In today’s tumultuous world, it’s easy to forget that most of the time, wars don’t happen. From adversarial states to street gangs, ethnic groups, religious sects and political factions, hostile rivalries are a commonplace fixture in our local communities, as well as around the world. Yet, only a fraction of them erupt into violence. In his new book, “Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace,” acclaimed expert on violence and seasoned peacebuilder Christopher Blattman draws on decades of research on economics, political science, psychology and real-world interventions to lay out the root causes of — and remedies for — war.

In the book, Blattman argues that societies are surprisingly good at interrupting and ending violence. In the exceptional cases when rivalries turn violent, the cause can be traced to five factors that undermine the potential for rivals to deescalate and compromise. Blattman offers a framework for thinking about how societies can build resilience that reduces the likelihood that any of these five factors may interrupt the path to peace.

On June 2, USIP hosted a conversation with Chris Blattman on his new book, “Why We Fight: The Roots of War and the Paths to Peace.” The discussion looked at what keeps rivals from compromise, as well as what remedies can shift incentives away from violence and get parties back to dealmaking.

Speakers

Joseph Hewitt, welcome remarks
Vice President of Policy, Learning, and Strategy, U.S. Institute of Peace

Chris Blattman 
Professor, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago; Author, “Why We Fight”

Raj Kumar, moderator
Founding President and Editor-in-Chief, Devex

Related Publications

Incorporating Citizen Preferences into the Design of Effective Peace Settlements

Incorporating Citizen Preferences into the Design of Effective Peace Settlements

Friday, February 9, 2024

By: Edward Morgan- Jones;  Feargal Cochrane;  Laura Sudulich;  Charis Psaltis;  Raluca Popp;  Neophytos Loizides

This paper describes the use of conjoint survey experiments to identify citizen preferences with respect to a possible peace agreement in Cyprus and a border agreement in Northern Ireland. The recommendations offered in the conclusion emphasize the flexibility of the method and its transferability to other conflict settings. Results also suggest ways of reinvigorating stalled peace negotiations (Cyprus) or improving past deals (Good Friday Agreement/Brexit-Northern Ireland) and can help contending groups and mediators identify potential zones of agreement by revealing areas where contending groups’ preferences overlap or differ and where possible trade-offs exist that could lead to greater consensus.

Type: Discussion Paper

Peace Processes

The 2021 India-Pakistan Ceasefire: Origins, Prospects, and Lessons Learned

The 2021 India-Pakistan Ceasefire: Origins, Prospects, and Lessons Learned

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

By: Christopher Clary

The February 2021 ceasefire between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control in Kashmir has—despite occasional violations—turned into one of the longest-lasting in the countries’ 75-year shared history. Yet, as Christopher Clary writes, the ceasefire remains vulnerable to shocks from terrorist attacks, changes in leadership, and shifting regional relations. With the ceasefire approaching its third anniversary, Clary’s report examines the factors that have allowed it to succeed, signs that it may be fraying, and steps that can be taken to sustain it.

Type: Special Report

Peace Processes

Senior Study Group for the Sahel: Final Report and Recommendations

Senior Study Group for the Sahel: Final Report and Recommendations

Thursday, January 18, 2024

By: Bipartisan Senior Study Group for the Sahel

The United States has not traditionally viewed the Sahel as a region of vital interest, whether in terms of security or from an economic or business perspective. This has led to a pattern of reactive involvement shaped by the circumstances of specific events rather than proactive commitments. This pattern reveals the lack of a comprehensive strategy for the volatile Western Sahel region, which includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. In April 2022, President Joe Biden announced that the US government would advance the “U.S. Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability” in coastal West Africa by prioritizing a partnership with Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, and Togo.

Type: Report

Civilian-Military RelationsDemocracy & GovernancePeace ProcessesViolent Extremism

View All Publications