Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict / Edition 1

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Overview

What causes war? How can military conflicts best be prevented? In this book, Stephen Van Evera frames five conditions that increase the risk of interstate war: false optimism about the likely outcome of a war, a first-strike advantage, fluctuation in the relative power of states, circumstances that allow nations to parlay one conquest into another, and circumstances that make conquest easy.

According to Van Evera, all but one of these conditions—false optimism—rarely occur today, but policymakers often erroneously believe in their existence. He argues that these misperceptions are responsible for many modern wars, and explores both World Wars, the Korean War, and the 1967 Mideast War as test cases. Finally, he assesses the possibility of nuclear war by applying all five hypotheses to its potential onset. Van Evera's book demonstrates that ideas from the Realist paradigm can offer strong explanations for international conflict and valuable prescriptions for its control.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Van Evera's book is a masterful work of positivist social science . . . He offers convincing evidence to show that offense-defense theory is a major explanation for the onset of modern wars."—Choice

"An important book on the roots of war, remarkable in its theoretical rigor and historical sweep. Van Evera demolishes the view that war is an inevitable outgrowth of an anarchic world that encourages belligerence."—Foreign Affairs

"Van Evera's volume is sure to become a core work in the field of war studies. It deserves to be read by anyone with a serious interest in the causes of war."—Journal of Strategic Studies

"This is a very logical and historically well-informed book, which argues that the realist explanations of war may be missing one of the most important aspects of power: whether the offense is thought to be favored instead of the defense."—Political Science Quarterly

"Stephen Van Evera's eagerly anticipated book is rich in theory and thoroughly anchored in history. It is indispensable reading for anyone interested in understanding the wars of the past and preventing those of the future."—Jack S. Levy, Rutgers University

"Stephen Van Evera tackles the central question in international relations—why war occurs between major powers—and presents theoretical arguments that shed important light on this age-old subject. Causes of War effectively supports its findings with a wide reading of history. This unusually ambitious book promises to be the point of departure for all future work on the topic."—Charles L. Glaser, University of Chicago

"I strongly recommend Causes of War for course use. As the main textbook in my advanced undergraduate course on peace and war, the book raised the level of student writing and class discussion significantly. Stephen Van Evera's clear and thorough discussion about research methods made it easy for students to understand challenging issues. This book is a cutting-edge work of theory and a fine text for classroom use."—William Rose, Connecticut College

"Causes of War is a beautifully written and brilliant work that will cast a giant shadow over the study of war for years to come. Not every student of international politics will agree with Van Evera's theories, but each of us will have to confront them."—John J. Mearsheimer, University of Chicago

Wisconsin Bookwatch
Causes of War is highly recommended for policital and military policy makers, and is accessible and informative for the non-specialist general reader as well.
Foreign Affairs
An important book on the roots of war, remarkable in its theoretical rigor and historical sweep. Van Evera demolishes the view that war is an inevitable outgrowth of an anarchic world that encourages belligerence.
R.A. Garnett
Van Evera's book is a masterful work of positivist social science . . . [He] offers convincing evidence to show that offense-defense theory is a major explanation for the onset of modern wars.
Choice
George H. Quester
This is a very logical and historically well-informed book, which argues that the realist explanations of war may be missing one of the most important aspects of power: whether the offense is thought to be favored instead of the defense.
Political Science Quarterly
David Rodman
Van Evera's volume is sure to become a core work in the field of war studies. It deserves to be read by anyone with a serious interest in the causes of war.
Journal of Strategic Studies
Ali Ahmed
...Van Evera turns his analytical skills onto dissecting the causes of war with compelling diligence. As befits the subject, he ably marshals his admirable scholarship to also expound on the preventive measure. The book therefore has both academic value as also policy relevance...[A] 'must read', if only for the insights it offers on the measures to avoid the scourge of war.
U.S.I. Journal
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801482953
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2001
  • Series: Cornell Studies in Security Affairs Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,101,933
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Van Evera is Ford International Professor in the Political Science Department at MIT.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Questions Addressed, Why They Arise
Arguments Advanced, Answers Offered
Implications for Realism
Methods
Plan of the Book

2. False Optimism: Illusions of the Coming War
False Hope and War
Illusions of Victory
Illusions of Cheap War
To Prevent War, Promote Transparency

3. Jumping the Gun: First-Move Advantages and Crisis Instability
First-Strike, First-Mobilization, and First-Move Advantages
Hypotheses on the Effects of First-Move Advantages
Tests of Stability Theory
Causes of and Cures for First-Move Advantage

4. Power Shifts: Windows of Opportunity and Vulnerability
Types of Windows
Hypotheses on the Effects of Windows
Tests of Window Theory
Causes and Cures of Windows

5. Cumulative Resources
What Is Cumulativity?
Cumulativity and Conflict
Types of Cumulativity
Beliefs about Cumulativity and Their Implications
The Future of Cumulativity

6. Offense, Defense, and the Security Dilemma
Hypotheses on the Effects of Offense Dominance
Qualifications: When Offensive Doctrines and Capabilities Cause Peace
Causes of Offense and Defense Dominance
Predictions and Tests of Offense-Defense Theory
How Much History Can Offense-Defense Theory Explain?
Offense-Defense Theory in Perspective

7. Offense-Defense Theory and the Outbreak of World War I
The Rise of the Cult of the Offensive, 1890–1914
Predictions of Offense-Defense Theory about Europe, 1890–1914
Evidence on Offense-Defense Theory, 1890–1914
Offense-Defense Theory and the Test of 1914
Explaining World War I

8. The Nuclear Revolution and the Causes of War
MAD among Deterrable States
MAD among Nondeterrable States; MAD among Many States
Alternatives to MAD: MARNE, BAD, WORSE, and USA
The Janus-Faced Revolution

Conclusion

Appendix: Hypotheses on Power and the Causes of War

Index

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