Why we fight The roots of war and the paths to peace

Christopher Blattman

Book - 2022

"An acclaimed expert on violence and seasoned peacebuilder explains the five reasons why conflict (rarely) blooms into war, and how to interrupt that deadly process. It's easy to overlook the underlying strategic forces of war, to see it solely as a series of errors, accidents, and emotions gone awry. It's also easy to forget that war shouldn't happen-and most of the time it doesn't. Around the world there are millions of hostile rivalries, yet only a tiny fraction erupt... into violence. Too many accounts of conflict forget this. With a counterintuitive approach, Blattman reminds us that most rivals loathe one another in peace. That's because war is too costly to fight. Enemies almost always find it better to split the pie than spoil it or struggle over thin slices. So, in those rare instances when fighting ensues, we should ask: what kept rivals from compromise? Why We Fight draws on decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions to lay out the root causes and remedies for war, showing that violence is not the norm; that there are only five reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation. From warring states to street gangs, ethnic groups and religious sects to political factions, there are common dynamics to heed and lessons to learn. Along the way, we meet vainglorious European monarchs, African dictators, Indian mobs, Nazi pilots, British football hooligans, ancient Greeks, and fanatical Americans. What of remedies that shift incentives away from violence and get parties back to deal-making? Societies are surprisingly good at interrupting and ending violence when they want to-even the gangs of Medellin do it. Realistic and optimistic, this is book that lends new meaning to the old adage, "Give peace a chance.""--

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2nd Floor New Shelf 303.66/Blattman (NEW SHELF) Due Aug 23, 2022
Subjects
Published
New York : Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC [2022]
Language
English
Physical Description
388 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [345]-370) and index.
ISBN
9781984881571
1984881574
9780241444504
0241444500
9780241444511
0241444519
Main Author
Christopher Blattman (author)
  • Introduction
  • Part I: The roots of war. Why we don't fight
  • Unchecked interests
  • Intangible incentives
  • Uncertainty
  • Commitment problems
  • Misperceptions
  • Part II: The paths to peace. Interdependence
  • Checks and balances
  • Rules and enforcement
  • Interventions
  • Wayward paths to war and peace
  • Conclusion: the peacemeal engineer.
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Game theory shows why violent conflicts start and how to forestall them, according to this penetrating treatise. Noting that the high costs of violence almost always make peaceful agreement a better solution to antagonisms than violence, University of Chicago economist Blattman analyzes forces that often counteract that logic, including the self-interest of leaders, ideological passions, miscalculation of an opponent's strength or motives, and mistrust. On the flip side, he contends, considerations of costs and benefits suggest ways to avoid violence through constraints on leaders' power, credible enforcement of rules by the police and other authorities, and interventions that can be as simple as getting people to talk. Blattman explores these dynamics in conflicts ranging from turf battles among Chicago's gangs to WWI and the American Revolution. (He compares White Flower, a Liberian warlord with a financial stake in perpetuating civil war, to George Washington, whose land speculations prospered thanks to the rebellion he led, but whose power was constrained by the Continental Congress and state legislatures.) Blattman uses lucid, easy-to-follow diagrams to explain the game theory underlying his ideas, and from it derives pithy, often counterintuitive insights ("The more destructive our weapons, the easier it should be to find peace"). This stimulating discussion of violence illuminates a fraught subject with sober reason. (Apr.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Game theory shows why violent conflicts start and how to forestall them, according to this penetrating treatise. Noting that the high costs of violence almost always make peaceful agreement a better solution to antagonisms than violence, University of Chicago economist Blattman analyzes forces that often counteract that logic, including the self-interest of leaders, ideological passions, miscalculation of an opponent's strength or motives, and mistrust. On the flip side, he contends, considerations of costs and benefits suggest ways to avoid violence through constraints on leaders' power, credible enforcement of rules by the police and other authorities, and interventions that can be as simple as getting people to talk. Blattman explores these dynamics in conflicts ranging from turf battles among Chicago's gangs to WWI and the American Revolution. (He compares White Flower, a Liberian warlord with a financial stake in perpetuating civil war, to George Washington, whose land speculations prospered thanks to the rebellion he led, but whose power was constrained by the Continental Congress and state legislatures.) Blattman uses lucid, easy-to-follow diagrams to explain the game theory underlying his ideas, and from it derives pithy, often counterintuitive insights ("The more destructive our weapons, the easier it should be to find peace"). This stimulating discussion of violence illuminates a fraught subject with sober reason. (Apr.) Copyright 2022 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A seasoned peace builder and acclaimed expert on violence, drawing on decades of economics, political science, psychology and real-word interventions, examines the root causes and remedies for war, and gives new meaning to the adage “Give peace a chance.” Illustrations. Maps.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"An acclaimed expert on violence and seasoned peacebuilder explains the five reasons why conflict (rarely) blooms into war, and how to interrupt that deadly process. It's easy to overlook the underlying strategic forces of war, to see it solely as a series of errors, accidents, and emotions gone awry. It's also easy to forget that war shouldn't happen-and most of the time it doesn't. Around the world there are millions of hostile rivalries, yet only a tiny fraction erupt into violence. Too many accounts of conflict forget this. With a counterintuitive approach, Blattman reminds us that most rivals loathe one another in peace. That's because war is too costly to fight. Enemies almost always find it better to split the pie than spoil it or struggle over thin slices. So, in those rare instances when fighting ensues, we should ask: what kept rivals from compromise? Why We Fight draws on decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions to lay out the root causes and remedies for war, showing that violence is not the norm; that there are only five reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation. From warring states to street gangs, ethnic groups and religious sects to political factions, there are common dynamics to heed and lessons to learn. Along the way, we meet vainglorious European monarchs, African dictators, Indian mobs, Nazi pilots, British football hooligans, ancient Greeks, and fanatical Americans. What of remedies that shift incentives away from violence and get parties back to deal-making? Societies are surprisingly good at interrupting and ending violence when they want to-even the gangs of Medellin do it. Realistic and optimistic, this is a book that lends new meaning to the old adage, "Give peace a chance.""--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

“Why We Fight  reflects Blattman’s expertise in economics, political science, and history… Blattman is a great storyteller, with important insights for us all.” —Richard H. Thaler, winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and coauthor of Nudge“Engaging and profound, this deeply searching book explains the true origins of warfare, and it illustrates the ways that, despite some contrary appearances, human beings are capable of great goodness.”—Nicholas A. Christakis author of Blueprint: The Evolutionary Origins of a Good SocietyDespite the Russian invasion of Ukraine or the fear of another American civil war, most of the time wars don’t happen, and of the millions of hostile rivalries worldwide, only a fraction erupt into violence. At this moment of crisis in world affairs, this necessary book from a seasoned peacebuilder and acclaimed expert in the field lays out the root causes and remedies for war and explain the reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers can turn the tides once conflict threatens to or becomes war. Its message could not be more urgent right now.  Why We Fight draws on decades of economics, political science, psychology, and real-world interventions to lay out the root causes and remedies for war, showing that violence is not the norm; that there are only five reasons why conflict wins over compromise; and how peacemakers turn the tides through tinkering, not transformation. From warring states to street gangs, ethnic groups and religious sects to political factions, there are common dynamics to heed and lessons to learn. Along the way, through Blattman’s time studying Medellín, Chicago, Sudan, England, and more, we learn from vainglorious monarchs, dictators, mobs, pilots, football hooligans, ancient peoples, and fanatics.What of remedies that shift incentives away from violence and get parties back to dealmaking? Societies are surprisingly good at interrupting and ending violence when they want to—even gangs do it. Realistic and optimistic, this is a book that lends new meaning to the adage “Give peace a chance.”