WP Chapter 3:
Why do states go to war?
A war is an event that uses organized military force by at least two parties that satisfies
some minimum threshold of severity. The fact that that force must be used on both sides
distinguishes war from mass killing perpetrated by a government against a group of
people. Scholars often require the prerequisites to war be at least 1,000 deaths. If the
main parties are to the conflict are both states, we refer to this event as an interstate war.
If the parties are in conflict within a state we call this a civil war.
At the root of all conflict lies what the state values, the purpose of warfare is to attain
rather than fight, we could think of it as the bargaining over objects to which once state
places a higher value on. States fight over goods like territory, as it might contribute to
the economy if it should have natural resources like oil, or because it serves as a good
defense against the attack of another nation such as Israel taking Syria's Golan Heights. It
can also be for religious reasons like the fight over Israel between the Jews and Arabs or
India and Pakistani ethnic claim to Kashmir.
States also fight each other over disagreement over policy, such as when it benefits them
but harms other states in the process. A good example is how the USA attacked Iraq in
suspicion of them pursuing a policy of attaining weapons of mass destruction. The USA
also went into Afghanistan because the country supported Al-Qaeda. This also brings the
point of regime type, both in Afghanistan and Iraq the United States pursued the goal of
changing the regime type by force to one which would be friendlier to the United States.
The same was the reason for the USA'S involvement in Vietnam and Korea.
WW2 territorial dispute
Policy Disagreement- Cold War
Regime Change-Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam etc.
Conflict of interests over the distribution of foods is what generally causes war but they
are not sufficient in explaining why wars actually happen. It is true that some conflicts
will amount to wars while other do not. In a well functioning domestic political system
disputes are settled often peacefully through international institutions and policing
powers. If one state harms another, there will be legal ramifications for doing so.
Generally this leads to motivating states to settle their conflicts through bargaining.
Actors may bargain over the distribution of certain territories and find if there is a
division acceptable to both sides. They may bargain over policies making them more
objective for both sides, However bargaining doesn't always imply that differences be
split. For example in 2001, President Bush demanded Afghanistan dismantle Al-Qaeda
and declared the demands not open to negotiation. Crisis rise when countries are then
threatened with military force if they don't comply. This is called coercive bargaining, to
use force to get one's way. (Satisfy my demands or else!) We generally assume the best outcome is to avoid a full scale war, and avoids to pay the
heavy costs of war.
Example: A disagreement over a territory that is worth $100 million. One country wants
that territory and knows they will beat the other country in a war. The war costs $20
million so at the end of the day they make a profit of $80 million. That state therefore
would figure out that there would be no need for war if the other states was willing to
give up 80% of the territory so they can still get the $80 million dollars profit.
Bargaining Range: The set of deals that both parties in a bargaining interaction prefer to
the reversion outcome. When the reversion outcome is war, the bargaining range is the
set of deals that both sides prefer to fight a war.
Compellance and Deterrence (Varieties of coercive bargaining): Some states might have
an interest in creating a crisis in the first place, If the state gets more through war than the
status quo than it has an interest in making a challenge. However war is not necessarily
going to happen because the bargaining ranges still exists. Compellance therefore is the
effort to change the status quo through the threat of force. Deterence by contrast is an
effort to preserve the status quo through the threat of force. (Don’t attack my ally or else,
don't do X or else). Sometimes a crisis can occur because of a mixture of the two, it is
when this contest of threat fails to generate an outcome that both sides prefer fighting that
we observe to descent into war.
Do wars happen by mistake?
In the gulf war it was clear that Iraq would wage war if it's demands were not met, at that
time however, Washington and Kuwait were not sure of Husseins intentions. When states
have poor and incomplete information on another sttes intentions, two possibilities can
lead to war:
A)A state confronted by demands yields too little or not at all like Kuwait.
B) A state might demand too much on the mistaken belief that the other side will
Each states value for war determines what bargains it prefers to fighting.
In the case of the Gulf War there was incomplete information, similar to a game of poker
where there are hidden cards that other players can’t see. It is a lack of knowledge on the
other states interests and capabilities.
Sometimes a situation may arise when one state just cannot measure the adversaries
expected value for war as well as the capabilities such as the size of the military,
technology and an economy to back up the fighting.
Resolve: A more abstract concept, it refers to the states willingness of an actor to endure
costs in order to acquire some goods. Risk-Return Tradeoff: In crisis bargaining, the tradeoff between trying to get a better deal
and trying to avoid war.
Incentives to Misinterpret and the problem of credibility: Missing information can lead to
war but a large part of this has to do with communication. As much as states want o
communicate their hidden information they may not always be able to do effectively.
Credibility: Believability. A credible threat is a threat that the recipient believes will be
carried out. A credible commitment is a commitment or purpose that the recipient
believes will be honored. For example Sadam Hussein clearly had the intentions to
invade Kuwait but his mobilization of troops weren't credible enough. Credibility is often
hard to achieve because carrying out threats is extremely costly (does the benefits of
waging war outweigh the costs that state will have to face) and secondly there may be
conflicting interests at the heart of the bargaining interaction. Even though states have a
common interest in avoiding war, each also wants the best deal for itself and they
therefore have incentives to hide or misinterpret their information. During the Gulf War
the USA cold have easily threatened Sadam of their intentions but they chose not to.
Poker Analogy contributes to how Hitler who had a strong hand hoped everybody would
fold (which the allies did) when he marched his troops into the rhineland in 1936.
The Language of Coercion: On June 25th 1950 without any warning, North Korea
invaded South Korea, which had been split in two after ww2. The USA fought back the
communist North with the South and forced the North to retreat. Originally the recently
communist China threatened that if the USA were to go into the North and dismantle the