Brent Scowcroft Center Program Assistant Alex Ward writes for The Diplomat on thoughts of great power during the marking of the World War I centennial:
As the World War I centennial is celebrated, repressed thoughts of great power war once again begin to surface. With today’s highly “interconnected global economy” underwritten by a liberal order leading to the “rise of the rest,” it appears unlikely that any state would want to disrupt the current system. And yet, the constant stream of somber news reignites fears of a calamitous global catastrophe.
In times of international flux, where the worst seems possible, it is important to turn to those who can best interpret these eras. In the case of great power or “hegemonic” wars, there is hardly a greater authority than Robert Gilpin. In his seminal work on the subject, War and Change in World Politics, Gilpin argues that three preconditions must be met for a hegemonic war to occur. First, Gilpin believes that the soon-to-be warring parties must feel there is a “‘closing in’ of space and opportunities.” Second, there must be a general “perception that a fundamental historical change is taking place.” Finally, events around the world start to “escape human control.”