Jessica Anderson and Amanda Murdie
Empirical international relations (IR) theory developed three generalized statements regarding why human rights abuses occur. First, human rights abuses are a way for an unrestrained state, especially the executive branch and its agents, to try to control individuals and hold on to power. Second, respect for human rights is an international norm, and international socialization and pressure about this norm can, in certain situations, affect behavior. Third, the codification of human rights norms into international treaties may influence behavior but, similar to our understanding of the effect of other treaties on state behavior, states only bind themselves weakly, and certain conditions are necessary for treaties to affect human rights.
David E. Cunningham
Civil wars vary greatly in duration—some end within months; others last for decades. What explains this variation? Civil wars drag on when no combatant can win a military victory and the various actors involved are unable, or unwilling, to reach a compromise agreement that resolves the war. Military victory does happen in civil war, but it is rare, so understanding why civil wars last as long as they do requires examining the barriers to negotiated settlement.
Wars last longer when the parties involved perceive the war as less costly relative to peace and when the combatants are overly optimistic about how they will do in the war. Even when key decision-makers see the war as costly and are realistic about their chances of prevailing, negotiated settlements prove elusive if the parties cannot accept a division of the issues at stake or if the government or rebels are unable to trust the commitments the other side makes in a negotiation. Additionally, bargaining is more complicated when there are more combatants that must accept the terms of any agreement, and conflicts with more combatants last much longer than those with fewer.
Many factors affect the bargaining environment, and these barriers to bargaining can explain why civil wars are on average quite long. International actions can alleviate some of the barriers and help combatants reach comprehensive settlements, as happened in the conflicts in Mozambique, El Salvador, Guatemala. In particular, peacekeeping and mediation strategies are effective at resolving wars sooner. International action in general is more effective, however, when the parties involved are interested in peace but need some help overcoming commitment or informational problems. These actions are much less successful when that interest is lacking.
The current civil war in Syria has many of the factors identified as prolonging wars. It is an extremely fractionalized conflict, and many external actors are involved. Syria has a large majority population that has been historically excluded from political power and economically marginalized, and a minority government that has been dominant. These factors make reaching a comprehensive settlement very challenging and mean the war is likely to be very long-lasting.
Action readiness is considered a central property of emotions in most psychological theories. Emotions are the engine of behavior. They are the motivating, directing, prioritizing function of the brain, and impel to an immediate reaction to challenges and opportunities faced by the organism. Nevertheless, under sociopolitical malaise, emotions do not always lead to action.
People leave in societies characterized by particular emotional cultures, climates, and atmospheres that set the background to what emotions are felt under which circumstances. The impact of an emotion depends on how relevant, that is, emotionally significant is the event for the individual; on the implications of the event for the person’s well-being and immediate or long-term goals; on the individual’s capacity to cope with or adjust to the consequences of the event; and on the significance of the event with respect to individual and collective self-concept and to social norms and values.
Although emotions trigger action, events with high emotional intensity may mobilize defense mechanisms that distort facts, so that the event may appear distant or not concerning the individual personally. In such cases action is hindered because the meaning of the emotive event, although fully intellectually understood, does not have personal emotional reality. If the defense mechanisms prove inefficient or collapse, the event may be experienced as traumatic, that is, as a shocking occurrence that brings about a rupture in the continuity of existence, numbing of senses and mental faculties, and inability to think about what happened for periods that may last from days to years, although individuals and collectives may appear quite normal in carrying out everyday routines.
Interpretative “emotion work” in formal or informal contexts may change emotions from immobilizing to mobilizing, or from destructive to constructive, as the traumatic event is being “worked through” and a cohesive narrative about it develops. But even then, action and in our case, political action, depends on the individual’s available repertoire—political efficacy and resilience—built up from past recoveries and a sense of support from social networks, and hope in assessing the costs and benefits from the harms brought by acting and the harms brought by non-acting.
James H. Lebovic
Since the Cold War’s end, academics and policy analysts alike have described the international system as unipolar. The term’s use appears well grounded. The United States possesses exceptional relative capabilities by historical standards, with capabilities—including control of the skies—that were unimaginable under British, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese hegemony. The system seems unipolar then when assessed using a common method for discerning polarity: counting the number of unusually powerful countries in the system. But the numerical case for U.S. preeminence is far easier to make than a logical argument for judging the number of poles in the system. Logic actually suffers considerably when analysts base their thinking about unipolarity on the common assumptions that (a) the Cold War-era international system was bipolar, (b) the current system is unipolar, (c) polarity is discernable from aggregate capabilities, and (d) polarity is detectable in interstate behavior.
The explanation of the variations in war and peace patterns across different regions, and transitions between war and peace in the same region, is based on the introduction of the state-to-nation imbalance in a certain region—this imbalance is a key substantive underlying cause of regional war propensity. Variations in this cause account for some of the major differences in the level of war and peace among different regions. Different strategies of addressing this problem (based on global or regional/domestic factors) then produce different types and levels of regional peace. The relative influence of global versus regional/domestic factors on regional war and peace is notably addressed. The study distinguishes between “hot” and “cold” (i.e., more or less intense) types of regional war and peace, and argues that global factors (i.e., the involvement of external powers) may at most bring about the less intense cold phenomena (“cold” war and “cold” peace), whereas the more demanding hot outcomes that constitute the two extremes of the regional war-peace continuum (“hot” war and “warm” peace) depend on domestic/regional causes. The key domestic/regional factors are the level of state capacity and of national congruence (both internal and external) in the region. Each of the regional outcomes is related to the combination of independent variables affecting it. This should make it possible to examine the proposed integrated effects of the state-to-nation balance and the international system on regional war and peace.
Empirical research on civil war onset has been largely dominated by two approaches: a correlational or “correlates of civil war” approach which seeks to identify country-level characteristics associated with a higher likelihood of civil war outbreak, and a bargaining approach which starts from the assumption that warfare is costly and which views civil conflict as a by-product of bargaining failures. Correlational and bargaining studies of internal conflict onset have reached an analytical plateau because they fail to specify the precise mechanisms that yield civil warfare instead of a different type of violent or nonviolent outcome. An alternative, contentious framework is advanced for studying civil war onset. This framework situates the conflict event within a larger cycle of contention and specifies the mechanisms through which civil conflict is most likely to occur. According to this contentious perspective, civil wars are commonly produced by the combination of one structural condition—a state crisis of authority and/or legitimacy—and the interdependent effect of two mechanisms—radicalization and militarization. Through theory development and vignettes from a handful of civil war cases, the article makes the case that the contentious approach holds promise for elucidating how exactly civil conflicts break out. Despite holding initial explanatory power, the contentious theory of civil war onset advanced herein awaits more systematic empirical testing.
In modeling a global social contract, theoretical underpinnings are provided, drawing from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s The Social Contract and John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government. The thoughts of these two great philosophers regarding democracy have been insufficiently examined, reflecting the constraints of life in 17th- and 18th-century Geneva and England, respectively. It is on this basis that their ideas may be adapted to what may be called global democracy in the dawn of the new millennium. The key drivers of their concepts of democracy were empathy and compassion (for Rousseau) and human reason and pragmatism (for Locke). Given the technological, economic, political, social, and cultural environments at the dawn of the new millennium, captured by accelerated globalization and digitalization, transnational direct democratic and transnational representative democratic models of a global social contract are feasible and justified (see Inoguchi & Lien, 2016). To illustrate this dramatic change, a contrast is made between the years 1912 and 2016–1912 when Normal Angel forecast the advent of peaceful years ahead and 2016, at the time of this writing.
Paul R. Hensel
Territorial issues have been prominent causes of armed conflict and war in the modern era. This observation has led to a rapidly growing body of academic literature on the sources, management, and consequences of such issues. Although territory has gotten most of the scholarly attention, this literature has its roots in research on contentious issues that began in the 1960s. Academic research on contentious issues began with studies on issue areas in foreign policy analysis, focusing on such questions as how the foreign policy process differs from more traditional domestic policy processes. This line of research struggled to find mainstream acceptance until scholars began adopting a more substantive conception of issues, focusing on the nature of the values at stake. General patterns of foreign policy conflict and cooperation have been found to differ substantially across different issues. Importantly, territorial issues are the most frequent and most dangerous issues in armed conflict and war, leading scholars to focus much of their issue-related research on the dynamics of territorial contention.
Research on territory has stemmed from the main elements of issues theory that were developed earlier: issue salience, or the importance of the issue under contention; issue context, or recent interactions over the same issue; and institutional context, or the extent to which other actors and institutions are able to influence contention over this type of issue. Armed conflict is much more likely when the issue at stake is more salient, particularly when this salience involves intangible dimensions such as the presence of a state’s ethnic kin in the claimed territory. Greater issue salience also increases the likelihood of peaceful negotiations and nonbinding conflict management techniques like mediation. A recent history of armed conflict or failed negotiations over an issue increases the likelihood of armed conflict, bilateral negotiations, and nonbinding management. The normative and institutional context also appears to affect the likelihood of conflict and peaceful management over issues, although more remains to be done in this area.
The issues literature is beginning to make important strides beyond this initial work on territorial claim management. Scholars are beginning to geocode data on international borders, raising important potential benefits for the study of territory and perhaps other issues. International legal arguments appear to affect the management of territorial claims in systematic ways, and ending territorial claims seems to produce substantial improvements in relations between the former adversaries. The same general patterns seem to hold for river and maritime issues, as well as territorial issues, and these other issue types have more promising institutional contexts. Future research could benefit from considering additional issue types (including a recent effort to collect data on identity claims), as well as studying domestic and interstate issues.
Civil wars in the contemporary world are deeply interpenetrated by international influences. There are six different conceptions of the international system and their effects on civil conflicts: (1) the realist conception and the superpower interventions of the Cold War period, (2) the liberal institutional conception and the diplomatic mediation of the United Nations, (3) global cultural influences such as world religions, democratization and education, (4) the global economy and structural poverty, (5) transnational bilateral relations with neighboring states, and (6) the planetary ecosystem and the effects of climate change. Taken together, these international influences have a weighty effect on the conduct and duration of contemporary civil wars.
Stuart J. Kaufman
The symbolic politics theory of ethnic war starts from the insight that most political behavior is not rational but intuitive, driven by “symbolic predispositions” such as ideological beliefs, normative values, and prejudice. The way leaders lead is by using rhetoric not to appeal rationally to followers’ interests but to appeal emotionally to their symbolic predispositions.
According to symbolic politics theory, the path to ethnic conflict begins with group narratives that are hostile to another group. These narratives help to generate hostile and prejudiced symbolic predispositions. If group members perceive a social threat, such as to their group identity or status, they become more likely to join mass movements agitating for a politics of redistribution—discriminating in favor of their own group at the expense of rival groups. If people feel physically threatened, they become more likely to support a politics of protection leading to violent ethnic conflict. These popular attitudes and moods are turned into social movements or military mobilization if aggressive leaders emerge, framing political issues in terms of these threats, and if those leaders are both credible and supported by effective organizations. A series of case studies has demonstrated that this process—from narratives to prejudice and threat perceptions, harnessed by leadership and organization—is what occurred in ten ethnic civil wars, including the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Israel-Palestine, and the Philippines. The theory also explains less violent cases such as Gandhi’s nationalist movement in India.
This theory is hypothesized to apply to international war, as the politics of national identity is similar to the politics of ethnic identity. The theory also suggests a way of reconciling realist, liberal, and constructivist accounts of international relations through political psychology and a scientific realist ontology.