How Wars End

Princeton University Press
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Why do some countries choose to end wars short of total victory while others fight on, sometimes in the face of appalling odds? How Wars End argues that two central factors shape war-termination decision making: information about the balance of power and the resolve of one's enemy, and fears that the other side's commitment to abide by a war-ending peace settlement may not be credible.

Dan Reiter explains how information about combat outcomes and other factors may persuade a warring nation to demand more or less in peace negotiations, and why a country might refuse to negotiate limited terms and instead tenaciously pursue absolute victory if it fears that its enemy might renege on a peace deal. He fully lays out the theory and then tests it on more than twenty cases of war-termination behavior, including decisions during the American Civil War, the two world wars, and the Korean War. Reiter helps solve some of the most enduring puzzles in military history, such as why Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, why Germany in 1918 renewed its attack in the West after securing peace with Russia in the East, and why Britain refused to seek peace terms with Germany after France fell in 1940.

How Wars End concludes with a timely discussion of twentieth-century American foreign policy, framing the Bush Doctrine's emphasis on preventive war in the context of the theory.

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About the author

Dan Reiter is professor and chair of political science at Emory University. He is the author of Crucible of Beliefs: Learning, Alliances, and World Wars and the coauthor of Democracies at War (Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Aug 17, 2009
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Pages
320
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ISBN
9781400831036
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / Wars & Conflicts (Other)
Political Science / International Relations / General
Political Science / Peace
Technology & Engineering / Military Science
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Dan Reiter
Why do democracies win wars? This is a critical question in the study of international relations, as a traditional view--expressed most famously by Alexis de Tocqueville--has been that democracies are inferior in crafting foreign policy and fighting wars. In Democracies at War, the first major study of its kind, Dan Reiter and Allan Stam come to a very different conclusion. Democracies tend to win the wars they fight--specifically, about eighty percent of the time.

Complementing their wide-ranging case-study analysis, the authors apply innovative statistical tests and new hypotheses. In unusually clear prose, they pinpoint two reasons for democracies' success at war. First, as elected leaders understand that losing a war can spell domestic political backlash, democracies start only those wars they are likely to win. Secondly, the emphasis on individuality within democratic societies means that their soldiers fight with greater initiative and superior leadership.

Surprisingly, Reiter and Stam find that it is neither economic muscle nor bandwagoning between democratic powers that enables democracies to win wars. They also show that, given societal consent, democracies are willing to initiate wars of empire or genocide. On the whole, they find, democracies' dependence on public consent makes for more, rather than less, effective foreign policy. Taking a fresh approach to a question that has long merited such a study, this book yields crucial insights on security policy, the causes of war, and the interplay between domestic politics and international relations.

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