The Concept of War

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Meikko Jay D. Forones POLS 411 – Solving the Puzzle of War _______________________________________________________________ In the first chapter of John Vasquez (1993) book entitled “The War Puzzle” he attempted to conceptualize war through accumulating major findings from the existing war literature ranging from Clausewitz to modern behavioralists and ethnologists. He is struck by the overreliance on "realist" or power- based explanations of war, and seeks to balance the equation by conceptualizing war as a learned group process consisting of various actions, reactions, and foreign policy missteps over key issues such as territoriality, taken in the context of international rules and institutions. Accordingly, the definition of war is a result of the language we use to describe it, which is a result of our previous knowledge. There are many definitions of war that Vasquez tried to analyze in order to come up with his conception of war. Amongst other existing definitions of war, he prefers Hedley Bull’s (1977) definition: “War is organized violence carried on by political unit against each other.” Although he has made it clear that even working and operational definitions make theoretical assumptions that may distort the world, he has avoided beginning this inquiry with an explicit theoretical definition. However, he believes that a review of theoretical definitions provides understanding of the various concepts of war that have existed and some insight s about what may be the most useful theoretical assumptions to make in trying to explain war. To sum up all the conceptions he had presented in his essay, he make six theoretical assumptions: (1) war is learned; (2) war comes out of a long-term process; (3) war is a product of interaction and not simply systemic conditions; (4) war is a way of making decisions; (5) war is multi-causal; and (6) there are

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