Monday’s Mtg: The Causes of Modern Wars

People have debated the causes of war for as long as they have been fighting them. Since Middle East madness is on the front news burner, I thought it might be useful for us to discuss some of the basic thinking on what causes political violence and warfare and whether they are waxing or waning, and whether those factors might be joined by new ones in the 21st century.

In modern times, most attention has been paid to the causes and dynamics of inter-state wars, wars between nations. I am not very familiar with this body of work. Much of it either is in in books or gated at academic sites or the major national security-oriented journals. But, it’s not hard to guess the basic culprits they identify, like nationalism, imperialism, religion, resource acquisition, etc. Other factors they debate are more subtle, especially those that have to do with the dynamics of international alliances, globalization’s effects, and aggressor states’ internal political struggles. As the links this week indicate, new factors could come into play, notably climate stress and reactions against globalization’s further disruptions, and more failed states.

I will open the meeting with…very little this week. You all know your history and I don’t know this field of scholarship. So, I guess I’ll just introduce the topic and highlight a few of the “new” factors that might be added to the classic causes of war we all can list. In discussion, we can either stay abstract or debate particular hot spots where we all expect trouble to brew in the coming decades.

It was very hard to find good links this week, due to the books and pay walls problem. Try the recommended ones or the harder, optional ones.


Next Week: Big Agriculture in the USA.


2 responses

  1. That link from Slate Mag on climate change as a natl security threat was lousy. Last week a major think tank issued a report on how climate warming will exacerbate global conflicts and Obama gave a big speech on the topic. See NYT account of last week’s Obama speech:

    or see this more nuanced view of the problem:

  2. As David said, the causes of war is a topic which goes back to the classical historians.
    My first observation would be that since 1945 or perhaps even 1919, war has been constant–there has not been a year without war somewhere, and peace, as it was known before 1914, has disappeared.
    I hope to be able to say more at the meeting.

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