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The Causes of International Conflict, and Examples of Each

Updated on June 14, 2016

“International politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power.” (Hans J. Morgenthau) To expand upon Morgenthau’s words, ever since the world war one era there has been conflict between countries. This conflict has ranged from nations limiting their communication with one another to full scale wars.

Imperialism and a thirst for expansion have long since predated modern times, and often times create conflict among different factions. In recent times, certain non-UN nations such as Russia have taken land through non-diplomatic means. The Ukrainian territory of Crimea was annexed by Russia. Ukraine “considers the annexation to be a violation of international law and agreements by Russia, including Agreement on Establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1991...” (Shuster 2015) Because of this, foreign relations with Russia are strained.

Another major territorial conflict can be seen between Israel and Palestine. “The Israel/Palestine conflict arose when 5 major waves of immigration to Palestine occurred between 1882 and 1939 by Jewish people. At first, the relationship between the Jews and Arabs was relatively peaceful.” (Palmir 2008) However, as Jews began to buy plots of land from absentee Arab land-owners and steadily gained higher wages and greater employment opportunities than the Arabs, conflict arose. Furthermore, many of the immigrating Jews brought with them the ideology of Zionism. This concept can be loosely defined as Jews feeling as though, “they are superior, and more knowing than others.” (Bernstein 2016) Through Zionism, the Jews felt that they had the right to immigrate into occupied territory in Palestine due to its religious significance. Thus, immigration of Jews along with a Zionist mindset created unrest in Palestine among its Arab residents; eventually the settlements imposed an economic disadvantage to the Arabs and this was the beginning of the dispute. The United Nations then suggested the partition of Palestine between Arabs and Jews. The UNC Office of Arts and Sciences says that, “Under the UN partition plan of November 1917, the Jewish population was given 55 percent of Palestinian territory, although the Jewish population only accounted for 30 percent of the residents in Palestine. Even though much of the territory given to the Jews was infertile, the Arabs still did not approve of the partition.” (UNC Office of Arts and Sciences 2011) Overall, territory and religion are major variables in conflict when present; however, they are often times not a factor.

The very nature of conflict proves that ideology is always a factor in international conflict. Chadwick Alger defined conflict specifically with these words: “Conflict is, largely, state of disagreement caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between two or more countries. Two of the most prominent values that drive conflict are Communism and Democracy.” (Pamir 2008) This contentious relationship between communism and democracy connect with a major example of conflict driven by ideological differences, the Cold War. The Cold War was a decades-long struggle for global supremacy that pitted the capitalist United States against the communist Soviet Union. By 1950, the communist takeover in China and the advent of a Soviet nuclear weapon had made the Cold War an increasingly militarized struggle. Overall, this conflict shows just how influential ideology is, driving two massive forces to strongly oppose one another.

Since world war one and forth, conflict has permeated Earth. The nature of this conflict has varied, ranging from a refusal to communicate with one another at one end, and wars at the other. A portion of these occurrences have been quelled through various diplomatic means, while others such as Israel and Palestine have yet to be resolved. By knowing what creates and fuels these conflicts, we will be able to prevent them from happening in the future.


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