Nov 21

Taxonomy of interstate conflicts: is South America a peaceful region?

Uderstanding and classifying conflicts is not new. The internationalscenario is dynamic, adapting to new situations, therefore, periodically itbecomes necessary to make an exercise of (re) thinking the realities of interstateconflicts.This article revisits the literature on the taxonomy of interstate conflicts,contrasting it with historical data focused on South America, and thus questionstraditional classifications and the argument that the region is peaceful. This study isrooted in the reflection of the main scholars in the field and the contribution ofinternational research institutes dedicated to the subject. Based on such sources, thestudy seeks a better understanding of the conflicts in South America, identifying theirclassification in comparison with the dynamics of international conflicts that occurred inthe same period. At least, it deals with the widespread interpretation that South Americais a peaceful region.Initially, it presents a methodology that attempts, albeit in a limited way, tocontribute to a still little explored aspect of the research on Defence. The context issimilar to what is seen in the framework of the studies on armed conflict, with thecontribution of international relations and political science.Next, the reference literature is reviewed. Two interpretations of interstateconflicts in South America are examined. The first, which is known as ‘Long Peace’,supports the idea that the region is experiencing a period of prolonged peace, withoutmajor tensions and confrontations among the states. This aspect was investigated fromtwo perspectives: the construction of the ‘taxonomy of interstate conflicts’ and theconstruction of the theoretical argument of the ‘Long Peace in South America’. First, adetailed analysis of different databases dedicated to systematizing and assessingconflicts between states is conducted, which then serves as a support for informing andbetter understanding the conceptual argument brought to light.The second interpretation is knowns as ‘The violent peace and the latentconflicts in South America’ in that it admits the existence of a level of intensity notproperly grasped by theorists and indicators of the first dimension. Such perspectiveadvances the existence of frozen conflicts among the South American states. It showsevidence that the ‘South American long peace’ does not necessarily rest on solid afoundation, since frozen conflicts seem to be hidden under classification variables thatdisregard important historical and geopolitical issues on the South American continent.
The present study is based both on theoretical landmarks and empiricalelements. The literature review was built from bibliographical research on thefollowing: Battaglino (2012, 2008), Centeno (2002), Child (1985), Kacowicz, (1998),Lopes (2013), Mares (2012, 2001), Martín (2006, 2002), Medeiros Filho (2011, 2010),Pieri (2011), Rudzit (2013), Saint-Pierre (2013, 2011) and Saint-Pierre and Palacios Jr.(2014).The empirical framework was built by mapping databases associated withregional conflicts, namely: 01. Correlates of War (COW), described by Sarkees andWayman (2010); 02. Military Interstate Dataset (MID), described by Palmer et al.(2015); 03. Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), described by Pettersson andWallensteen (2015); and, 04. Conflict with Barometer, from the Heidelberg Institute forInternational Conflict Research (WANCKE, 2015). The dataset was analyzed with thesupport of the ‘content analysis’ technique (BARDIN, 1977), which made it possible toextract the typologies, taxonomies, variables and indicators associated with the study ofcontemporary armed conflicts.Finally, brief conclusions as well as additional investigation options which canbe further explored in future studies are proposed. The perspective of using matricesexogenous to the region, either by the use of external theories or by the use of empiricaldata not contextualized to the regional reality, hinders a better understanding of thespecific dynamics of the subcontinent.
Taxonomy of interstate conflicts
The inaugural mark of the analysis was the definition of the term ‘war’ by theresearchers of the ‘Correlates of War (COW)’, for whom it is necessary to define “war interms of violence [being] the taking of human life the primary and dominantcharacteristic of war” (SARKEES and WAYMAN, 2010, p. 40). Based on this principle,used since the first analyses carried out by COW in the 1970s, the traditionalclassification has undergone modifications up to the current model (Table 01), which isintended to encompass most of the conflicts recorded on the planet.