Solving the War Puzzle: Toward a New Theory of International Relations

On May 24, 2009, leading international relations scholar, John Norton Moore, the Walter L. Brown Professor of Law at the University of Virginia School of Law was spoke at Georgetown University at an event sponsored by the Institute for International Law and Politics and the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program about the causes of war.

Why do states go to war?  Self-defense, resource competition, border disputes, a desire for international recognition and prestige--wars have erupted around the world for a variety of reasons.  More recently, however, international relations theorists have sought to understand what prevents states from going to war.  Beyond traditional military deterrence or the threat of mutually assured destruction, which has prevented the use of nuclear force since the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, scholars have increasingly turned to political and socio-economic factors to explain the why armed conflicts occur under certain circumstances and not others.  

Professor Anthony Arend, Director of the Georgetown University Master of Science in Foreign Service Program introduces Professor Moore.

Democratic peace theory, for example, which has its roots in the writings of Immanuel Kant, speculates that democracies will not go to war with each other, because when the citizens of a nation, who must bear the physical, economic, and emotional costs of war, have a voice in government, they will choose to avoid hostilities.  Economic interdependece, as popularized by Thomas Friedman's "Golden Arches Theory," has been cited as another factor that tends to prevent the outbreak of war.  If two nations share close economic ties, they are often literally unable to afford the cost of war with each other.

Professor Moore explains why and when states go to war.

Professor Moore offered historical evidence in support of each of these theories and postulated that democratic governance and economic interdependence evidenced an additive relationship in dissuading states from going to war.  No democratically governed states with high levels of trade have ever gone to war with each other.  Professor Moore shared his methodology of conflict classification and speculated about the applicability of current theories of conflict prevention to the future of international relations, with the advent of non-state actors and non free-market democracies.

From Left to Right: Professor Christopher C. Joyner, Director of the Institute for Law, Science and Global Science, Professor Catherine Lotrionte, Associate Director of the Institute, and Professor Anthony Arend, Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program listen to Professor Moore's presentation.

Professor Moore's book,  Solving the War Puzzle, is available from Carolina Academic Press.