Logics of War
Explanations for Limited and Unlimited ConflictseBook - 2013
Most wars between countries end quickly and at relatively low cost. The few in which high-intensity fighting continues for years bring about a disproportionate amount of death and suffering. What separates these few unusually long and intense wars from the many conflicts that are far less destructive? In Logics of War, Alex Weisiger tests three explanations for a nation's decision to go to war and continue fighting regardless of the costs. He combines sharp statistical analysis of interstate wars over the past two centuries with nine narrative case studies. He examines both well-known conflicts like World War II and the Persian Gulf War, as well as unfamiliar ones such as the 1864–1870 Paraguayan War (or the War of the Triple Alliance), which proportionally caused more deaths than any other war in modern history.
When leaders go to war expecting easy victory, events usually correct their misperceptions quickly and with fairly low casualties, thereby setting the stage for a negotiated agreement. A second explanation involves motives born of domestic politics; as war becomes more intense, however, leaders are increasingly constrained in their ability to continue the fighting. Particularly destructive wars instead arise from mistrust of an opponent's intentions. Countries that launch preventive wars to forestall expected decline tend to have particularly ambitious war aims that they hold to even when fighting goes poorly. Moreover, in some cases, their opponents interpret the preventive attack as evidence of a dispositional commitment to aggression, resulting in the rejection of any form of negotiation and a demand for unconditional surrender. Weisiger’s treatment of a topic of central concern to scholars of major wars will also be read with great interest by military historians, political psychologists, and sociologists.
Alex Weisiger tests three explanations for a nation's decision to go to war and continue fighting regardless of the costs. He combines sharp statistical analysis of interstate wars over the past two centuries with nine narrative case studies.
Weisiger (political science, U. of Pennsylvania) presents a study aimed at war scholars, military historians, political psychologists, and sociologists that examines the differences between destructive wars and those that are limited in duration or intensity. He argues that the different causes of war explain their variation in duration and severity, drawing on the bargaining model of war to examine three casual mechanisms that bring about violent conflict: divergent expectations and mutual overoptimism, principal-agent problems in domestic policies, and commitment problems that generate an inability to trust one's opponent to live up to a political agreement. He summarizes the bargaining model of war and his theory; presents quantitative analysis of international relations data on duration, battle deaths, and total spending, as well as the speed of settlement or conquest, the choice of military strategy, and the nature of war termination; and provides case studies of the Paraguayan War, World War II, the Crimean War, the Pacific War in World War II, the Iran-Iraq War, the Persian Gulf War, the 1856-1857 Anglo-Persian War, the 1982 Falklands conflict, and the Franco-Turkish War. Annotation ©2013 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)