Table of Contents
2. The Long Peace
2.1 Features of the Long Peace
3.1 Definition of Power
3.2 Definition of Great Power
3.2.1 Offensive and Defensive Great Powers
3.3 Definition of Peace
3.4 Definition of Stable Peace
3.5 Definition and Types of War
4. Bipolarity and Nuclear Technology – The Realist Perspective
4.3 Gaps in Explanation
5. Dysfunctionality and Regimes – The Institutionalist Perspective
5.1 Dysfunctionality of War
5.2 International Regimes
5.3 Gap in Explanation
The year 2012 marks the 67th year since which time the world has not seen any direct military confrontation between superpowers. When World War II ended in 1945 the “Cold War” came about and was fought out by the USA and Soviet Union with mediate means. Even the end of the US-Soviet conflict preceded peacefully – a historical unusual demise for a struggling super power. Furthermore, there has been no war among the USA and the aspirants of super power including China, Japan, Russia and the European Union ever since. This discovery is named the long peace, also known as the great powers peace.
However, it is hard to say whether a sixty four year long absence of direct military confrontations between great powers is already a significant indicator for a qualitative shift in international politics, or whether it is nothing but a historical and contemporary randomness. Could the long peace cease anytime resulting in an apocalyptic world war, or are we indeed justified to conclude a positive change in the relations among great powers compared with earlier times? More importantly even, are we right in calling this period a long peace, and if so, up to what degree?
In this paper I want to undertake three things in turn. First I want to show due to what particularities inherent in the long peace we may conclude a significant change in great powers’ relations. Next I will seek to grade the long peace in its nature and stability. And lastly, I shall turn to two theories in order to illustrate how the emergence of the long peace and its enduring appearance down to the present day has been made possible.
I chose this topic for two reasons: Firstly, peace-studies are one of the greatest focuses in the discipline of International Politics. Finding appropriate ways and means to maintain peace in the world has been the original inducement of erstwhile historians, jurists and political scientists to arouse a new branch of science nearly a century ago. The second and more important reason is that the phenomena long peace reveals a noteworthy gap in International Politics. Neither of both theories, as will be seen, is capable of fully illuminating the long peace on its own.
Yet, I am going to prove, a powerful military defensive technology, like it is demanded by realism, together with an international regime securing the balance between the great powers, put forward by institutionalism, amount to necessary and sufficient conditions for peace to arise between great powers.
To avoid any misconception I will first define the notion of great power. Afterwards I will dwell on the conception of long peace and explain what distinctiveness it carries with. This step will require us to turn towards the definition of peace, stability of peace and to war in the next part. Fourth, I will dwell on the realist perspective and display the two main factors it believes to be responsible for the long peace. Subsequently I will focus on the next theoretical approach, namely institutionalism; here, too, explaining what are for which reasons considered as relevant factors for the great powers peace. In the last section I will briefly summarize the arguments and provide points for further research.
I do not incorporate liberalism, transnationalism or constructivism, since they distinguish themselves from the other two mentioned above in explanatory power. In other words, they are not as full-fledged as realism and institutionalism with respect to long peace. As well, I decided to point out the theoretical gaps of each theory at each step for the sake of the fluency on the one hand, and to make easier for the reader to keep the overview on the other.
2. The Long Peace
With the notion of long peace we mean the observation of the absence of direct military struggles among great powers since 1945. The bipolar period of the world, manifested in the Cold War through to the year 1990, in which the distribution of power transitioned into multipolarity, all took place in absentia of great power wars. In the same manner for almost 22 years of living in a multipolar world, we can look back to a time in which no single military conflict erupted between superpowers.
The remarkable aspect of this peace is not least the length: The longest enduring peace before had lasted 43 years between 1871 (the end of the German-French war) and 1914 (the outbreak of World War I) since having the inter-state system. The contemporary peace with 67 years, still on the rise, holds the longest peace now. (Schimmelfennig, 2009: 211)
Nevertheless, one may doubtfully object that in the given timeframes the world experienced grave military and nuclear armaments. International crises like the Berlin-Crisis or the Cuban Missile Crisis, for instances, which threatened the safety of the world fell into the same period. Moreover, in the Cold War we have seen many proxy wars carried out by the superpowers USA and Soviet Union, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. In view of this fact can there be any talk of peace, not to mention a long one?
To this objection I am going to respond with a distinction and definition in the next section. There, I will also show why and how we are justified to differentiate between wars. For now, we can take the wind out of the point’s sails by proving that there are three significant changes which can indeed be observed in the relations of superpowers.
2.1 Features of the Long Peace
The first qualitative shift is spotted in the ending stage of the US-Soviet conflict. As it is empirically known from power struggles and hegemony cycles in the past, any transformation usually yielded wars of wide range overturning the power structures and setting them new, e.g. First and Second World War. However, the conflict between the USA and the Soviet Union turned out contrary and peacefully, respectively. (Allan, 1992: 10)