Patterns in war dynamics, Part X. Building blocks for a new theory (7): Two interacting domains

(7) It is possible to distinguish an ‘underlying’ deterministic and a contingent domain in the System that interact through the security dilemma and self-fulfilling prophecies of states.

The patterns that can be identified and the underlying mechanisms that produced them suggest that the dynamics and development of the System are at least partially deterministic in nature.


Figure 12: This figure shows the ‘constraining’ effects of the deterministic domain during the unfolding of the finite-time singularity dynamic (1495-1945).

The findings of this study reveal that two related and interacting ‘domains’ can be distinguished in the System: an ‘underlying’ deterministic domain and a contingent domain. The deterministic domain seems – at least partially – to determine and shape the war dynamics of the System, such as the start times and severities of systemic wars. The contingent domain, for example, determines the reasons for which wars are fought. The deterministic nature of the System leaves much less room for contingency – and ‘free will’ – than we assume (and most likely hope for).

However, the dynamics in the contingent domain can also have a fundamental impact on the deterministic domain. As argued above, the intensities of the rivalries between Great Powers during the first and second exceptional period (1657-1763 for Britain and France and 1945-1989 for the United States and the Soviet Union) determined the number of degrees of freedom in the System and consequently the nature of the non-systemic war dynamics of the System.

The distinction between a deterministic and contingent domain in the System raises the questions of how – through what mechanism – these two domains interact and how they synchronize.

I assume that the security dilemma of states in anarchistic systems is responsible not only for the production of tensions but also for the interaction between both domains. The security dilemmas of states also function as interacting self-fulfilling prophecies that shape expectations and provide justification for (war) decisions.

The impact of this mechanism – reinforcing self-fulfilling prophecies of states – dramatically increases once the tipping point is reached, and issues remain unresolved and tensions accumulate. Once the tipping point is reached, it is this feedback structure that ‘pushes’ the System towards a critical condition and to a systemic tension release (systemic war).

I assume that during the unfolding of the finite-time singularity dynamic that was accompanied by four accelerating war cycles (1495-1945), the deterministic domain increasingly locked-in on systemic war activity, and the ‘need’ to produce increasingly severe systemic wars with increasing frequencies, to ‘upgrade’ the System’s order and provide relative stability (at an accelerating pace). During the period 1495-1945, the increasing dominance of the deterministic domain increasingly constrained our ‘contingent latitude’, our ability to influence its dynamics. We made war, and war increasingly made us: the System increasingly became a war trap.

To be continued.