Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Where are the Audience Costs?

I mentioned the other day that one of the reasons I'm skeptical about the relevance of audience costs is that it just doesn't seem like states actually try to generate them when it would seem like they should if we take extant claims about audience costs at face value.

Case in point.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

This is What Bargaining Looks Like

In this installment of what's become a semi-regular series, I'd like to draw attention to one of the many ways in which real world behavior does not match the assumptions of standard IR crisis bargaining models.  There are, of course, many ways that it does not.  Most of which are fairly uninteresting.  But the one I have in mind here is.

As you're probably aware, NATO forces killed 25 Pakistani soldiers on Saturday, prompting the Pakistani government to shut down the vital supply route through the Khyber Pass (which accounts for fully 40% of US supplies into Afghanistan).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Layman's Guide to Deterrence

The paper I posted this morning (see this post) is mostly targeted at other IR conflict scholars.  But I'd like to think the implications of some of the arguments are broad enough to be of more general interest.  So in this post I'll try to offer a relatively accessible summary of the key points.

Costly Signaling, Coercion and Deterrence

I've finally got a new version of my costly signaling paper ready.  I'll be presenting this paper at the University of Chicago's Harris School this coming Wednesday.  The slides for the talk can be found here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Gentiles Behind the Israel Lobby

That's where Walter Russell Mead would have us focus our attention.  He makes an intriguing argument against the traditional interpretation of the Israel Lobby here, here, and here.

Interesting Discussion of US Decline

Or lack thereof, according to Walter Russel Mead.  Found here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Miscellaneous Links (updated)

I joined Twitter yesterday.  If you're following me there, you've seen these before.  As will be true for future Miscellaneous Links posts.  I'm also going to start putting these below the fold, to keep from cluttering up my front page.

The Latent Jingoism of Some Critics of Rational Choice

As discussion of nuclear Iran heats back up again, we're seeing near  daily reminders of the fact that states (or leaders thereof) who are dissatisfied with the international status quo are dramatically more likely to be accused of being irrational than are states (or leaders thereof) that are satisfied with the status quo.

That is, when critics of rational choice bother to provide a concrete example or two in support of their assertion that states and/or leaders are not rational (and many are content to simply toss that claim out there without any justification whatsoever), there's a pretty good chance that they're going to name one of the following: Iran (or Ahmadinejad*) , North Korea (or Kim Jong Il), Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, or Adolf Hitler.**

Monday, November 14, 2011

Miscellaneous Links

1. Key quotes from interview with King Abdullah of Jordan regarding Syria.  Does Assad's growing isolation in the Arab world mean his prospects for retaining power are fading?  Is there any research on the relationship between regional legitimacy and regime stability/leadership survival?

2a. Fayyad may step aside to pave way for Palestinian unity, and 2b Iran's opposition would unite with the government in the event of an Israeli attack.  If I had to guess, I'd say this means that there's now a higher probability of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians but a lower probability of war between Israel with Iran, under the assumption that Israel now faces greater uncertainty over what terms it could expect the Palestinian Authority to accept, but less uncertainty over the likely outcome of a war with Iran.

3. But don't expect Israel to stop trying to impede Iran's nuclear program through covert means.

4. Waltz on radical states and nuclear proliferation.  I basically agree, though I do wish we had a better understanding of the implications of nuclear proliferation than I think we actually do.

5. Egypt arrests two individuals suspected of bombing a key gas pipeline that supplies Israel and Jordan. Key quote: "The deliveries to Israel, agreed to under Mubarak, have come under heavy criticism in Egypt. Mubarak's government was accused of selling the gas at a low price."  So if the current military regime hands power over to a democratically elected leader, cooperation between Israel and Egypt will improve right?  That's what joint democracy means, doesn't it?

6a. Trust deficit between India and Pakistan shrinks, according to Pakistani foreign minister.  Between that and 6b. the lack of Pakistani outrage at growing cooperation between India and Afghanistan, it's tempting to start being optimistic about the future of the region.  But I don't want to get ahead of myself.  After all, there remain serious questions about 6c. who is actually in charge in Pakistan, and 6d. about the strength of the Pakistani insurgency.

7. New paper analyzing data from a British game show whose structure parallels the Prisoner's Dilemma.  What critics of "rational choice" will say: less than 100% of cases end in mutual defection, thus proving people are not rational.  What I'd say: I don't know what people want and so won't make any claims about whether their behavior does or does not indicate a cycle in their preferences, but isn't it interesting that as the stakes rise, the likelihood of mutual defection rises, and does so fairly dramatically?

8. What your favorite map says about you.  I don't get any of these jokes, but I feel like I should.  Am I alone?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Which Arguments Have Had the Largest Impact on You?

I'm grading comps again, and that always puts me in a mood to reflect on the field.

This time around, I thought I'd do a little mock interview with myself.  I encourage other bloggers to do the same.  Copy and paste the three questions below and provide your own answers.  It'll be fun.  Plus, you know, all the cool kids are doing it.  Well, so far, just one guy who's not very cool...but just you watch.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This is What Bargaining Looks Like

In the study of crisis bargaining, we typically think of the outside option as the use of military force.  But the logic of economic coercion is fundamentally similar.

Here's a great example of the risk-return tradeoff and the principle of convergence in action, though the outside option here was only more or less analogous to economic sanctions.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Miscellaneous Links (updated)

1a. US war on drugs looking more and more like a real war.  The article ends with an interesting question: when Mexico cuts a deal with the cartels and/or legalizes some drugs, will the US do the same, or will that make US invasion of Mexico even more likely?  1b. I mean, it's not like we have a growing consensus among pundits and scholars that the US should occupy and govern weak and "failing" states, in what Fearon and Laitin acknowledge could be considered a modern form of colonialism, yet nonetheless support, right?

2. Barbara Walter and Alberto Diaz-Cayeros have a different idea.  I hope their position wins out.

3. What the generals know about Afghanistan and Pakistan but cannot say.  It's a bit silly to say the Taliban would fight "forever", but the rest sounds pretty plausible.

4. US withdrawal from Iraq makes it harder for US to prevent Israel from attacking Iran.  Good point.  We know that Israel requested US permission to fly across Iraq and attack Iran a few years ago, and Bush said no.  That said, the US still has other forms of leverage over Israel, and Israel has its own reasons not to attack.

5a. Speaking of which, a leading Israeli investment firm predicts the world will learn to live with a nuclear Iran.  I'm inclined to agree.  And I'm not sure that means much more than that Iran will soon know that no one will invade them and overthrow their regime.  5b. There's reason to believe that the primary effect of nuclear weapons is altering the agreements state reach.

6a. Is it time to say goodbye to the Euro?  And if so, are we about to run a grand natural experiment on whether economic interdependence accounts for the pacification of Europe? 6b Or is this just going to be a series of (painful and tragic) currency crises like those of the 80s and 90s?

7a. Palestinians abandon bid for recognition of statehood.  7b. Or maybe they didn't.  One way or another, it was always doomed to fail.  The only change is that it now appears that the US will not have to exercise its veto after all.

8. The Penn State mess is getting uglier by the minute. (H/T Alex Braithwaite.)  I really hope this rumor is not true, but damn if it isn't easy to believe.  And notice that Madden suggests this wasn't a particularly well-kept secret either.  People outside Penn State had to have known too.

9a. This sadly captures the mentality that lets these scandals get covered up in the first place.  (H/T Jeremy Wells.) 9b. See also here (H/T Brenton Kenkel.)  Let's not let this whole mess distract us from what really matters: FOOTBALL.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Political Engagement as a Signal of Sociability

I don't generally delve into topics such as this here on my blog, but I'm teaching an advanced formal class right now and I've made a point of trying to include examples from other subfields since only half the students are IR.  This week, I assigned a homework where the students are asked to prove the existence of a semi-separating equilibrium wherein engaging in political behavior serves as a noisy signal of sociability.  The students are going to prove that, for some individuals, engaging in political behavior is worthwhile not for instrumental reasons, nor even because they really care a lot of about politics intrinsically, but because they want to be socially accepted, and there are conditions under which politically engaged individuals will be more likely to be socially accepted.

In other words, I had my students prove a game theoretic result that is fully consistent with, and one might even say offers a plausible explanation for, the behavior identified in a recent field experiment by Don Green and co-authors.  Yes, the very same Don Green who wrote Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory.

Audience Costs and Signaling

Later this month, I'll be giving a talk on costly signaling at the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy.  I'm working now on finishing up a new version of the paper, and will post a link when it's finished.  But in the meantime, I wanted to offer this post, which focuses on the results for audience costs (one of three policy instruments I consider in the paper).

As I discussed before, if we model audience costs in the traditional way, using indivisible goods models (precisely the type of models we generally do not use when analyzing the causes of war), we must conclude that democracies should lose the wars they fight more often than do non-democracies.*

But what if we think the path to war is one that leaves room for negotiated agreements, the way we typically assume?  The short answer is that I find that audience costs only influence crisis bargaining under truly knife-edge conditions -- which is not true of the other policy instruments I consider (military preparations and economic sanctions).

Monday, November 7, 2011

My War & International Security Class, Part III

Material available here.  Having done my best to persuade students that we've got a useful explanation for war, I build upon the basic models from earlier in the course to analyze deterrence, the liberal peace, and conflict management.  Empirical evidence supporting some of the primary observable implications of the theoretical models is briefly discussed.  Some of the material in this section draws upon my current research.

No RCTs for Parachutes

Brad DeLong posts a link to this paper on the absence of random control trials supporting the use of parachutes (H/T Kindred Winecoff).

The authors conclude:

Only two options exist. The first is that we accept that, under exceptional circumstances, common sense might be applied when considering the potential risks and benefits of interventions. The second is that we continue our quest for the holy grail of exclusively evidence based interventions and preclude parachute use outside the context of a properly conducted trial. The dependency we have created in our population may make recruitment of the unenlightened masses to such a trial difficult. If so, we feel assured that those who advocate evidence based medicine and criticise use of interventions that lack an evidence base will not hesitate to demonstrate their commitment by volunteering for a double blind, randomised, placebo controlled, crossover trial.

Clever, clever.  A few responses spring to mind.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why Wouldn't Autocracies Want to Win Wars?

Earlier this week, I asked why democracies would try harder to win their wars.  Of course, harder is a relative term.  BdM2S2 (or BdM and Smith, depending on the citation) argue both that democracies have an incentive to do their best to win and that autocracies have very little such incentive.  I focused primarily in that post on reasons why I'm skeptical of the former claim.  Now I'm going to tell you why we should doubt the latter part of BdM2S2's story.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Miscellaneous Links (updated again)

1. UK preparing for strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.  In advance of potential US strike, that is.

2. Israel tests new missiles capable of reaching Iran.

3. Syria agrees to Arab League plan to end violence.

4. Greek government puts debt deal to vote by referendum.

5. Fighting may outlast revolution in Libya.

6. Euphoria turns to discontent in Egypt.

7. The true size of Africa. (H/T Jeremy Wells.)

8. Rice: We never expected to leave Iraq in 2011.  And, as recently as this summer, neither did the Obama administration.  This "We're just honoring Bush's agreement" meme is absurd.  Obama promised to get the US out of Iraq.  He's doing so.  Why not say that instead of claiming Bush meant for the war to end in 2011?  Isn't fulfilling campaign promises generally considered a good thing?  Am I wrong to think that the only people who will think it's bad that the US is pulling out are people who never would have voted Democrat anyway?

9. College has been oversold.  Yup.  It's heartbreaking to see how many students are going so deeply into debt, believing that a 2.0 in a less than demanding major from a less than elite college will earn them a great salary.

10. Remnants of ancient race of job creators found in Rust Belt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Why Would Democracies Try Harder to Win their Wars?

It is a stylized fact that democracies win their wars more often than do other states.  The two prominent explanations for this are selection effects and greater war-fighting ability, where the latter may either refer to greater initiative and leadership among the soldiers serving in democratic armies (Reiter and Stam's story) or a tendency on behalf of democratic leaders to commit a greater share of their available resources to the war effort (Bdm2s2's story).

I'm not exactly convinced of the empirical claim that we're trying to explain here, and I'll have more to say about that in the future, but for now let's take as given that democracies do in fact win more often.  If we believe that, should we believe that the reason for it is that democracies try harder?*