Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Foreign Powers and Intervention in Armed Conflicts

Magazine article Joint Force Quarterly

Foreign Powers and Intervention in Armed Conflicts

Article excerpt

By Aysegul Aydin

Stanford University Press, 2012

202 pp. $45

ISBN: 978-0-8047-8281-4

Reviewed by David A. Anderson

Aysegul Aydin, an academic scholar, sets out to determine why and through what means external states choose to get involved in interstate conflicts and civil wars. He asserts that intervening states make their choices based on a combination of security and economic interests. His challenge is significant since the related literature (that is, international relations, international political economics, and security studies) has evolved somewhat independently. Aydin's investigation is rooted in realist and liberalist international relations theory. He uses empirical data from hundreds of external conflicts and 153 civil wars from 1944 to 2001. For contextual purposes, he also brings both pre-conflict and postconflict intervention measures to bear, coupled with literature addressing conflict prevention and postconflict reconstruction. His statistical analysis is complemented by qualitative analysis of numerous country case studies providing a uniquely comprehensive historical perspective on international intervention through various political and international institutional means (for example, diplomatic, military, and economic).


The author's research shows compelling proof that America and other states primarily intervene in conflicts and civil wars based on economic and national security interests. For example, his statistical analysis strongly points to intervention as a way to protect foreign direct investment and trade. Keeping land and sea lines open for trade was also identified as an imperative, one that allows other states to residually benefit. His examination also demonstrates that intervention is undertaken to circumvent potential adversaries from posing security concerns in given regions. Particularly noteworthy is that Washington has generally aligned with those states presenting the least threat to the Nation and its regional allies.

Frankly, none of the results of Aydin's analysis are necessarily profound or surprising. What they do provide, however, within a uniquely comprehensive framework, is empirical evidence linking anecdotal, independent, and often disconnected historical accounts of conflicts over the past 70 years. This empirical analysis allows collective patterns of external states' and institutional actors' actions and behaviors to emerge that otherwise would have gone statistically unproven or undiscovered. …

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