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Assessing the Steps to War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2005

PAUL D. SENESE
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, State University of New York, Buffalo
JOHN A. VASQUEZ
Affiliation:
Department of Political Science, Colgate University

Abstract

This analysis outlines and tests the steps-to-war explanation of international conflict. At the core of this explanation is the expectation that territorial disputes are a key source of war and that as states that have these disputes make politically relevant alliances, have recurring disputes and build up their military forces against each other, they will experience ever-increasing probabilities of war. The absence of these risk factors is expected to lessen the chances of severe conflict. Utilizing the Militarized Interstate Dispute data of the Correlates of War project, the data analyses provide full support for the steps-to-war explanation during the 1816–1945 era and partial support for the Cold War nuclear 1946–92 span. Among the findings for this latter period is the presence of a curvilinear relationship between the number of prior disputes and the probability of war – after a large number of disputes, states begin to ritualize their behaviour at levels short of war.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2005 Cambridge University Press

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