The idea that war is going out of style has become the conventional wisdom in recent years. In his new book, Only the Dead: The Persistence of War in the Modern Era (Oxford), Bear Braumoeller argues that it shouldn't have: the evidence simply doesn't support the decline-of-war thesis propounded by scholars like Steven Pinker. While optimists are prone to put too much faith in human nature, however, pessimists have been too quick to discount the successes of our attempts to reduce international conflict. Reality lies somewhere in between. The key to understanding trends in warfare lies, not in the spread of humanitarian values, but rather in patterns of international order—sets of expectations about behavior that allow countries to work in concert, as they did in the Concert of Europe and have done in the postwar Western liberal order. In this talk, Braumoeller will discuss the evidence against the decline-of-war thesis as well as some preliminary research on the complex relationship between international order and international conflict.
Bear F. Braumoeller (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is a Professor in the Department of Political Science. He previously held faculty positions at Harvard University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is or has been on the Editorial Boards of five major journals or series, and he is a past Councilor of the Peace Science Society. In the summer of 2016 he was a Visiting Fellow at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway. Professor Braumoeller’s research is in the areas of international security and computational social science. His current research focus is on the relationship between international order and international conflict. His substantive research includes an original, book-length systemic theory of international relations, The Great Powers and the International System (Cambridge University Press; winner of the 2014 International Studies Association Best Book Award and the 2014 J. David Singer Book Award) as well as various works on international conflict, the history of American isolationism, and the problem of so-called “politically irrelevant dyads.” His new book, Only the Dead: The Persistence of War in the Modern Age (Oxford University Press, 2019), challenges the decline-of-war thesis propounded by scholars like Steven Pinker.