## Thursday, December 12, 2013

### The Importance of Angry Letters

How can international institutions foster cooperation given that they lack enforcement capability? One view, quite simply, is that they can't. This view is shared by realists and many outside the academy.

Many would argue this critique is unfair. It is too easy to jump from "can't control rogue states" to "completely worthless" or "false promise" or what have you. Even states that view one another as friends sometimes fail to reap all the possible benefits of international cooperation due to coordination problems, collaboration problems, etc, and institutions may help such states leave a little less money lying on the ground. There's also pretty strong evidence that UN peacekeeping works, particularly when it has the consent of all the parties involved. Sure, that's an important caveat, but we shouldn't trivialize the large number of lives that have likely been saved as a result of the UN's efforts.

But let's set those things aside. Is the best we can say about the UN that it helps those who want to be helped but is of no real consequence to the behavior of "rogue" states? I would argue that the answer is "sort of, but only if we adopt a fairly extreme definition of 'rogue'." If we don't define "rogue" states as those that do misbehave, but instead as those who would like to, then the answer is likely that the UN does not just allow the good guys to do a little bit better on the margins, but actually changes the intentions of those we might otherwise see as bad guys.

Look below the fold to see why.

## Friday, June 14, 2013

### So Long For Now

This blog has been all but defunct for some time now, and I don't see that changing any time soon.  I may revive it someday, but for the foreseeable future, any blogging I do will be at the Duck of Minerva.

## Wednesday, March 13, 2013

### M Data

In recent weeks, I've received a number of requests for the M data.  I haven't yet written the paper releasing the data set, and probably won't until this summer.  (I go up for tenure next year, and I'm fortunate enough to have several outstanding R&R's that need my attention more immediately than any manuscript that will need to go through at least two stages of review).

But I'm happy to share the data.  For details on how the measure was constructed, see this post.

## Sunday, January 6, 2013

### Breaking Down Slantchev 2012

I began this series of posts by discussing Fearon's influential "Rationalist Explanations for War", wherein he argues that we cannot understand war if we cannot answer the question "Why war and not negotiation?"  Fearon identified three classes of answers, and provided three specific answers within one of those classes.

That is, Fearon first acknowledges both that leaders who are prone to various errors or pathologies might fight wars no matter how inefficient it is to do so and also that war need not be seen as inefficient from the perspective of individual leaders.  In other words, he is quite transparent about the fact that the three "rationalist" explanations for war he provides are necessary to explain war if and only if we view war as inefficient.$$^1$$

## Tuesday, November 13, 2012

### Once More on Military Capabilities

I previously introduced a new measure of military capabilities, $$M$$, which is intended to capture the size and sophistication of a nation's military relative to prevailing standards of the day, here.  Some legitimate concerns were raised about how the scores were calculated, so I adjusted the measure.

The real question is how to normalize the raw military data to reflect prevailing standards of the day.  In my previous two attempts, I did this through the use of arbitrary constants.  This is unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons.  I've decided to instead base the $$M$$ scores on 5-year moving averages.

## Monday, November 12, 2012

### If Institutions Matter a Little, They Matter a Lot

A strong correlation between cooperation and membership in international institutions is not enough to establish that international institutions cause cooperation.   If we're to claim that institutions matter, we need to at least identify mechanisms by which institutions might promote cooperation among actors who would otherwise be disinclined to cooperate with one another.  The mere fact that such mechanisms can be articulated does not itself tell us whether the correlation is causal, but it lends a certain measure of plausible to causal interpretations that would otherwise be lacking.

Indeed, scholars have identified a variety of such mechanisms, from raising reputation costs to solving coordination problems to monitoring compliance and thereby overcoming information problems.  But even committed neo-liberals will generally grant that these arguments merely identify ways in which institutions provide a little push that can make the difference when (and only when) states almost meet the conditions under which cooperation would occur in an anarchic world.  And if that's all that institutions do, then they can't really matter all that much, can they?

Actually, yes.

If you grant that international institutions matter at the margins, you've already conceded that they make a big difference to the overall level of cooperation we can expect to observe in the international system.  Look below the fold for an explanation.

## Thursday, November 8, 2012

### Breaking Down Bueno de Mesquita 2005

This series has focused so far on interstate crisis bargaining.  There are some important pieces that I still want to cover in that area, but for now, let me turn my attention to terrorism.

In "Conciliation, Counterterrorism, and Patterns of Terrorist Violence," Ethan Bueno de Mesquita seeks to explain why governments offer concessions to groups that engage in terrorist violence despite the tendency for violence to increase afterwards.  If offering concessions only invites more terrorism, as appears to be the case, what reason could governments possibly have for doing so?

## Friday, November 2, 2012

### Some Thoughts on Voting (UPDATED)

Suppose I invite you to bet with me on the outcome of some large set of random trials.  I'm a bit of a jerk though, so I'm offering you terms that are a tad unfair.  I'm going to make a prediction about the number of trials that turn out a certain way, and if I'm right, you'll owe me $120, while I'll only owe you$100 if I'm wrong.

If I told you that the set of random trials would be 6 million rolls of a fair die, with my bet being that the number of 6's that will be observed will be greater than 3 million, you'd be a fool to turn down the bet.  Sure, there's more in it for me if I win than there is for you, but you don't need to be a statistician to know that the odds are overwhelmingly in your favor here.

If, on the other hand, I told you that my prediction is that the number of 6's observed will be more than 1 million, you'd be well-advised to decline my bet.  If I offered you fair terms, that might be another story, but there's too much uncertainty here for the terms I've offered to be attractive.

The two scenarios I described clearly differ in that respect.  But let's look at this from another angle.  What are the odds that the very last roll of the die would have made the difference between my prediction being correct or not in the two cases?  Without going into too much technical detail, the answer is that it would be a teeny tiny bit higher in the latter case, but scarcely different from zero in either case.  We're talking 6 million random trials, after all.

What's the point of this?

## Tuesday, October 16, 2012

### Deadlines and Wars of Attrition

Over at PV@Glance, Andrew Kydd argues against the Ryan's critique of the administration's Afghanistan policy.  Among other things, he raises concerns about the claim that announcing a deadline will encourage the enemy to keep fighting.  So far as I know, Kydd is right that we don't have any existing models that speak to this, but I think he's mistaken (as he acknowledges that he might be) when he speculates that this result could not emerge from the simple sort of model that the Ryan critique appears to be based on.

## Monday, October 15, 2012

### Announcements

As anyone who was paying attention will have noticed, I've stopped recording my lectures.  I don't think they were coming out very well, and they take a lot of time to record.  Maybe I'll try again someday.

In other news, I've joined the Duck of Minerva as a guest contributor.  I'll be posting there once a week or so.  My plan is to post anything of broader interest to the Duck, leaving this site for more technical material.  I have a few new "breaking down [x]" posts planned that will go here, for example.  Suggestions or requests welcome.