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from T.I.S.S.

The Study of War Project and T.I.S.S.

by Douglas C. Peifer

Last November 22, 1996, the Triangle Institute for Security Studies (T.I.S.S.) held the tenth symposium in its ongoing Study of War Project. University faculty, graduate students, and T.I.S.S. members gathered at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to hear presentations by Colonel Joseph Cox (U. S. Military Academy), Professor Stanley M. Hauerwas (Duke University), Colonel Charles R. Myers (U. S. Air Force Academy), and Professor Peter Paret (Institute for Advanced Study). The conference focused on "War and the Humanities," with Cox addressing "Literature and War, " Hauerwas discussing "Religion and War in Human Experience," Myers focusing on the relationship between "Philosophers and Warriors," and Paret investigating "The Reflection of War in Art."

The Humanities and War Conference was the final one-day symposium in T.I.S.S.'s ongoing Study of War Project. Over the past three years, T.I.S.S. has hosted ten one-day assemblies on the subject, each examining war from the perspective of a different discipline or topic: anthropology in January 1994, the biological sciences in April 1994, economics in September 1994, sociology in November 1994, law in January 1995, psychology in April 1995, political science and conflict resolution in September of that year, history in March 1996, and the recent conference focusing on the humanities in November 1996. A final Summary Conference, scheduled for June 1997, will conclude the first stage of T.I.S.S.'s project on the study of war.

Summary Conference

The 1997 Study of War Conference, designed to sum up the findings of the ten more specialized meetings, will assemble fifty leading scholars in all disciplines and major subject areas that address war as a human phenomenon and its origins, causes, functions, and purposes, as well as its nature, character, and impact on human beings, groups, societies, nations, the international system, and the planet. The conference is scheduled for two and one-half days at the former estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick in Wheaton, Illinois.

The forthcoming conference has two purposes.
    • The first is to assess the state of scholarly understanding of war by discussing eleven papers, each covering a different discipline, mode of inquiry, or subject, selected over the last three years as a result of the one-day individual disciplinary conferences held in 1994-1996. Each paper, prepared in advance by a senior distinguished scholar for publication in a volume of essays on war as a human phenomenon, will be circulated to the group and examined by senior commentators in the discipline or subject area before the general discussion.

    • The conference has as its second purpose discussing in depth whether the Triangle Institute for Security Studies should undertake a long-range team project to summarize and advance knowledge in the various approaches to war, and if so, how to undertake such an effort.

    Conference papers will broadly assess how each discipline has approached the subject, what the state of understanding is today, and the direction of inquiry in the future. Each of five three-hour sessions will focus on two or three related disciplines; each paper presenter would have about fifteen minutes for remarks, after which four commentators would each take up to fifteen minutes to comment on the papers, making the presentation phase about ninety minutes. This will leave up to ninety minutes for discussion among the entire group. The published papers will be revisions resulting from this interaction.

    Moderating the sessions will be professors Alex Roland of Duke University and Richard H. Kohn of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who originated the project in 1993 and have managed it since.

    Project History

    Shortly after World War I, University of Chicago Professor Charles E. Merriam convened faculty from the departments of anthropology, political science, psychology, and sociology to discuss research on the causes of war. Quincy Wright, an authority on international law and international relations, summarized the results of the meeting for the Social Science Research Committee of the University. Wright then became chair of a committee constituted to investigate the causes of war. Over the next seven years, Wright's committee supervised twenty-five research assistants, mostly graduate students, in a systematic compilation of what was then known about the causes of war. Additionally, students in other fields and faculty members outside the original group prepared manuscripts on subjects relating to war.

    In all, sixty-six studies were prepared. Of these, the University of Chicago accepted forty-five as master's theses or doctoral dissertations. Ten were published as books, some of which, like Harold Lasswell's World Politics and Personal Insecurity and Bernard Brodie's Sea Power in the Machine Age, became classics on their own. Wright communicated the results of the studies in a series of lectures in 1933 and 1934, which became the basis of A Study of War , first published in two volumes in 1942 and republished with an updated bibliography in a single volume in 1965. A Study of War still stands alone, a classic of interdisciplinary scholarship, which in a single volume presents comprehensively a then-current summary of knowledge on one of humanity's most troubling and intractable problems.

    Current Project

    Professors Alex Roland of Duke and Dick Kohn of UNC at Chapel Hill have acted as principle investigators for the current Study of War Project since its inception in 1993. Sponsored by the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, the principle investigators plan to continue using a methodology similar to Quincy Wright's: to invite scholars from all the relevant social and natural sciences, and from the humanities, to address the nature of war. In addition to the disciplines of the Wright project, they plan to include many more, including as examples, a zoologist, an international lawyer, a physician, and scholars of gender studies, literature, and public policy.

    T.I.S.S. is undertaking the project in two stages:

    • First is the feasibility phase, which is nearing its conclusion. Over the past three years, T.I.S.S. sponsored the ten one-day conferences in some thirteen subjects and disciplines to assess the state of knowledge and learn how each approaches three interrelated sets of questions about war: its causes, origins and functions; its nature, character, or process; and its impact on individuals, groups, societies, nations, international relations, the human species, and the planet.

    • From these conferences, from consultations with colleagues in the Triangle and around the world, and from the summary interdisciplinary conference being organized for June 1997, Roland and Kohn will decide if the larger project should be undertaken. If so, they will prepare a statement about the current state of understanding about war, the major questions yet unanswered, and the areas in need of further exploration. This document could become the research agenda for a ten-year, collaborative study of war. Graduate students at Duke and UNC, and possibly at other local universities, along with faculty engaged in the study and enlisted from other institutions, will be invited to prepare studies to focus on issues identified by the committee as crucial to the larger project. As with the Chicago study, T.I.S.S. expects the research agenda to evolve dialectically as scholars discover new and unanticipated avenues of research and as emerging studies reshape the committee's views of the state of our knowledge.

    T.I.S.S. looks for three possible results from this undertaking:

    First, Roland and Kohn plan to prepare a synthetic volume on the model of Wright's A Study of War, updated to reflect the latest scholarship in all disciplines.

    Second, they expect to train graduate students in a wide variety of disciplines, not only to study and understand war from their respective disciplinary perspectives but also to participate in interdisciplinary scholarship of the most sweeping kind.

    And third, they hope to inform a whole community of scholars who will take back to their respective disciplines new insights and methodologies with which to investigate this most important human phenomenon.

    As with the work of the University of Chicago group, T.I.S.S. expects the repercussions of this undertaking to enrich scholarship on the subject for decades to come.

    Doug Peifer, post-doctoral fellow at T.I.S.S., received his Ph.D. in modern German history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1996. In the 1980s, he served overseas as a U. S. Navy officer.
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