Skip to content

Fall 2022 Reading Group

How Wars End: The Role of Negotiation

Prerequisite: None

Exam Type: No Exam

It is commonly thought that wars end after a decisive military battle produces to a conclusive victory – one side surrenders and the other side emerges victorious. In fact, recent history suggests things are typically much more complicated: negotiations between the disputants commonly play a critical role in ending armed conflict. One only must consider Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. This reading group will explore the role of negotiation in terminating wars.

Through readings, we will explore how a number of wars, including American wars, in fact ended. We will ask: to what extent, if any, did negotiations between the combatants end the fighting? We will see that while the aims of the combatants are typically deeply opposed at the beginning of a war, over time they often converge toward an agreement to stop fighting. In such cases, what produces this convergence? To what extent do factors far removed from the battlefield — economic, political, and social – contribute to the success of negotiations?

Note: This reading group will meet the following dates: 9/13, 9/27, 10/18, 11/1, 11/15, 11/29.