Causes of International War
The Eleventh Century 1. Introduction 2. The First Crusade 7. China 8. Conclusion III. The Twelfth Century 1. Monarchy, Thrones and Territory 3. The Throne of England 4. Wars between the Papacy and Empire 5. Non-Conformist Communities in Europe 6. Wars between Christianity and Islam 7.
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Conclusion IV. The Thirteenth Century 1. The Church 3.
The Fourth Crusade 4. Non-Conforming Communities 5. Christian and Muslim Conflict 6. Frederick II 7. Following the End of the Hohenstaufen Line 8. England 9.
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The Mongolian Empire Conclusion V. The Fourteenth Century 1. In a petrostate, by contrast, a leader can buy off political opposition. He can afford to take risks, including those involved in aggressive foreign policy adventurism. That means a leader like Saddam Hussein can take his country into two very costly wars, lose, and still maintain his control on the presidency. Of course, not all leaders have aggressive preferences. Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of oil in the world but has rarely been involved in direct interstate militarized conflict.
As already mentioned, oil creates multiple incentives, some of which discourage international conflict. One example: any conflict that interrupted the flow of oil export sales would impose a significant financial and economic opportunity cost on the petrostate although this did not stop post-revolutionary Iran and Iraq.
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The combination of oil income and a revolutionary government poses a special threat to international peace. When a leader comes to power through a tumultuous domestic revolution — like Hussein, Qadhafi, Khomenei, or the current supreme leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei — he is much more likely to have aggressive, risk-tolerant, ambitious preferences. Oil income amplifies the opportunities for such a leader, meaning that in petro-revolutionary states, the overall effect is to make aggressive foreign policy more likely.
In non-revolutionary states, the incentives generated by oil tend to cancel each other out. So oil and revolutionary leaders are a deadly combination.
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Libya under Qadhafi illustrates this tendency. He fought a series of overlapping and violent conflicts with Chad.
When Does Oil Cause War? Petro-Aggression and Revolutionary Governments
He clashed militarily with Egypt and the United States, and deployed troops against Tanzania in Uganda. He supported a wide range of foreign insurgencies and rebel groups, from Abu Nidal to the Irish Republican Army and the Black Panthers, and sustained a nuclear weapons program for more than three decades before reversing course in as part of his reconciliation with the West.
Perhaps most famously, Qadhafi sponsored several acts of international terrorism in the s, including the Lockerbie airline bombing. One silver lining is that the research shows that this toxic combination of oil income and revolutionary government tends to disappear once the individuals that led the original revolution leave office.
Ali Khamenei is one of the original revolutionaries, and no longer a young man born in If the United States and its allies can be patient, there is likely to be a significant opening for a rapprochement with Iran once Khamenei dies or leaves office. Jeff Colgan is a Wilson Center fellow and assistant professor at the American University School of International Service with a special focus on global oil politics. Photo Credit: U. Air Force. Backdraft Podcasts. Developed by Vico Rock Media.