The summer is rapidly approaching its end as many of us are preparing for the classes we are teaching, quickly completing those papers for the upcoming APSA conference, and finishing up any summer projects (or finding ways to push back those deadlines). As such, the blogging here has slowed down a bit while the Dark Knight post continues to draw hundreds of new hits daily from Google, blogs, and some random message boards – but normal posting should resume once people re-settle into the semester swing.
The International relations dispute of interest for the week has been the continued conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. The Duck of Minerva has had several posts on the subject and these links only represent a fraction of the number of thoughts and commentary on the on going conflict provided by the blog. I have been coding and working on a set of asymmetric conflicts over the summer and the conflict between Georgia and Russia has come up a few times in the past: see cases 407 and 445 at the ICB Data Viewer for post-Soviet conflicts between he two state – the latter of which directly concerns South Ossetia. Thus, while the specifics of this iteration of the conflict are indeed interesting, the emergence of new data points provides equal academic interest as I conceive of how the underlying conditions give rise to such war when the outcome should be known ex ante, make bargaining clear, and induce a non-conflict settlement. Or, at least, this is what rationalist explanations of war tell us. The normal theoretical escape hatch of uncertainty giving rise to war only really works for parity or near-parity interactions – not in extreme disparity.
As such, I leave the direct commentary to other blogs – however, such conflicts involving minor powers or minor powers against major powers can prove better in defining the utility of theories than conflicts purely between great powers. The latter of the three tends to be over-represented in theory generation despite the prominence of the former cases.