Friday, September 30, 2011

Pax Europa IX

Resolution of Underlying Issues

I wrap up this series by considering the extent to which patterns of war and peace in Europe can be accounted for simply by variation in the extent to which European powers have held conflicts of interest.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

When Do Voters Benefit From Hawkish Leaders?

Back on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the venerable Roger Myerson posed essentially that question (though he uses the term militancy).

He argues, intuitively enough, that there's a tradeoff between the benefits of more aggressive leadership (by way of a greater ability to deter would-be adversaries) and the risks associated with such, by way of an elevated risk of war.  He argues that voters would optimally deal with this tradeoff by turning to hawkish leaders in situations where the risk of war is low, but should war occur, it would be devastating.

As regular readers of this blog would no doubt expect, my first instinct is to analyze this with a simple crisis bargaining model.  I don't think of deterrence as an all-or-nothing question, so I'd frame the tradeoff just a touch differently than Myerson does.  I'd say the benefit of a hawkish government is that such a government is likely to extract larger concessions from other states, rather than the fact that they will deter more attacks.  But either way, I think it is useful to start from the assumption that hawks offer greater security in some general sense but are also more likely to bring their nation to war.*  Interestingly enough, though, working from a straightforward extension of the canonical ultimatum crisis bargaining model, I find that voters benefit most from having hawkish leaders when the risk of war is high, particularly if the costs of war are low.  That is, having made relatively similar initial assumptions to those of Myerson, I arrive at precisely the opposite conclusion.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pax Europa VIII

Norms and Identity

We've now discussed the role of liberal factors and the distribution of capabilities.  We turn next to the impact of norms and identity.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Miscellaneous Links

1. The LSE authors that likened the Arab Spring to Eastern Europe in 1989 are no longer so optimistic.  (H/T Jay Ulfelder)

2. My colleague Jason Sorens on the US and Bahrain.  The US, much like the Saudis, is helping the government of Bahrain brutally repress a pro-democracy movement.  And yet, this is getting no media coverage to speak of.

3a. But hey, at least our Saudi pals are giving women the right to vote.  That's right, starting four years from now, women (3b who still won't be able to drive to the polls) will have just as much right as men to choose half the seats on local councils that have essentially no power.  Hurray for our good friends the Saudis.

4. The US has known Pakistan is actively working against the US in Afghanistan since at least 2007.  My guess is it's been much longer than that too.

5. Scott Wolford on how Putin's return may mean better prospects for peace.  Self-recommending.

6. Turkey's PM Erdogan all but calls for UN sanctions against Israel.  He's definitely got a point -- it's awful hard not to conclude that the Quartet (read: the US) does not actually want peace, at least not nearly so much as it wants to keep Israel happy.

7. Australia lifts ban on women serving in combat.

8a. This is what bargaining looks like: Ukraine-Russia edition.  So why didn't domestic constraints allow Ukraine to demand better terms from Russia, the way 8b Putnam would predict?  See 8c Tarar's take on two-level games, and the effect of incomplete information.

9. On FB, you're the product being sold.

Audience Costs

Jay Ulfelder offers some thoughts.  I agree with him completely.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that the average IR scholar's views about audience costs are a downright embarrassment to the field.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why is the US Still in Afghanistan?

That's an honest question.

I have my story.  I think that elites within the US believe that there is essentially no hope that any "progress" made between now and 2014 will be lasting.  Yet Obama's prospects for a second term go from fair to nil if his administration acknowledges this, and the Republicans have their own reasons for maintaining the illusion that "victory" is possible.*  

But that story doesn't fit with any of our existing narratives about how democracies behave internationally.  We've been told for more than a decade now that democracies win their wars and win them quick, and they do so because they fear the wrath of voters, who have no stomach for war.  Something seems like it doesn't add up.  So, assuming I'm wrong (I often am), where exactly did I go astray?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Miscellaneous Links

1. What would musical chairs look like if no one was ever eliminated?  Maybe someday we'll see a peaceful transfer of power from one party to another in Russia, but probably not anytime soon.

2. Speaking of peaceful transfers of power.  I particularly enjoyed Blattman's point that "Bloody moments in Darkest Africa" look a lot like "Great Moments in American History."

3. And speaking of condescending attitudes towards Africa.  The world does not need another "White man saves Africa" story.

4. He did not just say that the danger Egypt faces is perpetual military rule.  An evil dictator was replaced.  Unicorns, rainbows, and democracy (synonyms, really) must result, right?  You can't really expect people to still pay attention to Egypt?  (Incidentally, I'd like to know what basis there is for concluding, as this article does, that a democratic Egypt will deliver a more stable and more peaceful Middle East.  Now, I'll gladly grant that democracy is a worthy end unto itself.  If you need more reason than that to celebrate Egyptian democracy -- assuming it actually arrives at some point -- do we really think it makes sense to include "a more peaceful Middle East" on the list?  Mubarak's reign brought 40 years of peace with Israel, ending a period marked by one war every 5 years.  The primary reason the US supported Mubarak was precisely that he brought peace and stability!  How much more peaceful can you get?  And haven't you noticed that Israeli-Egyptian relations have destabilized?  It seems that once the word "democracy" enters the equation, most people lose all ability to think clearly.)

5. Okay, okay, fine, you say.  It's not just about replacing the bad guy.  You need elections too.  Then we can stop paying attention, right?  Well, actually, Jay Ulfelder says no.

6. The NYTimes has the audacity to suggest that oil interests played a role in the US decision to intervene in Libya.  Just because the US ambassador brought it up.  Get with the program, NYTimes.  You can't risk having people question whether human rights and democracy promotion were the true objectives of this intervention.  I mean, if this had happened under a Republican president, sure, it would be okay to suggest oil played a role.  But everyone knows that Democrats only enact policies they genuinely believe will make the world a better place.  Now, you've been doing a good job of staying on message overall, so no one's mad at you.  But try to be more careful in the future, okay?  We've got a pretty good narrative going, and we don't want to risk spoiling that.

7. This is what bargaining looks like: "realistic and serious" edition.  If you had to guess, how often in the past do you think that negotiation attempts which ultimately proved successful were described, initially, as "realistic and serious"?  I'm going with never, but please correct my ignorance if you know of a counterexample.

8. This is what bargaining looks like: the friend of my enemy is my...friend edition.  Or is he?  Some cogent analysis of the options and incentives facing the US and Pakistan.

9. This was pretty much my reaction to the report about the speed of light being broken.  Thank you, xkcd.  I knew I could count on you.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Olmert's Two State Solution

Scott Wolford offers an excellent discussion of Olmert's latest proposal for a two state solution.  The former PM includes in his list of proposals that Palestine be forbidden from raising a military or forming military alliances with other states.  Scott explains why this is a non-starter.  The rest of details of Olmert's plan are reasonable enough, but requiring Palestine to forego both its own military and the ability to form military alliances renders his proposal DOA.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

America's Plan to destroy Britain

In 1930, that is.  (H/T Scott Wolford.)

Miscellaneous Links

1. This is what bargaining looks like: US-Pakistan edition.  (H/T LFC).  I have learned my lesson.  Every time I think I understand US-Pakistani relations, some new story breaks that makes me feel like an idiot.  So I have nothing to say about this.

2. Related (?) story about assassination of Afghan in charge of peace process.  I have a hard time believing that there was much of a peace process for this to matter the way the NYTimes wants me to think it does, but I guess the US might still view it as something like the straw that broke the camel's back.

3. Boy do I feel safer knowing the FBI has got guys like this on their team.  (H/T Will Moore).  What could possibly make for better counter-terrorism policy than for the US to start targeting the entire religion of Islam?

4. PA unveils 'UN Chair' in Ramallah.  (H/T Chris Blattman).  Interesting story.

5. US and British ambassadors help mediate ceasefire in Yemen.  I'm sure that's the last we'll hear of it too.

6. Allowing for the possibility of retractable offers does not produce equilibria with 'salami tactics'.  As with all the best formal papers, this is a surprising result, but once I realized what drove it, I felt stupid for not having thought of it earlier.

7a. Read this first, then read 7b. this next. (H/T Kindred Winecoff)  If that doesn't make you want to cry, you probably need to look through those slides again.

8. Italian scientists on trial for manslaughter because they failed to predict an earthquake. (H/T Adriana Stoian).  And no, though I've listed this link in the spot traditionally reserved for stories from the Onion, this is not, in fact, from the Onion.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My War & International Security Class

The course is undergoing some changes compared to last year.  I've dropped quite a few lectures.  I particularly wish I didn't have to drop the lectures on the role of theory, the potential outcomes approach to causal inference, and the discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I'm just not sure how much the average student got anywhere near as much out of those topics as I'd hoped.

Anyway, if you go to the teaching section of my academic site, you can find the first set of slides.  This section introduces bargaining models of war.  The next section will explore some extensions of the basic models and cover statistical tests of observable implications derived from the models.  The third section considers the effects of various approaches to national and international security.  The final section turns to non-traditional forms of political violence (i.e., insurgency and terrorism).

Incidentally, you can also find the first sets of slides from my intro course, which is following the Friden, Lake and Schultz text pretty closely.  I don't know how interested anyone else would be in these, since there's not much there you can't get from FLS.  But as long as I'm posting my other slides, I see no reason not to post these.

I'll also be posting slides from my advanced game theory class.  The first set of slides will go up next week.

Pax Europa VII

Distribution of Power III

Let's recap.  The last post focused on a question I initially raised here.  If power preponderance is generally associated with peace, and we have considerable empirical evidence to suggest that it is, why was the Cold War so stable?  If we look just at the major European powers, there seems to be no puzzle, because the USSR was dominant during this period.  But it seems strange to ignore the US.*

One option is to argue that there were other factors working to prevent another major European conflict.  I discussed a few of these, finding some of the obvious ones a little underwhelming.  Nonetheless, I don't want to dismiss this possibility.

All the same, I think it's worth exploring the logic linking parity to war a bit further.  That is the purpose of this post.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pax Europa VI

Distribution of Power II

In the previous post, I argued that Europe's experience with war and peace since 1816 roughly seems consistent with the view that power parity is associated with a greater likelihood of war.  But I also argued that the Cold War poses a challenge.  Either 1) it is true that parity tends to promote conflict, in general, but something other than the distribution of capabilities kept Europe relatively peaceful during the Cold War, or 2) the claim that, all else equal, parity tends to promote conflict is more problematic than we realize.  Of course 2) would challenge a fairly large number of studies, so we wouldn't want to be quick to arrive at such a conclusion.*

What then are we to make of this?

Miscellaneous Links

1. Turkey predicts partnership with Egypt.  According to FM Davutoglu, "This will not be an axis against any other country — not Israel, not Iran, not any other country, but this will be an axis of democracy, real democracy."  Right.  And NATO is no threat to Russia.  Thank goodness for the democratic peace.  Otherwise I might worry about the possibility of a conflict between Israel and Turkey and/or Egypt.

2. Awesome interactive map on world migration patterns.  (H/T Kindred Winecoff)

3a. US tells Israel not to sanction Palestinians, and 3b. US trying to ensure proposal will be voted down so it won't have to use its veto, and 3c Netanyahu offers "upgrade of status" but not full statehood.  Read: Israel is really threatened by a proposal that, though popular, is certain to fail, and the US is not only worried about that, but about how the world will judge its handling of the issue.  Even the most powerful state in the world does not flout global opinion lightly.

4. More good news from Libya.  Oh, wait, maybe I read that wrong.

5. US ambassador says Haqqani network linked to Pakistani government.  Do any of the major players in Washington actually believe there is an endgame here that is remotely close to what the US has claimed to be fighting for?  

6. This is what bargaining looks like: Egypt-Ethiopia edition.  My read: change in government and regional priorities (i.e., less stable relations with Israel) -> higher cost of conflict over Nile for Egypt -> greater prospects for agreement. 

8. The Onion on media responses to genocide.  As usual, they nail it.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Pax Europa V

Distribution of Power I

More ink has been spilled discussing the implications of the distribution of power for the prospects of peace or war than any other factor.*  And, of course, when talking about the distribution of power, we really mean the distribution of (military/material/economic) capabilities, since we can't directly measure power.

So, the question of interest then is whether the distribution of capabilities across European powers can account for the four transitions I identified previously.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Great Discussion of the Economics of Homeland Security


Best part:

You would have to believe either that 4 Times Square bombings have been prevented per day since 9/11, or that one 9/11 scale attack per year has been prevented, in order for you to conclude that our expenditures on homeland security are justified.

To those who object to the idea that you can put a price on a human life -- get back to me when you support banning all travel by plane, train, bus, boat or automobile, or when you support a federal law mandating that every American hire a personal bodyguard to follow them everywhere they go.  If you think those proposals sound absurd, you've already admitted that it is possible to conclude that sometimes, it just ain't worth it.  Once you admit that, we've got to talk about just how costly a given policy is, relative to its net expected benefits.  Sort of like Mueller has done.  Now, you might argue that his estimates are too low.  But in many cases, you need to argue that they are something like one thousand times too low before the conclusion would change.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Miscellaneous Links (updated again)

1. Asia's new Great Game.  One of the most interesting articles I've read in weeks.

2. Buying local, organic food bad for world's poor?  I'm sympathetic to the argument, but there's a lot less evidence and a lot more bold assertion here than I'd like.

3. David Levine on behavioral economics.  Pro: provocative, and accessible.  Con: less carefully argued than a more scholarly treatment, and only some of the chapters have been posted so far.  But, all in all, a must read for anyone interested in recent claims that laboratory experiments have "proven" that "people are not rational" or that Homo Economicus is dead.

4. Homesteading, illegal immigration, and amnesty.  (H/T Doug Gibler).  I'm not sure this really proves quite what the author wants us to believe that it does, but still an interesting point.

5. US envoy making last-ditch effort to avert Palestinian statehood.  I'm sure the Palestinians will be withdrawing their proposal soon.

6. This is what bargaining looks like: OBL edition.  According to this article, back before 9/11, the Taliban offered to have bin Laden tried under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.  Washington insisted that he had to be handed over to the US instead.  And after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban (no ally of AQ) planned to tell bin Laden he had to leave the country.  However, the US had made it clear that if he left, they would still send in US forces to search the country.  If true, the cause of the Afghanistan War was the enforcement problem, and this was a war fought against a weak host state, not a hostile sponsor.

7. The dangers of flying while half-Arab. (H/T Daniel Zaccariello.)  Sad.  Very sad.

8. Dinosaur comics on the weirdness of interstate borders.  (H/T Hein Goemans, who got it from Jessica Stoll).

9. The Children's Illustrated Clausewitz.  (H/T Chris Blattman.)

Attacks on US Embassy in Kabul

I pretty much agree with everything Steve Saideman says in response to breaking events in Kabul.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Are Information Problems and Commitment Problems Distinct?

Fearon famously argued that there are three reasons why wars might occur even if war is viewed by all parties as an inefficient means to an end rather than an end unto itself.*

Powell later argued that issue indivisibility is best thought of as a special case of commitment problems, since states could, in principle, agree to assign complete control of the good in dispute using a costless lottery rather than the costly lottery of war.  What keeps them from doing so is that the loser of such a lottery could not credibly commit to abide by the decision when it is in their power to take what they want by force instead.

I'm going to argue that information problems are in fact also a problem of credible commitment.  Now, even if you buy this argument, that doesn't tell us anything new about why wars occur.  I just think it's kind of neat that we can say that the three explanations Fearon put forth have more in common with one another than we realized.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Miscellaneous Links

1. Jay Ulfelder offers a wonderful critique of a silly claim.  I was going to critique that same claim, but Ulfelder does a much better job than I would have anyway.

2. My colleague Jason Sorens on Somalia. Could not agree more.

3a. Turkey vows its naval presence will be felt; Israel vows to defend gas, and 3b. Turkey's FM condemns Israeli FM's plan to sponsor the PKK look really ugly.  But there's an important caveat: 3c Netanyahu is distancing himself from his FM's remarks.  Well, plus they're both democratic, so clearly this can't be going anywhere.  Right?

4. Let's not forget the siege of the Cairo Embassy.  If you'd have told me two years ago that, in late 2011, Israel would experience tense crises with two other states and the region, I certainly would not have guessed that those two states would be Turkey and Egypt.

5. Germany headed for an isolationist turn?  That would be consistent with what Kindred has been arguing, I think.  (See here and here).

6. PTJ on the difference between assumptions and conclusions.  Excellent post.

7. There's been a lot of interesting commentary about 9/11 in the past week.  But I find that I have nothing to say, and I'm not going to link to any of what others have been saying either.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Iran and Syria's Protests

Josh Tucker over at the Monkey Cage asks what the heck Iran is doing decrying the brutal crackdown on protests by Assad's regime.

This is wild speculation, but is it possible that Iran is looking to avoid a war with Israel?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pax Europa IV

Liberalism III

Before moving on to consider the distribution of capabilities (see this post for an overview of all the factors I intend to discuss), I want to offer some closing thoughts on the liberal peace.

Pax Europa III

Liberalism II

So far, I have argued that Europe actually underwent 4 distinct transitions from 1816 to 2001, and that we should privilege explanations that account for more of them than do other explanations.  Further, I argued that democracy at best can be said to account for one of them.

What about other liberal factors, such economic development, economic interdependence, and international institutions?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Guardian, some Germans, and Game Theory

Go read this article. (H/T Kyle Joyce.)

I dream of the day when articles like this no longer get written by major newspapers.  In fact, the list of things I would give up to make that happen is pretty embarrassing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Arab Spring and Al Qaeda

In recent posts, I've hinted at skepticism regarding the emerging romantic narrative that claims that the Arab Spring has dealt a great blow to Al Qaeda.  I thought I'd expand upon this a bit.

Miscellaneous Links

1. US-Pakistani relations headed back to more cooperative?  Some day this whole saga may make perfect sense to me.  That day is not today.

2. The Mexico Paradox. (H/T Carla Martinez Machain)  You may not have noticed, but this "failed state" is doing pretty well, thank you very much.

3. BhTV discussion of language.  McWhorter offers the interesting hypothesis that languages associated with empires, like all languages that were at one time acquired by more adults than children, experienced dramatic simplification.

4. Europe inching closer to fiscal union as well as monetary?  I have no thoughts on this.  Hopefully Kindred does.  Certainly an interesting prospect.

5. Somali famine may kill 750,000.  The Duck has been all over this.  Shame on the rest of us for having so little to say about it.

6. IDF says "likelihood of all-out Middle East War increasing".  Let's hope they're wrong.

7. The secret war behind the War on Terror.  Fascinating.

8. The story of Nuclear Proliferation made simple.  (H/T Hein Goemans)

9. The Onion on cable news and 9/11's ten year anniversary.  (H/T Andrew Boutton)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Wanted: New Rubber Stamps

In response to Cambanis, Dan Drezner asks whether the world (read: Washginton, DC and those who would like to be considered influential by those in and around DC) needs new theories of IR to help guide policy makers, or whether the relative influence of the theories that we already have is simply out of whack.  Or, as Drezner puts its,
Is it that international relations theory has gone stale... or is it simply that the wrong set of existing theories are in vogue today?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Excellent Talk on War on Terror

I recently posted to a review by Bergen of a book by Gartenstein-Ross.  The two have a new bloggingheads discussion that is very good, and touches on a lot of favorite topics of this blog.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Pax Europa II

Liberalism I

In the previous post in this series, I identified four transitions Europe has undergone since 1816.  In this post, I begin to offer some thoughts on how well the various theoretical arguments associated with liberalism do or do not account for these transitions.  For now, I focus on democracy, though I will turn to other liberal factors soon.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

This is What Bargaining Looks Like

In the wake of reports that Indian and Pakistani troops have exchanged fire, I thought now would be a good time to take a closer look at the dispute over Kashmir, or what Al Jazeera calls "South Asia's Palestine."  We are witnessing events that I think help to clarify what those of us who apply bargaining theory to the study of international conflict mean when we talk about "bargaining."