Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 08/2011

Force in Our Times

Robert Jervis

July 2011

Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies


Recent world politics displays two seemingly contradictory trends: on one hand, the incidence of international and even civil war shows a very great decline, but on the other hand the US, and to a lesser extent Britain and France, have been involved in many military adventures since the end of the Cold War. The causes are numerous, but among them are the unipolar structure of world politics, which presents the US with different kinds of threats and new opportunities. Central also is the existence of a Security Community among the leading states. A number of forces and events could undermine it, but they seem unlikely to occur. Even in this better world, however, recessed violence will still play a significant role, and force, like other forms of power, is most potent and useful when it remains far in the background.