1. Perspective And Summary
15A. Phasing Propositions and Their Evidence on International Conflict
Democratic Peace page
The balancing of power is the power process among the participants in an arena....
[It] is a component of every social process.
---- Lasswell and Kaplan, 1950: 250-251
Whether in fact conflict displays the theoretical, behavioral dynamics shown in Figure 12.1 is a question yet to be answered. There are two sides to such an answer. One is whether this dynamic model is consistent with these proposed by others. And the second side is whether systematic, empirical analyses of Conflict Behavior confirms the dynamics. This Chapter will consider the former question, leaving the empirical one to the next Part of this book and Chapter 14.
Studies of the outbreak of war abound; analyses of war causation are even more numerous. But few inquiries have been published on the stages, process or dynamics of conflicts involving or threatening war,
Barringer sees war ("hostilities") as one of many policy options introduced into an ongoing dispute and viable only after some "military mobilization and preparedness" has been undertaken (1972: 16-17). Once the possibility of war is being considered the dispute may still be settled nonviolently, but the character of the dispute has been fundamentally changed.
In Barringer's words, conflict is "the subset of all disputes between parties capable of waging war in which the military option has been introduced, and at least one party perceives the issues at stake in partially, if not wholly, military terms." (1972: 17) A dispute is a "felt grievance by a party capable of waging war that, in its eyes, demands some more tolerable accommodation with another party than presently exists."
A dispute, then, turns into a conflict when a military option has been introduced, and the conflict turns into hostilities when war has, de facto, been initiated.
Before moving on to his other phases, note first that a dispute is a latent and initiating phase (a "felt grievance") in which no manifest conflict behavior may occur. It thus corresponds to the conflict situation of the conflict helix (see Section 10.3). Second, he defines a prehostilities phase in which the war option has been introduced and which involves preparations thereto. This is similar to the situation of uncertainty of the helix (see Section 11.2), in which the will has made the decision to confront the other and undertaken preparations of various sorts, and in which manifest conflict behavior short of violence therefore may occur.
Third, Barringer is focusing on the process entailing at least the option of war. His dynamic model is not meant to delineate the generic phases of all social conflict (in my terms), but only those phases of interstate disputes in which a resort to war is being considered. Thus, his model does not apply explicitly to a dispute between husband and wife, General Motors Corporation and the Department of Justice, or Eritrean separatists and the Ethiopian government--as the conflict helix is so generalized (see Part VIII of Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix).
And finally, at the interstate level, Barringer collapses coercive and negative, nonviolent, behavior by parties not considering a war option into his dispute phase. Because this behavior may involve boycotts, embargoes, severance of diplomatic relations,
Moving on to Barringer's third phase, it involves "the organized and systematic violence ... undertaken by the armed forces of any party to the dispute as a purposeful instrument of policy." (1972: 20) Within this phase may occur two subphases (see Figure 13.1 ): escalation and deescalation, depending on "a gross change in the existing rules of the game governing the conduct and limitation of hostilities." (1972:20)
The final, fourth phase is the termination of organized hostilities between the parties, although the dispute "is as yet unresolved and is perceived in military terms by at least one party and could generate renewed hostilities either immediately or after a prolonged period of cease-fire and renewed preparations for combat." (1972: 20) The model thus allows for conflict to iterate or cycle around hostilities or even return to the dispute stage.
Of course, hostilities or escalation could lead directly to the settlement of the dispute by "some form of accommodation between the parties, annihilation of one or more of them, loss of saliency, or other means." (1972: 20)
The model also allows for disputes that could lead directly to settlement without conflict (in Barringer's terms), and a settlement of a conflict might be achieved without hostilities.
In addition to the previous comparisons with the conflict helix the following are significant. Barringer does not distinguish between stages of coercion and force, but only between levels of physical violence correlated with the "rules of the game." But "rules" about such limits as sanctuaries and weapons within a conflict may change as the war escalates, without a change in the form of power involved. That is, the intent still may be to coerce, not overcome, another's will.
Moreover, status quo testing, coercive means short of violence, and noncoercive means are not part of his process.
Overall, then, Barringer's model is concerned with the objective transformation of a dispute--its changes from a psychological to physical character and back again. Thus, the dispute (psychological) is transformed into a conflict (psychological and physical) to hostilities (physical) to escalation (physical) to deescalation (physical) to termination (physical) to settlement (psychological).
By contrast, the balancing of power phases in the conflict helix are all psychological; they are defined by psychological factors and distinguished by forms of power. Conflict situation (psychological) is transformed into the will to conflict involving preparations (psychological) to status quo testing (psychological), to coercion or noncoercion (psychological) to force (psychological)
In their analysis they separately consider "origins" and "development." They do not articulate a flow model of disputes, as does Barringer, but their discussion clearly defines stages in disputes and enables their underlying model to be constructed.
At the outset, Northedge and Donelan distinguish between dispute and situation, where a situation is "a state of potential conflict, where all the ingredients of a dispute exist but where the dispute has neither been formulated nor crystallized" (1971: 2). A dispute is then "a formulated difference of opinion as to matters of law, fact or justice arising in the mutual relations of states." (1971: 2-3)
As a "diffuse condition of tension or potential tension," their situation defines the structure of conflict within the conflict helix (see Section 10.2). It is a latent stage in which parties are aware of each other, there is an opposition of attitudes, friction exists, but the conflict is uncrystallized. Interest have yet to become focused, the lines of cleavage sharp. The dispute is then the crystallization of differences. In my terms, it is the generation of opposing interests, which is the situation of conflict in the helix (see Section 10.3).
Now, these differences among states in a dispute are of particular kind. They "are essentially a clash of convictions about 'ours' and 'theirs'." (1971: 40) They are, therefore, about the status quo, in both Northedge and Donelan's words and my own.
A manifest dispute
This leads to the first stage (phase) of a dispute: diplomatic argument. Both sides make their case, either "implicitly or explicitly, they indicate to each other the possible costs of an unyielding stand and of a protracted conflict." (1971: 137)
The dispute may then be settled immediately, it may drift, or it may escalate to "heights of bitterness." Which way it goes depends on the importance of interests engaged, whether honor is involved, the impact on credibility ("reputation for power"), and whether the parties are competitors or enemies.
If the dispute deepens, the next stage is denunciation and propaganda (1971: 148)--negative communications, in my terms. After this, comes tile stage of negative behavior, the behavioral expression of condemnation, which may involve a breach of diplomatic relations, refusal to recognize a government, a breach of commercial relations, boycotts, sanctions, and the attempt to enlist third parties to intervene (1971: 149-152). The dispute may then escalate to the next stage of force (in their terms), after which the dispute may terminate, be settled, or drag on for many years until it lapses.
Figure 13.2 summarizes their stages.
Once a dispute has surfaced, the emphasis is on the type and intensity of behavior between the parties, as with Barringer. Thus, military action is a final stage, whether coercive or pure force, or whether really a probing, status quo testing behavior. Northedge and Donelan sequence their development of a dispute in terms of physical manifestations, rather than in terms of psychological phases and forms of power, as in the conflict helix.
He begins by pointing out that in a "broad sense" conflict between states "may be divided into four stages: (1) awareness of inconsistencies, (2) rising tensions, (3) pressures short of military force, and (4) military intervention or war to dictate a solution." (1965: 434) Conflict is latent during the first two stages and corresponds to the structures (Section 10.2) and situations (Section 10.3) of conflict within the helix.
In the "narrow sense" (1965: 435) conflict involves the last two stages, when conflict is manifest in opposing actions. In focusing on manifest conflict, Wright expands these two stages into four, which he articulates in a pair of reaction equations developed from Richardson's arms race model.
- dx/dt = (Nx + Fy) - (Cx + Wx) + (Px - Py) - (Vx - Vy),
- dy/dt = (Ny + Fx) - (Cy + Wy) + (Py - Px) - (Vy - Vx),
- x, y = states x and y;
- dx/dt, dy/dt = growth rate of hostility for x, and for y;
- Nx, Ny = perception of its national interests by x, and by y;
- Fx, Fy = perception by x of forces immediately available to x, and by y;
- Cx, Cy = perception by x of costs of hostilities and preparations, and by y;
- Wx, Wy = perception by x of world pressures for peace, and by y;
- Px, Py = perception by x of its and y's long run power position, and by y;
- Vx, Vy = perception by x of its vulnerability to destruction, and by y.
The stages formulated in the equation has been succinctly expressed by Wright:
The magnitude of the positive or negative value of the growth rates of hostility (dx/dt or dy/dt) at a given moment indicates the degree of willingness of x and y respectively to escalate or to stop hostile activities. These equations imply that the course of a conflict, in the narrow sense, is influenced by the emergence of new considerations by the participants as it proceeds through four stages indicated by the parentheses. The formula does not attempt to predict the probable duration of these stages.
Once x takes action to solve the conflict, it will develop forces in readiness for further action at a rate (dx/dt) in proportion to the intensity of its national interest in the issues (Nx) and its apprehension of the obstacles presented to realization of its policy by y's preparation of forces to resist (Fy). In the second stage, x will consider the increasing costs of its preparations and, if hostilities are in progress, its losses in life and property (Cx); it will also consider the pressures of world opinion, including the intensity of opinion both at home and abroad demanding maintenance of peace or termination of hostilities, the effectiveness of the organization of that opinion, and the adequacy of the procedures which that opinion proposes in the particular situation (Wx). These considerations may induce willingness in one or both participants to accept a cease-fire and to negotiate or adjudicate. If, however, hostilities continue, x is likely to consider the long-run power position in military forces, economic capability, political morale, and potential allies of itself (Px) and its enemy (Py), and to escalate or negotiate as that position seems favorable or unfavorable. If hostilities continue to the final stage, x will consider its vulnerability to destruction by the military resources available to the enemy (Vx), comparing this with what it perceives as its enemy's vulnerability to destruction by its own attack (Vy). It is assumed that the satisfaction of visiting huge destruction upon its enemy will seem sufficient compensation for its own heavy losses and that, therefore, the party most vulnerable will surrender--i.e., a state will surrender before its total destruction unless it has a good prospect of totally destroying its enemy. Unilateral suicide will be avoided, but mutual suicide may seem preferable to surrender.
Party y will progress through the same stages as those just described for x. Each stage may be terminated by escalation, cease-fire, negotiation, surrender, or protracted stalemate in which each awaits a favorable opportunity to renew hostilities.
Foresight about the later stages may influence behavior in the earlier stages. Thus, x may have a lesser interest in the issues of the conflict than y, and may be behind in forces in readiness, but x may believe that y's economy will not permit of much escalation, that world opinion is going to turn against y, and that in the long run it can gain allies and marshall much greater power y, and that y will be vulnerable to total destruction by nuclear weapons which only its side (x) will possess. On the other hand, x may take a more pessimistic view of the future and seek a cease-fire while it still has an advantage; but governments are often unrealistically optimistic about the prospects of hostilities. If both sides see it this way--i.e., if the signs of both dxldt and dyldt are positive--the conflict will probably escalate.
Figure 13.3 graphs Wright's equation for one party x. Wright is clear: the stages in a conflict are characterized not by activity, but "by the degree of attention likely to be directed to the future and to the ultimate outcome." (1965: 436) As in the conflict helix, the process is psychological, not physical. Wright emphasizes this: "the important variable in determining willingness to escalate or to negotiate is the perception of the situation by the decision-making authority, not the objective reality." (1965: 437)
But unlike the conflict helix in which overt conflict subphases are distinguished by transitions in intentions (forms of power), Wright's stages are shifts in the salience of particular variables to the perceived outcome. These shifts are shown at the bottom of Figure 13.3. The process moves from national interests and perception of resistance, of costs and world opinion, of long-run relative power, to the perception of relative vulnerability to destruction, and finally to the perception of the outcome and future.
Wright tested his equations against the stages of 45 international conflicts, beginning with World War I. Although his measurements were subjective (but often statistical data were taken as a starting point) and admittedly "educated guesses," (1965: 441) the equations do have "considerable predictive value when applied to situations which have come to an end." (1965: 441)
Kahn's escalation ladder contains 44 rungs, as shown in Figure 13.4. It is "a linear arrangement of roughly increasing levels of intensity of crisis. Such a ladder exhibits a progression of steps in what amounts to, roughly speaking, an ascending order of intensity through which a given crisis may progress." (1965: 38) In actual conflict, rungs of the ladder may be bypassed or the parties may go down as well as up. (1965: 40)
The ladder stands on a base of disagreements and cold war. Kahn does not pay much attention to this base, but from the context of his brief discussion this appears a latent situation of conflict, an underlying disagreement of interests and perspectives. In Kahn's terms, "the environment is such that any disagreement could easily result in either a slow or rapid climb up the ladder." (1965: 53)
In this situation a disagreement can turn into an ostensible crisis, an actual exchange of warnings and threats, and an attempt on both sides to make them credible. This is the first rung of the ladder. The second rung involves various negative actions designed to put pressure on the other, such as recalling an ambassador, launching a vigorous propaganda campaign or denouncing a treaty.
The third rung follows with solemn and formal declarations that thereby embody a credible commitment and resolution. It is a clear communication that one party is willing to escalate further, if the other so chooses. This is a watershed rung. After it, the crisis becomes deeper, war becomes a distinct possibility, and each side competes in the manipulation of the risk of war. (1965: 62-65)
The fourth rung is then an hardening of position, a confrontation of wills. Negotiations "take on a much more coercive than contractual character." (1965: 67) Both parties have "locked in," which may be manifested by more extremes of negative communications and actions.
The next rung is the actual show of force, a direct or indirect communication of one's willingness and capability to use military force through, say, well-publicized military movements, maneuvers, or overflights of a disputed area.
The sixth rung comprises a significant mobilization, usually beginning with a cancellation of leaves and discharges, and the calling up of important reserve units. Other measures may also be involved whose purpose is to harden one's actual fighting capability and show resolve.
This may be followed by a seventh rung, legal harassment--retortions. These are actions one can take against the citizen or property of the other party to show (or as a manifestation of) extreme hostility. Blockades, embargoes, boycotts exemplify such actions.
The eighth rung moves from nonviolent, legal harassing acts to illegal or violent ones. "Unofficial" bombing against the other's property may take place, mob attacks on his embassy, violations of the other's territorial sovereignty by war planes, support for terrorism, a border intrusion, and the like. Although Kahn does not particularly emphasize this rung (1965: 73-74), I should note that a fundamental threshold has been crossed. Illegal acts (within international law) and especially military violence form a mutually recognizable boundary to conflict, a mutually understandable barrier to further escalation. As long as manifest conflict is kept within this barrier, there is a clear stopping place for escalation, as a river is a natural division between opposing armies. But once illegal actions and violence have been initiated, quantitative escalation may easily take place until a new qualitative barrier is reached, such as in terms of types of weapons (e.g., tactical nuclear weapons), natural geographic boundaries, military personnel (introduction of uniformed soldiers), and so on. Parties to a conflict will not escalate to this rung unthinkingly and easily.
The following ninth rung involves dramatic military confrontations. A full military alert in a contested area or across a border may occur, with both sides instantly prepared to fight on command. Or this rung may involve a strategic alert by the major powers in a deepening crises. Regardless of whether the confrontations are local or global, they "are direct tests of nerve, committal, resolve, and recklessness. They are also dramatic enough to make all the participants and observers take note of what has happened." (1965: 74) These confrontations indicate to both sides that war is thinkable and possible.
The following 10 rungs (see Figure 13.4) define an intense crisis. They move from a provocative breaking of diplomatic relations through super-ready status, large conventional war (or actions), large compound escalation, declaration of limited conventional war, barely nuclear war, nuclear "ultimatums," and so on. There is no need here (although clearly important in another context) to deal with all these rungs. For the purpose of comparison, we can collapse the escalation rungs after super-ready status into war and subsequent escalation.
What about deescalation or termination? Kahn is careful to point out (1965: 230-231) that deescalation may not be a simple descending of the escalation ladder, because actions and signals may be involved which have no escalatory counterpart. And he spends a chapter discussing aspects of deescalation, including the means the parties can use to escape the costs of further conflict while insuring themselves against further escalation or loss of important values. Clearly, deescalation is part of his model.
Kahn conceives of his escalation ladder as most applicable to a. U.S.-Soviet crisis. Deescalation appears therefore a return to the normal situation of conflict--an end to the crisis, but not conflict. Escalation and deescalation have, therefore, no termination, no accommodations, no settlement (nor do such words appear in his index).
Figure 13.5 summarizes Kahn's relevant crisis dynamics. His stages are differentiated by the intensity and scope of actions and their role in communicating the intensity of mutual threat and resolve. Kahn's metaphor of a physical ladder is apt: each rung is a higher physical level of intensity and communication.
Kahn's ladder differs significantly from the conflict helix in two respects. First, the balancing of powers phase in the helix is a general process and its subphases are meant to apply to all crises, engagements, confrontations, and so on. The subphases are therefore more abstract and less refined than Kahn's ladder, which is specialized to a U.S.-Soviet crisis. Second, Kahn's dynamic framework nonetheless emphasizes physical shifts in intensity rather than psychological transition points. Status quo testing is of course involved in Kahn's lower rungs, but does not clearly differentiate them; coercion, bargaining, and force (in my usage) are involved in later rungs, but not as clear stages or separate, dynamic lines of development.
A careful study of Table 13.1 and Figure 13.6 should bring out the important, detailed differences and similarities. About these note the following.
* Scanned from Chapter 13 in R.J. Rummel, War, Power, Peace, 1979. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.
1. This is, of course, consistent with the lack of scholarly or scientific literature on the termination of conflicts. Most students appear concerned with preventing conflict, especially war, and not with how conflicts are waged. Or ended.
2. Other systematic studies of escalation or conflict phases include Azar (1972); Field (1972); Fitzsimmons (1969); Leng and Goodsell (1974); McClelland (1968, 1972); D. McCormick (1975), Phillips and Lorimore (n.d.); Tanter (1974).
3. Dr. Barringer was associated with a series of research studies conducted by the Arms Control Project of the MIT Center for International Studies, partially sponsored by the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The model of conflict dynamics used by Barringer in his study also was employed in the MIT research. See particularly the Bloomfield and Leiss study (1967) prepared for ACDA and their subsequent book (1969).
4. Based on Barringer's Figure 2.1 (1972: 21) and drawing (1972: 17).
5. War is not necessarily an option underlying a severance of diplomatic relations. When several of the Arab leaders severed diplomatic relations with European states during the fourth, 1973, Middle East War, I doubt they were thinking also of the possibility of making war on, say, Japan or West Germany.
Barringer is inconsistent, however. After the paragraph defining conflict as that "in which the military option has been introduced" (1972: 17), he also defines conflict as that in which a party "begins to conceive of the conflict at hand as an actual or potential military issue and takes steps to prepare for that contingency." And also several pages later he describes the conflict phase as that "in which a dispute is perceived by at least one party thereto in active or abnormal military policy terms (for example, through arms buildup, troop mobilization, or force deployment)." (1972: 20)
Now, introducing a military option into policy considerations and perceiving the possibility of military action are not the same. In severing diplomatic relations with the United States in 1973 Arab leaders no doubt considered the possibility of this and the subsequent Arab oil boycott as risking a U.S. or joint U.S.-European military takeover of the oil fields. But that did not make such a war an option for the Arabs. Nor is it likely that the Arab severance of diplomatic relations with the United States provoked a war option to be considered by President Nixon, although I suspect that the oil boycott did.
6. Force is the use of physical means to bypass the other's will (Section 12.3). The intention of the actor distinguishes force from coercion. Therefore, the transformation from coercion is at the psychological level.
7. For case histories of these disputes, see Donelan and Grieve (1973).
8. The "starting point from which states, like individuals, think on the issue of justice is existing possession, the status quo. Whoever has a thing, it is his unless another can show cause why not. Whatever the existing position, that is right until someone can show better. If a state which demands or makes change cannot show this, it is suspect as a force for chaos. Alarm for security in the widest sense is instantly aroused. The status quo has a prima facie justification against the revisionist in all eyes, usually even his own. The onus is on the revisionist." (Northedge and Donelan, 1971: 77).
9. The authors are not that clear about what is latent or manifest in a dispute. My use of manifest is an interpretation of their analysis.
10. The demand or challenge appears most often to follow "an uncertain probing of the ground by one side, hardly noticed by the other." (1971: 87) This appears like the initial status quo testing subphase within the balancing of powers, especially since Northedge and Donelan almost immediately point out that "states still make their initial decisions in deep uncertainty as to relative power." (1971: 87) However, they do not discuss this probing at all in their focused analysis of the development of a dispute in Chapter 7. They begin with the challenge, and it is not clear whether the challenge is issued after probing or is part of it.
11. The logical flow of Northedge and Donelan's analysis is not always explicit. From the context, however, force seems to follow negative behavior as the most intense manifest stage of the dispute, after which termination in some form will occur. See (1971: 152-156).
12. As indicated in note 10, the stages are not as clearly articulated as Figure 13.2 suggests. It is my interpretation of their development. However, I am sure that Northedge and Donelan do not see a dispute as necessarily following a linear-time course. A dispute may deescalate from one stage to a previous one. Figure 13.2 is only meant to represent a dispute's main, developmental stages.
13. For a critique of Wright's article, see Carroll (1969). 1 have reanalyzed Wright's variables and data, including a variety of additional measures. See Appendix I (Project 6).
14. See Lewis F. Richardson (1960), particularly Chapter 2. Wright had been one of the earliest students of international relations to recognize the value of Richardson's work. See Wright (1942, Vol. 2, Appendix XLII). An excellent critique of Richardson's model has been published by Rajan (1974).
15. For a systematic analysis of Wright's stages and variables, as well as the background conditions, see Project 6 in Appendix I. I found escalation most dependent on perceived national interests, and secondarily on power parity (the closer in power, the more likely escalation), relative vulnerability, and differences in wealth. Political-cultural differences appear to play no role in escalation.
16. Kahn's "phases" are conceptually postulated and untested. They are meant to be "metaphorical," and are neither developed from an explicit survey of a given sample of conflicts, as for Northedge and Donelan, nor tested against such conflicts, as were those of Barringer and Wright. This is not to depreciate Kahn's contribution. An innovative conceptual distinction can be potent to the understanding and provide new insight into empirical work.
Moreover, I should make clear that the ladder is formulated primarily for U.S.-Soviet confrontations and "is in some senses an American rather than a Soviet ladder." (1965: 53)
17. For example, regarding the transition from rung 3 Kahn says: "As soon as negotiations take on much more of a coercive than contractual character, I would argue that we have reached Rung 4." Now, to describe either objectives or tactics, Kahn uses the terms contractual, coercive, agonistic, stylistic, and familial (1965: 15-22). Translating to my terms, his contractual refers to bargaining behavior; his coercive to coercion, force, and practices (e.g., retortions to reciprocate or sanction the actions of another according to international law); his agonistic to practices (rule following behavior); and his familial to, indeed, what I call familistic behavior. Coercion for Kahn involves the use of threats and punishments, but such are employed not only at rung four, but in subcrisis maneuvering as well. Even at rung one, Kahn emphasizes implicit or explicit threats and concern for their credibility (1965: 54) as the rung's keynote. Given that he does not emphasize the role of coercion, contractual behavior, and such, in distinguishing escalation rungs beyond the above quote, and this one quote seems inconsistent with his prior characterization of lower rungs, I do not consider it a serious part of his dynamics.
18. Only Barringer uses the term model for his conflict dynamics.
19. Northedge and Donelan do consider the development of disputes within states (1971: Chapter 6), but their model is less explicit and differs from their interstate one.
20. This is important to keep in mind, for the comparisons being made are not meant to be invidious but descriptive.
21. The reader might object to this characterization of Kahn's ladder, because he seems so basically concerned with perception, expectations, credibility, and such. But Kahn himself points out that "intensity" is the underlying criteria (1965: 38). The only question is whether he means intensity in behavior or psychological variables. From his discussion of the rungs of the ladder and even their labels, it is clear that for him it is physical action that differentiates the rungs.