Political Conflict, War, and Peace
World politics can be divided into two main strands. One strand is the broad study of war and peace that encompasses the analysis of competition, conflict and warfare; the second equally broad strand deals with the field of political economy and includes political development, integration, trade, negotiations, and political demography. This chapter focuses on the study of conflict (for political economy see Caporaso in this volume).
War is aptly and generally defined by Malinowski ( 1968, 28) as an "armed contest between two independent political units, by means of organized military force, in the pursuit of a tribal or national policy." Levy ( 1983, 51) introduces the more restricted concept of "international war" as "a substantial armed conflict between the organized military forces of independent political units." International war so defined excludes many domestic conflicts that produced enormous casualties such as the American Civil War ( 1861-1865), the Boxer Rebellion ( 1899), or the Russian Revolution and Civil War ( 1917-1921). It also does not include terrorist campaigns such as the protracted conflict in Northern Ireland ( 1969-1991), or guerrilla activities such as those leading to the fall of Chiang Kai-shek in China ( 1949) or to the fall of Batista in Cuba ( 1958). Also excluded are border incursions such as the Sino-Soviet Split ( 1959-1969). Limited punitive strikes such as Israeli actions against Lebanon ( 1967-1991) do not fall under this definition of war, or even protracted confrontations such as the Cold War between the United States and the USSR ( 1946-1989), because they do not qualify as substantial international conflict. The fighting in Yugoslavia illustrates the difficulty of defining war. In the early stages, this is not an international war because competitors are not independent states. Later this conflict also does not qualify as a war because it does not involve organized military directly attached to nations. Thus, using Levy's definition, the Yugoslav conflict has not yet turned into an international war.
Much of the work I report on here deals with Levy's restricted concept of international war, but many generalizations and inferences may apply to conflict in general. 1 Given this conception of war, peace defines all interactions among nations that are a complement to international war. Nations are at peace when no serious contests arise, when disputes are resolved by accommodation or continue to simmer, and, as is frequently the case, when one side yields to the demands of another without resort to force.
The concern with war and peace is so central to world politics that it defined this field for many years. For that reason it is simply impossible to do justice to the whole literature. Let me start this review, therefore, with two important disclaimers. First, in this short space it is not possible to provide a fair summary of all developments in the vast field of international war. Second, even if length were not a constraint, I am a captive of my own interest and research experience. Thus, like a myopic observer looking at an open field through a long funnel, I am aware of minute distinctions among works whose results directly relate to my own research agenda, and still see through this lens, albeit imprecisely, the contributions of distant but directly related predecessors. This intellectual funnel is also a blinder, however, and much of the research on international war that has evolved in directions different from those I chose will not attract recognition and is, unfairly, discarded. Like most reviews, therefore, this is a personal journey through the vast literature on international war that says perhaps as much about my own perspective on war and peace, as about the development of this vibrant branch of world politics.
To provide a guide, let me first outline my general perspective on the field. The study of war and peace is still chaotic because an agreement on a general paradigm to study this subject has not been reached. 2 My review emphasizes the war literature that clearly specifies general propositions, and places such propositions under empirical scrutiny. Such systematic study of war and peace is in the early stages of development, and today's findings will no doubt be seriously revised and perhaps reversed in the next decade. Yet, a body of theory supported by evidence is now available that provides hope for large theoretical gains in