What is the cause of the war

Wars and conflicts

Dieter Ruloff

To person

Dr. phil., born 1947; o. Professor of International Relations at the University of Zurich, Seilergraben 49, CH-8001 Zurich.
Email: [email protected]

Livia Schubiger

To person

Born in 1980; Assistant at the Chair of Political Science at the University of Zurich.
Email: [email protected]

In its outward appearance, war is a true "chameleon": It ranges from violent confrontations between politically autonomous local groups to terrorism.


For some time now, political science has been predicting the end of war as a means of politics. [1] The end of the Cold War in 1989/91 seemed to bring mankind a good deal closer to this dream; the "end of history" [2] that was predicted at the time should essentially have been an end to military conflicts. They were completely wrong. In the Balkans, the Caucasus and West and Central Africa, the 1990s brought conflicts and bellicose excesses that were often considered "ethnic" or "new" and which bloodily destroyed all hopes for a new, peaceful world order did. War also obviously remains an integral part of the political instruments of the last superpower. [3]

What is war Or better, what counts as war in empirical research? The study group for research on the causes of war at the University of Hamburg (AKUF) [4] follows the classic definition of the Hungarian peace researcher István Kende (1917 - 1988):

Wars are counted as such when, first, two or more parties are involved in armed conflict, at least one of which should consist of the regular armed forces of a government; Second, when there is a "minimum" level of centrally directed organization of warfare; and, thirdly, if there is some continuity in hostilities. If all of these criteria are not met, we speak of armed conflict. Other research projects also define a quantitative threshold, usually 1,000 war victims in total or per year.