Causes of War

Causes of War



What causes interstate war? What are the casual factors leading to the outbreak of these wars? There is a wide range of explanations and theories originating from both political scientists and historians, albeit adopting different approaches. These span across quantitative empirical research and political science theories, seeking to establish relationships between multiple causal factors to derive conclusions; to qualitative historical narratives which emphasise the uniqueness and specificity of every case study and the importance of empirical data. In An Introduction to the Causes of War: Patterns of Interstate Conflict from World War I to Iraq, Greg Cashman and Leonard C. Robinson have dispelled the notion that there is a single cause of war. According to them, wars seem to be driven by several causal factors interacting with one another (causal chains) that occur at different levels of the power structure even though there are unmistakable trends to the causes of war.1 While in The Causes of War, Michael Howard said the main cause of war is the result of rational and deliberate decisions, made by statesmen or leaders, where states will stand to gain more (pursuit of power); by waging war than if they were to remain at peace. Howard, however, does not dispute that there are also underlying conditions for interstate war.2 As such, I will examine the points of convergence and divergence, if any, in the causes of war between the writings of the two political scientists (Cashman and Robinson) and the historian (Howard), and also the methodologies employed by both disciplines.

In their literature, Cashman and Robinson, through empirical assessment, made three generalisations about the causes of war:

Three things are becoming increasingly clear as a result of empirical research: (1) interstate wars have multiple causes, (2) these causal factors interact with one another, and...

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