This presentation revisits the connection between war and state building offering an account that fits a hard region for the theory so far: Latin America. Scholars like Max Weber and Otto Hintze emphasised the unpredictability of war outcomes and focused on their lingering effects in a post-war phase. Amidst the fog of war all contenders mobilise, but it is the fortuitous outcome of war that will ultimately determine the survival of otherwise contingent wartime institutions. While victorious states will consolidate their wartime coalitions and see the state building project legitimised, those actors will be challenged in defeated states, leading to protracted declines in state capacity. In nineteenth-century Latin America states systematically survived frequent and severe warfare providing an ideal setting to compare the long-winded effects of war outcomes. Leveraging historical statistics and case studies, this presentation will show that international threats systematically triggered state building, and that victors and losers were set into divergent state building trajectories that rigidified in the twentieth century, when wars were conspicuously absent.