Assessing the steps to war

Paul D. Senese, John A. Vasquez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This analysis outlines and tests the steps-to-war explanation of international conflict. At the core of this explanation is the expectation that territorial disputes are a key source of war and that as states that have these disputes make politically relevant alliances, have recurring disputes and build up their military forces against each other, they will experience ever-increasing probabilities of war. The absence of these risk factors is expected to lessen the chances of severe conflict. Utilizing the Militarized Interstate Dispute data of the Correlates of War project, the data analyses provide full support for the steps-to-war explanation during the 1816-1945 era and partial support for the Cold War nuclear 1946-92 span. Among the findings for this latter period is the presence of a curvilinear relationship between the number of prior disputes and the probability of war - after a large number of disputes, states begin to ritualize their behaviour at levels short of war.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-633
Number of pages27
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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