chapter  6
25 Pages

The decline of interstate war: pondering systemic explanations

ByKALEVI J. HOLSTI

If major war is becoming obsolete, what properties in the international system can help explain the trend? We must raise several questions about the obsolescence of war before we enter the realm of explanation. In his justly famous book, John Mueller is not entirely clear on what constitutes a ‘major’ war.1 In places he implies that it would be a war between the Soviet Union and the United States. In others he suggests that any war in the ‘developed world’ would qualify as major. Important questions on methodology and criteria for inclusion and exclusion remain, as Chapter 3 suggests.2 However, if we delete the ‘major’ criterion and use the more traditional definition of war as organized and publicly authorized violence between established states (interstate war) involving a minimum of 1,000 casualties, then we can see significant trends.