Ahsan I. Butt, "Anarchy and Hierarchy in International Relations: Examining South America's War-Prone Decade, 1932-1941." International Organization 67, 3 (July 2013): 575-607.
This article questions the validity of anarchy as an assumption in International Relations theory. Powerful states often provide public goods to smaller states in return for their acquiescence on matters of interest. This transactional provision of public goods is analogous to how central governments behave in domestic environments; thus the hierarchic structure of domestic politics is replicated in international politics. The anarchy-hierarchy distinction, which rests on a neat separation of international and domestic structures, is therefore highly contentious. One public good that great powers provide, largely ignored by the literature on hierarchy, is justice. Powerful states can provide a forum for aggrieved parties to settle their disputes, and thus contain conflicts before they escalate to war. If such a forum is no longer provided, the system reverts to anarchy, where escalation—and therefore, war—is more likely. South America's war-prone decade can be explained by the variation in structural conditions on the continent. Due to the Depression, its Good Neighbor policy, and the onset of World War II, the United States was less interested in South American affairs in the 1930s, resulting in a more anarchic structure and a higher propensity for war.
This is an interesting article, which I am immediately drawn to because it makes extensive use of the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, which is a cool resource, and I love the use of historical cases to test theories.
What seems problematic, though, is the application of this argument to the past decade or so. After 9/11 countless people have argued the U.S. has shifted its attention away from Latin America, focusing more on a shadowy War on Terror and the Middle East. Further, since 2008 the United States has been suffering the worst economic crisis since the Depression. The 2001-2013 period thus appears to be very similar to 1932-1941, which means we would expect war.
But beyond the Colombia bombing over its border with Ecuador to strike at the FARC, which was aggressive but one-time and aimed at a non-state actor, we aren't seeing that. In fact, Hugo Chávez and Alvaro Uribe didn't go to war despite rumblings and a deep mutual hatred. Peru is up in arms about its border, but it took the complaint to the International Court of Justice.