After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order after Major Wars

By G. John Ikenberry | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
CONCLUSION

“ONE KNOWS where a war begins but one never knows where it ends.” So remarked Prince von Bulow, looking back at the bloodiest war in history, the collapse of Europe's great empires, and the chaotic spectacle of Ver/ sailles—all of which seemed to follow from shots fired by a lone gunman in Sarajevo.1 States rarely finish wars for the same reasons that they start them. The destruction of war extends far beyond the battlefield. States, societies, and political institutions are inevitably changed by war and some/ times destroyed. War is also one of history's great catalysts in rearranging the international distribution of power. States rise and decline over long stretches of time, but war can speed the process, pushing some great powers dramatically upward and others dramatically downward. Wars do not just produce winners and losers on the battlefield; they also break apart interna/ tional order and alter the power capacities of states.

This book has posed three questions about order building after major wars: What is the logic of choice that newly powerful states face at this juncture? What explains the increasing use of institutional strategies, by leading states in order building in the 1815, 1919, and 1945 settlements? And what accounts for the remarkable durability of the 1945 order among the industrial democracies despite the end of the Cold War?

This chapter reassesses the institutional theory in light of the historical cases. The cases do show newly powerful states at postwar junctures re/ sponding to incentives captured in the model. An institutional bargain be/ tween the leading and secondary states was part of each of the major settle/ ments, although the institution's specific character, the extent to which it was actually realized, and the impact it had on the eventual postwar order differed from case to case. The variation in the extent to which the leading state used institutions to lock in other states and signal its own restraint and commitment is also at least partially explained by the variables identified in the model. The 1945 postwar juncture provided the greatest incentives and opportunities for an institutional settlement, and the order created among the Western industrial countries most fully exhibits the institutional logic. Because the Cold War also fostered cohesion among the industrial democ/

____________________
1
On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian freedom fighter, shot and killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose automobile had stopped on a street in Sarajevo.

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