The Declining Probability of War Thesis: How Relevant for the Asia-Pacific?

Author/s (editor/s):

James L. Richardson

Publication year:


Publication type:

Working paper

Find this publication at:
IR Working Paper 1996/8 (PDF, 2.82MB)

James L. Richardson, 'The Declining Probability of War Thesis: How Relevant for the Asia-Pacific?', IR Working Paper 1996/8, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, December 1996.

This paper examines the reasons why it is commonly held that the underlying conditions which shape world politics at the present time are highly favourable to the avoidance of major war, and inquires into the implications of this thesis for the Asia-Pacific region. It suggests that arguments relating to democracy and peace, and the changing attitude to war in modern industrial societies, are inconclusive in the regional context, but that arguments concerning the changing costs and benefits of major war, and the effects of interdependence and globalisation, are more persuasive. Nonetheless, the prospects for peace depend also on policy choices: the paper argues that the most familiar approaches to policy, power balancing and the construction of cooperative security institutions, are of limited value and that greater weight should be placed on diplomacy, both in responding to crises and in promoting constructive relationships.

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