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
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.
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
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,
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
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)
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
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.”
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
• Risk-averse or
• 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
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.