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Chapter 3

POLB80 chapter3

Political Science
Course Code
Francis Wiafe- Amoako

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Liberal and
Social Theories
Pakistani women wait for relief assistance, 2010.
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The Waning of War
In recent years, a strong trend toward fewer and smaller wars has become evident.1To
many Americans, the world seems more war-prone and violent than ever, because the
country is at war on a scale not seen since Vietnam. Yet for the world as a whole, the
current period is one of the least warlike ever.
First consider the long-term trend. In the first half of the 20th century, world wars
killed tens of millions and left whole continents in ruin. In the second half of that cen-
tury, during the Cold War, proxy wars killed millions, and the world feared a nuclear
war that could have wiped out our species. Now, in the early 21st century, wars like
those in Iraq and Sudan kill hundreds of thousands. We fear terrorist attacks that could
destroy a city, but not life on the planet. Generation by generation, the world has
moved forward, unevenly but inexorably, from tens of millions killed, to millions, to
hundreds of thousands. This is still a large number and the impacts of war are still
catastrophic. Perhaps most important, if we could understand and sustain this trend,
major wars might fade away altogether, though minor wars and terrorist attacks may
continue to kill thousands of people.
Events in the post–Cold War era continue this long-term trend toward smaller
wars. The late 1990s and early 21st century saw the termination of lingering Cold
War–era conflicts such as in Angola, Northern Ireland, Guatemala, and southern Sudan
(following South Africa and Mozambique earlier in the 1990s). Most of the wars that
flared up after the Cold War ended, such as in Bosnia, Kosovo, Algeria, Rwanda,
Burundi, and Uganda, have also come to an end. This waning of war continues in
recent years. Liberia and Ivory Coast established power-sharing governments and
brought in international peacekeepers—following in the path of Sierra Leone (which in
2003 held democratic elections). In 2005, the Irish Republican Army finished perma-
nently dismantling its weaponry. India and Pakistan began their first cease-fire in a
decade, as did Burma’s government and its largest rebel militia.
Today’s most serious conflicts consist mainly of skirmishing rather than all-out
battles. The last battles between heavily armed forces on both sides (with, for exam-
ple, artillery, tanks, and airplanes) were the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the 2008
Russian-Georgian war, both short and one-sided affairs. The last sustained interstate
war, between Ethiopia and Eritrea, ended in 2000. The last great power war (with
great powers fighting each other) ended more than 50 years ago.
In 2010, war continued to abate in Iraq and worsen in Afghanistan. Fighting
continued in Sudan and flared in Yemen and Nigeria. In Democratic Congo, small-scale
but brutal fighting among various factions has flared since the devastating war there
ended in 2003. (UN peacekeepers arrived in 1999.)
Ten years ago, this textbook’s list of wars in progress (which appears on p. 154)
showed 20 wars and 8 more just ending in transitional cease-fires. Today the list is down
to 13. Similarly, deaths caused by all types of war, including actions such as shelling, car
bombs, and airstrikes (but not including indirect deaths from disease), have fallen quite
dramatically over the past 60 years. Figure 3.1 charts the decline in war-related fatalities
since the end of World War II. While some years are higher or lower than others,
there is a consistent trend downward in this graph over recent decades, suggesting an
overall movement toward less war in the international system.
The Waning of War
Liberal Theories
Kant and Peace
Liberal Institutionalism
International Regimes
Collective Security
The Democratic Peace
Social Theories
Identities and Ideas
Peace Studies
Gender Theories
Why Gender Matters
The Masculinity of
Gender in War and Peace
Women in IR
Difference Feminism
versus Liberal Feminism?
Postmodern Feminism
1 Human Security Centre. Human Security Report 2009: Shrinking Costs of War. Human Security
Centre, 2009.
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86 Chapter 3 Liberal and Social Theories
Liberal Theories
If realism offers mostly dominance solutions to the collective goods problems of IR, several
alternative theoretical approaches discussed in this chapter draw mostly on the reciprocity
and identity principles (recall Figure 2.1 in Chapter 2). Among other common elements,
these approaches generally are more optimistic than realism about the prospects for peace.
Although realists see the laws of power politics as relatively timeless and unchanging,
liberal theorists generally see the rules of IR as slowly, incrementally evolving through time
and becoming more and more peaceful. This evolution results primarily from the gradual
buildup of international organizations and mutual cooperation (reciprocity) and secondar-
ily from changes in norms and public opinion (identity). The main theories discussed in
this and the following chapter all hold that we are not doomed to a world of recurring war
but can achieve a more peaceful world. In addition, this chapter reviews liberal theories of
domestic politics and foreign policy making that, unlike realism, place importance on the
domestic and individual levels of analysis in explaining state behavior.
Kant and Peace
Liberal theories of IR try to explain how peace and cooperation are possible. The German
philosopher Immanuel Kant 200 years ago gave three answers.2The first, based on the
FIGURE 3.1 Battle-Related Deaths in War, 1946–2006
Source: Human Security Brief 2007. Simon Fraser University.
Deaths in thousands
1946 1951 1956 1961 1966 1971 1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001 2006
2 Kant, Immanuel. Perpetual Peace. Edited by Lewis White Beck. Bobbs-Merrill, 1957 [1795]. Russett, Bruce,
and John Oneal. Triangulating Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations. Norton, 2000.
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