Examining Conflict Escalation Within the Civilizations Context
Stoll, Richard J.
Samuel Huntington's article and book on the clash of civilizations has created a great deal of controversy and interest. The focus of this is in his assertion that in the post-Cold War era, there will be significant conflict between states from Western civilization and states from Islamic civilization. This assertion has been the subject of a number of systematic empirical studies (Henderson, 1997, 1998; Henderson and Tucker, 2001; Russett, Oneal and Cox, 2000; Chiozza, 2002). These studies share two things in common. First, they all use the dyad year as the case and predict to the onset of conflict. Second, none found any support for Huntington's thesis. In our paper, we ask a different question: Given the engagement of a dyad in militarized interstate dispute (MIDs), is there a relationship between the civilizational status of the dyad and the chances of the dispute escalating to war? Using the MID data, we conduct a two-stage estimation to identify the mixed civilization effect on the probability of dispute and then on the probability of the escalation to war. In the pre-Cold war era, there is a greater probability for mixed civilization dyads and for Islamic-Western dyads to engage in disputes and for these disputes to escalate to war. These findings contradict Huntingtonﾒs argument that the clash of civilization thesis applies only to the post-Cold War era. The post-Cold War era does not offer complete empirical support Huntingtonﾒs expectations either. Mixed civilization dyads do not appear to be as likely to engage in dispute or escalate to war. Islamic-Western dyads do appear to be more apt to engage in dispute during this period, but not to escalate.