COW Future of War Workshop: Report

Penn State University hosted a conference on “The Study of Future War and the Future Study of War,” March 16-18, 2001. Papers on the topic were presented by David Singer (University of Michigan), Paul Diehl (University of Illinois), Paul Hensel (Florida State University), Brian Pollins (Ohio State University), and James Lee Ray (Vanderbilt University). The conference had a second purpose–to mark the transfer of the Correlates of War Project from its long-time home at the University of Michigan to Penn State. At Penn State, COW2 will be housed in the Department of Political Science, which is home as well to the updating of the Militarized Interstate Dispute dataset (MID3) and the Program in Empirical International Relations.

The conference began with welcomes by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Susan Welch, the Head of the Political Science Department, Frank Baumgartner, and Professor Stuart Bremer, the new Director of the COW2 Project. David Singer, former Director of the COW Project, offered comments that put the transfer in historical context.

Stuart Bremer began the discussion of the conference’s topic by offering observations regarding the dangers of retaining COW’s state-centric approach to data and analysis. Bremer suggested that COW needs to think about how it might broaden its empirical domain to include large-scale conflict beyond the interstate variety, such as civil wars and communal conflict. The offered papers addressed these issues directly or indirectly.

Jim Ray’s paper pointed out that interstate war is not likely to disappear soon, particularly in Asia and Africa, though large-scale violence may take different forms in other areas of the world. Paul Diehl argued that the scientific study of conflict needs to be cautiously responsive to the changing nature of large-scale conflict and looked at four topics that might prove useful to investigate: environmental conflict, ethnic conflict, conflict management and resolution, and internationalized civil conflict. Brian Pollins surveyed recent work in IPE and expressed doubt regarding the presumed pacifying effects of economic growth or interdependence. Paul Hensel examined the contention that militarized conflict is fundamentally different today empirically, comparing the frequency of interstate, civil and extra-systemic wars since 1816, for instance. He contended that some assertions about the changing nature of conflict are unsupported. David Singer argued that to make predictions about the future of war, we need to focus on specific factors that may cause any changes, such as changes in weapons technology, differential economic growth, etc.

Sunday saw the five invited guests meet as the COW Board of Advisors. A variety of issues, many following from the previous days’ discussions, were brought up. Summaries of the state of the COW datasets were provided. The datasets that should soon be widely available include the updated national capabilities, a new alliance data set (with Doug Gibler and Meredith Sarkees as primary agents), updated and expanded data on IGOs, a revised list of interstate wars, and, of course, the updated Militarized Interstate Dispute data.