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State Development, Parity, and International Conflict


This article explains the empirical connection between dyadic capability differences and international conflict as a consequence of how, when, and where states enter the international system. State capabilities are largely static, and, since states enter the system in geographic clusters, the processes of state maturation affect contiguous and regionally proximate states similarly. This makes dyadic capability differences static as well. The lack of change in capability differences over time suggests that the parity-conflict relationship is largely a product of the factors associated with state system entry. Indeed, as I demonstrate, several different proxies for the conditions of state system entry separately eliminate any statistical relationship between parity and militarized dispute onset, 1816–2001. I also find no relationship between parity and the wars that have occurred during that same time period. These results have a number of implications for the role of power and capabilities in explaining international conflict.

Corresponding author
Doug Gibler is Professor of Political Science in the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL (
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Thanks to Mark Nieman and John Vasquez for comments on an earlier draft, and thanks to Andrew Enterline for answering several questions related to the CINC score measure. Special appreciation goes to Marc Hutchison who first pointed out to me that most wars are actually fought between unequal states and coalitions. Finally, the National Science Foundation (Awards No. 0923406 and No. 1260492) generously supported research that contributed greatly to this project.
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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