On The Issue of ‘War Termination’

On one hand, there is a desire to know how and why wars occur. But on the other hand, there is a desire to know how wars can come to an end. And in the academic and policy world, the study of how wars end and how they can and should end is known as “War Termination.” In essence, “War Termination” consists of two components or elements. On one hand, “War Termination” consists of “coercive bargaining,” and on the other hand, it consists of a commitment to a peaceful settlement to the war. Thus, if stated as a formula, “War Termination” would be equal to:

[Coercive Bargaining + Commitment to Peaceful Setttlement]

Perhaps the biggest question of all for academics and policy wonks is the question of why two sides have to go through a war in order to reach a peaceful settlement. In other words, why is it that a peaceful settlement cannot be reached short of war? The best answer that I could find for this question was that war is a revelatory process in addition to being a bargaining process, in the sense that a war reveals information about the two belligerent sides. Both sides — as well as the broader public — gain information about each belligerent side through a war, and that information is essential in formulating decisions about settlements and so forth.

Thus, the information gathered by both belligerent sides through the course of a war sets the stage for the settlement which materialises through the negotiation process that runs parallel to developments on the battlefield. Also, one of the initial steps towards war termination is “convergence,” whereby both belligerent parties arrive at similar expectations as to the final outcome of the war at some point during the course of the war. In turn, these similar expectations create what is known as a “bargaining space,” and this “bargaining space” enables the two belligerent sides to discuss and to negotiate a settlement. One side’s “willingness to talk” not only serves as information regarding the bargaining position of the side which is willing to talk, but it also serves as an impetus for the stronger side to delay talks until the coercive bargaining process plays out so that there is a push for a “better” outcome.

Also, the type of leader and the domestic politics of each belligerent side perhaps determine more than anything whether a belligerent side wants to continue war or to end war. As a result, different assessments of a war along with different interests on the part of different political groups can lead to power changing hands. Arguably, there are three major obstacles to peace:

1. Certain individuals and groups who are in power derive personal benefits from the prolonging of war, as in the case of American weapons developers and merchants

2. Lack of communication or a lack of information coming from the two belligerent sides, or the misinterpretation of information coming from the two belligerent sides

3. Both sides are so entrenched or entrapped in the war that it is now difficult to get out of the war because of ego and a sense of pride

Nevertheless, negotiation and diplomacy are essential for war termination and for peace because there is finality to the result of a war. Expectations of an outcome precede the actual outcome, and once the outcome is rendered, the outcome is final and thus the outcome cannot be changed through violence. As a result of both expectations and finality, negotiation and diplomacy — and thus war termination — can foster a peaceful settlement to a war, which in turn facilitates a smooth transition towards the final outcome and the final result of both coercive bargaining and warfare.

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