When and How Regions Become Peaceful: Potential Theoretical Pathways to Peace


  • 1Some of the research for this essay was done when the author was a Visiting Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Science at Duke University and on leave from the Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The author is grateful for the generous financial assistance of the Department of Political Science at Duke University, the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, the Tami Steimnitz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University, and the Israel Science Foundation (founded by the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities) and would like to acknowledge the advice and comments of the following colleagues on earlier drafts: Korina Kagan, Robert Keohane, Dale Copeland, Avi Kober, Hein Goemans, Galia Press-Bar-Nathan, Matthew Randall, Norrin Ripsman, Joe Grieco, Peter Feaver, Jeffrey Taliaferro, Uri Reznick, Ben Frankel, Chris Gelpi, Oded Lowenheim, Zeev Maoz, Yoav Gerchek, Boaz Atzili, and Dov Levin as well as the ISR Editor and the anonymous reviewers for the journal.


The objective of this essay is to address the following two puzzles. First, what best accounts for the transition from war to peace in different regions at different times? Second, what is the best explanation for variations in the level of regional peace that exists in different regions in a particular time period? Consider the differences that exist today in the Middle Eastern, South American, and Western European regions. A theoretical framework is proposed that is intended to integrate the regional and international perspectives on regional peace. It establishes linkages between different mechanisms that can lead to regional peace and the emergence of different levels of peace as well as presents three potential theoretical pathways to peace. An argument is made that the underlying cause of regional war propensity is the extent of the state-to-nation imbalance in a region. Accordingly, different peacemaking strategies produce different levels of peace based on their treatment of the state-to-nation problem. A distinction is made between the effects of different approaches to peacemaking and the conditions for their success. In effect, peacemaking strategies bring about the transition from war to peace only if certain conditions exist in the region. The advantages and disadvantages of the three mechanisms are illustrated through three case studies, each exemplifying a specific strategy and level of peace that have resulted from the presence of certain conditions in the region: the Middle East (a transition to cold peace in the 1990s), South America (the evolution of normal peace across the twentieth century), and Western Europe (the emergence of warm peace since the 1950s).