WE HAVE LOOKED at Conspicuous States in twenty historical periods widely scattered in time and space among preindustrial societies. We have asked of each period: How peaceful was it for that Conspicuous State? And did that State gain or lose territory? Then we looked at twenty-nine other factors and hoped that their correlations might help explain the success of that state in avoiding war when it wished to. We also hoped that correlations with these factors might help explain the success or failure of that state in the land-grabbing game of power politics during each of these twenty decades.
Seventeen of the twenty states we chose to study were those whose rivalries were given most attention in encyclopedic world histories. These states were invariably among the largest and most powerful states of their civilizations. The other three studies were of decades in three successive centuries of the Swiss Confederation -- chosen because of its republican constitution. (Nearly all the other seventeen were monarchies, and nearly all the monarchies were hereditary.)
If we look at our world today, it seems to be clear that since 1945 the two most Conspicuous States have been the United States and the Soviet Union. Our findings do not support the view that deterrence armament by the United States or the Soviet Union would makes World War III less likely, but they do support the view that attention to the quality and mobility of armed forces now could make territorial loss less likely should such a catastrophe take place.