Lashing Out

Kevin Lewis

January 15, 2020

Crazy Like a Fox? Are Leaders with Reputations for Madness More Successful at International Coercion?
Roseanne McManus
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


According to the ‘Madman Theory’ promoted by Richard Nixon and early rationalist scholars, being viewed as mentally unstable can help a leader coerce foreign adversaries. This article offers the first large-N test of this theory. The author introduces an original perception-based measure of leaders' reputations for madness, coded based on news reports, and analyzes its effect on both general deterrence and crisis bargaining. The study also tests several hypotheses about the conditions under which perceived madness is expected to be more or less helpful. The author finds that perceived madness is harmful to general deterrence and is sometimes also harmful in crisis bargaining, but may be helpful in crisis bargaining under certain conditions. The analysis suggests that the harmful effect of perceived madness results from a commitment problem.

Transatlantic Shakedown: Does Presidential ‘Naming and Shaming’ Affect NATO Burden-Sharing?
Jordan Becker et al.
University of Chicago Working Paper, May 2019


Does “naming and shaming” of allies by US Presidents work? More precisely, does publicly criticizing members’ financial commitments to the NATO increase allies’ defense spending and improving burden-sharing, or is it counterproductive, leading to lower contributions? We argue that the answer is likely neither. At best, calls by the United States for enhanced spending by its NATO allies is mere “cheap talk.” At worst, excessive public shaming is counterproductive. To evaluate this claim, we conducted textual analysis on all executive declarations, remarks, written statements, and media related to NATO members’ defense spending, all drawn from the American Presidency Project. We find provisionally that the more negatively US presidents speak about transatlantic burden-sharing, the less allies spend on defense. This finding addresses a gap in the current literature by analyzing the effectiveness of public “shaming” of allies in an attempt to redress burden-sharing problems endemic to alliances. Such actions do not appear to be effective, and may even be counterproductive.

Presidents, Politics, and Military Strategy: Electoral Constraints during the Iraq War
Andrew Payne
International Security, Winter 2019/20, Pages 163-203


How do electoral politics affect presidential decisionmaking in war? As both commander in chief and elected officeholder, presidents must inevitably balance competing objectives of the national interest and political survival when assessing alternative military strategies in war. Yet, how and when electoral pressures influence decisionmaking during an ongoing conflict remains unclear. Drawn from the logic of democratic accountability, two mechanisms of constraint may be inferred. First, presidents may delay making decisions that are perceived to carry excessive electoral risk. Second, electoral pressures may have a dampening effect, causing presidents to water down politically sensitive courses of action to minimize any expected backlash. Recently declassified documents and interviews with senior administration officials and military figures illustrate these mechanisms in a case study of decisionmaking during the second half of the Iraq War. Both George W. Bush's surge decision of 2007 and Barack Obama's decision to withdraw troops in 2011 are shown to have been profoundly influenced by concerns related to the domestic political calendar. These findings call for further study of the nuanced ways in which the electoral cycle shapes wartime decisionmaking.

Credible Nuclear Security Commitments Can Backfire: Explaining Domestic Support for Nuclear Weapons Acquisition in South Korea
Lauren Sukin
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


How does the alliance between a client state and its nuclear ally influence support for proliferation in the client? Conventional wisdom suggests that when nuclear security guarantees are not credible, support for proliferation will be high, since a domestic nuclear capability offers an alternative source of deterrence. I introduce a new theory, which posits that highly credible security guarantees can backfire by causing some individuals to fear their ally might miscalculate — either by using nuclear weapons in an unnecessary preventative attack or by precipitous escalation of a crisis or conflict. Survey experiments conducted among representative samples of South Korean citizens in 2018 and 2019 support this theory, showing that increases in the credibility of the US nuclear security guarantee lead to increased support for nuclear proliferation among South Korean respondents.

Resident Terrorist Groups, Military Aid, and Moral Hazard: Further Empirical Analysis
Wukki Kim, Dong Li & Todd Sandler
Defence and Peace Economics, forthcoming


This paper revisits moral hazard associated with military aid given to host countries to eliminate their resident terrorist groups. This conflict aid presents recipient countries with perverse incentives because the aid ends once resident groups are removed. In the case of US aid recipients, the longevity of resident terrorist groups rose dramatically. The current article improves on the empirics of the pioneering article by showing that the moral-hazard concerns extend to other major donors – the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. Additionally, military assistance given by a collective of countries to host countries greatly reduces the moral hazard but does not eliminate it. Moreover, policy alignment or affinity between a major donor and the host aid-recipient country does not generally augment resident terrorist groups’ survival, except marginally for the United States, when other sources of military aid are allowed. We introduce other empirical and conceptual innovations for analyzing military-aid-induced moral hazard.

Counterterrorism and Preventive Repression: China's Changing Strategy in Xinjiang
Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Myunghee Lee & Emir Yazici
International Security, Winter 2019/20, Pages 9-47


In 2017–18, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) changed its domestic security strategy in Xinjiang, escalating the use of mass detention, ideological re-education, and pressure on Uyghur diaspora networks. Commonly proposed explanations for this shift focus on domestic factors: ethnic unrest, minority policy, and regional leadership. The CCP's strategy changes in Xinjiang, however, were also likely catalyzed by changing perceptions of the threat posed by Uyghur contact with transnational Islamic militant groups in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, and a corresponding increase in perceived domestic vulnerability. This threat shifted from theoretical risk to operational reality in 2014–16, and occurred alongside a revised assessment that China's Muslim population was more vulnerable to infiltration by jihadist networks than previously believed. Belief in the need to preventively inoculate an entire population from “infection” by these networks explains the timing of the change in repressive strategy, shift toward collective detention, heavy use of re-education, and attention paid to the Uyghur diaspora. It therefore helps explain specific aspects of the timing and nature of the CCP's strategy changes in Xinjiang. These findings have implications for the study of the connections between counterterrorism and domestic repression, as well as for authoritarian preventive repression and Chinese security policy at home and abroad.

Why Arms Control Is So Rare
Andrew Coe & Jane Vaynman
American Political Science Review, forthcoming


Arming is puzzling for the same reason war is: it produces outcomes that could instead be realized through negotiation, without the costly diversion of resources arming entails. Despite this, arms control is exceedingly rare historically, so that arming is ubiquitous and its costs to humanity are large. We develop and test a theory that explains why arming is so common and its control so rare. The main impediment to arms control is the need for monitoring that renders a state’s arming transparent enough to assure its compliance but not so much as to threaten its security. We present evidence that this trade-off has undermined arms control in three diverse contexts: Iraq’s weapons programs after the Gulf War, great power competition in arms in the interwar period, and superpower military rivalry during the Cold War. These arms races account for almost 40% of all global arming in the past two centuries.

The Intellectual Spoils of War? Defense R&D, Productivity and International Spillovers
Enrico Moretti, Claudia Steinwender & John Van Reenen
NBER Working Paper, November 2019


In the US and many other OECD countries, expenditures for defense-related R&D represent a key policy channel through which governments shape innovation, and dwarf all other public subsidies for innovation. We examine the impact of government funding for R&D - and defense-related R&D in particular - on privately conducted R&D, and its ultimate effect on productivity growth. We estimate models that relate privately funded R&D to lagged government-funded R&D using industry-country level data from OECD countries and firm level data from France. To deal with the potentially endogenous allocation of government R&D funds we use changes in predicted defense R&D as an instrumental variable. In both datasets, we uncover evidence of “crowding in” rather than “crowding out,” as increases in government-funded R&D for an industry or a firm result in significant increases in private sector R&D in that industry or firm. A 10% increase in government-financed R&D generates 4.3% additional privately funded R&D. An analysis of wages and employment suggests that the increase in private R&D expenditure reflects actual increases in R&D employment, not just higher labor costs. Our estimates imply that some of the existing cross-country differences in private R&D investment are due to cross-country differences in defense R&D expenditures. We also find evidence of international spillovers, as increases in government-funded R&D in a particular industry and country raise private R&D in the same industry in other countries. Finally, we find that increases in private R&D induced by increases in defense R&D result in significant productivity gains.

Who Killed Détente? The Superpowers and the Cold War in the Middle East, 1969–77
Galen Jackson
International Security, Winter 2019/20, Pages 129-162


Standard explanations for the demise of U.S.-Soviet détente during the 1970s emphasize the Soviet Union's inability to put aside its communist ideology for the sake of a more cooperative relationship with the United States. Soviet resistance to reaching a stable accommodation during this period, many analysts maintain, was especially evident in the Middle East, where Moscow is said to have embraced the “radical Arab program” vis-à-vis Israel. Such accounts do not fare well, however, in light of the historical evidence. Instead, that evidence indicates that the Soviet Union was eager to cooperate with the United States to achieve an Arab-Israeli agreement. The Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations, however, were not interested in working with the Soviets in the Middle East, and instead sought to expel them from the region. These findings have important implications for scholarly debates about whether great power rivals can cooperate on issues where their strategic interests are overlapping, as well as for contemporary debates over U.S. policy toward countries such as China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

Moral hazard at sea: How alliances actually increase low-level maritime provocations between allies
Hayoun Jessie Ryou-Ellison & Aaron Gold
International Interactions, January 2020, Pages 111-132


The management of maritime claims is becoming an important issue in the study of interstate conflict. Since World War II, most contested maritime claims have been associated with low-level conflict (mainly shows of force, or what we call maritime provocations) and have not resulted in fatalities. However, what is puzzling is that many competing claims are also associated with states that are alliance partners. To explain this puzzle, we trace the management of maritime claims to states’ participation in different types of security institutions. We argue that joint membership in highly institutionalized security organizations, namely defensive alliances, provides aggrieved challenger states with the opportunity to undermine the position of defending states by using low-level maritime provocations. The alliance has an incentive to provide an institutional security umbrella to maintain its organization’s strength and continuity. High levels of commitment to defensive alliances provide a challenger state with the opportunity to behave provocatively without risking an escalation of the conflict or severely damaging its reputation within the alliance. We test our theory using data on all maritime claims and their associated militarization attempts in the Western Hemisphere and Europe from 1900 to 2001 from the Issue Correlates of War (ICOW) project.


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