Do international institutions promote cooperation? If so, how? These questions are of fundamental importance in the study of international relations. They are also the focus of Jim Morrow's Order within Anarchy: The Laws of War as an International Institution. Offering novel and persuasive answers to these core questions, Order within Anarchy belongs on every field seminar syllabus. It is no easy read—both due to its length and the dense nature of the material, even considering the fact that Morrow wisely relegates most of the technical material to separate chapters—but those who devote the time and effort to digesting it will be amply rewarded.
Democracies don't go to war unless they have to, and if they have to, they make dang sure that they win. Or so we've been told. In Democratic Militarism, Jon Caverley paints a very different picture. Best of all, he shows that the exceptions to this rule (if you can even call it that) cannot be attributed to corruptions of the process. When democracies fight unnecessary wars, poorly, they do not do so because of elite capture, popular propaganda, or a breakdown of civil-military relations. No, that's democracy at work.
This activity comes after students are to have listened to a lecture (slides) about domestic politics helps us understand variation in the likelihood of international conflict. I focused particularly on whether the spread of democracy explains Europe's transformation from one of the most violent parts of the world to one of the most peaceful and how the the fear of coups and rebellion in Sub-Saharan Africa helps explain why there have been so few interstate wars there.
You've perhaps heard that democracy and peace tend to go together. Closest thing to a law and all that. So, we've obviously got a correlation. The question is whether that reflects democracy \(\rightarrow\) peace or democracy \(\leftarrow\) \(z\) \(\rightarrow\) peace, where \(z\) might concern economic or geographic factors. Various attempts at resolving the debate have been made,1but my sense (based largely on what I've heard at conferences recently) is that a lot of people who are broadly sympathetic to these critiques still aren't quite sold.
One thing that might help move the conversation forward is the introduction of a clear argument for exactly how and why some third factor might produce a spurious correlation between democracy and peace—one that not only provides an explanation for empirical regularities that have already been established but points us in the direction of new ones we've yet to uncover. In this post, I analyze a formal model that I think offers us exactly that.2
I am an assistant professor of political science who studies international relations. My interests include international conflict, domestic politics, bargaining theory, formal theory, and the empirical implications of theoretical models.