Strategies of Violence and Changes in War Termination


V. Page Fortna
Harold Brown Professor of U.S. Foreign and Security Policy


For many years, the field of international relations neglected the study of war termination relative to studies of the causes or onset of war. Recently, gaps in our knowledge about how, when, and why wars have begun to be filled by new scholarship. Yet virtually all of this scholarship assumes that war termination is a relatively static phenomenon. The conventional wisdom is that wars end, and that the causes and consequences of war termination are constant across time as well as space.

This research will advance theory-building in a neglected areas of international relations: the termination of wars. Although other scholars have begun to examine changes in military outcomes of war as well as changes in war settlement, prior analysis has been limited in both temporal scope and in the type of war examined. The analysis we propose here is unusually comprehensive and systematic. It is based on a dataset spanning two centuries, and includes (and compares) both interstate and civil wars. In addition to informing and redirecting academic research on war, our project raises important questions for strategic thinking about the practice of international affairs. Ndeed, developments generally viewed as beneficial – such as new laws governing conduct of war – may turn out to have had unintended, more ambiguous consequences. At a time when nonstate violence represented an increasing threat, it is critical to understand changes in how wars end.