LECTURE NOTES ON WAR 11/9/2012 11:45:00 AM
`What are the empirical conditions that define war?
What do we mean by war?
One definition: direct aggression by state actors
Emotional responses: positive, negative, intellectual
Has not always been regarded as a “bad thing”
Athens; display of superiority (race, culture, civilization)
o Idealized warriors, associated good things with the concept
Romans as well
o Moral language: “virtue”
o Latin term for virture => vir => man => courage,
o Empire = empiro => violence
Very different from our conception
19 thcentury Romantics
o Talk of the nature of struggle as artistic inspiration
o Social Darwinism, we should pursue struggle
o Nitsze: World of power
o Valorizes idea of conflict
o Way of establishing your self and culture
Advances civilization, self, culture, technology
o The Iliad could not have been written today, we don’t have
the values for it
War is not conceptually self evident: “war on drugs”, “war on terror”… who is
the victor? What would victory be?
CLAUSEWITZ employs the historical method (Schelling and Fueron are more
War has 2 dimensions:
o Normative (moral) dimension good/bad
o Empirical (factual) dimension what leads to war
But it is difficult to pull apart these two dimensions
CORRELATES OF WAR PROJECT
Collect data for scientific study of war
Is this possible? Info begins in 1816. Advent of modern state system as we know it
today. This is when people begin keeping data like this.
Must provide verifiable variables of was conditions
o When is war likely to occur?
Works with idea that war is an activity that takes place beween
State-State actors (not actually true: non-state actors can go to
war; al-queda, civil war…)
Tries to unpack what they see as a pattern
o Conflict between states
o But how do we draw the line and distinguish between crises
Eg. Cold war: with the exception of a few
instances, it is contained
o Rate of occurrence in 19 thand 20 thcentirues is basically the
o Extra-systemic (system level) war is greater in 19 thcentury
(colonialism, etc. imperialism still exists, leads to conflict)
o Victors have less fatalities than losers
o Cannot determine # of fatalities required to make a country
o Wars in Europe carry higher fatalities
o Inter-governmental organizations (EU, UN) do not effect/have
no bearing on whether war happens or not
o Nations stop participating in IGOs right before war and start
o Alliances have a negative effect on occurrences in 19 th
century but positive in 20 thcentury
Alliances make war more likely
Allies honor commitments
What conclusions can we draw? o Distinction between contention and rivalry
Cooperation + competitive behaviour, when they lock
in, can lead to war. If a dispute occurs over longer time
contributes to more war
o Discrepancy between capability and diplomatic ties
More Capability + less diplomacy = more liklihood of
o More populous a nation, the more war-prone, at least in
o Geography: 2 nations close together have a geater liklihood
o EMPIRICALLY GROUNDED DEFINITION: War is a form of
sustained conflict including organized armed forces, resulting
in a minimum of 1000 battle-related fatalities within a 12
Why is this a plausible definition?
Generated by facts we can observe
Defines war as an activity between states
Harder to unify/discredit other definitions
CLAUSEWITZ’S argument becomes the foundation for a rational device
model. It’s very historical, empirical, but not very scientific. Defines war as a
positive activity, a form of behaviour.
Actors have ENDS to pursue
War can be understood as a normative action, political activity moral
Act of violence to compel opponent to comply to our will
o Shows how to address + limit
o Provides critique of strictly logical/non-purposive accounts
War is an attempt to disarm/destroy opponent?
If you approach war in this way, opponent will respond in kind and
the situation will become worse.
Clausewitz rejects this: it doesn’t take in to account prior history of actors,
looks at war as an isolated set of actions, which is problematic and there is
no one solution to violence (disarm) and action can be completed (destroy).
BUT reality is not like this. Not an isolated act: actors usually have a shared history
To fully understand, must understand REASONS
War doesn’t have a single solution
Not a simple thing, must look at underlying disputes, why are
War and victory are never perfect or complete. Defeat is never
War reflects contingent circumstances and you must invest yourself
o Must understand what other wants
o Adversary’s character
o Appropriate means and when to confront them
o Nature of the situation, reasons for hostility. Political
War is a continuation of policy by other means
o Its just another diplomatic tool, to be employed by statesmen
o We can never be completely without the possibility of war
o Clausewitz can be thought of as a realist
o Simply studying correlates of war is not enoufh to make us
understand war. Must understand purposes and psychological
dimensions. Not just their goals, but also levels of hostility
and tension that actors are involved in. War depends upon
Meant to indicate how we can break out of the cycle of war
For Clausewitz, war is purposive.
Rational actor model
Attempt to talk about war as a rational action.
Invites consideration of strategies that accompany war
Sorts of strategic calculations?
o Importance of offensive/defensive postures, be aware of what
neighbors/opponents are doing.
o Situations of uncertainty and incomplete information are
conducive to peace. You’re hesitant to act under uncertainty
Although normally we say inaction is bad
o *We must be sensitive to contingencies: situations which can
arise form surprise, escalates reaction
have to be prepared for surprises, don’t respond to
quickly: diplomacy! o Actors have preferences, can be measured in material
BARGAINING THEORY OF WAR: FUERON (ch. 3)
Inspired by rational choice theory and economic theories.
Clarify how system of relations affects decision-making. How do
actors interact given the structure of their relations?
Relation to prisoner’s dilemma?
o How can this lead to war?
o Related to REALISM
Result of work by Jeffrey Blainey, economist
o War is a form of negotiation. Wants to explain causes + role
of war in negotiation.
Costly and inefficient way of resolving disputes since it
destroys resources that could be distributed among
states in a peaceful manner.
So there has to be a negotiation point that falls short of
war. Settlement that is mutually preferential to war
(since war is a suboptimal outcome)
o So what IS optimal?
War stems from disagreement about relative power of
states, don’t agree about distribution of power in the
Fighting over distribution of power and are aware of it.
So can project what outcome of war wil be. So why not
just negotiate it out?
War = bargaining
Military prowess is a resource in bargaining.
Expected outcome = resource as well
Ultimate determinant is relative power of states.
Do states agree/disagree on it?
War is a means of clarifying this relative status;
Wars are costly. Costs vary by actor. Role to play in a decision to
fight or not.
If war is costly/inefficient, hen why go to war anyway? o Conditions that prevent states from coming to a rationalized
and peaceful settlement?
Lack of communication
Private information and incentive to misrepresent
War is likely when 1 to 3 are present
Bargaining space shrinks. Implies that if none of these