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The Causes of War

Karen Ruth Adams

Subject International Studies » International Security Studies

Key-Topics civil war, data sets, neorealism, sovereignty, war

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444336597.2010.x


Comment on this article   Armed conflict is a recurrent and destructive feature of international politics. Because citizens are eager to avoid it and policy makers are keen to anticipate it, war has long been studied by philosophers. Today, war is a central concern of contemporary international relations scholars. To understand the causes of war, scholars must first define war, then establish a universe of actors or conflicts in which both war and peace are possible. Next, they must collect data on the incidence of war in the entire universe of cases over a particular period of time, a random sample of relevant cases, a number of representative cases, or a set of cases relevant to independent variables in the theories they are testing. Finally, scholars must use this data to construct quantitative and qualitative tests of hypotheses about why actors fight instead of resolving their differences in other ways and, in particular, why actors initiate wars by launching the first attack. Despite decades of work to improve the scientific study of war, much remains to be done. In particular, researchers face problems of selection bias in establishing the universe of cases from which they draw, matching the definition of war in the data they use to the definition in the hypotheses they are testing, and subjecting systemic theories such as structural realism to systemic tests. Thus contemporary ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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