Campus News

International affairs professor studies underlying causes of war

Jaroslav Tir was finishing his last term of high school in the U.S. when war broke out in Croatia and Bosnia. As a foreign exchange student, he knew the terms of his visa would require him to return to Croatia after completing his high school degree, but with the situation there rapidly deteriorating, Tir made the decision that he would return to Croatia only long enough to complete the paperwork necessary for coming back to the U.S. to pursue a college degree.

Three weeks after returning to Croatia, the paperwork was complete and he was on the train bound for the airport.

The train began to slow, then ground to a stop. The airport was nowhere in sight.

“Evidently, the train’s engineer had received word that the track was mined and had stopped the train just in time to escape danger,” said Tir.  “We were just starting to breathe normally when gunfire rang out.

“We took cover on the floor of the train until the Croatian police force arrived,” he added. “We learned later that the Serb paramilitary was waiting nearby and attempting to storm the train.”

Eventually, the bullet-riddled train was allowed to continue on its way.

Today, as an associate professor of international relations at UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs, Tir has made a name for himself researching the underlying causes of war and opportunities for conflict management.

With more than 2,000 years of history to support the notion that territorial disputes are the leading cause of conflict and war, Tir set out to examine whether and how borders can be adjusted to prevent future conflicts over land.

“While history tells us that the use of military force is the most common approach to addressing territorial disputes, the fact that these wars have rarely achieved long-lasting peace would suggest that this approach is not ultimately effective,” Tir said.

In his book, Redrawing the Map to Promote Peace, Tir examined the management of territorial disputes and how outcomes differ as a result of the way in which disputes are settled.

Tir’s findings showed that a peaceful, nonmilitary approach to the movement of borders greatly reduced the probability of future disputes and increased the chance for peace. At first, Tir’s findings may seem obvious. He is, however, the first researcher to provide the evidence necessary to show that this is a systematic pattern that works.

When he’s not studying territorial disputes, Tir’s other recent research interests include the politics of international freshwater disputes, diversionary theory of war, and the linkage between ethnic conflict and the media.