The political geography of conflict:

 Civil wars in the hegemonic shadow.







John O’Loughlin


Institute of Behavioral Science and

Department of Geography


University of Colorado at Boulder


Campus Box 487


Boulder, CO. 80309-0487







Forthcoming in Colin Flint (ed.) The Geographies of War.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.







Acknowledgements: Thousands of students and a series of superb teaching assistants in Geography 4712 (Political Geography) at the University of Colorado since 1988, either through interest or disdain, have forced me to clarify my ideas about post-Cold War conflicts.  Colin Flint’s invitation to contribute to this book enticed me to convert my thoughts from lecture notes into print.  Clionadh Raleigh helped in tracking data and bibliographic sources and Tom Dickinson of the Institute of Behavioral Science prepared the graphics for publication in his customary efficient, timely and professional manner.

The attack by the United States on Iraq in March 2003 was atypical of contemporary conflicts.  While the attempt to kill Saddam Hussein on March 19 marked the opening of hostilities and was broadcast worldwide instantaneously, a much more destructive conflict that had raged for five years in the Democratic Republic of Congo continued to receive hardly any notice.  The war to depose the Hussein regime resulted in fewer than 12,000 dead (122 US-UK troops, 6,000-7,000 civilians and about 5,000 Iraqi military casualties –   The civil wars in Congo (formerly Zaire) since 1998 have resulted in 3.1 to 4.7 million dead with 250,000 killed in the fighting near Bunia (eastern Congo) in 2002-2003 (Economist, 24 May, 2003).   Conflict directly caused 300,000 deaths worldwide in 2000, with over half of them in Africa.  Conflict directly accounts for 0.5% of all global deaths; the indirect effects are significantly larger (Murray et al., 2002).

These gruesome comparative statistics on casualties illustrate well the main themes of this chapter about post Cold War conflicts.  First, contemporary wars are disproportionately civil conflicts; only a handful of interstate wars have occurred in the last decade.  Second, the US has been disproportionately involved in both interstate and civil wars, either directly by attacking another country (Panama 1989, Iraq 1991, Yugoslavia 1999, Afghanistan 2001, Iraq 2003) or by indirectly supporting governments under pressure from rebels (e.g. Haiti, Pakistan, Colombia, Israel, Turkey, Philippines, Macedonia, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia).  Third, civil wars are lasting longer than ever before; the average length is now 8 years.  Fourth, civil wars are much more destructive of life and property than interstate wars, partly because international structures and rules are either unavailable or ignored.  More mechanisms exist to resolve inter-state disputes.  Fifth, overwhelming US military power and a growing disparity with its opponents has resulted increasingly in asymmetric use of force and “risk-transfer wars” (Shaw, 2002).  Tiny US casualties stand in sharp contrast to large numbers of civilian and military deaths in the countries under attack.  The gap is expected to grow as the US military expenditures soon equals that of ALL other countries combined and new high-tech weaponry is rushed into production.   From a 1989 world in which the superpowers blackmailed each other through the threat of nuclear annihilation,  the new world order is completely dominated by an American hegemon that shows little hesitation in pushing its ideological agenda using military and economic weapons.

In this chapter, I focus on two big developments and one corollary in world politics over the past 15 years.  Despite expectations about a surge in ethnic-based conflict when the standoff of Soviet and US military forces ended, the number of wars has not changed appreciably from the Cold War years. Gurr (2000) claims ethnic-based wars has been on the decline from the early 1990s.  Civil wars are still found predominantly in poor Third World countries, though the end of the Soviet Union’s domination of its region has allowed ethnic strife in the Caucasus, the Balkans and in Central Asia.  For every interstate war, there are more than 8 civil wars ongoing.  In this regard, not much has changed since the pre-1989 world. 

The second big development is the growing lead of the US over any putative challengers.  In the last years of the Cold War, American commentators expressed fears about the relative decline of the US, especially in face of the growth of China and Japan (Kennedy, 1987; Nye, 1990). These concerns seem laughable in hindsight, with the subsequent implosion of the Japanese economy, the sluggish growth of European states, and the dependence of China on a growth model that, in turn, depends on international institutions dominated by the US.  By contrast, the US economy boomed in the 1990s.  Military spending skyrocketed after September 11, 2001 (now over $400 billion a year and projected to rise to $2.7 trillion over the next 6 years) despite the huge budget deficits to which it contributed.  Hyperpuissance” (hyper-power), a term popularized by Hubert Vedrine, a former French foreign minister in reference to the United States, indeed characterizes the contemporary presence of the US on the global scene.

The corollary of the second trend is that the US is not shy in using its power to reshape the world-system to its liking.   As Walter Russell Mead (1999/2000, 5) notes “Since the Vietnam War, taken by some as opening a new era of reluctance in the exercise of military power, the United States has deployed combat forces in, or used deadly force over, Cambodia, Iran, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Turkey, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Sudan, Afghanistan, the South China Sea, Liberia, Macedonia, Albania and Yugoslavia. This is a record that no other country comes close to matching.”    At the time of the 1991 Iraq war, I developed 10 scenarios for the “new world order” as it was then called by former President George H.W. Bush.  I ranked the probabilities from lowest to highest and plunked for “unilateralism by the United States” as the most probable scenario for the 1990s (O’Loughlin, 1992).  Despite the tentative on-off embrace of the Clinton Presidency (1993-2001) of global institutions such as the UN, the World Court, and the World Trade Organization, his successor George W. Bush has matched my expectations. 

My accurate prediction was based on what I saw (and still see) as the most-abiding quality of the United States, called a ‘garrison state’ by Harold Lasswell (1962).  Characterized by enormous military expenditures, a world-ordering vision (democracy and capitalism), and a need of enemies, coupled with a tendency to lash out at enemies supposed and real, the US is now truly engaged in a unilateralist enterprise to remake the world in its image.  McDougall (1997) shows that this crusading spirit is not of recent vintage but can be traced back to the founding of the Republic.  In this enterprise, there is no room for neutrals, quibblers, naysayers or skeptics.  As President Bush said to Congress after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, in the war against terror “either you are with us or with the terrorists.”  The US has been unflinching about killing its enemies in the pursuit of its geostrategic goals (900,000 Japanese dead in the last 5 months of World War II, not counting the victims of the atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; over 1 million North Koreans killed out of a population of 9.3 million; and about 365,000 Vietnamese civilians killed – Mead, 1999/2000).

The same certainty, ruthlessness, and directness of purpose is continued in the US global vision during the second Bush presidency.  The Bush Doctrine enunciated in the National Security Strategy of the United States (September 2002) states that “To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively”; this preemptive action includes invasion and attacks on countries that are supposedly supporting terrorism.  The hubris of such a self-designation as judge and executioner violates the spirit of the charter of the United Nations that the Truman Administration was instrumental in getting passed in 1945 and stands as a clear indication of the unilateralist stand of the Bush Administration.


Civil Wars: Poverty and Geography

Despite Mearsheimer’s (1990) expectations, the number of wars in the post Cold War period did not skyrocket in the decade and half after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Between 1945 and 1999, about 3.33 million battle deaths occurred in 25 interstate wars and involved 25 countries.  In contrast, 127 civil wars in the same period killed 16.2 million (five times more).  These occurred in 73 countries and lasted on average about 6 years. Continually, about 1 in 6 countries have had a civil war since the end of World War II (data from Fearon and Laitin, 2002, 75). If one looks at all years for all countries (the total set of all possible country war years), 127 civil war starts in a sample of 6610 years produces a rate of 1.92%.  In absolute terms, more civil wars began in the 1990s than any other post war decade (Fearon and Laitin, 2002, 77).  It is important to note that the 1990s wars were not the result of new post-Cold War developments.  Rather, they were the results of cumulative grievances that had aggregated during the years when the US and the Soviet Union were dominant in their respective world spheres and kept a lid on local conflicts (Fearon and Laitin, 2002).  With the end of the Cold War order, these superpower controls were removed as both countries turned to domestic matters.  Of the wars between 1960 and 1999, there were 52 major civil wars with the typical conflict lasting around seven years and leaving a legacy of persistent poverty and disease in its wake (Collier, 2003, 44).  Recent wars are longer-lasting, from 2 years on average in 1947 to 15 years in 1999 (Fearon and Laitin, 2002).  This lengthening suggests caution about supposed global interest in settling Third World conflicts either through economic boycotts, military intervention, or negotiations. 

          It is increasingly evident from research into the causes of contemporary conflicts that the simplest and most common account, ethnic rivalries, falls short of complete explanation. In two-thirds of contemporary civil wars, ethnicity is a dominant or influential factor; about half of these countries become ‘failed states’ with resulting government collapse and widespread famine (Scherrer, 2002).  Comparing civil wars 1985-1994 with more recent wars, 1995-2000, Scherrer shows that ethno-nationalist and inter-ethnic wars account for 52.6% of the conflicts in the earlier period compared to 49.4% in the later years.  While most Third World civil wars have a clear ethnic dimension, expressed in savage butchery such as the Hutu massacre of Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 or Serb massacres of Bosnian Muslim men at Srebrenica in 1995, the main factor underlying the outbreak of war is economic.  As the Economist (24 May 2003, 25) noted “poverty fosters war, and war impoverishes.”  The analysis of the World Bank group on Civil Wars, presented in Collier (2003) and Collier et al. (2003), on their causes clearly lends support to the argument that “money trumps kinship.” 

          The skepticism about the ethnic factor (noted earlier) needs to be tempered for one special type of case.  If a country has a single large minority juxtaposed to an ethnically-different majority (such as Tamils and Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, or Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda and Burundi), the odds of a civil war doubles (Collier et al., 2003).  The reason for this specific correlation is that the minority feels that it stands no change of effecting change through the usual political process of elections and democratic competition; it will always lose in an ethnically-divided polity.  The more diverse the country (multiple smaller ethnic groups), the lower the changes of war since coalitions between the groups are necessary to form a majority and political bargaining can garner a victorious coalition. 

          Powerful evidence in support of the economic hypothesis is provided by Fearon and Laitin (2002).  Controlling for per capita income in their statistical analysis, they show that ethnically or religiously divided countries have been no more likely to experience significant violence.  Another way to look at this conundrum of ethnic wars is to turn the question around.  In the 200 or so countries in the world, there are between 6,500 and 10,000 ethnic entities of diverse size (Scherrer, 2002).  Yet relatively few of these ethnic entities fight with their neighbors.  Further, ethnically homogenous countries like Somalia (1990s) and Ireland (1922-23) have seen devastating civil violence.  How can we reconcile the apparently contradictory (ethnic versus economic) explanations of civil wars?                                                   

          The ethnic explanation for civil war draws from the ’primordialist’ model of nationalism.  In this view, nations are natural and perennial, emerging out of the mists of time and bound together by blood, territory, historical, language, religious and emotive ties (Smith, 1986; Connor, 1993).  If one adopts a pure primordialist perspective, one would expect tensions and competition for state resources from the various ethnic groups that constitute most of the world’s states. In a zero-sum calculus, a gain for one group (say, dominating the officer class in the national army) is a loss for the others.  As the Economist (24 May, 2003, 24) notes “rebellions always start for political reasons.”  Political reasons usually involve economic and geographic resources.  This is where an alternative economic-Marxist argument enters the picture.  In order to rouse ethnic groups to their secondary status relative to other groups or the majority, elites point to examples of economic disparity to build the movement. King (2001) uses post-Soviet conflicts (South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Trans-Dniester Republic and Nagorno-Karabakh) to illustrate how this kind of ethnic mobilization occurs in practice.

Tom Nairn (1977) developed the “nationalism from above” theory, describing how the middle-class in poor regions could energize and activate ethnically-based movements for redress of their subservient status.  Especially in poor, peripheral regions far from the core of a state, the combination of feelings of deprivation and ethnic distinctiveness is a powerful force motivating rebellion.  The ethnic factor is a necessary but not always a sufficient condition to bring about action – the sufficiency condition is added by the economic factor, especially poverty.  (See Williams 1989 for an application to Europe of this kind of dual ethnic-primordialist/economic-disparity  explanation).  In a statistical analysis, Elbadawi and Sambanis (2002) show that ethnic diversity plays a part in promoting the odds of a civil war in a poor and repressive society but this ethnic factor disappears when countries develop economically and improve their human rights record.

          Once civil war begins, both sides need money and must find ways to procure it.  If one side is the government, it can switch state spending and develop favorable tax regimes to pay for its war.  On the non-government side, cash is not so readily available.  Two main sources are assistance from neighboring governments (who often have an on-going dispute with their neighbor) or from an ethnic diaspora overseas.  Contemporary examples are the external support for Chechen rebels, for the Irish Republican Army (in Northern Ireland), for Congolese rebels (supported by Rwanda), and Sierra Leone rebels supported by the Liberian government of Charles Taylor. The fluidity of borders and the nature of global underground financial flows make it almost impossible to stop these kinds of aid. 

A second (and increasingly) common source of funds is gaining control and selling of natural resources within the rebel region or nearby.  Natural resources play multiple roles in rebellion.  First, rebel leaders can build an  argument that they belong to the region, not to the national elite.  As Fearon and Laitin (2002, 42), “the greed of a resource-rich locality can seem ethically less ugly if a corrupt national elite is already hijacking the resources.”  Second, the presence of valuable natural resources makes rebellion more likely (Le Billon, 2001; Collier et al., 2003).  Third, there is a war dividend in the form of control and sales of the resource to keep the fight ongoing.  Well-known examples of the intersection of resources and rebellion are Sierra Leone and Angola (diamonds), Angola, Sudan, Indonesia (Aceh), Chad, and Nigeria (oil),  Morocco/Western Sahara (phosphate), and Tajikistan, Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Caucasus, Myanmar, Peru, Colombia and Kurdistan(drugs). (Le Billon, 2001). To break the link and to hinder the flows of revenues from the sales of these resources, external actors try to institute embargoes on their flows.  The recent global certification of diamonds from known sources, such as South Africa, is one example of these efforts; uncertified diamonds are not supposed to be traded and sold.  The breakdown of government control in war-torn regions can be gauged from the World Bank estimate that 95% of the global production of hard drugs is located in civil war countries (Collier, 2003, 44). 

          Collier’s work at the World Bank exemplifies a recent interest in the discipline of economics about the impact of poverty on violence and vice-versa.  Jeffrey Sachs (2001) focuses on failed states (failure to provide basic public services to their populations) as “seedbeds of violence, terrorism, international criminality, mass migration and refugee movements, drug trafficking and disease.” (p.187).  He accepts the explanation of the CIA’s study of 113 cases of state failure; failed states are extremely poor, non-democratic, and economically closed.  Further, they are “tense, deeply conflicted, dangerous, and bitterly contested  by warring factions.” (Rotberg, 2002, 85).  To these elements, Sachs (2001, 190) adds a geographic one. “Physical ecology probably plays a role.  Africa is uniquely hampered by extreme conditions of disease and low food productivity that in turn prevent those societies from managing the minimum necessary conditions for growth.”  The CIA State Failure Task Force reported that almost every case of US military intervention since 1960 had taken place in a developing country that had previously experienced state failure.   

There are both expected and unexpected associations between war and political-geographic factors.   As might be expected, as a country’s income increases, its risk of being a war zone decreases.  For a country like Congo with deep poverty, a collapsing economy, and huge mineral exploitation, the risk of war reaches nearly 80 percent (Collier, 2003).  If per capita income doubles, the risk of war halves; for each percentage point that the economic growth rate increases, the risk of conflict falls by a percentage point (Collier et al., 2003). Fearon and Laitin (2002, 83) calculate that “every fall in per capita income of $1000 corresponds to a 34% greater annual odds of war outbreak.”  Economic growth generates more opportunities for youth.  “Being a rebel foot soldier is no way to make a fortune but it may be better than the alternative.” (Economist, 24 May, 2003, 25).  The average age of the fighters in civil wars continues to fall with children as young as 8 years of age impressed into armies in West and Central Africa.  War tends to draw in neighboring countries since rebels skip to and fro across borders to sell resources, to buy weapons, to escape pursuit, and to regroup.  War in one country tends to depress economic investment and growth in neighboring states.  It has long been known that geographic contiguity is significant in determining the diffusion of conflict (O’Loughlin, 1986).

          Another expected association of geography to war is that physical geography matters.  From Fearon and Laitin’s (2002) regression model, it is evident that if a country is large, mountainous and is lightly populated, it faced added risks of rebellion.  Rebels can hide out and maintain their forces in such environments, particularly if they have support from ethnic kin or neighboring states.  Finally, it must be noted that governments kill many more of their citizens than rebels or foreigners.  Democide” (destruction of the people), Rummel’s (1997) term, is an apt description of the kind of brutality wreaked by Pol Pot in Cambodia, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Idi Amin in Uganda, Stalin in the Soviet Union, or Emperor Bokassa in the Central African Republic.  Overall, more than four times more people are killed by their governments than in wars.

          On the unexpected side of the war explanation lie two widely-discussed relationships, that democracies are more peaceful and that Islamic states are bloodier.  Both suppositions do not hold up to close inspection.  The “democratic peace” hypothesis (Russett, 1994) holds that two democratic states will not find them on opposite sides in a conflict because of the pressure of their own domestic polities.  There is substantial evidence supporting this notion.  However, democratic states have been heavily involved in conflicts, as the examples of the United States (discussed below) and the United Kingdom show.  Collier et al. (2003) conclude that democracy fails to reduce the risk of civil war at least in low-income countries and Fearon and Laitin (2002) concur; civil wars are not less frequent in democracies after controlling for income.  The growth of the number of people living in democratic states and the diffusion of democracy into previously-authoritarian regions expected by the globalizers (e.g. Elliott, 2003) would not predict an overly optimistic outcome in a causal reduction in war.   Recent research by Gleditsch and Ward (2000) on the transitions between democracy and authoritarianism indicates that uneven transitions (large swings back to authoritarianism and forth to democracy) can increase the probability of war.  Taking a long-term perspective since 1816, Hegre et al.(2001) conclude that intermediate regimes (between democracy and authoritarianism) are most prone to civil war and that becoming a democracy significantly lessens the odds of civil strife.  The effects of democracy on conflict are significantly mediated by the regional location of the country of interest.  Democracies within democratic regions (e.g. Europe) have much better prospects of peace.

          Huntington’s (1996) book on the Clash of Civilizations contained the statements that “Islam has bloody borders” and “bloody innards” attributed by him to the nature of the cultural-religious features and demographic characteristics in Islamic societies.  Two careful checks of these claims have debunked them.  Fearon and Laitin (2002) show that adding a variable measuring the percent of Muslims in each country to the model is not statistically significant (income is still dominant) and Chiozza (2002) also dismisses the Huntington hypothesis using data from 1946 to 1997.  In fact, Fearon and Laitin (2002) go further to argue that global regional location does not matter; in other words, after controlling for the country characteristics (income, ethnic ratios, etc), the rate of civil war onset is not significantly different across the globe.  However, this conclusion should be accepted with  caution since they measured the regional effect using a crude dummy variable and did not use the more sophisticated geographic methodology that allows careful simultaneous examination of the country and regional factors. (For an example of this kind of spatial modeling applied to conflict, see O’Loughlin and Anselin, 1991; Gleditsch and Ward, 2000).

The geographic distribution of conflict:          Numerous datasets are now available for the study of conflict.  They differ mostly in their definitions of what constitutes war. A minimum number of deaths of 1000 per year is found in the most widely used dataset, the Correlates of War project (Singer and Small, 1994).  In this section of the chapter, I will use the Uppsala dataset that has a low threshold of 25 deaths/year and is available back to 1946.  These data are updated yearly and are available from  The Uppsala group counts 225 armed conflicts between 1946 and 2001, with 34 of them active in 2001 (Walleensteen and Stollenberg, 2001; Strand et al., 2003).  Of these 225 wars, 163 were predominantly internal conflicts, 21 were extrastate conflicts (between a state and a non-state group outside its territory, such as Al-Qaeda) and 42 were interstate conflicts.  Gleditsch et al (2002), using the Uppsala data, plot the trend over the past 55 years and fit a third degree polynomial trendline to the data. (A third degree polynomial has two inflexion points.  One could fit a fourth degree or higher polynomials but the additional fit to the data does not compensate for the complexity of the model). The general pattern is a decline during the early years followed by a gradual rise in the last two decades of the Cold War followed by a decline after 1989.  I extend their analysis and also examine the specific locations of conflicts, also replicating the work of Buhaug and Gates (2002) who use the Uppsala data and report the exact geographic location of the war zones.  For example, they identify the geographic coordinates of the Chechen-Russian war as the republic in the North Caucasus mountains, rather than all of Russia which would be identified as the war zone in the traditional method of war analysis.

          Given the overwhelming evidence summarized above on the impact of wealth on conflict, I examine conflicts since 1946 by presenting them in the context of a country’s level of development.  Rather than simply using gross domestic product per capita or some other economic measure of development, I prefer to use the broader measure of the UNDP’s (United Nations Development Program) Human Development Index.  The Index is derived from individual scores on a variety of income, educational, literacy, health, and other measures; the goal of the index is to show the extent to which each country’s population is able to reach its  potential as a full productive citizenry following individual needs and interests (UNDP, 2002). The Index ranges from .942 (Norway) to .275 (Sierra Leone) in 2000.

Figure 1: Probability that a country is involved in armed conflict (all levels and all types) – annual figures and 3rd degree polynomial trendline.  OECD countries on top graph and non-OECD countries on bottom graph.


          An unexpected contrast appears in the long-term trends of conflict when the rich and poor countries are evaluated separately.  In Figure 1, I replicate the approach of Gleditsch et al (2002) but I calculate the trends separately for OECD and non-OECD members.  The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) includes approximately 30 of the richest countries in the world; its numbers have risen from about 20 during the Cold War to include the richest of the post-Communist states in Central Europe. Its members are predominantly in Western Europe but it also includes Australasia, Mexico, Japan, Canada and the US.    Each graph has two lines.  The yearly values show the probability of an OECD (or non-OECD on bottom graph) country being involved in war, either at home or abroad.  It is calculated as the ratio of the states involved in war divided by all states in that group, OECD or non-OECD.  Clearly, the yearly values fluctuate greatly and the index does not measure the severity of the violence or the scale of the involvement. Obvious peaks on the OECD graph correspond to the 1991 Iraq war, Kosovo 1999 and the post-September 11 attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan.  While the US provided the bulk of the fighting forces in these wars, other OECD members supplied troops, equipment, support services, or otherwise contributed to the war effort.  Fitting a third degree polynomial to the yearly data from 1946 yields a downward sloping line from the early 1950s but an upward slope for the 1990s.  The three peaks of the war years 1991, 1999 and 2001 drive the recent slope but the trend should give pause to anyone who thinks that rich countries are free from war.  With the exception of the terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001 and the long-established guerrilla wars in Northern Ireland (UK) and the Basque country (Spain), the OECD wars were conducted off-shore.

          The trendline for the non-OECD (poor and middle-income countries) is not as strongly derived from peaks and troughs.  The overall trend matches the line for the world system in Gleditsch et al (2002) since about five in six states are not OECD members. Since the early 1950s, the trend is gradually upwards to a peak at the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s, followed by a decline.  The upward trend was promoted by the actions of the superpowers in assisting their proxies in Third World conflicts (O’Loughlin, 1989).  Sometimes the proxies were states (e.g. Somalia and Guatemala for the US; Ethiopia and Nicaragua for the Soviet Union). Sometimes, they were rebels (e.g. the Contras in Nicaragua and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan for the US; the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Vietcong for the USSR).

Mearsheimer (1990) argued that the probability of conflict was driven by the nature of the international system.  In his realist view, bi-polar systems are more stable than multi-polar ones and therefore, the end of the dual superpower controls in their respective orbits in 1989 would lead to more war.  Additionally, he argued that the growing power inequality between the US and other states would invite war, because they increase “an aggressor’s prospects for victory on the battlefield” (p. 37).  These two graphs in Figure 1 show that Mearsheimer was both right and wrong.  Despite his expectations, there has not been a general upsurge in violence worldwide since the end of the bi-polar world-system as the trend for the non-OECD in the 1990s shows.  But the trend for the OECD countries, driven by the massive US involvements overseas in the 1990s, supports his expectations about the outcomes of inequality in the world-system.  In order to return to the status quo ante, a realist would argue that a reduction in the power disparity is needed.  In Mearsheimer’s (1990, 37) words, “small gaps foster peace, large gaps promote war…deterrence is more likely to hold when the costs and risks of going to war are unambiguously stark.”

          Robert Kaplan (1994) in “The coming anarchy” received a great deal of attention with his apocalyptic vision of poor Third World states mired in poverty, racked by civil wars, devastated by AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases, and becoming increasingly remote from the rich world.   He started his journey in West Africa “Disease, overpopulation, unprovoked crime, scarcity of resources, refugee migrations, the increasing erosion of nation-states and international borders, and the empowerment of private armies, security firms, and international drug cartels are now most tellingly demonstrated through a West African prism. …To remap the political earth the way it will be a few decades hence …I find I must begin with West Africa.” (p.46). Kaplan recognized the dual nature of global conflict, concentrated in the poorer parts of the world.  We are entering a bifurcated world. Part of the globe is inhabited by Hegel's and Fukuyama's Last Man, healthy, well fed, and pampered by technology. The other, larger, part is inhabited by Hobbes's First Man, condemned to a life that is ‘poor, nasty, brutish, and short’." (p.60).  This distinction between a Hegelian and a Hobbesian world also garnered a large press because of Robert Kagan’s “power and weakness” article of 2002.  Kagan contrasts the weakness of the European states and the strength of the US.  For Europeans, the world is inexorably evolving into the Hegelian model, a paradise of peace and relative prosperity. 

 Figure 2: Geographic distribution of conflict and United Nations Human Development Index scores.  Conflict is scaled as 1: between 25 and 1000 battle deaths over the course of the conflict; 2: over 1,000 battle deaths in the conflict but fewer than 1,000 per year; 3: at least 1,000 battle deaths a year.

This is the vision elaborated by Francis Fukuyama in “The End of History and the Last Man” (1992).  Americans, by contrast, remain “mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might.” (Kagan, 2002, 3). 

The geography of conflict since World War II is mapped in Figure 2.  The zones of peace and war are clearly demarcated.  Against a background of countries shaded according to their UN human development indices (HDI) in 2000 (high, medium and low), we can map the exact locations of the war zones with the size of the triangles indicating the scale of the conflict (number of deaths).  The visual correlation between the index of human development and war is evident.  (PIOOM produce a similar map on World Conflicts and Human Rights; see Jongman, 2001).  Almost all wars have occurred in low and medium HDI states.  (For more on this theme, see the chapter by Van der Wusten in this book).   This is not to say that high HDI countries have not been involved in war. The US (ranked 6th on the HDI in 2000) is most active but as an external participant.  The three main regional concentrations are in Central America, tropical Africa, and the ‘arc of crisis” stretching from south-eastern Europe through the Caucasus and the Middle East into South and South-east Asia.  Within each of these zones, some countries or regions within countries have seen continual endemic violence. Israel/Palestine, the border between Iraq/Iran/Turkey, the states of South-east Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the Congo Basin in central Africa stand out as bloody lands.  Most of these triangles represent fairly small conflicts but some indicate widespread, bloody wars that involve numerous neighboring countries.  The current wars in the Congo which have dragged in 8 neighboring states (plus UN forces) is only the latest of regional-scale conflicts that include the Korean war of the 1950s, the Vietnam war 1950-1970s, Israel/Palestine and other Middle Eastern states, and the West African wars of the 1990s.

          A cursory glance at the map in Figure 2 or reliance on the images that emerge from Africa, the Caucasus or most of the Middle East would tend to confirm Kaplan’s decade old projection.  Yet, these impressions must be tempered by the reality of the data.  Conflicts in the Third World and in the former Soviet Union are not of one kind.  Many have deep external involvements from rich countries, usually the US and/or a former colonial power.  Some wars have definitely resulted in state failure – especially in the African states of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Somalia, and Congo.  Other states, however,  have returned from the brink of collapse as in Mozambique, Angola and Ethiopia. 

With the exception of the short-lived intervention in Somalia in late 1992, US involvement in civil wars has been in pursuit of clear realist goals.  President-elect George W. Bush stated in December 2000 that he would not order US troops to any country even to stop another Rwanda-scale genocide.  Whether the events of September 11, 2001 will change this strategic vision remains to be seen.  The dilemma posed by Kaplan (and by Barnett below) stands as an ever clearer choice – should the US try to bring peace to war zones, either unilaterally or as part of a multilateral force, because war has negative externalities (refugees, disease, starvation, etc) and the roots of terrorism reach far and deep?  Or should the US retain a respectful distaste for involvement that does not directly contribute to the security of the United States? By choosing the latter, the US would adhere to an updated version of the Powell Doctrine (named after the current Secretary of State) that demands that US forces be used only to promote national strategic interests, be used in overwhelming numbers to ensure a quick victory, and be withdrawn in an expedited manner.   Part of the answer might be found in the nature of US foreign relations and military operations in the aftermath of September 11.  The indecision in Summer 2003 whether to commit US peacekeeping forces to Liberia as part of a multi-national effort indicates the tension in American foreign policy between the “Jacksonian” tradition of aggressive self-interest and the “Wilsonian” tradition of internationalism (Mead, 2002).  The debate about the US role in world affairs must be placed against the debate about the strength and sustainability of the hegemonic status of the US.  Despite an appearance of unanimity and clarity in the public posture of the American government in the aftermath of September 11, the questions are not yet resolved.

The Hegemon Acts and Reacts.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has continued to expand its military lead over all other countries.  In 2002, the US accounted for 43% of global military expenditure, expected to rise to over 50% of the world total within 3 years.  In 2002, the US expenditure equaled that of the next 25 countries combined.  Whilst there are various ways to measure military strength, military expenditures is the simplest and most generic measure.  According to this measure, the US spends about 3.3% of its GDP on its military, compared to ratios half as large in Western Europe (1.3% in Germany, 2.3% in the UK,  $2.6% in France).  Some relatively poor countries spend higher ratios on their military, such as China’s 3.5 to 5% estimate, but the absolute amounts are relatively small ($47 billion for China compared to $399.1 billion for the US in 2002).   (All figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute Yearbooks and the CIA’s World Factbook, 2002).

          More than the increase in US military spending, the collapse of any serious challenge to American military and political supremacy consequent upon the implosion of the Soviet Union widened the gap between the US and the rest.  The balance enforced by nuclear MAD (mutual assured destruction) was erased after 1991.  Kagan (2003) attributes the proliferation of US exercise of power in a unipolar world as a natural consequence of the USSR collapse.   Combining the removal of the Soviet threat of a counter-move with the development of new technologies, especially long-range weapons like Cruise missiles, the US was able to use more force more frequently with less risk of significant casualties.  Because of the domestic doubts (sometimes escalating into opposition) to military actions overseas, US leaders have been careful to build support for war.  The Iraq war of Spring 2003 was undertaken only after a year of massive (and successful) efforts to convince Americans of the dangers of Saddam Hussein’s purported possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and supposed linkage of his regime to Al-Qaeda, the September 11 operatives.  By the outbreak of war, overwhelming numbers (77%) of Americans supported the Bush Administration’s actions.  The Washington Post/ABC poll (April 7, 2003) showed that, of the large demographic groups, only African-Americans showed less than majority support for the action (at 49%); by contrast, Conservative Republicans gave 99% support to the attack on Iraq.

          Why are Americans so willing to support the use of military force abroad?  Actually, the gap between Americans and residents of other democratic countries is a recent development.  At the time of the Kosovo war in April 1999, citizens of countries like Denmark, Croatia, and the UK showed higher support for an attack on Yugoslavia than Americans, whilst the values for Germans, French, Norwegians and Canadians were not much different than the American ratio (O’Loughlin and Kolossov, 2002). The answer to the question, of course, lies in the attacks of September 11, 2001. It changed the American foreign policy psyche like no event since Pearl Harbor in 1941.  But despite the US media hype about the way the world has changed.  Saul Cohen (2002, 569), an eminent political geographer, was more sober in answering his own question: “Has September 11, 2001 fundamentally changed the global geopolitical scene?...In fact, it is not the world that has changed, but the American perception of the world.  International and domestic terrorism has taken hundreds of thousands of victims over the past half century.”   However, by changing their perspective on the world, Americans, through their hegemonic power, are thus changing the world.

          Kagan (2002) and Toal (2003) are agreed about the nature of the contemporary US public.  For Toal, drawing on Mead (2002), Americans in 2003 are following a Bush presidency that lies squarely in the “Jacksonian tradition” of American foreign policy.   Of the four American geopolitical traditions identified by Mead (Hamiltonian, Wilsonian, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian), it is the Jacksonian one that is most identified with populist aggressive nationalism.  The basis for it is an idealized view of Americans as belonging to a community with a strong sense of common values and a common destiny.  This view, of course, papers over debates and disputes within the US body politic and uses the argument that “all politics stops at the water’s edge” to squelch debate about the nature of American power and the uses to which it is put.  Once the Jacksonian ideal was re-established and widely promoted, it became a “somatic marker” that was used to manipulate public opinion.  A somatic marker is, in Connolly’s (2002) words, “a publicly mobilized, corporeal disposition.” The state apparatus through its media access can simplify the process of calculation in foreign policy by emphasizing saturated memory and gut feelings; use of trite expressions by politicians like the title of a country music tune “America will always stand” appeals to the most basic patriotic instincts.   The end result is a “public affect” that drives an aggressive foreign policy (Toal, 2003).

          Kagan (2002) became famous on the basis of a proposition that Americans have a specific world view that is fundamentally based on the Hobbesian model of world affairs - where anarchy reigns, where laws and rules are flouted or absent, where security is only guaranteed by a strong military deterrent, and where the military can indeed win “the hearts and minds” of foreign opponents.  Though the focus of the article is the distinction between Americans as Hobbesians and Europeans as Kantians, and the gulf in understanding that results, the most important conclusion (with which I agree) is that both groups have contrasting views on how to settle difficult international problems.  Europeans want to negotiate and pursue multilateral options whilst the US prefers unilateralist force to settle matters.  Though the US welcomes assistance from other forces, it is accepted only on the condition that the US leadership and goals remain unchallenged.  Recent US military actions in Iraq/Kuwait (1991), Bosnia (1995), Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) have been accompanied by troops from regional allies but the preponderance of force in numbers and equipment is American.   In June 2003, the United States has military forces in 136 countries.  Clearly, the term “superpower” is inadequate and even the term “hegemon” hardly suffices to depict the US lead, by far the greatest of any empire in history (Ferguson, 2003a). 

          Why is the US able to use its military power in such an unrestrained manner?  It should be noted that American public opinion for overseas military actions remains highly sensitive to the number of US deaths (Klarevas, 2002).  We would not expect much opposition from other states, given the size of the gap, and any opposition (from those attacked) has been indirect and evasive, as in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Why has the US public not put a brake on military spending and actions?  Recall the half-century old description of Harold Lasswell (1962) of the “garrison state” and combine it with the Hobbesian world-view.  But as the Vietnam war showed, even the “garrison state” can be undermined through determined and mobilized public opinion which forced a US pullout of South-east Asia in 1975.  The difference now is that US casualties are a fraction of those that occurred in Vietnam because of the asymmetric nature of modern war.

Shaw (2002), in a controversial argument, examines casualty figures for the three wars that the US initiated (Iraq 1991, Yugoslavia 1999 and Afghanistan 2001); the West has managed to virtually eliminate military casualties on its side whilst casualties on the enemy side were high. In Afghanistan, for example, the number of US military deaths from October to December 2001, the time of the greatest amount of fighting, was 1, Afghan civilian deaths reached between 4,200 and 5,000, US allies’ deaths ranged in the hundreds and enemy combatants (Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime) numbered in the thousands or tens of thousands (Shaw, 2002, 347).  Of course, the US military response to these numbers is to claim that they show the success of military strategy, technical skill of the personnel, and the advantages of US weapons and training.  While there is little doubt that the US tries to avoid needless civilian loss of life, the disturbing numbers of civilians killed in “accidents” illustrates another fact of US-style modern war.  In order to reduce the risk to US troops, weapons are fired from even greater distances.  The advances in the electronic battlefield, combined with the use of global positioning systems, has pushed US military technology far ahead of any other country, including its European allies (Ek, 2001; Loeb, 2003).  These distances lead to more “accidents” since they allow the US to fight wars at little risk to its troops. (How risky is it to drop laser-guided bombs from 29,000 feet against an enemy with weak air defenses?)  Shaw (2001, 349) concludes that such tactics lead to “errors of targeting in which hundreds or thousands of civilians die in each campaign.  So the transfer to civilians of the risks of being directly killed is deliberate and systematic.”

“Risk-transfer war” is politically palatable at home in the US and helps to  ensure that the “V” (Vietnam) word remains under the covers. What is still unclear is whether it is moral?  In Shaw’s words (2002, 352) “When one side can minimize the risks to its own soldiers to virtually zero, is it moral to practice industrial killing on a hapless enemy?  The image of Iraqi conscripts bulldozed (literally) into the sand at the end of the Gulf War is emblematic of this issue.”  The political philosopher, Michael Walzer (1977) goes further in demanding greater attention to the codes implicit in the Geneva Conventions.  what we look for some sign of a positive commitment to save civilian lives.   Civilians have a right to something more.  And if saving civilian lives means risking soldier’ lives, that risk must be accepted” (p. 156). (Wheeler 2001 makes a similar argument in respect of US military action in Afghanistan). 

The logical end-product of the US “risk’-adverse” strategy is the development and production of a new generation of “superweapons” under a program codenamed Falcon (Force Application and Launch from the Continental US).  According to DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the program is to fulfill the government’s vision of an ultimate and prompt global reach capability (up to 2025 and beyond).  The weapons program would remove the need to keep US troops overseas where they could always be attacked.  Weapons would allow the dropping of bombs from space and the ultimate weapon, a reusable HCV (hypersonic cruise vehicle) is capable of hitting targets 9,000 nautical miles distant in less than two hours (Borger, 2003).  Prototypes of smaller weapons are expected to be tested by 2006.   

          Since the actions of the United States in Afghanistan as a response to the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks, there has been much speculation about the nature of the new ‘empire’.  From Marxist analyses (Hardt and Negri, 2001) to world-systems analysis (Wallerstein, 2003) to historical comparison (Ferguson, 2003b), the US is viewed as the main cog of the world political and economic system.  Empire can be built by conquest and brute force, as the European states showed between 1500 and 1900.  But it can also be built by “invitation” (Lundestad, 1986) where weak regimes invite a major external power to assist them, to build up their strength either against domestic opposition or regional enemies.  A third way to build an empire is by largesse, that is, by economic aid, favorable trade relations, military hardware and training, and special financial arrangements.   The United States with its enormous reserves, including the ability to punish by closing off its market to exports from rival states, has not been reticent to use its power in this manner   in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union.  For the first time ever, the US had the opportunity to build an empire without the interference of another imperial project, either from the European empires before 1945 and the Soviet Union after that time.

Figure 3: Yearly distribution of conflict and cooperation from the United States.  Yearly totals are the aggregate values of all individual actions by the US government and its agencies.

          In Figures 3 and 4, we can see the results of the US efforts of the 1990s.  The IDEA (Integrated Data for Events Analysis) database has recently become available for academic research (Bond et al., 2001).  Unlike many datasets used in the study of international relations and foreign policy, the IDEA data are designed to be comprehensive. Unlike other data, the IDEA are not coded by humans from newspapers and other sources. Instead, machine-coded data are generated using the VRA Knowledge Manager software (for the details on the machine coding, see  (The accuracy of the machine coding is equivalent to that of expert human coders as King and Lowe 2002 showed in an experiment).   The Knowledge Manager extracts the first sentence or lead from every story in the Reuters Business Briefings as database records with fields for actor, target, and type of event.  These events can be converted into a 157 point scale that is compatible with the widely-used international relations conflict-cooperation scale of Goldstein (1992).  Other fields give information about such variables as geographic location of the event.  Over 6 million events were extracted for the period 1991-2000.  I extracted all events involving the US government and its agencies as actor, over 70,000 events in all and recoded each event using the Goldstein scale.  Aggregate values for cooperative and conflictual events (conflict is coded as negative scores and cooperation as positive) are shown separately on Figure 3 and mapped for 1991-2000 by country on Figure 4.   As examples, a military attack is scored as -10, a diplomatic warning as -3, a promise of material support is +3 and military aid is +8.3. 

The US was consistently more cooperative than conflictual with the rest of the world during the 1990s (Figure 3).  Each year, the US directed between two and three times more cooperative actions to all other countries combined than conflictual action.  The totals and the conflict-cooperative ratios are consistent from year to year with more of each type in 1998.  The geographic distribution of the actions (cumulative from 1991-2000) shows that most countries have a positive value (Figure 4).  Only Belize, French Guiana, Haiti, Western Sahara, Togo, Gabon, Libya, Burundi, Swaziland, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Bhutan, Serbia and Iceland have net negative values.  Many of these (Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Serbia, Vietnam, Somalia) countries were the objects of US diplomatic and military attention during the decade and these results are not surprising.  The other countries are small and the nature of US relations with them is decidedly hinged on local issues, especially the access of US companies to local resources (phosphate in the Western Sahara, oil in Gabon).  Because the size (and geopolitical locations) of these countries does not matter a great deal in the US worldview, the interactions are few and any single negative action (e.g. a diplomatic protest) can shift the overall score into the negative category.  

Figure 4:  Geographic distribution of the aggregate conflict-cooperation from the United States directed to each country, summed for the period 1991-2000.  The values are the sum of cooperation minus the sum of conflict scores. 

          To isolate hostile states geographically and to have allies in the region that can provide forward bases, the US cultivates these ties through leverage of its gigantic military and economic arsenal.  The US assists the governments of these countries economically (buying the loyalties of both actual and potential opposition), and militarily (sending trainers and weapons, especially the high-tech missiles and planes that help in suppressing rebels).  The US can thus “shrink the gap” and also pursue the geopolitical aims of having a dominant presence in critical areas of the world.  The strategy of empire-building by largesse is well engaged.  In Barnett’s (2003) simplistic analysis, the role of the US is to promote globalization to bring ever more countries into the US-controlled world economy because globalized countries are not hotbeds of violence and anti-Americanism.   But some regions remain mired in the “gap” – the northern part of South America, almost all of Africa, southwest, central, south-east and south Asia – regions where poverty and civil strife is endemic.  (For a critique of Barnett’s thesis, see Roberts, Secor and Sparke, 2003). 

Large or proximate countries (Russia, China, Japan, Germany, UK, Brazil, India, France, Mexico, Indonesia and Canada) dominate the positive side of the US actions.  (The data are not standardized by population or some other index of size.)  All of these important states have high net positive values.  In the 1990s, the US was concerned with building anti-Iraq (1991) and anti-Serbia (1999) coalitions, both in diplomatic arenas like the United Nations and as military alliances.  US foreign aid and trading advantages were used as key weapons in this effort to sway the policies of large states.  Other key regional allies, especially those close to conflict zones like Egypt, Peru, Turkey, Philippines, Pakistan, Argentina, South Africa and Ukraine also show strong positive scores on this measure of international interaction.  These regional efforts are in line with the suggestions of Barnett (2003) about “shrinking the gap” using these states as forward bases.

           The new push to send troops abroad that has been characteristic of the George W. Bush presidency is not a sudden post-September 11, 2001 development.   In 1991-92, advisors in the Pentagon to the President’s father, George H.W. Bush, developed a Defense Planning Guidance document. It surfaced a decade later and its key recommendations made their way into the National Security Strategy of the United States published in September 2002.  While the main emphasis in the document was the determination to prevent any country from reaching a point of power equality with the US and the American willingness to use any means necessary (including the military) to prevent that from happening, its regional analysis is also worthy of attention.  The Middle East-Caspian Sea region is identified as a key geopolitical zone.  Since World War II, the US devoted great efforts to build a zone of containment in the “rimland” surrounding the Soviet Union and China.  While massive numbers of troops were stationed in Europe and North-East Asia, the Middle East fell between these regions as a zone of great political change and US attempts to gain stable and strong allies there were partially successful.  Beginning in the mid-1970s after the OPEC oil boycott and petrol shortages, US troops began to enter the region in large numbers to make sure that this key resource did not fall under the control of rivals. Klare (2003) believes that, because the Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea area contains 70% of the world’s oil resources, the US is committed to regional domination.  Cohen (2003) in a classic geopolitical analysis also predicts the continued US strategic interest in this region.  Both consider possible competitors for the oil resources and expect future conflicts for them.  One can extend the geopolitical analysis to rework the hoary Halford J. Mackinder (1919, 150) aphorism: “Whoever rules Eastern Europe commands the Heartland: Whoever rules the Heartland commands the World Island: Whoever rules the World Island commands the world” to its contemporary US version “Whoever rules the Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea region commands the world’s oil; Whoever rules the world’s oil commands the world-economy; Whoever rules the world-economy commands the world”.  


The two major themes of this chapter have examined the geographic distribution of war considering the factors responsible for its concentrations  and have analyzed the recent hyper-power actions of the US trying to understand the motivations and strategies behind them.  While there is strong evidence of the relationship between poverty and violence, as the careful statistical examinations as well as apologists for US actions such as Barnett (2003) both accept, the real question is how to break this connection.  The rich world is getting stingier with its aid monies at a time when the demand for help to fight AIDS, famines and other crises is growing.  At the same time, the rich countries cosset their own agricultural and industrial producers as they exclude Third World exports from their markets through tariffs and quotas.  The best thing that the West could do to end poverty is to open their markets (Maskus, 2004).  Instead, the US and other Western interests have aimed to control the critical resources of the Third World and in the process, produced a massive reaction from Islamists and others (Achcar, 2003; Flint, 2003).  

 The word “empire” to summarize the current state of American foreign policy trips easily off a lot of lips from supporters of the Bush administration to critics at home and abroad.  Most accept that the US is an empire and that its strength is growing relative to its possible competitors. But Wallerstein (2003) argues that the reverse, that the US is losing power and that its military actions are those of a weakening state.  Ferguson (2003b) concurs that the American imperial project places too much emphasis on military power and the average American is not vested in its construction.  Wallerstein dates the US loss of hegemony from the 1968-73 period when the indirect power of the hegemon (its economic and military strength, its cultural appeal) was replaced with a “velvet glove hiding the mailed fist.”  Anti-US challenges were greeted with American military invasion and installation of US puppet regimes (Grenada 1983, Panama 1989) or Cruise missile strikes (Somalia and Afghanistan 1998).    After a decade of rapid (but artificial) economic growth in the 1990s, the US is now in a period where the hawks control the Administration and the US economy has slowed to a point that is reminiscent of the early 1980s.  Economically-strong hegemons can use persuasion and emulation as tools for empire building; economically-weak (and declining) hegemons assert their faltering power through their military weaponry.  The failure of the US in March 2003 to gain a majority of the UN Security Council in favor of an attack on Iraq is, for Wallerstein, a sign of how far the hegemon has fallen.

            Whether one believes that the US is gaining or losing hegemonic power or simply maintaining its relative lead depends a lot on one’s evidence.  What is indisputable is that the US is willing to use all its weapons to bring about the posture that it wants.  There is little doubt that the Bush Administration is one of the most unilateralist American presidencies.  From rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, to side-stepping the UN Security Council on attacking Yugoslavia and Iraq, to undermining the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Administration has embarked on a course to re-assert American power.  Using its power nakedly is a hallmark of the strategy.  Withdrawing military aid to 35 poor countries that have refused to exempt US soldiers and civilians from prosecution in the ICC is just one recent example (Becker, 2003).  Though the number of wars is down slightly from a decade ago, the constellation of US unilateralism, resource greed, local tyrants and hegemonic competition does not augur for a more peaceful world.  The Clash sang in “I’m so bored with the U.S.A.” a quarter-century ago,

Yankee dollar talk
To the dictators of the world
In fact it’s giving orders
An’ they can’t afford to miss a word
(Joe Strummer/Mick Jones 1977).

 Little has changed.


Achcar, G. The Clash of Barbarisms: September 11 and the Making of the New World Disorder.  New York: Monthly Review Press, 2003.

Barnett, T.P.M. “The Pentagon’s new map: It explains why we’re going to war and why we will keep going to war.” Esquire Magazine, March 2003.

Becker, E. “U.S. suspends aid to 35 countries over new international criminal court.” New York Times, 1 July 2003.

Borger, J. “America to build super weapons.” Guardian 1 July, 2003.

Buhaug, H. and S. Gates. “The geography of civil war.” Journal of Peace Research 39 (2002), 417-433.

Bond, D., J. Bond, C, Oh, J.C. Jenkins, and C.L.Taylor. “Integrated Data for Events Analysis (IDEA): An event form typology for automated events data development.” Unpublished manuscript, Harvard University, 2001.

Chiozza, G. “Is there a clash of civilizations? Evidence from patterns of international conflict involvement, 1946-97.” Journal of Peace Research 39 (2002), 711-734.

Cohen, S.B. “Some afterthoughts: A Cohen perspective from mid-October 2001.” Political Geography 21 (2002), 569-572.

Cohen, S.B. “Geopolitical realities and United States foreign policy.” Political Geography 22 (2003), 1-33.

Collier, P.  “How to end civil wars.” Foreign Policy May-June 2003, pp. 38-45.

Collier, P. et al. Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy. Washington DC: World Bank, 2003.

Connolly, W.E. Neuropolitcs: Thinking, Culture, Speed. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002.

Connor, W. Ethnonationalism: The Quest for Understanding. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Economist  The global menace of global strife.” 24 May, 2003, pp. 23-25.

Ek, R. “A revolution in military geopolitics?” Political Geography 19 (2000), 841-74.

Elbadawi, I. and N. Sambanis. “How much war will we see? Explaining the prevalence of civil war.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 46 (2002), 307-334.

Elliott, B. “Radical thoughts on our 160th birthday: A survey of capitalism and democracy.” Economist 28 June, 2003 (special report).

Fearon, J. and D. Laitin, “Ethnicity, insurgency and civil war.” American Political Science Review 97 (2002), 75-90.

Ferguson, N. Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. New York: Basic Books, 2003a.

Ferguson, N. “The empire slinks back.” New York Times, April 27, 2003b.

Flint, C. “Terrorism and counterterrorism: Geographic research and questions and agendas.” Professional Geographer 55 (2003), 161-69.

Fukuyama, F. The End of History and the Last Man.  New York: Penguin, 1992.

Gleditsch, K.S. and M.D. Ward. “War and peace in space and time: The role of democratization.” International Studies Quarterly 44 (2000), 1-29.

Gleditsch, N.P., P. Wallensteen, M. Eriksson, M. Sollenberg and H. Strand. “Armed conflict, 1946-2001: A new dataset.” Journal of Peace Research 30 (2002), 615-637.

Goldstein, J. S. “ A conflict-cooperation scale for WEIS event data.” Journal of Conflict Resolution 36 (1992), 369-85.

Gurr, T.R. “Ethnic warfare on the wane.” Foreign Affairs 79 (3), May-June, 2000, 52-64.

Hardt, M. and A. Negri. Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Hegre, H., T. Ellingsen, S. Gates and N.P. Gleditsch. “ Toward a democratic civil peace? Democracy, political change and civil war, 1816-1992.” American Political Science Review 95 (2001), 33-48.

Huntington, S.P. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.

Jongman, A.J. The World Conflict and Human Rights Map 2000: Mapping Dimensions of Contemporary Conflicts and Human Rights Violations. Leiden: Universiteit Leiden PIOOM Foundation, 2001 (available from

Kagan, R. “Power and weakness.” Policy Review no. 113 (June-July, 2002). 

Kagan, R.  Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003

Kaplan, R. “The coming anarchy.” Atlantic Monthly 273 (2), February 1994, 44-76.

Kennedy, P.M.The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000. 1987.

King, C. “The benefits of ethnic war: Understanding Eurasia’s unrecognized states.” World Politics 52 (2001), 524-62.

King, G. and W. Lowe “An automated information extraction tool for international conflict data with performance as good as human coders: A rare events evaluation design.” Center for Basic Research in the Social Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, 2002 (available from

Klare, M. “The new geopolitics.” Monthly Review 55, no 3 (July-August 2003),

Klarevas, L. “The ‘essential domino’ of military operations: American public opinion and the use of force.” International Studies Perspectives 3 (2002), 417-437.

Lasswell, H. “The ‘Garrison State’ hypothesis today.” In S. Huntington (ed.) The Changing Nature of Military Politics.  New York: Free Press, 1962, pp. 51-70.

Le Billon, P. “The political ecology of war: Natural resources and armed conflict.” Political Geography 20 (2001), 561-84.

Loeb, V. “Digitized battlefield puts friend and foe in sight.” Washington Post, March 3, 2003.

Lundestad, G. “Empire by invitation? The United States and Western Europe 1945-52.” Journal of Peace Research 23 (1986), 263-277.

Mackinder, H.J. Democratic Ideals and Reality. New York: W.W. Norton, 1962 (original publication 1919).

Maskus, K.E. “A system on the brink: Pitfalls in international trade rules on the road to gobalization” in J.O’Loughlin, L. Staeheli and E. Greenberg (eds) Globalization and its Outcomes. New York: Guilford Press, 2004, forthcoming.

McDougall, W.A. Promised Land, Crusader State: The American Encounter with the World since 1776.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

Mead, W.R. “The Jacksonian tradition and American foreign policy.” National Interest Winter 1999/2000, 5-29.

Mead, W.R. Special Providence: American Foreign Policy and How It Changed the World.  New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

Mearsheimer, J.J. “Why we will soon miss the Cold War.” Atlantic Monthly August 1990, pp. 35-50.

Murray, C.J.L., G.King, A.D. Lopez, N. Tomijima and E.G. Krug. “Armed conflict as a public health problem.” BMJ 324, 9 February 2002, 346-49.

Nairn, T. The Breakup of Britain.  London: New Left Books, 1977.

National Security Strategy of the United States.  Washington DC: Office of the President, September 2002 (available from

Nye, J.S. Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power. New York: Basic Books, 1990.

O’Loughlin, J. “Spatial models of international conflict: Extending current theories of war behavior.” Annals, Association of American Geographers 76 (1986),  63-80.

O’Loughlin, J. “World power competition and local conflicts in the Third World.” In R.J. Johnston and P.J.Taylor (eds) A World in Crisis: Geographical Perspectives. 2nd ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989, pp. 289-332.

O’Loughlin, J. “Ten scenarios for a ‘new world order’.” Professional Geographer 44 (1992), 22-28.

O’Loughlin, J. and L. Anselin. “Bringing geography back to the study of international relations: Spatial dependence and regional context in Africa, 1966-1978.” International Interactions 17 (1991), 29-61.

O’Loughlin, J. and V. Kolossov. “Still not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier: The geopolitics of the Kosovo war 1999.” Political Geography 21 (2002), 573-599.

Roberts, S., A. Secor and M. Sparke. Neoliberal geographies.” Antipode 35, 3 (2003), forthcoming.

Rotberg, R.I. “The new nature of nation-state failure.” Washington Quarterly 25 (3) 2002, 85-96.

Rummel, R.J. Statistics on Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder since 1991. New Brunswick, NJ: Transactions Book, 1997.

Russett, B.R. Grasping the Democratic Peace: Principles for a Post Cold War World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Scherrer, C. Structural Prevention of Ethnic Violence. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Sachs, J. “The strategic significance of global inequality.” Washington Quarterly 24, 3 (2001), 187-198.

Shaw, M. “Risk-transfer militarism, small massacres and the historic legitimacy of war.” International Relations 16 (2002), 343-359.

Singer, J.D. and M. Small. “Correlates of War project: International and Civil War data” Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, University of Michigan, no. 9905, 1994.

Smith, A.D. The Ethnic Origins of Nations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986.

Strand, H., L. Wilhelmsen and N.P. Gleditsch. Armed Conflict Dataset Codebook. Version 1.2.  Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 2003. (Available from

Toal, G. “’Just out looking for a fight: American affect and the invasion of Iraq.” Antipode 35, 5 (2003), forthcoming.

United Nations Development Program. World Development Report. New York: United Nations Development Program, 2002.

Van der Wusten, H. “Violence, development and political order.“ in C. Flint (ed.) Geographies of War and Peace. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp.

Wallensteen, P. and M. Sollenberg. “Armed conflict, 1989-2000.” Journal of Peace Research 38 (2001), 629-38.

Wallerstein, I.U.S. weakness and the struggle for hegemony” Monthly Review 55, no.3 (July-August), 2003.

Walzer, M. Just and Unjust Wars. New York: Basic Books, 1977.

Wheeler, N.J. “Protecting Afghan civilians from the hell of war.”  New York: Social Science Research Council, 2001. (Available from

Williams, C.H. “The question of national congruence.” In R.J. Johnston and P.J. Taylor (eds) A World in Crisis: Geographical Perspectives. 2nd ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989, pp. 229-65.