operations above all held dangers for Israel's fate after the war

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