Much of what we notice about international interactions involves violence. Wars between states, wars within states supported by or suppressed by neighbours, and attacks by non-state actors. There was an expression on Fleet Street, home of the London tabloids and more established media, “If it bleeds, it leads”. Violent events in international relations involve deliberate death and destruction inflicted by one actor on another (physical violence), but another kind of violence occurs when actors are consciously denied the capacity to survive or improve their conditions of life. Peace researcher Johann Galtung coined the phrase structural violence to describe this form of violence, which is widespread both domestically and in the international system. This week we will keep the focus on physical violence, and we will explore further the potential links between physical and structural violence when we consider development and security connections in week 12. We may go beyond current physical violence to consider the potential for future wars and the concept of a “war trap”. This has been popularized recently by Graham Allison, author of a seminal book on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Essence of Decision) but the argument that states will prefer to fight a rising rival before their power is surpassed was made compellingly by Choucri and North (1975), who identified population, resources, and technology as the master variables in driving the “lateral pressure” to go to war with rising powers. We’ll explore this further in week 13. The main point to emphasize here, as we start with violent events, is that physical violence is inextricably related to various forms of structural violence, and military power is inseparable from diplomacy and economic factors. In considering each any of the cases, try to think in terms of systems.
Shiraev, Chapters 5 and 8
Other resources according to cases considered.
Student coordinators will select two of the following cases to explore this week:
Credibility check: what are the signs that a source is more or less credible? How do you verify?