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Why Nations Go To War


Published: August 23, 2017

War is politics by other means. In other words, when political leaders cannot get what they want through peaceful methods, they judge the cost of achieving their goal through military force. Preventing armed conflict requires raising the cost of using force. Until the cost of any armed conflict is prohibitively high, conflicts will continue.

Discussion Question

  1. Has a nation ever been deterred from using force due to the threat of consequences?
  2. What are historical examples of countries going to war due to the miscalculation about the time and resources necessary to win?
  3. How do we convince other nations that the cost of war is too high?
  4. What may cause political leaders to think that war will be quick and cheap?

Additional Resources

  1. Read “Words Matter, Even a Few” by Victor Hanson to learn why words matter in international relations.
  2. In Warriors and CitizensGeneral Jim Mattis and Kori Schake offer different perspectives on whether or not the different experiences of US military and the broader society amounts to a "gap"—and if the American public is losing connection to its military.
  3. “Bellum Interruptum” by Victor Davis Hanson, available here.
  4. “War: The Gambling Man’s Game” by Kori Schake, available here.
  5.  Podcast with Kori Schake on American dominance of the international order, available here.