International relations scholars have traditionally defaulted to material explanations of international outcomes: why some states rise, why some fall, and why some are better at fighting wars than others. While this is an important starting point, it is less clear why similarly equipped or even trained militaries may fight with determination on the battlefield, while others crumble after as soon as battles start to go poorly. In the author’s words, scholars have typically focused on “why armed forces differ in skill, not will (p7).” Some of the greatest variance on this can take place within the same state: France fought well in the First World War, but quickly folded in the Second. Castillo offers a theory that accounts for this, while attempting to correct some of the undue emphasis on strictly “material factors (such as resources and wealth)” in assessing the power of states, which has implications for national security.
About the author: Jasen Castillo is an assistant professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.