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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 December 2020
One of the more striking, surprising, and optimism-inducing features of the contemporary international system has been the decline of interstate war. The key question for students of international relations and comparative politics is how this happy state of affairs came about. In short, was this a universal phenomenon or did some regions play a more important and pioneering role in bringing about peaceful change? As part of the roundtable “International Institutions and Peaceful Change,” this essay suggests that Western Europe generally and the European Union in particular played pivotal roles in transforming the international system and the behavior of policymakers. This helped to create the material and ideational conditions in which other parts of the world could replicate this experience, making war less likely and peaceful change more feasible. This argument is developed by comparing the experiences of the EU and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their respective institutional offshoots. The essay uses this comparative historical analysis to assess both regions’ capacity to cope with new security challenges, particularly the declining confidence in institutionalized cooperation.
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