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Theories of General War

  • Jack S. Levy (a1)

The phenomenon of general or hegemonic war has long been viewed as a distinctive kind of conflict, and one that has played a unique Robert Gilpin states: role in world history.

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1 The concept of general war has also been referred to as “global war,” “world war,” “extensive war,” “systemic war,” and “hyper war.” In spite of some differences, these concepts refer to the same basic phenomenon and will be used interchangeably here. My own preference is for the term “general war” because it carries the least amount of conceptual baggage and best serves as the lowest common denominator.

2 Gilpin, , War and Change in World Politics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1981), 203.

3 Modelski, George, “The Long Cycle of Global Politics and the Nation-State,” Comparative an Studies in Society and History 20 (April 1978), 214–35, Modelski, , “Global Wars and World Leadership Selection,” paper presented at the second World Peace Science Congress, Rotterdam, June 410, 1984; Thompson, William R., “Uneven Economic Growth, Systemic Challenges, and Global Wars,” International Studies Quarterly 27 (September 1983), 341–55; Wallerstein, Immanuel, “The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System: Concepts for Comparative Analysis,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 16 (Septembe 1974), 387–45, and Wallerstein, , The Modern World System: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York: Academic Press 1974); Chase-Dunn, Christopher, “Interstate System and Capitalist World-Economy: One Logic or Two?” International Studies Quarterly 25 (March 1981), 1942; Organski, A.F.K., World Politics, 2d ed. (New York: Knopf, 1968), chap. 14; Organski, and Kugler, Jacek, The War Ledger (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980), chap. 1; Gilpin (fn. 2); Doran, Charles F., “Power Cycle Theory and the Contemporary State System,” in Thompson, William R., ed., Contending Approaches to World System Analysis (Beverly Hills: Sage, 1983) chap. 7; Vayrynen, Raimo, “Economic Cycles, Power Transitions, Political Management and Wars beween Major Powers,” International Studies Quarterly 27 (December 1983), 389418; Midlarsky, Manus I., “A Hierarchical Equilibrium Theory of Systemic War,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, GA, March 2731, 1984.

4 Toynbee, Arnold J., A Study of History, IX (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), 234–60, 322–23. Although Toynbee's theory is not as well developed as several others that will be surveyed below, it has not received the attention it deserves in the literature on general war and systemic transformation.

5 Another interpretation of the modern European state system implicitly based on a balance of power framework can be found in Dehio, Ludwig, The Precarious Balance (New York: Vintage Books, 1962). Dehio posits no regular cycle or subcyclical phases, however. He identifies six instances in which an expansionist power threatened to achieve a position of hegemony on the European continent. These bids for hegemony were made by the Hapsburgs under Charles V; Spain under Philip II; France under Louis XIV, and again under Napoleon; and Germany under the Kaiser and under Hitler. Each precipitated a major war involving nearly all the great powers in an attempt to maintain the European balance of power; hegemony was avoided only because of the intervention of an insular state (the Ottoman Empire, Britain, and the United States, successively).

6 Toynbee (fn. 4, 260–87)' so applies his theory of general war to the post-Alexandrine Hellenic and post-Confucian Sinic international systems.

7 Toynbee (ibid., 255) classifies World War II as a “supplemental war,” but in a footnote refers to it as a “recrudescent general war.”

8 Modelski (fn. 3, 1978); Thompson (fn. 3, “Uneven Economic Growth…” and Contending Approaches …).

09 Modelski uses the term leadership rather than hegemony or dominance. See his “Long Cycles of World Leadership,” in Thompson (fn. 3, Contending Approaches …), chap. 5. The use of the concept of hegemony by others is often so broad, however, that it is no more demanding than Modelski's criterion for leadership—the possession of a monopoly of naval power and world trade.

10 Rasler, Karen A. and Thompson, William R., “Global Wars, Public Debts, and the Long Cycle,” World Politics 35 (July 1983), 489516. The cycles of world leadership are not necessarily of equal length, as emphasized by Thompson in “Cycles of General, Hegemonic, and Global War” (paper presented at the conference on Dynamic Models of International Conflict, Boulder, CO, October 31 - November 3, 1984).

11 Modelski (fn. 3, 1978), 217; Thompson (fn. 3, “Uneven Economic Growth …”), 353. Modelski (fn. 3,1984,4–6) has recently expanded this definition to include criteria of duration, scope, and cause, as well as consequences: global wars are long (25–30 years), global in scope, and the result of a structural crisis in the system; they produce a new leadership structure for the global system.

12 Thompson (fn. 3, “Uneven Economic Growth ””), 349.

13 Rasler and Thompson (fn. 10).

14 Thompson, William R., “Succession Crises in the Global Political System: A Test of the Transition Model,” in Bergesen, Albert L., ed., Crises in the World System (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1983), 93116.

15 Modelski (fn. 3, 1978, 1984); Thompson (fn. 3, “Uneven Economic Growth …”), 347. Thompson recognizes Portugal as a world power, but begins the first long cycle in 1517, after the formative global conflict.

16 Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Politics of the World-Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), chap. 4, and Wallerstein, , Historical Capitalism (London: Verso, 1983). World war is given more attention in these recent analyses than in Wallerstein's earlier work (fn. 3) on the world system—probably in part as a response to Modelski's emphasis on global war.

17 Wallerstein (fn. 16, 1984), 41.

18 Wallerstein (fn. 16, 1983), 58–59.

19 Wallerstein (fn. 16, 1984), 41; (fn. 16, 1983), 59.

20 Ibid.; Wallerstein (fn. 16, 1984), 38–40.

Hegemony is a concept that is widely used, but it is rarely defined with any degree of precision. Bousquet uses a comparable definition, but explicitly adds that the hegemonic power must occupy a position of political leadership in addition to being supreme in production, commerce, and finance. See Nicole Bousquet, “From Hegemony to Competition: Cycles of the Core?” in Hopkins, Terence K. and Wallerstein, Immanuel, eds., Processes of the World System (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1980), 49.

The definition of hegemony proposed by Keohane is similar. In his discussion of the theory of hegemonic stability, Keohane defines hegemony as “preponderance of material resources.” “Hegemonic powers must have control over raw materials, control over sources of capital, control over markets, and competitive advantages in the production of highly valued goods.” See Keohane, Robert O., After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 32. Keohane qualifies this definition in several ways. He argues that hegemony requires the motivation as well as the material strength to project power, and that the internal characteristics of a state have an important effect on motivation (pp. 34–45). He then refers to the earlier and more general definition by Keohane and Nye: a hegemonial system is one in which “one state is powerful enough to maintain the essential rules governing interstate relations, and willing to do so.” See Keohane, Robert O. and Nye, Joseph S., Power and Interdependence (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977), 44. In After Hegemony, Keohane adds a greater security component to this definition of “hegemony in the world political economy” by insisting that “[a] hegemonic state must possess enough military power to be able to protect the international political economy that it dominates from incursions by hostile states,” though the hegemonic power “need not be militarily dominant world wide.”

A more explicitly security-oriented definition is offered by Aron: hegemony is a situation in which other states are deprived of their autonomy or their capacity to make their own decisions freely. See Aron, Raymond, Peace and War, trans. Richard Howard and Annette Baker Fox, abr. Remy Ingles Hall (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973), 62. See also the different meanings of hegemony suggested by Wagner, R. Harrison, “Basic Concepts in the Study of International Relations,” mimeo (University of Texas at Austin), 1984.

21 Wallerstein (fn. 16, 1983, 58–59; fn. 16, 1984, 39–43). Bergesen defines hegemony as “the dominance of a single state in world production and political/military strength.” Consequently, he argues that the Dutch dominance in 17th-century world production was not sufficient for hegemony, leaving the dominance of 19th-century Britain and 20th-century United States as the only two periods of true hegemony. See Bergesen, Albert, “Cycles of War in the Reproduction of the World-Economy,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, GA, March 2731, 1984, p. 10.

22 Wallerstein (fn. 16, 1983), 59. In his analysis of the brief Dutch hegemony in the 17th century, Wallerstein suggests that Dutch hegemony was limited relative to the later British and American hegemonies “because it was least of all the military giant of its era.” See Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Modern World System II: Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World Economy, 1600–1750 (New York: Academic Press, 1980), 38.

23 Chase-Dunn (fn. 3), 23.

24 Ibid., 36, 39–40; Chase-Dunn, , “Comparative Research on World-System Characteristics,” International Studies Quarterly 23 (December 1979), 608–9.

25 Chase-Dunn, Christopher and Sokolovsky, Joan, “Interstate Systems, World Empires, and the Capitalist World Economy: A Response to Thompson,” International Studies Quarterly 27 (September 1983), 364–66. No list of these wars is provided, but it would be considerably longer than Wallerstein's and probably more comparable to an expanded list of European great power wars.

26 Gilpin (fn. 2), 199–200. Gilpin's definition builds upon an earlier one: Raymond Aron, speaking of World War I, describes a “war of hegemony” as one that “is characterized less by its immediate causes or its explicit purposes than by its extent and the stakes involved. It affected all the political units inside one system. …” Hegemony is, “if not the conscious motive, at any rate the inevitable consequence of the victory of at least one of the states or groups.” Aron does not systematically identify history's hegemonic wars, but does fit World War I and the Peloponnesian War into this category. World War II, however, “was not essentially a war of hegemony.” See Aron, , “War and Industrial Society,” in Branson, Leon and Goethals, George W., eds., War (New York: Basic Books, 1968), 369.

27 Gilpin (fn. 2), 80.

28 Ibid., 200.

29 Doran, Charles F. and Parsons, Wes, “War and the Cycle of Relative Power,” American Political Science Review 74 (December 1980), 947–65; Doran (fn. 3); Doran, , “War and Power Dynamics: Economic Underpinnings,” International Studies Quarterly 27 (December 1983),419–20.

30 Doran (fn. 3), 168, 178–79. Magnitude is defined by the number of belligerent states weighted by their status. The requirement that an extensive war have all of these characteristics, rather than just any of them, is an improvement over the earlier definition by Doran and Parsons (fn. 29), 958. It is not clear whether the Hapsburg bid for hegemony refers to the wars of Charles V, those of Philip II, or the Thirty Years' War. From Doran's earlier work, it appears that only the latter two qualify, but even that is somewhat ambiguous. See Doran, , The Politics of Assimilation (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1971), 6566.

31 Other attempts to identify general or hegemonic wars during the five-century span of the modern system have been made by Mowat, R. B., A History of European Diplomacy (London: Edward Arnold, 1928); Wright, Quincy, A Study of War, 26 ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965); and Farrar, L. L. Jr., “Cycles of War: Historical Speculations on Future International Violence,” International Interactions (No. 1, 1977), 161–79. These have not been discussed because none of them develops a theory of hegemonic war comparable to the others surveyed above, but their lists of hegemonic wars are relevant to our later comparisons and should be mentioned briefly.

Mowat speaks of “war on the grand scale” occurring in “great waves,” with thirty- to forty-year periods of relative peace between the waves (p. 1). After the end of the Hundred Years' War between France and England in 1451, Mowat identifies the following wars on the “grand scale”: the Italian Wars (1494–1559), the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), the wars of Louis XIV (1672–1713), the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War (1740–63), the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792–1814), and World War I. In this 1928 study, Mowat's treatment of the Crimean and Franco-Prussian Wars is somewhat ambiguous, but he does not appear to identify them as grand-scale wars.

Wright appears to define “general wars” as “all wars with a great power on each side which lasted as long as two years.” With few exceptions, these wars have usually involved all of the great powers of the time (p. 649). Wright's definition is too broad to constitute a distinctive set of general wars, and includes such cases as the Franco-Spanish War of 164859 (distinct from the Thirty Years' War) and the War of the American Revolution. Else where, however, Wright identifies oscillating “concentrations” of wars, which are comparable to others' conceptions of hegemonic war: the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), the War of the Spanish Succession and the associated wars of Louis XIV, the Seven Years' War (1756–63), the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War and the Wars of Italian and German nationalism of the Iate–i9th century, and the two World Wars of this century (p. 227). Wright also suggests an even more restricted set of “great wars” which, along with the peace treaties that terminated them, have “dominated” the last five centuries of European politics (pp. 360–64): the Thirty Years' War, the wars of Louis XIV (1688–1714), the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1789–1815), and World Wars I and II (1914–45). Thus, Wright recognizes the importance of a small set of distinctive wars having profound consequences for the system; but he neither defines them clearly nor produces an unambiguous list of such wars.

Farrar distinguishes hegemonic war from “probing war” and “adjusting war” he defines hegemonic war as a war that involves “a high level of violence and seriously threatens or in fact alters the system fundamentally, usually as a result of one power's attempt to dominate the system” (p. 163). Farrar identifies repeated cycles of war since 1494, and argues that war is functionally necessary for the system to accommodate changes in power among its members. Although Farrar's precise identification of these historical periods needs further justification, and though the causal mechanism driving the cycles needs further theoretical development, his list of periods of hegemonic war (pp. 168–69)comparable to those surveyed earlier: 1568–1588, 1688–1714, 1789–1815, 1914–1945. The inclusion of the first two decades of the War of Dutch Independence but not the subsequent two decades involving the internationalization of the conflict is somewhat puzzling, however. For further discussion of these conceptualizations, see Thompson's piece (fn. 10, 1984), which convinced me of the need to include discussions of Wright and Farrar in this study.

32 Organski (fn. 3), chap. 14. Note that the power transition hypothesis used by Organski and others fits nicely into Galtung's more general rank-disequilibrium theory. The power transition idea is reflected by Thucydides' argument that the causes of the Peloponnesian War can be traced to Sparta's fear of the rising power of Athens. Howard also shares this view of the causes of war. See Galtung, Johan, “A Structural Theory of Aggression,” Journal of Peace Research 1 (1964), 95119;Thucydides, , The Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner (New York: Penguin, 1954); Howard, Michael, The Causes of Wars (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), chap. 1.

33 Organski and Kugler (fn. 3), 45–46. Their operational criteria require major powers on each side of the conflict, an “all-out effort to win” by each (requiring the expected loss of territory or population by the loser), and a higher level of battle deaths than in any previous war. Not all of their wars necessarily affect the very structure and operation of the system (e.g., the Russo-Japanese War); in any case, their battle-death criterion is violated twice in these five cases. On the theoretical level, Organski and Kugler never make it clear exactly how these major wars affect the structure and operation of the system, since they argue that these wars have no long-term effects on the distribution of power (chap. 3). For a critique of their analysis and a different conclusion, see T. Morgan, Clifton, “The Effects of War on the Economic Productivity of Nations in the Twentieth Century,” paper presented 1 at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Cincinnati, Ohio, March 2427, 1982.

34 See Thompson (fn. 14), for his test of the power transition thesis.

35 Väyrynen (fn. 3); Väyrynen, , “Economic Fluctuations, Technological Innovations and the Arms Race in a Historical Perspective,” Cooperation and Conflict 18 (No. 3, 1983), 135–59

36 Väyrynen (fn. 3), 396–410.

37 Ibid., 410–11.

38 Kondratieff, N. D., “The Long Waves of Economic Life,” Review of Economic Statistics 17 (November 1935), 105–15.

39 The other conceptualizations surveyed are either not fully developed, or, by defining the concept of general war too broadly, essentially deny the existence of a distinct class of general wars. In either case, I will not discuss them further.

40 Long cycle theorists recognize the importance of uneven development, but are open to the possibility of other factors also driving the system. See W. R. Thompson, “Cycles, Capabilities, and War: An Ecumenical View,” in Thompson (fn. 3, Contending Approaches…), 143.

41 See Table 2, at the end of this article, for a comparison of the various lists of general wars.

42 Empirical work on global war within each framework has been done by Thompson (fns. 14 and 40), Véyrynen (fn. 3), Doran and Parsons (fn. 29), and Doran, , “Power Cycle Theory and Systems Stability,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, GA, March 2731, 1984.

43 The Thirty Years' War marked the end of Spain's century-long role as the leading European power, and the succession of France. It also ended Spanish dominance in Italy and initiated the decline of Spain's global empire. The war may have begun as a religious struggle, but nearly all “realists” would agree that, by 1635 at the latest, it was primarily a struggle for the European balance of power. See, for example, Steinberg, S. H., The Thirty Years' War and the Conflict for European Hegemony, 1600–1660 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966); Droysen, Gustav, “The Statesman of ‘Realpolitik,’” in Rabb, Theodore K., ed., 2d ed., The Thirty Years' War (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath, 1972), 8992; Doran (fn. 30, 1971), chap. 6; Wolf, John B., Toward a European Balance of Power, /620–/7/5 (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1968).

Perhaps an explanation (but hardly a justification) for the omission of World War II is that it does not fit conveniently into Toynbee's cyclical pattern.

43 Wallerstein (fn. 16, 1984), 41. Fatalities for these three wars numbered about 2,400,000— more than those for the Thirty Years' War and roughly equal to those for the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars combined. For data, see Levy, Jack S., War in the Modem Great Power System, 1495–1975 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983), chap. 4.

45 For analyses of the wars of Louis XIV, see Wolf (fn. 43); Wolf, , Louis XIV (New York: W. W. Norton, 1968), chaps. 15–18 and 26–33; Hill, David Jayne, A History of Diplomacy in the International Development of Europe, III: The Diplomacy of the Age of Absolutism (London: Longmans, Green, 1914), chaps. I–IV; Kamer, Henry, The War of Succession in Spain, 1715–1715 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969).

46 Modelski's recent criteria of duration and scope are measurable, but those of cause and consequence are not yet operational (fn. 3, 1984).

47 Later I will argue that our focus should be on the potential consequences of the war for the system rather than on its actual consequences.

For analyses of the War of Jenkins' Ear/Austrian Succession and the Seven Years' War, see Hill (fn. 45), chaps. 6–7; Dorn, Walter L., Competition for Empire, 1740–1763 (New York: Harper & Row, 1940), chaps. 4, 6–8; Anderson, M. S., Europe in the Eighteenth Century, 1713–1783, 2d ed. (London: Longman, 1961), chaps. 10–13; Butterfield, H., The Reconstruction of an Historical Episode: The History of the Enquiry into the Origins of the Seven Years' War (Glasgow: Jackson, Son, & Co., 1951); Higonnet, Patrice Louis-Rene, “The Origins of the Seven Years' War,” Journal of Modern History 40 (March 1968), 5790; Gipson, Lawrence Henry, The British Empire Before the American Revolution, IV–VIII (New York: Knopf, 1946–1952).

48 It is revealing that the Dutch War was the only one of Louis's three major wars in which England was allied with France against Dutch naval and maritime power. In the two subsequent wars, France was such a military threat that she triggered an opposing coalition of nearly all the European great powers and secured no major allies of her own.

48 For the Italian Wars and the wars of Charles V, see Mattingly, Garrett, Renaissance Diplomacy (Baltimore: Penguin, 1964), chaps. 12–19; Hill (fn. 45), II, chaps. 3–6; Spooner, F. C., “The Hapsburg-Valois Struggle,” in The New Cambridge Modem History, II, The Reformation, 1520–59 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958), chap. 11. For the Thirty Years' War, see fn. 43.

50 Doran's exclusion of these two mid-18th-century wars is also puzzling. The combined 1400,000 fatalities, 17 years of fighting over 24 years, and 82 nation-years of war by the great powers (Levy, fn. 44, p. 90) would appear to satisfy the requirement of high casualties, long duration, and great magnitude. See Doran (fn. 3), 168, 179.

51 Doran (fn. 3) and Organski and Kugler (fn. 3) have attempted to construct operational definitions. But in neither case does it appear that the resulting list of major wars is fully consistent with those criteria. Modelski's recent criteria (fn. 3, 1984) are only partly operational (see fn. 46).

52 Gilpin (fn. 2, p. 205), for example, rejects the idea of cycles of war and peace; he argues that no one has suggested a satisfactory theoretical explanation that could predict such cycles. See the discussion in Thompson (fn. 10).

53 Osgood refers to “general war involving several major powers.” Blainey first defines a general war as one in which “at least five powers, of which three are major powers, participate.” He then offers a more rigorous definition referring to “a war involving eight states, of which at least four were major states.” Mandelbaum is more demanding and requires that a general war involve “all the major states.” None of these analysts identify historical cases of general war. See Osgood, Robert E., “The Expansion of Force,” in Osgood, and Tucker, Robert W., eds., Force, Order, and Justice (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1967), 52;Blainey, Geoffrey, The Causes of War (New York: Free Press, 1973), 196; Mandelbaum, Michael, The Nuclear Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 71. See also Wright's definition (fn. 31).

54 The data are from Levy (fn. 44), 88–91. See also fn. 78.

55 The Korean War did contribute to the militarization and globalization of American containment policy and the reversal of an increasing American recognition of the distinctiveness of Chinese communism from that of the Soviet Union. See Nathan, James A. and Oliver, James K., United States Foreign Policy and World Order (Boston: Little, Brown, 1976), chap. 5. The Korean War was indeed critical for the evolution of American foreign policy, but it was not comparable in its systemic consequences to the defeat of Spain in the early and mid-i7th century or the defeat of France in the early and mid-i8th century. The leadership role of the U.S. was not overturned as a result of the Korean War, or even as a result of America's later failure in Vietnam.

56 On the theoretical concepts, see Jervis, Robert, “Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma,” World Politics 30 (January 1978), 167214; Jervis, , Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton University Press, 1976), chap. 3; Smoke, Richard, War: Controlling Escalation (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977).

One historical example might be World War I, for a standard interpretation is that none of the participants in World War I deliberately sought European or world hegemony, or intended a major war. See Fay, Sidney B., The Origins of the World War, 2 vols., 2d ed., rev. (New York: Free Press, 1966); Ritter, Gerhard, The Sword and the Scepter, trans. Heinz Norden (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1970), vols. II and III; Tuchman, Barbara, The Guns of August (New York: Dell, 1962). This is a controversial case, however, particularly in view of Fischer's argument that Germany sought world domination from the beginning. See Fischer, Fritz, German Aims in the First World War (New York: Norton, 1961); Fischer, , War of Illusions, German Politics from 1911 to 1914, trans. Marion Jackson (New York: Norton, 1975).

Perhaps a better example would be the Seven Years' War (or at least its North American dimension). Smoke (p. 236) suggests that the escalation sequence between the British and the French “witnessed no offensive steps by any player at any time.” The Peloponnesian War has also been interpreted in this general way; see Kagan, Donald, The Outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1969).

57 Both of these points are relevant to the debate over whether Germany had hegemonic ambitions that led to World War I. Epstein and others have criticized Fischer (fn. 56) for minimizing the differences among the objectives of various German decision makers, and also for his assumption that German motivations were consistent over time: evidence of hegemonic ambitions during a war is not necessarily relevant to the question of motivations on the eve of war. See Epstein, Klaus, “German War Aims in the First World War,” World Politics 15 (October 1962), 163–85.

58 Aron (fn. 26), 367; Thompson (fn. 3, “Uneven Economic Growth …”), 349; Gilpin (fn. 2), 202; Chase-Dunn (fn. 3), 36. Modelski (fn. 3, 1984), however, includes the causes of the war (but not necessarily statesmens' motivations) as a defining characteristic of global war.

59 Gilpin qualifies this by saying: “Eventually, however, a new power or set of powers emerges to give governance to the international system” (fn. 2), 198. While not excluding the possibility that hegemonic war is a necessary condition for a new system of governance, this qualification suggests that it is not a sufficient condition. Note that Farrar includes threats to the system as well as actual alterations of the system (fn. 31), 163.

60 Many of the theories attempt to get around this problem by defining the two World Wars of this century as a single hegemonic or global war, and identifying the U.S. as the emerging hegemonic power. See Wallerstein (fn. 16,1984); Modelski (fn. 3,1978); Thompson (fn. 3, “Uneven Economic Growth …”); Gilpin (fn. 2). This interpretation would be acceptable if it were based on a set of general procedures and explicit operational criteria that were applied systematically to all conceivable cases, but other apparently similar cases are treated differently. It is not clear what theoretical grounds are used for defining the World Wars of 1914–1945 as a single global war while defining others as separate.

The duration of the interval between the wars cannot be the criterion. Although two decades separated the two World Wars, even less time separated the Revolt of the Netherlands (1585–1609) from the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), and the final resolution of the latter (Treaty of the Pyrenees, 1659) from the hegemonic wars of Louis XIV (1672–1713); yet no two of these distinct conflicts are ever combined as a single hegemonic war. Nor can the role of World War II in accomplishing the final defeat of a dominant power or aspiring challenger be the criterion. Otherwise the Thirty Years& War, which was necessary for the final defeat of Spain, would have to be included with the earlier War of Dutch Independence/ Spanish Armada. In addition, the Thirty Years' War lasted longer than the internationalized Dutch/Armada War and involved ten times the fatalities. The fatality data are from Pitirim Sorokin, A., Social and Cultural Dynamics, III: Fluctuation of Social Relationships, War and Revolution (New York: American Book Co., 1937), 550–74. In view of the importance of this war, it is interesting that in no single compilation are both the Dutch wars and the Thirty Years' War included as general wars with the uncertain exception of Doran (fn. 3), 179; also see fn. 30. For a summary of the various compilations of general wars, see Table 2.

Finally, the postwar emergence of a hegemonic or leadership power should not be the criterion for combining the two wars, for that is precisely the hypothesis that needs to be tested empirically.

61 See Gulick, Edward Vose, Europe's Classical Balance of Power (New York: Norton, 1955); Claude, Inis L. Jr., Power & International Relations (New York: Random House, 1962); Organski (fn. 3), 361–63.

62 That is, a general war requires that there be one side in the conflict, but not necessarily both, for which a major victory is (1) a real possibility and (2) likely to result in its emergence as a new leading power or (as I qualify it below) at least in the overthrow of the existing leader.

63 Aron (fn. 26), 367–68. Aron is unreasonable in insisting that hegemony “inevitably” follow from a mere “victory.”

64 This argument regarding World War II is clearly valid from a realist, Eurocentric perspective. It would also be true from a global perspective if a German/Japanese victory had weakened English and American naval power sufficiently for Germany to use her European hegemony to become (perhaps in cooperation with Japan) the leading global power as well. Note that Aron (fn. 26, p. 369) appears to violate his own criteria by excluding World War II from the category of hegemonic wars; instead, he calls it an “ideological” and “imperialist” war.

65 On the importance of systemic interests in defining the major powers, see Keohane, Robert O., “Lilliputians' Dilemmas,” International Organization 23 (Spring 1969), 295–97; also Levy (fn. 44), 16–17. On the distinction between general and particular interests, see Snyder, Glenn H. and Diesing, Paul, Conflict Among Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977), 424. See also Jervis's distinction between strategic interests, intrinsic interests, and commitment, in Jervis, Robert, “Deterrence Theory Revisited,” World Politics 31 (January 1979), 289324, at 314–15.

66 This is the missing link between those conceptualizations that define hegemonic war in terms of its systemic consequences and those that define it in terms of the participation of most of the major actors in the system (Osgood, Blainey, and others, fn. 53). The participation of nearly all the great powers is theoretically important because it is a good indicator of the perception of a serious threat to the stability of the system.

66 Midlarsky (fn. 3) argues that the involvement of minor powers is the critical factor that makes great power wars likely to escalate into “systemic wars.”

68 No attempt is made here to construct a complete theory of the dynamics of general war and systemic change; realist theorists have enough trouble trying to construct a balance of power theory for simple and static situations. See Wagner, R. Harrison, “The Theory of Games and the Balance of Power,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., August 29 - September 1, 1984.

69 Waltz, Kenneth N., Theory of International Politics (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1979); Wolfers, Arnold, Discord and Collaboration (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1962); Jervis (fn. 56); Morgenthau, Hans J., Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, 4th ed. (New York: Knopf, 1967); Keohane and Nye (fn. 20), chap. 2.

70 While few realists explicitly identify a great power system composed of the dominant actors in the system, they clearly recognize the leading role of the great powers; most of their theories are constructed with the great powers in mind. Waltz (fn. 69) only formalizes what most realists argue implicitly. Others may argue, however, that the general principles guiding the behavior of all states are the same, and that only the parameters of the power configurations are different.

71 While power and wealth are mutually reinforcing, they occasionally come into conflict, particularly in the short run. Whenever this conflict occurs, power takes precedence over wealth. Similarly, national political or economic interests always take precedence over private economic interests. (See Viner, Jacob, “Power versus Plenty as Objectives of Foreign Policy in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries,” World Politics 1 [October 1948], 129; Staley, Eugene, War and the Private Investor [New York: Doubleday, 1935]; Krasner, Stephen D., Defending the National Interest [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978].) Great powers have rarely given priority to global interests unless they were free from direct security threats in Europe. This was possible only for certain states at certain times (Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, for example) because of their insular position and a dispersion of power on the continent. (Note that such states tend to be the world powers in long cycle theory.) For some of the better analyses of the reciprocal interaction between politics and economics in the world system, see Keohane (fn. 20), chap. 2; Gilpin (fn. 2); Gilpin, , U.S. Power and the Multinational Corporation (New York: Basic Books, 1975), chap. 1.

72 Levy (fn. 44), chap. 2.

73 Interesting differences among the paradigms can be found in their respective treatments of World War I. In a realist/continental perspective, Germany was the strongest power in the system prior to World War I, and also was perceived as the primary threat to the system in 1939. (See, for example, the argument and evidence presented by Taylor, A.J.P., The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848–1918 [London: Oxford University Press, 1954], xxvxxxii; also Kennedy, Paul M., “The First World War and the International Power System,” International Security 9 [Summer 1984], 7–40. Note also that the 1872–1890 period is described as one of unipolarity under Germany by Rosecrance, Richard N., Action and Reaction in World Politics [Boston: Little, Brown, 1963], 252.) This perspective should be contrasted with those in which there is a greater emphasis on economic and global dimensions of the system, and in which Britain and then the United States are identified as the leading powers in the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively. Vayrynen, for example, finds it “a remarkable fact … that the two world wars were not initiated by the power which was challenging the leading power in economic terms. …” He asks “why World War I was not waged between the United States and Great Britain and World War II from the beginning between Germany and the United States,” since they were the leading economic powers. In his explanation for this “anomaly” in his power transition theory, Vayrynen argues that “before World War I, geographical proximity made the economic and military surge of Germany much more threatening than the rapid economic growth of the United States on the other side of the Atlantic. The U.S. military capability was, furthermore, rather modest at the turn of the century in comparison with its economic power” (fn. 3), 412.

This, of course, is not all that remarkable, and the so-called “anomalies” are not confined to this century. It was French military power rather than Dutch maritime power that was perceived as the primary threat to the system in the last two decades of the 17th century, and it was France that was the target of two successive coalitions of nearly all the great powers. Similarly, it was Revolutionary France rather than Britain, the leading economic and naval power, that was perceived as the primary threat by the other great powers at the very end of the 18th century. The great powers have always feared their rivals' military power more than their economic power, and the geographic proximity of continental powers has always caused them—and not the wealthy maritime powers removed from the continent—to be perceived as the greatest threats to the interests of the other great powers. These are basic assumptions of traditional balance of power theory and of the conception of a Eurocentric great power system. For this reason, a traditional realpoliti\ perspective provides a better explanation for the fundamental question of who fights whom in general wars than do other perspectives based on economic or global assumptions.

This argument is not necessarily inconsistent with long cycle theory. Whereas the leading state in a realist/continental system has usually been a land power and therefore threatening to other great powers, Modelski's world power is a sea power that is less threatening, but plays the central role in system management. The different functional roles of the lead actors in these divergent theories emphasizes the difficulty of constructing critical empirical tests.

74 The great powers in this system are identified in Levy (fn. 44), chap. 2. The list includes France, 1495–; England/Great Britain, 1495–; Austrian Hapsburgs/Austria, 1495–1519 and 1556–1918; Spain, 1495–1519 and 1556–1808; the Ottoman Empire, 1495–1699; United Haps- burgs, 1519–1556; the Netherlands, 1609–1713; Sweden, 1617–1721; Russia/Soviet Union, 1721–; Prussia/Germany/West Germany, 1740–; Italy, 1861–1943; United States, 1898–; Japan, 1905–1945; China, 1949

Note that ten of the eleven global powers from long cycle theory are included here (all but Portugal); additional states included here but not in long cycle theory are the Ottoman Empire, Sweden, and China.

75 Sorokin (fn. 60), 547–77. Modelski and Thompson have a more fully operational definition of the world power in long cycle theory—a state that possesses over fifty percent of global seapower over sustained periods. They systematically identify these world powers from Thompson's data on seapower. See William R. Thompson, “Seapower in Global Politics, 1500–1945: Problems of Data Collection and Analysis,” paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association—West, Los Angeles, March 19–22, 1980; see also Modelski and Thompson, Seapower in Global Politics, 1494–1983 (forthcoming).

76 This criterion assumes that there is a single threat to impose hegemony over the system. That is a useful simplification, for there is no simple solution where there are multiple threats to dominate the system. If there were, presumably they could hold each other in check.

Note (Table 1) that this operational criterion for the minimum ratio of great powers that must be involved is relatively robust. To require less than half the great powers would be unreasonable, given the theoretical concept it is designed to tap. To require more than 60% of the powers would exclude the War of Dutch Independence/Spanish Armada (but only because the Ottoman Empire is identified as a great power in spite of the fact that it participated in none of the four general wars during that period). No other general war would be excluded until the minimum ratio exceeded 5/7 (War of the League of Augsburg) and then 5/6 (War of the Spanish Succession), but those wars are included by all the frameworks except Wallerstein's. Eight of the ten general wars involve over 80% of the great powers. My own two cases of general war that others are most likely to criticize—the two major conflicts of the mid-18th century—each involve all of the great powers in the system. It is also interesting to note that if the Ottoman Empire were excluded from the sytem, eight of my ten general wars would involve all of the powers in the system. For a defense of the inclusion of the Turks as a great power, see Levy (fn. 44), 35–37.

77 Singer, J. David and Small, Melvin, The Wages of War, 1816–1965 (New York: Wiley, 1972), 130; Richardson, Lewis F., Statistics of Deadly Quarrels (Pittsburgh: Boxwood Press, and Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1960).

78 Procedures for the measurement of the intensity of war, along with a justification for the use of the population of Europe as a baseline for comparison, can be found in Levy (fn. 4), chap. 4. Of the 64 wars between the great powers in the last five centuries, 22 exceed 1,000 in intensity. Of these, only ten qualify as hegemonic wars.

This minimum intensity criterion is also reasonably robust. The War of Dutch Independence/Spanish Armada barely qualifies, but even a threefold increase in this threshold would exclude no other case (see Table 1). Additional wars that might qualify if this threshold were lowered (see Levy, fn. 44, pp. 88–91) would be the War of the Polish Succession, 17331738 (intensity of 836), though England's nonparticipation might violate our first criterion; the Fourth War of Charles V (combined with the Siege of Boulogne), 1542–1546 (intensity of 736); and the Fifth War of Charles V, 1552–1556 (intensity of 668). None of these wars is included in any of the other prominent lists, however, and their exclusion does not appear to be a serious problem here.

Note that the case most sensitive to both the minimum great power ratio and the minimum intensity ratio is the War of Dutch Independence/Spanish Armada, which is also identified as a hegemonic war by Toynbee, Modelski and Thompson, and Doran. This was a combination of several closely related wars involving a coalition of England, France, and the Dutch against Spain, and the future of Europe rested on the outcome. See Geyl, Peter, The Revolt of the Netherlands, 1555–1609, 2d ed. (London: Ernest Benn, 1958); Mattingly, Garrett, The Armada (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1962); Elliott, J. H., Europe Divided, 1559–1598 (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), pt. IV; Hill (fn. 45), II, chap. 7.

79 This table is based on the data in Levy (fn. 44, chap. 4.) Most of these wars satisfy the definitional criteria by a considerable margin and should not generate much controversy. The more difficult cases include the two mid-i8th-century wars and the War of Dutch Independence/Spanish Armada, which have been discussed above. Of the wars not included, only the Italian Wars (1494–1559) and the Crimean War present potential problems, and these are minor. I have dealt with each of these cases at some length in “The Definition and Identification of Hegemonic War,” paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, GA, March 27–31, 1984, pp. 24–26.

80 The substance of these comparisons was discussed earlier, in the criticism of the inconsistency between others' lists of hegemonic wars and their definitions of the concept.

81 Even though no theory of general war in the modern great power system now exists, the assumptions of the realist/continental framework are sufficiently clear to permit the definition and identification of general wars in that system.

* An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Atlanta, GA, March 27–31, 1984, and was based on research supported by a Fellowship for Independent Study and Research from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The present version has benefited from the criticisms, comments, and suggestions of Bill Thompson, George Modelski, Harrison Wagner, Cliff Morgan, Steve Baker, Karl Schmitt, and Randy Siverson. Many of these scholars will undoubtedly disagree with much of my argument, however, and I alone am responsible for the contents of this article.

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