Week 6 Summaries

David A. Baldwin, "Power analysis and world politics: new trends versus old tendencies," World Politics 31:2 (Jan., 1979), pp. 161-194

This article reviews pre-1980 scholarship on social power, wherein the term “power” is interchangeable with “influence” and “control”; situations in which A gets B to do something he would not otherwise do.  The key idea is that in discussing power as a type of causation, it is essential to specify who is influencing whom with respect to what—both scope and domain must be specified, and if they were, we would move away from general theories of power toward more contextual analysis.

First, why do power predictions fail? Failure to translate alleged “potential power” into actual power may be explained in terms of malfunctioning conversion processes, a lack of skill or will.  Moreover, there are variations in the scope, weight, and domain of power; power resources useful in one policy—contingency framework will not be equally useful in a different one. Indeed, power resources in one framework may be liabilities in another situation.  Preparing to deal with the worst contingencies may hinder one’s ability to deal with less severe ones.  No power resource begins to approach the degree of fungibility of money.

Baldwin discusses various ways of thinking about power.  He notes us of various aspects of the power relation.  Interdependence may be measured in terms of relationships that are costly for each party to forego, i.e., opportunity costs, and therefore, to say that A and B are interdependent implies that they possess the ability to influence one another in some respect.  He finds it unhelpful to conceive of power as unidimensional, with military force as the ultimate form of power.  Better to think of power as a multidimensional phenomenon within policy-contingent scenarios.  He identifies positive sanctions (rewards and promised rewards) as a form of power, frequently economic power.  He argues that war involves significant cooperative dimensions and international politics is almost never a zero-sum game… in a zero-sum game, the absence of cooperative elements is the essential defining characteristic.  Mixed-motive game models of negotiation almost always provide a more accurate description of real-world situations than do zero-sum models. 

Baldwin takes issue with Schelling’s distinction between compellence (A threatening B to get B to do X) and deterrence (A threatening B to get B to refrain from doing X).  Baldwin notes that any deterrent threat can be stated in compellent terms and vice versa.  Schelling says it’s easier to deter than to compel, and Baldwin thinks this because of the autonomous probability of the outcome one is trying to influence.  Deterrent threats are used for easy tasks, while compellent threats are used for hard tasks.

Stephen D. Krasner, "State Power and the Structure of Foreign Trade," World Politics 28:3 (April 1976), pp. 317-347.

Krasner's puzzle is how to explain the structure of trade openness over time: why was the period between the world wars characterized by high tariffs, and the period between 1945 and 1960 characterized by trade openness? Krasner's answer is his "state power theory", that hegemonic economic and military powers provide the carrots and sticks necessary to open closed markets because as hegemonic economic powers they have the incentive to do so. "Greater openness exposes the domestic economy to the exigencies of the world market. That implies a higher level of factor movements than in a closed economy, because domestic production patterns must adjust to changes in international prices. Social instability is thereby increased .  . . The impact will be stronger in small states than in large, and in relatively less developed than in more developed ones" (319).

Though trade liberalization increases the utility of both small and large states, the latter have more bargaining power in devising trade regimes because their opportunity costs suffered from closed trade regimes are less.  Large states have less to lose because their economy is already takes advantage of economies of scale and diversification among many sectors, and because the proportion of trade to total GNP is less for large states than for small states, who rely heavily on trade. Where large military asymmetries exist, large states can open markets forcefully, as the British did in Africa during the 19th century.

Krasner divides economic history into several periods in his empirical test of whether hegemony causes trade openness: "The argument explains the periods 1820 to 1879, 1880 to 1900, and 1945 to 1960. It does not fully explain those from 1900 to 1913, 1919 to 1939, or 1960 to the present" (335). The latter three cases that depart from the theory can be explained by the stickiness of trade regimes that persist even after state power relations have created the opportunity for change. These opportunities are fulfilled only with "cataclysmic" events, such as the Great Depression, the potato famine of the 1840s, and the two world wars. Thus an amended sticky version of the state power theory is supported by the evidence.

Kalevi J. Holsti, Peace and War: Armed Conflicts and International Order, 1648-1989, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.  pp. 1-24, 306-334.

Holsti identifies several problems with war literature.  First, most studies focus on single independent variables.  At their best, such studies help identify necessary, but not sufficient causes of war.  Second, the scope of explanatory variables is too broad, ranging “from genetic to cosmic” (5).  This begs for ranking these in terms of significance.  Third, most studies consider only one level of analysis.  This is the source of the debate over determinism vs. free will: reliance on structural variables implies the former, while behavioral and issue-related variables imply the latter.  Finally, while accumulated “reliable knowledge” (e.g. democratic peace, war-proneness of the Great Powers) is scarce, contradictory findings are legion.

Holsti aims to address three problems that have been largely neglected by the study of war. 
1.        The role and types of issues that generate international conflict. Concentrating on ecological variables (i.e. systemic: power balance, alliance structure, etc., or national-level: state size, type of government, etc.) may tell us whether war is more or less likely under certain conditions, but fails at explaining or predicting individual wars.  Comparative relevance and priority of these vis-à-vis decision-making variables is questionable: often, countries with identical attributes exhibit different behaviors and those with different attributes exhibit similar behavior; leaders create systemic conditions as much as they are constrained by them.  Incorporating issues in research agenda can help understand why wars occur.  Holsti suggests that determinism implied by focusing on the ecological variables is an extension of the view of war as irrational, as a breakdown of politics.  On the contrary, a Clauzewitzean approach treats wars as instrumental, as extension of politics, a way to resolve conflicts over issues when the benefits of going to war overweigh the costs.  Holsti advocates the latter approach.
2.        Insensitivity to change and difference in the “meaning” and type of war.  Throughout history and among different cultures, wars have had different “meanings” (e.g. entertainment, instrument of ambition, moral catastrophe), and so the causes or correlates of war in one case might not apply to another.  Statistical studies largely ignore this caveat.  Taking these ideational variables into account may help explain probabilistically why wars occur.  Holsti hypothesizes that attitudes towards war correlate with the likelihood of war.  When war was regarded as natural and/or desirable (an avenue to further personal ambition before 1815 or mechanism of evolutionary selection before WWI), wars were prevalent.  Converse is true (Hiroshima and Nagasaki showed that general war would be unthinkable, etc). 
3.        The link between peace settlements and war.  How peace settlements deal with resolving issues that spawned the preceding conflict determines probability of conflict in the future.

Conflict-generating issues
1.       Territory accounted for about half of all wars in the period between Westphalia and WWI, but declined in significance afterwards, especially since the end of WWII.  Possible explanations for this decline are tightening of systemic constraints against this type of conflict or declining status of territory as proxy for power.  Nevertheless, conflicts over strategic territory (that endowed with some tangible significance) remain salient. 
2.       Nation-state creation.  Between 1815 and 1914 and since 1945, the plurality of all wars was fought over this issue.  Its base is in the ideology of national self-determination and rejection of the imperial and hierarchical international order.
3.       Ideology.  Holsti rejects the realists’ notion that ideology is merely a strategy in the ultimate quest for power or security.  Democratic peace, for example, is an ideational phenomenon.  Others include religious conflicts, republicanism vs. monarchy, communism vs. capitalism, etc.  Such conflicts were most prominent since 1815 and especially since 1945.
4.       Economics.  Competition over commerce and colonial markets was prevalent throughout history and, specifically, in the periods 1648-1814.  Subsequent decline in salience was rooted in realization that commerce is hampered by war.  This triggered attempts to establish international norms governing trade, navigation, etc. 
5.       Sympathy with kin abroad.  In the nineteenth century Russia, according to Holsti, was fueled by sympathy towards fellow Slavs in its conflicts with Turkey; while Kashmir, Cyprus, and Palestine are examples of this type of issue at work in the post WWII world.
6.       Predation and Survival.  Largely confined to World War II, though Arab-Israeli and other post-WWII conflicts could be characterized in that way.
Other issues.  The following are either rare or have disappeared from the international agenda: dynastic/succession issues, support of allies, maintenance of imperial/state integrity, regional dominance, etc. “Issues of the future” increasingly involve terrorism, drugs, environment, overpopulation, etc.

The pattern emerging from the above classification is that “relatively abstract issues” have become more important than concrete ones.  One explanations is that concrete issues are typically amenable to compromise and regulatory regime creation, while more abstract issues are typically zero-sum and indivisible.  

John Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics.  New York: Norton, 2001. Ch.3 and (55-137)

Ch. 3: Wealth and Power

The author argues that power is based on the particular material capabilities that a state possesses. There are two kinds of power: latent power and military power. The former refers to the socio-economic ingredients (i.e., wealth and population) that can be transformed into military power. Military power is the most significant factor that influences relations among the states, and is based largely on the size and strength of army and its supporting air and naval forces. However, the author does not equate a state’s superiority in power with its military success, as could be seen in the Vietnam War.

In measuring the latent power, the author excludes the use of population size because wealth already incorporates demographic dimensions of power as well. It is argued that although GNP is an effective gauge in measuring the level of latent power, the author confines the use of GNP in comparing states’ powers after 1960, because GNP has a problem in comparing states at different level of industrial development. The author uses a composite indicator that shows 1) iron and steel production 2) energy consumption of a state to measure latent power of states between 1816 and 1960, and proves its effectiveness by examples such as France and Germany during the 19th century, and rise and fall of Russia in the 20th century. But power realities do not always reflect the hierarchy of wealth because of 1) variances in degree of transforming wealth into military power (“diminishing returns) 2) variances in the efficiency of that transformation 3) differences in weapons procurement pattern.
Ch. 4: The Primacy of Land Power

Mearsheimer argues that 1) Army is the dominant form of military power in the modern world 2) Large bodies of water limit the power-projection capabilities of army. The second point makes it difficult for any state to achieve “global” hegemony. It is also said that the alliance patterns that formed during the Cold War are evidence that land power is the principal component of military might. Army is important in warfare because it is the main military instrument for conquering and controlling land, which is the supreme political objective for territorial states.

Although navies and air forces can project power by means such as blockade or strategic bombing, they cannot win a great-power war without army, which is the only type of force that can expeditiously defeat an opponent. Blockades usually have limited effects because 1) great powers can gain the necessary materials by other means (i.e., recycling, stockpiling, substitution) 2) the populations of modern states can absorb great amounts of pain (economic difficulty) without rising up against their governments 3) governing elites rarely quit war because of the punishment to its population. Strategic bombing (non-nuclear [air] attacks on the enemy’s homeland) has become important in the 20th century, but it is unlikely to gain more importance because of nuclear weapons, and unlikely to succeed from the similar reasons with blockades. Blockades and strategic bombing occasionally affect the outcome of great-power wars but rarely play a decisive role in shaping the final result.

The stopping power of water acts as significant limits on the number of troops and the amount of firepower that a navy can bring to bear in amphibious operation, and it also made difficult for navy to support the land forces at hostile environment. Certain modern technological developments (i.e., airplanes, submarines, naval mines, railroads) worked against naval forces either by 1) making it difficult for navies to reach the enemy shores 2) making it difficult for amphibious forces to prevail after they put ashore. The historical record shows that insular great powers (Japan, the U.K., and the U.S.) are much less vulnerable to invasion than continental great powers (France, Germany, and Russia), because of the stopping power of water.

Nuclear weapons are revolutionary because of its devastating destructive capabilities. Although it made states more cautious in using force, but under the presence of multiple numbers of great powers with survivable nuclear retaliatory forces [situation of mutual assured destruction (MAD)], security competition between them will continue and it will make land power to remain as the key component of military power. A MAD world is highly stable because there is no incentive for any great power to start a nuclear war that it could not win.

Assessing the balance of land power requires a three-step process. 1) Estimation of the relative size and quality of the opposing armies, both peacetime and after mobilization by looking at: the number and quality of soldiers, the number and quality of weapons, and their organizations 2) Taking air forces that support armies into the analysis by looking at: the number of aircrafts, pilot efficiency, the strength of air defense systems, reconnaissance capabilities, battle-management systems 3) Considering the power-projection capability inherent in armies by looking at: the presence of stopping water, the presence of allies across the water.

In conclusion, armies (plus their supporting air and naval forces) are the paramount form of military power in the modern world, while large bodies of water and nuclear weapons reduced likelihood of the clashes between the great power armies. Two implications for stability among the great powers: 1) the most dangerous states in the international system are continental power with large armies. Insular powers are unlikely to initiate wars of conquest against other great powers. 2) Given that oceans limit the ability of armies to project power, and that nuclear weapons decrease the likelihood of great-power army clashes, the most peaceful world would probably be one where all the great powers were insular states with survivable nuclear arsenals.

Thomas C. Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.  

Chapter 2: An Essay on Bargaining

“This chapter presents a tactical approach to the analysis of bargaining.” (p.21) It deals with the distributional aspect of bargaining, where a better bargain for one translates as a worse bargain for the other. In this case each party is guided by its expectations of what the other party will accept. Since both parties are mutually aware that they are guided by expectations, the only way to reach a bargain is through a concession.  But why would anyone choose to concede? The logic behind concession is that some agreement is in many cases better for both sides than no agreement at all.   However, it is hard to determine who will concede and how much he will choose to concede. In that respect, a thorough understanding of the tactics employed can be illuminating. “The purpose of this chapter is to call attention to an important class of tactics, of a kind that is peculiarly appropriate to the logic of indeterminate situations. The essence of these tactics is some voluntary but irreversible sacrifice of freedom of choice. They rest on the paradox that the power to constrain an adversary may depend on the power to bind oneself;” (p.22) According to Schelling, making your commitment credible and irreversible strengthens your overall bargaining position. 

Power, strength and skill—contrary to commonly held beliefs—are not always an advantage in bargaining. They might not get you far if you are dealing with a stubborn and unsophisticated counterpart. People in bargaining positions should note that bluffing, either by tactic or deception, can be an important element of bargaining. But considering it is easier to prove true something that is actually true rather than something that is false, how does one person make another believe something especially if that something is not true? “Answer: make it true” (p.24) Shelling provides a buyer and seller of a house example to illustrate his point. “…if the buyer can accept an irrevocable commitment, in a way that is unambiguously visible to the seller, he can squeeze the range of indeterminacy down to the point most favorable to him.” (p.24) Commitment will only work if it is communicated and viewed as credible. In a world where absolute commitments are freely available and practical problems are absent, we have a game with a first move advantage: whoever commits first wins (assuming the commitment is absolute and there are no communication difficulties.) It is thus clear that there is a logic behind self-commitment that can bring about a more positive outcome. For instance, “when national representatives go to international negotiations knowing that there is a wide range of potential agreement within which the outcome will depend on bargaining, they seem often to create a bargaining position by public statements, statements calculated to arouse public opinion that permits no concession to be made. If a binding public opinion can be cultivated and made evident to the other side, the initial position can thereby be made visibly ‘final’.” (p.28)

In sum:
1) Incurring a commitment is not sufficient in itself; it is essential to convincingly communicate it to the other party.
2) Establishing the commitment is not easy; neither is it easy to convey to the other party how strong your commitment is.
3) Similar activity (i.e. choices of commitment) might be available to both parties.
4) Though the possibility of commitment might be available to both sides, it is not necessarily equally available (i.e. one party might be able to more readily commit than the other).
5) There is always a possibility of a stalemate due to lack of adequate communication or the establishing of an immovable position that goes beyond the ability to concede.

The ease or difficulty of a commitment tactic also depends on certain institutional and structural elements of the bargaining situation.  These structural characteristics may make commitment more possible to one party than the other. For instance the decision to use a bargaining agent, the decision to put one’s reputation at stake through public commitment,  the choice to negotiate other topics simultaneously or in the future are some of the structural elements that can affect the bargaining situation.  Another important element that needs to be considered is that of casuistry: if one party reaches the stage where concession is advisable, he has to make sure that his constituency does not perceive of this concession as capitulation.  “One, therefore, needs an ‘excuse’ for accommodating his opponent, preferably a rationalized re-interpretation of the original commitment, one that is persuasive to the adversary himself.” (p.34) It is thus to party A’s advantage to facilitate the concession coming from party B by showing to party B that it can make a moderate concession which is consistent with his former position. 

According to Schelling there are two types of threats: 1) Threats that each party has every incentive to carry out in retaliation to an unfavorable move by the other side. The potential deterring effect of these threats is not their primary function. 2) Threats that each party has no real incentive to carry out and whose specific purpose is to deter through promise of mutual harm. Committing oneself to an act one would rather not perform, as a way to deter the other party, can be successful if the party commits to the point of no return, forcing the other to concede if it wants to avoid mutual destruction.  “When a person has lost the power to help himself, or the power to avert mutual damage, the other interested party has no choice but to assume the cost or responsibility.” (p.37) The party threatened also has some options: it can perform the act before the threat is communicated by the other party, it can arrange to share the risk with others, or it can choose to misrepresent its payoffs. 

In order to maximize the credibility of a threat, it needs to be stated in terms that are precise and irreversible and clearly communicated to the other party. Additionally, it is preferable to decompose a serious threat a series of smaller consecutive threats. Any transgression would be punishable, indicating in a sense the party’s commitment to the threat.  “Similar to decomposing a threat into a series is starting a threat with a punitive act that grows in severity with the passage of time.” (p.42)

“The promise is a commitment to the second party in the bargain and is required whenever… an agreement leaves any incentive to cheat.” (p.43) In the case of promises, fulfillment is not always observable because it is not always possible to measure compliance. As a result, the promise might have to be expressed in observable terms that might in actuality not be the intended object of the bargain. Decomposition is applicable to promises as it is to threats. There is in a sense a repeated game mentality: agreements are enforceable if the parties are concerned to maintain future opportunities for agreement. The value of trust and future interaction “outweighs the monetary gain from cheating in the present instance.” (p.45)  Even if there won’t be any interactions in the future, a sense of recurrence could be constructed by dividing the issue in consecutive parts. 

Chapter 3: Bargaining, Communication and Limited War

In cases of limited war, where issues of incomplete and asymmetric information are prevalent, tacit bargaining becomes important. In this Chapter, Schelling examines some of the concepts and principles that seem to underlie tacit bargaining in situations such as those of limited war.  Some of the salient issues in tacit bargaining can also inform our understanding of cases of explicit bargaining. The cases that are of most importance are those that involve conflicts of interest between the two parties.   

Assuming common interests, tacit coordination would require coordination of predictions, i.e. mutual recognition of some unique signal that coordinates the parties’ expectations of each other. Results from certain artificial environment tests have suggested that, “people can often concert their intentions or expectations with others if each knows that the other is trying to do the same.” (p.57)Finding a mutually recognized sign may depend on several different factors such as analogy, precedent, symmetry, aesthetic or geometric configuration etc. Imagination might play a bigger role in this than logic. These mutually recognized signs or focal points tend to be prominent or conspicuous in some way or another. They tend to be unique in a fashion that prevents ambiguity. 

In case of divergent interests, it may be to the advantage of one of the parties to be unable to communicate. For instance, “if one can announce his position and state that his transmitter works but not his receiver, saying that he will wait where he is until the other arrives, the latter has no choice. He can make no effective counteroffer, since no counteroffer could be heard.” (p.59) Interestingly enough, in a sample of conflicting-interest games that Schelling tried on different people, the conclusions were the same as those in the games of common interests. “The need for agreement overrules the potential disagreement and everyone must concert with the other or lose altogether.”  (p.60)  

When compared to tacit bargaining, explicit bargaining doesn’t appear to have a need for ‘coordination’ since there can be direct communication. Nevertheless, some form of coordination is still present in explicit bargaining manifested in behaviors such as acting according to precedent, gravitating towards the status quo or natural boundaries etc. “The obvious place to compromise frequently seems to win by some kind of default, as though there is simply no rationale for settling anywhere else.” (p.69)  The obvious outcome depends greatly on how the problem is formulated, on what analogies or precedents the definition of the bargaining issues calls to mind, on the kinds of data that may be available to bear on the question in dispute.” (p.69)  The fundamental problem in tacit bargaining, though it appears to be that of communication, is actually a problem of coordination. In order for the two parties to reach a Nash Equilibrium, or what Schelling calls “a final outcome... from which neither expects the other to retreat” (p.70), their expectations have to converge. “The ‘coordination’ of expectations is analogous to the ‘coordination’ of behavior when communication is cut off.” (p.71)  “..tacit and explicit bargaining are not thoroughly separate concepts but [rather] the various gradations from tacit bargaining up through types of incompleteness or faulty or limited communication to full communication all show some dependence on the need to coordinate expectations.” (p.73)

This discussion on tacit bargaining suggests that it is possible to find limits to a war, even without overt negotiations, and tries to provide a better understanding of where to look for the terms of agreement. Though tacit bargaining is possible, there is no assurance that it will succeed or that it will result to a particularly favorable outcome compared to the alternatives if full communication had been possible.

Thomas C Schelling, Arms and Influence. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966. Chapters 2, 3.  

Schelling’s focus is the way in which military capabilities are used as bargaining power in a calculated “diplomacy of violence.”  He does much to explain deterrence during the Cold War by considering military strategy not as a science of victory, but rather a science of communication involving capability, threat, credibility and commitment.  

Chapter 2, “The Art of Commitment” argues that deterrence is about intensions, and not just estimating enemy intentions but influencing them.  This raises a communication problem: some threats are hard to make, i.e. are not inherently credible and thus are possibly taken for granted.  Deterrence requires the ability to project military power and also the ability to project intentions, and there is sometimes a high price to pay to make threats convincing.  

While considering credibility and rationality, Schelling presents two interesting paradoxes of deterrence: 1) in threatening to hurt somebody if he misbehaves, it need not make a critical difference how much it will hurt you – the point is making your enemy believe your threat is real; 2) in deterring an adversary, it does not always help to be perceived as fully rational.  Robust deterrence requires one to get himself into a position where he cannot fail to react as he promises (threatens).  This often depends on relinquishing the initiative to the other side, limiting one’s own options and making intentions clear to potential enemies.  Schelling provides what we now consider classic Cold War examples, e.g. American “trip-wire” forces in West Berlin.  

The process of commitment involves a nation’s honor, obligation and diplomatic reputation becoming attached to a response.  Policy is usually not a prefabricated decision; it is the whole set of motives and constraints that make a government’s actions somewhat predictable.  Commitments are also often interdependent: consider American efforts during the Cold War to check the spread of Communism in various parts of the world.  Strategies of commitment can include discrediting an adversary by outwardly discounting his commitments, escaping commitments by eliciting cooperation from a rival to allow a retreat, or by circumventing an adversary’s commitments with “salami tactics.”  

It is important to distinguish between a threat that compels – one that often requires punishment to be administered until the other acts – from a threat that deters, which is administered if he acts.  In order to induce compliance rather than start a spiral of reprisals and counteractions, it is useful to demonstrate the limits to what one is demanding.  Moreover, coercive threats require corresponding assurances, for example: “one more step and I’ll shoot [and if you stop, I won’t fire].”  Brinkmanship is a competition in risk-taking, a war of nerves involving initiating a moderate risk of mutual disaster while wagering that the other party’s compliance is feasible within a short enough time span to keep the cumulative risk within acceptable bounds.  Discussion of this tactic provides the transition to the next chapter.

Chapter 3, “The Manipulation of Risk” considers the uncertainty of war and diplomatic confrontation, including accidents that can lead to crises and in particular, the problem of unpredictable commitments.  Uncertainty adds an entire dimension to military relations, which Schelling labels the manipulation of risk.  Furthermore, uncertainty imports tactics of intimidation into the game.  Brinkmanship is the manipulation of the shared risk of war by exploiting the risk that someone may inadvertently cross the point of no return.  To illustrate this point, Schelling discusses the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  The essence of a crisis is that neither side is fully in control of events; there exists a serious danger of miscalculation and escalation.  This is why deterrent threats are often credible.

The threat of nuclear war is not the only credible deterrent however; limited war can deter continued aggression or be used as a means of intimidation, by representing an action that effectively enhances the risk of a greater (more costly) war.  But threats of nuclear war are fundamentally different because if the nuclear threshold is passed, the tactical objective and considerations that govern a conventional war no longer apply.  Instead, the stakes are raised to the highest strategic level in a war of nuclear bargaining and demonstration – a war of dares and challenges, of nerves and threats.  The resulting situation can be likened to a game of chicken where no one can trust with certainty that someone will have the last clear chance to avert a tragedy and pull back in time.   

An important point that comes out of the discussion of chicken is the concept of face or national image.  More than just a factor of pride motivating actors to take irrational risks, face consists of other countries’ beliefs about how a state can be expected to behave, contributing to its reputation for action.  The concept of face is a product of the interdependent nature of a country’s commitments.  It also suggests the importance of decoupling an adversary’s prestige and reputation from a dispute, in order to allow them to back down while saving face.  Manipulating risk and bargaining can negotiate disputes through the diplomacy of violence, but some countries may have interests in conflict that are worth the associated risk, so there is no guarantee that war can be averted.

Geoffrey Blainey, The Causes of War, 3rd ed. New York: The Free Press, 1988. Chapter 8.  

In this chapter, Blainey challenges the balance of power theory as an explanation of war and peace, and uses the concept of relative bargaining power to explain the conditions under which wars and peace occur.  Believing that “war is usually the outcome of a diplomatic crisis which cannot be solved because both sides have conflicting estimates of their bargaining power,” (114) the author argues, “Wars usually end when the fighting nations agree on their relative strength, and wars usually begin when fighting nations disagree on their relative strength.” (122) (original emphasis)  Hence it is not the actual distribution of power but the ways in which national leaders perceive that power is distributed, that determines the outbreak of war or peace.

According to Blainey, an agreed preponderance of power tends to produce peace, thus rejecting the balance of power explanation of peace.  That is why a general war which ended in decisive victory produces a long period of peace, while indecisive wars are likely to be followed by a short period of peace, as there is less chance for the opposing sides to “agree” on the estimates of their relative powers.

A diplomatic crisis is a crisis in the estimates of relative bargaining power.  A nation with an increasing deficit in international power may not recognize its weaknesses, while its rivals may lower their estimates of that nation’s bargaining power.  Given their divergence of perception of their relative strength, this situation often leads to frustrated negotiations as each demands far more than the other is prepared to yield.  Also, the appeal to war is favored as each believes that it is more likely to win.

Blainey also argues that the post-WWII world is not all that different from the previous periods, even after taking into account the technological advances such as the development of nuclear weapons.  It is just a different game obeying the same rules.  He ends the chapter with a list of seven factors relevant for assessing the relative strength of a nation.
            ·    Military strength
            ·    Predictions of how outside nations would behave in the event of war
            ·    Perceptions of internal unity of both opposing nations
            ·    Historical memory or forgetfulness of the suffering of war
            ·    Economic strength
            ·    Nationalism and ideology
            ·    Mental qualities of the leaders.

James D. Fearon, "Rationalist Explanations for War," International Organization 49:3 (1995), pp. 379-414.

Critique of rationalist or neorealist explanations of war – such arguments fail to address why leaders don’t reach ex ante bargains that would avoid the costs and risks of fighting. 

Fearon’s explanations
1. Withholding of private information and incentives to misrepresent – under bargaining situations, leaders might have an incentive to misrepresent their preferences to gain leverage, and this can lead to war even if a mutually preferable solution exists in reality.  War might also serve as a way to convey information about one’s capabilities to others.
2. Commitment problems – mutually preferred solutions exist, but players have an incentive to defect from such a solution (P.D.)
        •    High offensive (first-strike) advantage – I can attack first and eliminate you.  This makes repeated game equilibria infeasible
        •    Preventive War – states cannot commit credibly about their future behavior
        •    Advantages gained from concessions – if I give you my guns now, you can not credibly commit to not shooting me with them
(3.  Issue Indivisibilities – not as convincing as #1 and #2, but some issues might not be easy to compromise over because they are indivisible: i.e. who sits on the throne of Spain.  Side bargains are often feasible but subject to domestic constraints – i.e. difficult for states to trade territory these days.)

Common Explanations that Fail
1. Anarchy – this does nothing to prevent states from striking bargains
2. Preventive War – why don’t rising and declining states strike bargains instead?
3. Positive Expected Utility – A demonstration of the bargaining range (p.387) shows that there always exists a set of negotiated settlements that both sides prefer to fighting.
        •    Both states need to recognize the existence of a real probability p that one will win the conflict
        •    Risk-averse or risk-neutral states
        •    Continuous range of settlements exists (i.e. issue divisibility)
4. Disagreements about Relative Power
5. Miscalculation of an Opponent’s Willingness to Fight - #4 & #5 both neglect the ability for states to communicate.  Require Fearon’s explanations to be tenable.

Robert Powell, In the Shadow of Power.  Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999.  Chapters 1-3

Chap 1: States and Strategies

This book conceptualizes power as a means and not an end, and tries to explain how power maps onto state behavior.  It accepts basic stylized neorealist assumptions of anarchy, unitary actors, material military resources, etc.  Yet, Powell suggests that widely-made neorealist arguments need to be qualified: neither balance nor preponderance of power is more peaceful; there is no general tendency to balance; anarchy does not imply a preoccupation w/ relative gains, nor the impossibility of cooperation.  Instead, he concludes that: (1) war is least likely when the international distribution of benefits reflects the underlying distribution of power, and (2) whether states balance, bandwagon, or abstain while others fight depends in a complex way on diverse factors including the cost of fighting, the aggressiveness of coalition partners, and the extent to which military forces cumulate when combined in an alliance.

Powell identifies commitment issues, informational asymmetries, and the technology of coercion as the 3 key factors defining states' strategic problems. The Prisoner's Dilemma is the archetypical commitment problem. Informational asymmetries occur when different actors know or believe different things about a situation-i.e., when there is uncertainty about states' preferences or capabilities.  Informational asymmetries create problems when two conditions hold: (1) the missing information matters, and (2) when one actor knows something the other actors does not, and the former has an incentive to lie about what it knows.  The technology of coercion describes the relation between when an actor does and how those actions exert coercive pressure.  THIS IS KEY, because the greater an actor's coercive capabilities, the more powerful it is.  Note: by making defense impossible, the nuclear revolution transformed the means through which coercive pressure can be applied from a contest of military strength into a contest of resolve.  Each state tries to influence the other by trying to hold on longer in the face of a growing risk that events will go out of control.  Jervis and Waltz claim that this makes war much less likely.

There are three ways that a state can respond to threats in the context of stylized neorealist assumptions: it can reallocate resources already under its direct control in what Waltz calls "internal balancing," it can try to resolve conflicts and diffuse threats through bargaining and compromise, or it can try to draw on the resources of others by allying with them.  The strategic environment as effected by asymmetric information, technologies of coercion, and commitment capabilities determines which of these responses states choose, and how these responses are chosen.

Chap 2: Guns, Butter, and Internal Balancing in the Shadow of Power

States' inability to commit themselves to refraining from using force against each other (a commitment problem) forces them to make trade-offs between guns and butter (which is considered an "intrinsically-valued end" in Powell's "guns vs. butter model".)  These trade-offs leave the states worse off than they would have been if they had been able to commit themselves to abstaining from using military force.

Changes in the actors or in the technology of coercion affect states' military allocations and whether or not they fight.  Changes that increase a state's payoff to attacking relative to living with the status quo induce both states to allocate more to their military sectors.  If a state becomes more willing to run risks, its expected payoff to attacking rises and this leads to greater overall military allocations.  Internal balancing fails and peace breaks down if at some point the higher payoff to fighting exceeds the reduced value of the status quo.

The models in this book assume states try to maximize current and expected future income, consistent with existing IR theories.  In "After Hegemony", Keohane tried to show that neorealism's pessimistic conclusions about cooperation do not follow from its core assumptions.  A few years later, Grieco said that Keohane had mistaken these core assumptions by positing states cared about absolute gains, whereas neorealism required a concern for relative gains.  Grieco's claim that a state's concern for relative gains must be modeled in the state's utility function is NOT an interesting thing to say, because one can also model a state's concern for relative gains by making a detailed specification of the strategic arena in which the state finds itself.  But, more importantly, "Do states, as many have claimed, try to maximize their relative power positions?" i.e., is power an end in itself, or do the strategic incentives extant w/in the international environment lead states to try to maximize their power?  The answer is the latter: if states do try to maximize their power, it is because they see this as the most effective means they have of furthering their interests.  Powell creates a formal model to show that, starting with two states that are identical except that offensive advantages are larger in one state than the other.  He shows that any change that increases either state's payoff to attacking relative to the status quo leads both states to increase their military allocations.  If these changes are sufficiently large, both states have to devote so much to the military and therefore derive so little benefit from maintaining the status quo that internal balancing breaks down in war.  "Factors that increase either or both states' payoff to attacking relative to the status quo lead to higher military allocations.  These larger military allocations mean less consumption and, thus, a lower payoff to remaining at peace"(81).

Cooperation theory generally argues that the more states care about the future, the easier it is to sustain cooperation, BUT, if a state exploits others by making a short-run sacrifice to obtain a long-run advantage, then a longer shadow of the future makes cooperation more difficult.

Powell repudiates the claim that states do not try to maximize their power, and says that existing arguments that states are concerned about relative gains fail to be convincing.  Yet, states in Powell's model are certainly concerned with their relative power, for if a state does not devote enough of its resources to the military, it will be relatively weak and its rival will attack. But this is not power maximization.  If they were, they would dedicate all resources to military power.  The more a state consumes today, the weaker it will be tomorrow, and the more likely it is to be defeated if attacked.  The guns-versus-butter model shows that "a strategic setting in which 'each of the units spends a portion of its effort, not in forwarding its own good, but in providing the means of protecting itself against others' (Waltz 1979, 105) does not by itself imply a concern for relative gains.  Other assumptions are needed to sustain this conclusion, although it is not clear what those assumptions are.  If states are actually concerned about relative gains, we do not understand why (80)."


This chapter centers on states' efforts to resolve conflicts of interest and defuse threats to use force through compromise and bargaining.  How does the probability that the bargaining will break down into war vary with the distribution of power between the states?  Is war least likely if, as the balance-of-power school argues, power is evenly distributed between the states, or is war least likely if one state preponderates, as the preponderance-of-power school claims?

In his model, 2 states bargain about revising the status quo.  The states make offers and counter-offers until they reach a mutually acceptable settlement or until one becomes sufficiently pessimistic about the prospects of reaching an agreement that it uses force to try to impose an outcome.  The states' equilibrium strategies make it possible to calculate the probability that bargaining breaks down in war as a function of the distribution of power between the two states.  A weak country is more likely to accept any specific demand, but more will be demanded of it than would be demanded of a stronger state.  The probability of war is a function of the disparity between the status quo distribution of benefits and the distribution of power: War is least likely when the existing distribution of benefits reflects the underlying distribution of power.  Note that with complete information, bargaining never breaks down in war, and the states never fight in equilibrium--if one of the states is dissatisfied, the satisfied state offers the dissatisfied state control over an amount equivalent in value to its payoff to fighting.

When there are informational asymmetries and one of the states is potentially dissatisfied (might prefer war to concession), the potentially dissatisfied state never rejects an offer in order to make a counter-offer.  Once the satisfied state makes an offer, the probability of war equals the probability that the dissatisfied state counters this offer by attacking.  The technology of coercion also affects the risk of war, as part of what goes into the 'cost' and risk of war.  The larger the cost of fighting, the lower the risk; the
larger the offensive advantage, the higher the risk.