Allying to Win: Regime Type, Alliance Size, and Victory. With Chritopher J. Fariss and Benjamin A.T. Graham.
Studies of regime type and war reveal that democracies tend to win the wars they fight, but questions remain about why this is the case. A simple, if under-appreciated, explanation is that democracies tend to fight in larger coalitions. We show that democracies have more allies when they go to war, and that states fighting with more allies are more likely to win major contests. We conduct this analysis using a sample of all wars 1816-2000, as well as MIDs during the same period. There are several reasons why allies may matter for victory. Coalitions of countries bring additional material capabilities. Wars may also be perceived as more legitimate with participation from allies. Democracies may find coalitions less costly or constraining. War for public goods (e.g., stability, policy goals) requires no significant division of the spoils, while alliances dilute the payoffs of conflicts over private goods (e.g., territory). Democratic leaders have more reasons to bear the (possibly lower) costs of recruiting allies. Autocracies also gain a likelihood-of-victory benefit with additional allies, but they appear less concerned about legitimacy, while allies dilute the private benefits of war.
Cyberwar has been described as a revolution in military affairs, a transformation of technology and doctrine capable potentially of even overturning the prevailing world order. Yet, such conceptions of change reflect a common tendency to conflate means and ends; studying what could happen in cyberspace (or anywhere else) makes little sense without considering how internet conflict is going to accomplish the tasks commonly addressed by terrestrial warfare. To supplant existing modes of conflict, cyberwar must be capable of realizing the political objectives to which force or threats of force are commonly applied, something that in important respects cyberwar fails to do. Cyberwar is much more likely to serve as an adjunct to, rather than a substitute for, existing forms of political violence. Indeed, rather than threatening existing hierarchies, cyberwar appears much more likely to augment the military advantages of status quo powers. .
Bargaining theory offers a compelling logic of the causes of war and peace, but the perspective has proven remarkably resistant to empirical assessment. There is also considerable ambiguity about the conditions under which novel predictions of bargaining theory matter substantively, and where the insights of other perspectives are at least as valid. I use interactions among three major bodies of ``rationalist'' theory to identify unique empirical implications and scope conditions for the bargaining perspective. Bargaining and the realist perspective emphasize, respectively, uncertainty and relative capabilities as predictors of war, while neither pays much attention to the impact of distance on their respective causal arguments. Political geography introduces the notion of the loss-of-strength gradient (among other insights), while failing to incorporate the effects of relative power and information asymmetry. A simple bargaining model illustrates how capabilities, proximity and uncertainty interact to affect conflict. I then provide evidence of an interaction between capabilities and distance predicted by the bargaining model. Weak states seldom fight far from home, while conflict increases with distance for the most capable countries. Capabilities have limited salience for conflict beyond mitigating distance.
Historically, fighting is widely believed to follow the seasons, tending to begin or increase in spring or summer and decline or terminate in the fall and winter. While not a new subject, the seasonality of conflict has received relatively little careful systematic study. I find significant annual variation in the advent or termination of wars. However, the overall relationship between conflict and seasonal climate change is more complex. Given that climate varies both temporally and geographically, it is possible to adjust the location of at least some contests, in effect changing the weather, rather than waiting for the weather to change. I offer an explanation of the cyclicality of wars and the relocation of other disputes. States tend to shift the location of modest contests and non-territorial disputes with the seasons. In the northern hemisphere, disputes occur an average of 556 kilometers (345 miles) farther south in winter than in summer. Wars and territorial disputes that are difficult to relocate geographically tend to exhibit more seasonal variation in onset and termination. The presence of both temporal and spatial cyclicality implies that the effects of climate change may vary for conflicts of different types and intensities.
Power, Parity and Proximity: How Distance and Uncertainty Condition the Balance of Power. With Alex Braithwaite.
Research debating competing perspectives on power and war has yet to address the endogenous impact of proximity. If power declines in distance, then power relations between two nations differ at different points on the globe. Claims about the impact of parity or preponderance on conflict and peace then really only apply to particular points or regions in the space separating borders or national capitals. We use a formal bargaining model to demonstrate that dyads should be most prone to fight in places where each state's capabilities, discounted by distance, are roughly at parity. We then assess this relationship empirically, introducing the directed dyad year location unit-of-analysis to capture the impact of geographic distance on power and the propensity to fight. With roughly 1 x 10^11 observations, it is not practical to construct the actual dataset. Instead, we combine all dispute locations with a random sample of non-dispute locations, correcting for bias during estimation. Results confirm that disputes are most likely at locations where the distance-weighted capabilities of nations are roughly equal.
Much has been written about why nations fight. Less attention has been devoted to explaining where countries exert and endure militarized violence. A simple game theoretic bargaining model that takes into account both the onset and location of disputes identifies differences in how capabilities and national interests affect each stage of a contest. National capabilities, which are generally thought to explain the why of conflict, may actually do more to determine where disputes occur. In contrast, the model predicts that the compatibility or incompatibility of preferences is much more salient for conflict onset or initiation. The model also helps to unravel a longstanding debate about why proximate countries fight more often. Neighbors have both greater opportunity and possibly increased willingness to fight. Using data on the location of militarized disputes, I show that capabilities matter for where countries come into conflict, while interest affinity best predicts whether contests occur. The effects of contiguity on the onset and location of disputes suggests that neighbors are disproportionately willing to fight.
To Conquer or Compel: War, Peace, and Economic Development. With Dominic Rohner.
Theories of economic development suggest variously that national income increases or decreases the propensity for states to fight, while systematic evidence of the impact of development on warfare is ambiguous or non-existent. The lack of empirical support for nominally opposing claims can be reconciled if elements of both perspectives are partially correct. We use a formal model to construct an explanation linking economic development with interstate conflict that resolves contradictory theories and a relative paucity of evidence. Development increases the ability of states to project power while decreasing the willingness of states to engage in conflict over certain issues. High income states fight less often to conquer tangible assets or territory, but fight more often to compel adherence to preferred policies and to police the global commons.
Researchers, pundits, and policy makers have long debated whether economic interdependence pacifies or provokes conflict among states. Here, I suggest how interdependence can do both. Valuable linkages offer a mechanism for signaling and coercion short of military violence that stands to increase moderate (non-militarized) conflict behavior while reducing more intense conflict or uses of force. I offer a formal model of interdependence and conflict, testing hypotheses derived from the model against COPDAB and WEIS events datasets. Interdependence reduces militarized violence, but increases non-violent conflict. The argument also helps to account for differences between symmetry and asymmetry (i.e., interdependence as opposed to dependence).
The success of the democratic peace research agenda has led scholars to search for additional externalities of liberal politics and economics. Among the most promising venues is the system itself. The diffusion of democratic norms or identities could discourage conflict even among non-democracies. Yet, reconciling systemic claims with dyadic findings appears to require hypocrisy; democracies must press for peace among autocracies, while themselves continuing to use or threaten force against non-democracies. No such tension exists for other elements of the Kantian liberal triad. In particular, trade appears to consistently contribute to a systemic liberal peace.
The Ties that Bias: Specifying and Operationalizing Components of Dyadic Dependence in International Conflict. With Kristian Skrede Gleditsch.
Students of international conflict are increasingly aware of the pernicious consequences of spatial dependence. Much of international behavior is linked spatially and temporally. Yet, many dyadic analyses of interstate interactions assume independence among units. Although there exist some statistical solutions for addressing spatial dependence, directly modeling the dependence generating processes is more satisfying and intellectually informative. We consider how extra-dyadic linkages to a dispute dyad could give rise to new disputes. Alliances are designed to encourage third parties to join dyadic contests, but most existing empirical analyses consider only bilateral alliance ties. Likewise, contests often extend to include new disputes involving third parties that are geographically between disputants. We develop new data on extra-dyadic alliance ties as well as the "inbetweenness" of potential third parties' geographical location relative to conflict dyads. We show empirically that both of these linkages are strongly related to the risk of dispute onset, even while accounting for other factors. Our approach can be applied broadly to address spatial dependence, and can be extended to address other spatial variables.
New nuclear nations are more prone to militarized conflict, though the overall effect of nuclear weapons on conventional disputes is neutral (Horowitz 2009; Gartzke and Jo 2009). Several processes might explain the non-linear relationship between proliferation and conflict. Nominal nuclear status could constitute a capability shock, altering the balance of power and increasing the probability of disputes. Alternately, proliferation might introduce uncertainty about relative power, again increasing the risk of conflict. Familiarity with nuclear weapons should allow countries to manage conflict more effectively, even as a growing nuclear stockpile may exacerbate tensions. Informational factors (uncertainty and learning) are statistically significant determinants of conflict, while material factors (nuclear status and stockpiles) are not so salient.
Students of international relations have long conjectured diverse and sometimes contradictory connections between economic development and interstate conflict or peace. Supply side ar- guments view modern economies as more difficult to subdue or exploit through force (i.e., development creates states that are “bitter pills”). Demand side perspectives argue in contrast that development either increases or lessens the appeal of conquest among potential aggressors (i.e., development can create “prosperous pacifists”). We resolve this debate by means of a formal model that isolates contrasting consequences of development for initiators and targets. We then test hypotheses drawn from the model on measures of territorial conflict, showing that the development of potential initiators, not of targets, best discourages conflict among nations.
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