Dangerous Times? The International Politics of Great Power Peace

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Dangerous Times?: The International Politics of Great Power Peace
By Christopher J. Fettweis
Georgetown University Press, 2010
273 pp. $29.95
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Not since World War II have any major countries directly fought a war with one another -- the longest period of great-power peace in centuries. Scholars have debated the sources and significance of this "long peace," variously pointing to nuclear deterrence, democratization, and economic interdependence. All these explanations look to long-term shifts in the costs of war and the benefits of peace. In this book, Fettweis goes a step further and argues that a deeper transformation has occurred in the way citizens of great powers think about large-scale war. He asserts that there has been a long-term shift in the norms of war, not unlike earlier shifts in norms that undermined the acceptability of dueling and slavery. Much of the book is focused on the implications for theories of international relations. Unfortunately, Fettweis spends very little time actually looking for empirical indications of evolving norms. It may well be that today's great-power peace reflects a discontinuity in the normative underpinnings of international politics. But skeptics who read this book will probably remain skeptics.