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Empirical Support for Systemic and Dyadic Explanations of International Conflict

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 June 2011

David Lalman
Affiliation:
Stanford University

Abstract

Systemic theorists emphasize the interplay of the distribution of power, the number of poles, and their tightness in predicting the occurrence of major-power war. The authors link individual-level incentives to these systemic constraints as factors that might affect the likelihood of war. They believe that their model specification is more comprehensive than any prior effort to evaluate the impact of structural attributes on the risk of major-power war. Empirical results from the individual-level prespective are encouraging when one examines European crises from 1816 to 1965, but there is no evidence that decision makers were significantly constrained by variations in the structural attributes. Neither the distribution of power nor the number or tightness of poles appears to influence the risk of war.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 1988

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References

1 Siverson, Randolph and Sullivan, Michael, “The Distribution of Power and the Onset of War,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 27 (September 1983), 473CrossRefGoogle Scholar–94.

2 Kaplan, Morton, System and Process in International Politics (New York:John Wiley & Sons, 1957Google Scholar).

3 Gulick, Edward V., Europe's Classical Balance of Power (Ithaca, NY:Cornell University Press, 1955Google Scholar); Morgenthau, Hans, Politics Among Nations (New York:Alfred Knopf, 1978Google Scholar).

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5 Singer, J. David, Stuart Bremer, and John Stuckey, “Capability Distribution, Uncertainty, and Major Power War, 1820–1965,” in Russett, Bruce, ed., Peace, War, and Numbers (Beverly Hills, CA:Sage Publications, 1972), 1948Google Scholar.

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7 Waltz, Kenneth, Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA:Addison-Wesley, 1979Google Scholar), and Waltz, , “The Stability of a Bipolar World,” Daedalus 93 (No. 3, 1964Google Scholar), 881–909. We should note that Waltz uses bipolarity to refer to a situation in which most power is held by only two states that form the core of competing coalitions; others refer to bipolarity in terms of the number of discrete international coalitions. For Waltz, only the post-1945 world satisfies the definition of bipolarity-at least since the Napoleonic Wars. Our investigation of the effects of polarity on war is more in line with Kaplan's (fn. 2) and Deutsch and Singer's (fn. 6) usage of the concept of polarity.

8 Aron, Raymond, Peace and War, trans, by Howard, Richard and Baker, Annette Fox (New York:Praeger, 1968Google Scholar); Kaplan (fn. 2); de Mesquita, Bruce Bueno, “Systemic Polarization and the Occurrence and Duration of War,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 22 (June 1978), 241CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

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10 Kaplan (fn. 2); Aron (fn. 8); Waltz (fn. 7, 1979).

11 Modelski (fn. 4); Waltz (fn. 7, 1964 and 1979); Organski and Kugler (fn. 4); Gilpin (fn. 4).

12 Morgenthau (fn. 3); Singer, Bremer, and Stuckey (fn. 5); and Bueno de Mesquita (fn. 8).

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15 Singer, Bremer and Stuckey (in. 5). See also Ray, James and Singer, J. David, “Measuring the Concentration of Power in the International System,” Sociological Methods and Research 1 (May 1973), 403CrossRefGoogle Scholar–36.

16 de Mesquita, Bueno, “Measuring Systemic Polarity,” Journal of Conflict Resolution (June 1975), 7796Google Scholar; de Mesquita, Bueno, (fn. 8); de Mesquita, Bueno, The War Trap (New Haven:Yale University Press, 1981Google Scholar); Ostrom, Charles Jr., and Aldrich, John, “The Relationship between Size and Stability in the Major Power International System,” American Journal of Political Science 22 (November 1978), 743CrossRefGoogle Scholar–71; Wayman, Frank, “Bipolarity and War: The Role of Capability Concentration and Alliance Patterns among Major Powers, 1816–1965,” Journal of Peace Research 21 (No. 1, 1984), 6178CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 Bueno de Mesquita (fn. 16).

18 Bueno de Mesquita (fn. 8 and fn. 16); Altfeld, Michael and de Mesquita, Bueno, “Choosing Sides in Wars,” International Studies Quarterly 23 (March 1979), 87112CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kugler, Organski (fn. 4); Kugler, Jacek, “Terror without Deterrence,” Journal of Conflict Resolution (September 1984), 470506CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kugler, Jacek, “The Politics of Foreign Debt in Latin America: A Study of the Debtors' Cartel,” International Interactions 13 (No. 2, 1987), 115CrossRefGoogle Scholar–44; Petersen, Walter, “Deterrence and Compellence: A Critical Assessment of Conventional Wisdom,” International Studies Quarterly 30 (September 1986), 269CrossRefGoogle Scholar–94; Berkowitz, Bruce, “Realignment in International Treaty Organizations,” International Studies Quarterly 27 (March 1983CrossRefGoogle Scholar), 96; Altfeld, Michael and Paik, Won, “Realignment in ITOs: A Closer Look,” International Studies Quarterly 30 (March 1986), 107CrossRefGoogle Scholar–14.

19 Model 3 can not be calculated with MPWAR as the dependent variable. With only 6 years in which major power wars began (out of the 140 years for which we have complete data), the independent variables outnumber the observations. Models 1 and 2 have been estimated.

20 Siverson and Sullivan (fn. i).

21 Lalman, David, “Conflict Resolution and Peace,” American Journal of Political Science 32 (August 1988CrossRefGoogle Scholar), forthcoming.

22 Blainey, , The Causes of War (New York:Free Press, 1973), 159CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

23 de Mesquita, Bueno, “The War Trap Revisited,” American Political Science Review 79 (March 1985), 157Google Scholar–76.; Bueno de Mesquita (fn. 16); de Mesquita, Bueno and Lalman, , “Reason and War,” American Political Science Review 80 (December 1986), 1113CrossRefGoogle Scholar–31; Lalman (fn. 21).

24 Small, Melvin and Singer, J. David, “Formal Alliances, 1816–1965: An Extension of the Basic Data,” Journal of Peace Research 6 (No. 3, 1969), 257CrossRefGoogle Scholar–82.

25 Bueno de Mesquita (fn. 23).

26 Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman (fn. 23).

27 Altfeld and Bueno de Mesquita (fn. 18). For a full description of the estimation of the probability of success, see Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman (fn. 23). aS Results from these linear transformations are reported in Bueno de Mesquita and Lal-man (fn. 23). Lalman (fn. 21) reports results from various curvilinear functions and finds that these functions do not perform in significantly different ways from linear models. These studies yield strong empirical support for our contention that such functions reliably estimate the probability of war and other forms of violence.

28 To check for possible problems with multicolinearity, we correlated P(War) with the other independent variables: Tightness, Balance, and Polarity. The respective correlations are.199,.114, and —.344.

29 Comparable analyses cannot be conducted using the data set organized by years because P(War) is a dyadic, not a systemic, attribute; it is therefore undefined for the system as a whole.

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