How do embattled leaders hope to secure their hold on power by initiating conflict abroad? The literature on diversionary war has emphasized two distinct mechanisms by which leaders stand to gain from conflict — the “rally around the flag” and “gambling for resurrection” theories. But despite a massive literature on the subject, these competing theories of diversionary incentives have never been subjected to comparative empirical evaluation. This article seeks to fill this gap. I argue that the rally and gambling theories predict diversionary conflicts to target different types of states. Diversionary conflicts driven by a rally logic will target traditional enemies and out-groups, including rivals, neighbors, and geopolitically incompatible states. Gambling for resurrection, on the other hand, pushes leaders to target powerful states in order to demonstrate competence to their constituents. Challenging the conventional wisdom, I find little evidence to support the rally mechanism. The results offer substantial support for the gambling for resurrection theory, indicating that diversionary conflict may be primarily driven by unpopular leaders attempting to prove their competence domestically.
This article outlines a classroom simulation for teaching the bargaining model of war. This model has become one of the most important theories of international confl ict, but the technical notation often used to illustrate it is troublesome for some students. I describe a simple card game that can be integrated into a broader strategy for conveying the bargaining model's core insights. I also highlight ways in which the game can be modifi ed to focus on diff erent aspects of the model's logic. J ames Fearon's seminal work on the "bargaining model" of war set in motion a research agenda that highlights the important effects of informational asymmetries on international confl ict (Fearon 1995 ). The basic claim that uncertainty, misrepresentation, and mutual optimism can substantially increase the likelihood of confl ict has gained significant traction in the field. Indeed, it is reasonable to claim that the bargaining model should constitute an important component of an undergraduate international relations (IR) curriculum. Despite the model's elegance and intuitive logic, however, much of the bargaining literature contains highly technical, game-theoretic notation that is simply unsuited for most undergraduate students. 1 Even basic treatments in widely used introductory textbooks use basic mathematical notation that might be problematic for certain students (Frieden, Lake, and Schultz 2012 ).This article describes a simple card game that clearly illustrates the core logic of Fearon's bargaining model. The game carefully simulates informational asymmetries and costly confl ict while providing students with "incentives to misrepresent" their bargaining strength, as Fearon's model indicates. The game is highly fl exible, and the parameters can be adjusted easily to highlight diff erent components of the bargaining logic.Research has shown that classroom simulations can be a highly eff ective pedagogical tool (Frederking 2005 ;Shellman and Turan 2006 ). As such, the lack of simulations for teaching this important theory is highly problematic. The simulation described here is somewhat atypical in that it is divorced from real-world political scenarios (Brynen 2010 ; Wheeler 2006 ). I do not present a "role-playing" game or a hypothetical crisis situation. Rather, I describe a game that focuses entirely on the abstract logic of information, bargaining, and confl ict. Instructors then can integrate this game with additional simulations that encourage students to apply the bargaining logic to real-world scenarios (Asal 2005 ; Brynen 2010 ). For instance, instructors might follow this game with an in-depth historical case study of the Korean War or a crisis simulation centered on the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir. By integrating this game into a broader lesson plan, instructors can incorporate the bargaining model into even introductory IR courses. DESCRIBING THE BARGAINING MODELFearon's argument centers on the idea that war is costly and that if rational states were completely informed regarding the capa...
s article "Graceful Decline?" offers a clear, parsimonious theory of great power retrenchment that helps ªll a massive gap in international relations scholarship. 1 Through comparative case studies and "coarse grained" statistical analysis, MacDonald and Parent argue that the degree of a state's decline often explains the form and extent of its retrenchment. They then show that retrenchment is a surprisingly common and effective response to relative decline. MacDonald and Parent correctly point out the myopia of the "pessimistic" structuralist dogma that simply dismisses retrenchment as an impractical and dangerous strategy that only accelerates decline by signaling weakness and creating additional vulnerability (pp. 13-18). 2 Their spare neorealist model goes a long way toward repairing this deªciency. As a ªrst cut, it improves on the existing literature while facilitating progressive future research on the topic. Still, a number of theoretical and conceptual problems undermine their argument and compromise their results. Below I discuss three issues with MacDonald and Parent's theory of retrenchment. power transitions and policymakers' responsivenessMacDonald and Parent operationalize decline as an ordinal power transition in which a rising state overtakes a declining state in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and retains this new lead for at least ªve consecutive years. They justify this focus by claiming that such transitions are particularly "dramatic" events that should force policymakers in the declining state into a thorough strategic reassessment, potentially leading to retrenchment (p. 21). These are "most likely" cases for their neorealist model, as less dramatic periods of decline may fail to generate policy shifts with similar promptness.
This paper offers a theory of military retrenchment by states in relative decline. I argue that a declining state will choose to withdraw foreign military deployments and security commitments when there exists a suitable regional “successor” to which it can devolve its current responsibilities. The degree of a successor's suitability and the strategic importance of the region to the declining state interact to determine when and how rapidly retrenchment will occur. Importantly, this devolutionary model of retrenchment predicts significant variations in retrenchment patterns across a declining state's multiple regional commitments. It advances the literature by producing nuanced predictions of precisely where, when, and how quickly retrenchment will occur. This paper assesses the theory empirically through an examination of Great Britain's varying regional retrenchment strategies prior to World War I.
This article examines how interstate signaling processes operate under multiple dimensions of uncertainty. The existing signaling literature largely assumes that states communicate and infer one another’s intentions in a simplified context where they are only uncertain about one component of the other’s preferences. Relaxing this unrealistic assumption, I develop a model of interstate reassurance in which the receiver is uncertain of both the compatibility of the sender’s goals and its time horizons. If a receiving state is unsure of the sending state’s time horizons, it is more difficult to determine the costliness of a given signal, and thus how credible it is as an indicator of the sender’s preferences. I show that under certain conditions, shorter time horizons lead to more credible signaling as states become less willing to incur the short-term costs of misrepresentation. Under other conditions, however, shortened time horizons can incentivize hedging behavior, thus undermining a benign state’s ability to credibly signal its intentions. Finally, the model reveals that multidimensional uncertainty can actually facilitate cooperation across a wider range of conditions than one-dimensional uncertainty. I present two brief case illustrations and discuss the model’s implications for contemporary US–China relations.
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