Academic journal article Military Review

Logics of War: Explanations for Limited and Unlimited Conflicts

Academic journal article Military Review

Logics of War: Explanations for Limited and Unlimited Conflicts

Article excerpt

LOGICS OF WAR: Explanations for Limited and Unlimited Conflicts

Alex Weisiger, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 2013, 288 pages, $45.00

Logics of War uses bargaining models to explain the intensity and duration of interstate conflicts. Its models are most useful at strategic or political-military policy levels. Logics of War contains no insight on how to conduct war, but is a must read for those concerned about war's motivation, potential cost, duration, or intractability. Alex Weisiger makes two major contributions. First, he argues that there are multiple paths to war-equifinality in academic jargon. This insight seems fitting given the complex nature of war and liberating by allowing his development of independent causal mechanisms. Second, his explanations are comprehensive, accounting for both short and long wars and variations in intensity.

Logics of War is a political science book, which is at best moderately successful in explaining its statistical methods for the unfamiliar or out of practice. Statistical evidence is buttressed with case studies that any reader can understand. Because the book is not limited across time (after 1816) or space, Weisiger's theories are not restricted to any particular war. As with any such literature, much depends on the validity and reliability of proxy variables. For example, concepts of power, commitment, trust, or leaders' interpretation of information are either unavailable or unobservable. However, Weisiger designs and justifies his measures as well as or better than similar scientific literature. Weisiger's choice of cases such as the Paraguayan War of 1864-1870, World War II in Europe and the Pacific, the Iran-Iraq War, the Falklands War, and the Persian Gulf War builds confidence in the statistical results.

Logics of War characterizes leaders as information-bounded rational actors. Perhaps to appeal to a broader audience, the book avoids the term rational and fails to adequately explain the meaning of rationality paradigms. It is unclear whether this lessens or increases the risk of rejection of its theories. Uninitiated readers may be mystified by or suspicious of the abrupt introduction of bargaining models. …

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