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Power Transitions and Critical Points as Predictors of Great Power War: Toward a Synthesis

Henk W. Houweling and Jan G. Siccama
The Journal of Conflict Resolution
Vol. 35, No. 4 (Dec., 1991), pp. 642-658
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/174069
Page Count: 17
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Power Transitions and Critical Points as Predictors of Great Power War: Toward a Synthesis
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Abstract

Recently two putative causes of great power war – power transitions (as identified by Houweling and Siccama 1988) and critical points (as identified by Doran 1989) – have confronted each other. In subsequent publications Doran changed the dating of several of his critical points. The authors will demonstrate that these changes have the effect of increasing the positive association between nations passing through a critical point interval on their relative capability trajectory and their involvement in war. Doran correctly observes that power transitions in dyads do not increase the probability of fighting in these dyads when none of their members is simultaneously passing through a critical point interval. However, the authors show that the association between a major power passing through a critical point interval and its war involvement is much stronger in transition dyads than in nontransition dyads. A power transition in a dyad, in which at least one of its members is also passing through a critical point is a sufficient condition of war in that dyad. On the other hand, the mere occurrence of a critical point is but a necessary condition of war involvement.

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