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All Upcoming Events. All Past Events A Human Rights Tribunal on Fracking? Learn More. Friday November 18, pm Many health professionals provide critical and compassionate healthcare to members of the military and their families and to civilians harmed by war, and often conduct other important humanitarian activities in zones of violent conflict. And yet, neither trade wars nor arms races necessarily end in violent conflict.

War and Democracy

There seem to be operating some restraining and inhibiting factors that prevent an automatic escalation. Much of the theory of war concerns itself with the identification, improvement, and development of these restraining factors. The outcome of starkly competitive behaviour leading to wars is clearly against the interests of states, and it is rational for them to seek more desirable outcomes. If competitive behaviour is dangerous, theorists seek for alternative methods of cooperative behaviour that would not jeopardize the interests of the state through exposing it to the possibly less cooperative behaviour of others.

Some theorists concentrate upon improving the rationality of the decision making of individual states through a better understanding of the international environment, through eliminating misperceptions and irrational fears, and through making clear the full possible costs of engaging in war and the full destructiveness of an all-out war, possible in our age.

Causes of War - Sun Tzu

The relative paucity of wars and their limited nature throughout the century following the Napoleonic Wars — stirred great theoretical interest in the nature of the balance-of-power system of that period—that is, in the process by which the power of competing groups of states tended toward a condition of equilibrium.

Contributing to the successful operation of the balance-of-power system of the 19th century were relatively slow technological change, great diversionary opportunities for industrial and colonial expansion, and the ideological and cultural homogeneity of Europe.


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Pursuit of a balance of power is a way of conducting foreign policy that is perhaps less prone to war than other types of policy because, instead of indiscriminately increasing their power, states increase it only moderately, so as not to provoke others; and instead of joining the strongest, they join the weaker side in order to ensure balance.

States in a balance-of-power system must, however, be ready to abide by constraints upon their behaviour in order to ensure stability of the system.

Chapter 16

The application to international relations of a branch of mathematics — game theory —that analyzes the strategy of conflict situations has provided a new tool of analysis. If all sides in a game are to maximize their chances of a satisfactory outcome, it is necessary that some rational rules of behaviour be conceptualized and agreed upon, and this idea of a set of rational rules can be applied to competing states in the international system.

In other situations, called non-zero-sum games , the payoff is not constant but can be increased by a cooperative approach; the gain of one participant is not at the cost of another. The contestants, however, have to agree about the distribution of the gain, which is the product of their cooperation. The theory of games is the foundation of theories of bargaining that analyze the behaviour of individual states in interaction.

Public Health and the Prevention of War

Diplomacy based upon such theories is less likely to lead to war. Policymakers pursuing such strategies will conduct conflicts of the zero-sum type so that war is avoided. More than that, with some skill, such situations can be transformed into the non-zero-sum type by introducing additional benefits accruing from cooperation in other interactions and also, more generally, by eliminating the likelihood of war and, consequently, by reducing the costs of preparing for one.

Because wars within states have been eliminated through the establishment of suitable political structures, such as central governments that hold a monopoly of coercive power, many theories concentrate upon the establishment of parallel structures within the international context.

The work of the ICRC

Regional integration cooperation in economic , social, and political affairs, as, for example, within the European Union and the establishment of security communities such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have made much greater advances than attempts at the reform of the entire global international system. Because conflicts among neighbours tend to be frequent, regional integration is an important advance toward reducing the incidence of war. Even if it were to become generally successful, however, regional integration would simply shift the problem of war to a different level: there would be fewer possibilities of war because intraregional conflicts would be contained, but interregional conflicts could still give rise to wars of much greater scope and severity.