Week 7 Summaries

David Lake, “Powerful Pacifists: Democratic States and War,” American Political Science Review 86:1 (March 1992), pp. 24-37.

Lake’s puzzles are the democratic peace phenomenon and the propensity of democracies to win the wars they fight.  His explanation is based on microeconomic theory of the state, especially the state’s rent seeking behavior.  Rent is defined as “returns greater than what is necessary to sustain the factors of production in their present use.” (24)  

According to Lake, the state-society relations resemble that of the monopolistic market, as the state has the monopoly over the supply of protection.  Due to this situation, the state earns rents, as it charges the price of protection above what it would otherwise be under the perfectly competitive market. (see the diagram on p. 25)  There are three main variables influencing the state rent seeking behavior, namely, the respective costs of monitoring state behavior, voice and exit.  The higher the costs of monitoring, exit and voice, the greater the ability of the state to earn rents.

Lake then argues that rent seeking behavior creates an imperialist bias in a state’s foreign policy, since so doing raises the costs of exit and the demand of the citizens for state protection (through racketeering and extortion) as well as allow state officials to extract greater rents.  

He then applies this theory to his puzzles.  First, on the democratic peace phenomenon.  Lake argues that because democracies pose two threats to autocracies—(1) reducing the costs of exit in autocracies and (2) reducing the costs of monitoring in autocracies—they tend to be the targets of autocracies’ expansion.  Also, democracies may intervene in the domestic affairs of autocracies “to construct democratic political structures [but only] as long as the costs of the intervention are less than the expected costs of a war stimulated by state rent seeking behavior.” (30)  This then implies hat democracies are less likely to fight each other due to the absence of an imperialist bias in their foreign policies.

Second, on the propensity to win wars.  Lake argues that democracies enjoy three advantages over autocracies due to fewer rents in democratic societies.  (1) They create fewer economic distortions and hence can devote more resources to security.  (2) They enjoy greater societal support for their policies, improving the state’s extractive capacity.  (3) They are likely to form overwhelming counter-coalitions against expansionist autocracies, since the autocracies are more likely to target democracies.

James Fearon, “Domestic Political Audiences and the Escalation of International Disputes,” American Political Science Review 88:3 (Sept. 1994), pp. 577-592.

Two Sentence Summary:

Fearon develops a bargaining model based on the "war of attrition" to demonstrate the importance of audience costs in determining the outcome of crisis bargaining. Because democracies face higher audience costs, they are better able to credibly signal their resolve and are at an advantage in crisis bargaining situations.

The Model:

The model is an n-period two player extensive form game with three decision nodes at each time period. A player can attack, back down, or escalate. A choice to attack or back down terminates the game. The equilibrium concept is perfect Baynesian equilibrium. Players hold private information about their own resolve but only know the distribution of their adversary’s resolve. After each time period, players update their estimate of the other player’s resolve based on their actions. The game is set up so that escalation conveys information about greater resolve than previously estimated. Unlike the version with perfect information, in which the only Nash equilibria involve first round resolution of the crisis, the imperfect version approximates reality by containing equilibrium behavior which can result in war or backing down after several rounds of play. This result arises because states are not sure about the other player’s resolve in the first round, but their information is updated through rounds of play.

Substantive Conclusions:

Following Schelling, Fearon argues that costly signaling is crucial in conveying credible information about your resolve to the other player and determining the outcome of crisis bargaining. Several forms of costly signaling exist, including the financial and organizational costs of mobilization, pure time preferences of leaders (think discount factor), higher risks of accidental war associated with escalation (Schelling, 1960), and the risk of preemption (i.e. if I escalate, you can hit me first, so I’m accepting a cost). Fearon finds these methods unconvincing for various reasons, and argues for the primacy of audience costs. Audience costs are incurred when a leader engages "the national honor" to a crisis situation and subsequently backs down. There are two relevant audiences. The first is international – a country that backs down loses credibility in the eyes of other international actors. The second is domestic – domestic constituents and political opponents will see the leader as incompetent or hold him/her accountable for tarnishing the nation’s honor or international reputation. Fearon sees the domestic component as particularly salient, since leaders most often fall from power due to internal dynamics rather than foreign conquest, and domestic groups will use the international component to try to undermine him/her.

In terms of comparative statics, a key conclusion of this paper is that relative audience costs matter. The side with a stronger domestic audience (i.e. democracy) is less likely to back down. Similarly, democracies can more credibly signal their intentions (by virtue of being able to tie their own hands) to other parties and therefore are at an advantage in crisis bargaining situations. Other factors that have been considered important in the traditional literature do not matter – relative capabilities, higher stakes in the issue, etc. These issues are taken into consideration by the states before they enter the crisis bargaining situation to begin with, and therefore become irrelevant once the bargaining commences.

Kenneth A. Schultz, “Domestic Opposition and Signaling in International Crises,” American Political Science Review 92:4 (December 1998), pp. 829-44.

Following the Putnam tradition of two-level games (which models the interaction between the domestic and international spheres and treats them as mutually dependent. See: Putnam, Summer 1998 in International Organization), Schultz develops a formal model with an international actor and multiple domestic actors in order to demonstrate how domestic political competition in a democracy (the independent variable) affects the probability of escalation of an international crisis (the dependent variable).

The broader theoretical void that this article professes to address is the fact that existing literature explaining the democratic peace phenomenon tends to ignore the “growing body of literature on international crisis bargaining.” According to Schultz, both categories of works that try to explain why democracies rarely fight one another (i.e. the institutional and normative sets of explanations) do not appropriately account for two insights: (1) Due to the high costs that are associated with war, we would expect all states (regardless of regime type) to have incentives to reach “efficient bargains.” (2) The mutual preference of states for peace depends on their ability to overcome informational asymmetries that may prevent them from achieving an “efficient bargain” (i.e. a peaceful bargain).

Since existing approaches to the democratic peace phenomenon do not account for or accommodate the two above insights (which are borrowed from the international crisis bargaining literature), Schultz proposes a model that demonstrates that “regular and public competition between political parties” (as is the case in democratic regimes) solves some of the problems of informational asymmetry by revealing to the rival state information about the government’s “underlying political incentives and, hence, its willingness to wage war.”      

The model assumes that: (1) Political parties “choose strategies designed to maximize their probability of election;” (2) Opposition parties have access to information relevant to the crisis; (3) The state permits an open political debate that can be “overheard” by the rival state.

The existence of an opposition party in the model “permits information to be revealed more reliably than when the government is the lone voice of the state.” Moreover, the introduction of an opposition party decreases the government’s willingness to bluff. This is because the opposition can publicly denounce the government’s policy and reduce the credibility of its threats. In turn, that should restrict the government from issuing threats or challenges which it believes it will not be able to back-up.

What are the implications of this model for the probability of war? Based on this model, we would expect democratic states “to have enhanced ability to reach peaceful outcomes relative to states in which competition is restricted or takes place out of the public view.” The importance of this finding is that it does require us to assume that democracies have inherent pacifist inclinations (which is the case with some of the existing explanations of democratic peace). There are two ‘information revealing’ mechanisms that help bring about the above result/prediction: (1) A credibility effect: the model suggests that “an unfettered opposition party can enhance the government’s ability to make credible threats.” (2) A restraining effect: Due to the opposition party’s ability to undermine some of the government’s threats, the government is forced to be more selective about making threats. Therefore, a government is less likely to engage in misrepresentation of its actual intentions.                     

Robert D. Putnam, “Diplomacy and Domestic Politics,” International Organization 42:3 (Summer 1988), pp. 427-461.

Putnam offers a conceptual framework “for understanding how diplomacy and domestic politics interact.” The existing literature on the relations between domestic and international affairs “consists either of ad hoc lists of countless ‘domestic influences’ on foreign policy or of generic observations that national and international affairs are somehow ‘linked.’” Putnam’s challenge is, then, to seek a theory that integrates both spheres and accounts for the areas of entanglement between them. Such a theory should help us “organize and extend our empirical observations.”  

To respond to the above challenge, Putnam suggests a two-level approach which (unlike the state-centric theories) “recognizes that central decision makers strive to reconcile domestic and international imperatives simultaneously.” Putnam draws a distinction between the national and international levels and emphasizes that “each national political leader appears at both game boards.” In Putnam’s model an international negotiation process is broken into two sequential stages. In Level I: the negotiators bargain and reach a tentative agreement. In Level II: the agreement is ratified thru a process that includes separate discussions with each group of domestic constituents.

Based on the above model (and additional assumptions), Putnam explains why the notion of win-sets (i.e. the set of all possible Level I agreements that would gain the support of the constituents at Level II) is important. He contends that: (1) Larger win-sets make Level I agreements more likely. By contrast, the smaller the win-set, the greater the risk that the negotiations will break down as a result of ‘involuntary defection’ (a term that is contrasted with ‘voluntary defection’ and is dependent upon the ‘deliver ability’ of a Level I negotiator); (2) The larger the perceived win-set of a negotiator, the more he can be ‘pushed around’ by the other Level I negotiators (this is related to Schelling’s principle that stressed the importance of manipulating and narrowing one’s own win-set). However, the effect of decreasing one’s own win-set too far, might be that there will be no feasible agreements.

Three sets of factors that affect the size of win-sets (and thus the likelihood of success of a negotiation) are proposed and analyzed:

(1)    Level II preferences and coalitions – the size of the win-set depends on the distribution of power, preferences, and possible coalitions among Level II constituents.
The lower the cost of ‘no agreement’ to constituents, the smaller the win-set. Accordingly, we would expect more self-sufficient states with smaller win-sets to make fewer international agreements and drive harder bargains in those that they do make. Another distinction that Putnam makes, in relation to the role of preferences in determining the size of win sets, is between homogenous and heterogeneous issues. In cases of the former, the more the negotiator can ‘win’ at Level I, the better his odds at winning ratification. In cases of the latter, ‘the more, the better’ rule of thumb does not necessarily apply and, consequently, domestic divisions may actually improve the prospects for international cooperation (these are cases that Putnam finds more interesting). Other relevant factors include the participation rates of constituents in Level II discussions. These may vary according to the degree of politicization of an issue.     

(2)    Level II institutions – the size of the win-set depends on the Level II institutions. For example, ratification procedures affect the size of the win-set (e.g., if a 2/3 congressional majority is required to ratify a treaty, the win-set is decreased). In another example, the greater the autonomy of the decision makers from their Level II constituents, the larger their win-set (e.g., a dictatorial regime will be expected to have a larger win set due to its lack of dependence on domestic approval processes).    

(3)    Negotiators’ strategies – the size of the win-set depends on the strategies of the Level I negotiators. For example, each Level I negotiator has an interest in maximizing the other side’s win-set. Also, to expand his win set, the negotiator may exploit side payments (both domestically and internationally induced) and may strive to reinforce the political standing of his negotiating counterpart.  

Peter Evans, Harold K. Jacobson, and Robert Putnam, eds. Double-Edged Diplomacy: International Politics and Domestic Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).  Chapters by Odell, Kahler, and Evans (pp. 233-264, 363-394, 397-430)

The introduction to Double-Edged Diplomacy (by Andrew Moravcsik) is worth reading even though it was not an assigned part of the reading. Moravcsik explains that the purpose of this edited volume is to analyze the effects of domestic factors on international politics, and specifically to implement the “two-level game” approach suggested by Robert Putnam in his seminal article.  He also outlines a research agenda comprised of two steps:
        -    Relax the assumption of constant state capabilities to mobilize resources
        -    Relax the assumption of stable state preferences
The specific chapters assigned address the following cases and issues:
        -    John Odell:  The use of threats by the U.S. as a strategy in international economic bargaining against Brazil and the European Community, 1985-1987
        -    Miles Kahler    Interactions between the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an international financial institution (INI), and the countries of Jamaica and Somalia to restructure the countries’ debt
        -    Peter Evans    Conclusions

Odell’s article analyzes the use of threats in international economic bargaining, and specifically examines two effects:
        -    Constituents in the threatening state that oppose implementing the threat may attempt to delay the government’s implementation or impose political costs if the government proceeds. By either type of action, their actions can undermine the threatening government’s credibility in the eyes of the target state and thus encourage the target state to resist the threat.
        -    Political leaders in the target state may prefer to yield to the threats, but may face such severe domestic political penalties that they refuse to yield. If resistance is a popular stance, objective interests take second priority to political stakes.

Kahler’s article analyzes the causes of “successful” negotiation between the IMF and Jamaica to restructure the state’s international debt  and of “unsuccessful” negotiation with Somalia.
        -    In both cases, the countries initially resisted reaching agreement even though the costs to the state of non-agreement were high. The variance in the behavior of the two states is explained by differences in the specific cost-benefit calculus of the states’ elites.
        -    In this analysis, the IMF is treated as an actor on a par with the developing countries having its own “domestic agenda.” Hence, organizational politics within the IMF has an impact on the process, and tends to push the institution to continue to lend to debtor countries when it might seem more logical to suspend assistance.

In the conclusion, Evans draws observations from the other articles and presents the following summary:
        -    Concerning variation in the relative autonomy of national leaders compared with domestic constituencies:
        -    The strategy of claiming, “My hands are tied…” does not seem to be effective
        -    The autonomy of national leaders decreases over the course of a negotiation, since interest groups mobilize and leaders eventually stake firm positions
        -    “Hawkish” leaders have less freedom of action than “dovish” leaders
        -    Attempting to manipulate perceptions of whether an agreement can be ratified is usually not effective
        -    Agreements depend less on national leaders’ strategies and more on the configurations of international and domestic interests. Specifically:
        -    When costs are concentrated and benefits diffuse, agreements are usually doomed
        -    Interests (international or domestic) that create obstacles in the short run are often subjected to restructuring in the long run
        -    Authoritarian disenfranchisement associated with small win sets is as great an obstacle to agreement as pluralistic interests in a democracy
        -    Transnational actors may contribute to transnational synergies, but may also find some state-to-state agreements threatening to their specific interests.    

T. Clifton Morgan and Sally Howard Campbell, "Domestic Structure, Decisional Constraints, and War: So Why Kant Democracies Fight?" Journal of Conflict Resolution 35:2 ("Democracy and Foreign Policy: Community and Constraint"), pp. 187-211.

Argument: The greater the societal constraints on the chief decisionmaker of a state, the less likely a dispute involving that state will escalate to war.

Findings: For major powers, higher levels of decisional constraints lead to a lower probability that conflicts will escalate to war. The relationship does not hold for minor powers, however, and may even be reversed.

Many claim democracies are less prone to conflict because they are answerable to a public unwilling to pay the cost of war, but the empirical consensus is that democracies fight as often as other types of states. There is, of course, ample evidence that democracies don’t fight each other. The authors’ goal is to: (1) clarify existing theory by making an exceptionally well-specified theoretical argument linking democracy and peace; (2) test resulting hypotheses in the appropriate manner.

Theoretical framework:
Wars grow out of conflicts of interest between two or more state actors, and occur when neither side is willing to acquiesce to the other’s demands and when both adopt military means to press their claims. To link peace and  democracy, we assume state decision making can be constrained by domestic political structure. The authors argue that in democracies the electoral process can constrain, and furthermore, many non-democracies are as highly constrained as some democracies—this latter claim is their key insight, and in a footnote they provide evidence in the form of a cross-tab.

There are 3 hypotheses, which match up to 3 independent variables: the more broadly based the “electorate” for leadership selection in a state and the more regularized the leadership selection process, the greater the decisional constraints on the leader; (2) constraints should be greatest when competition is highly institutionalized; (3) the greater the number of individuals/institutions that must approve a decision for war within a state,
the less likely the leadership of that state is to decide for war. The authors argue that the most important of the constraints is #3, the ability of another institution to block a decision for war. Note that their argument is probabilistic; and it will only matter when there is an opportunity to decide for war.

Empirical Testing
Some explain the democratic peace by saying that democracies are less likely to initiate a dispute, though they are not less war-prone once a militarized dispute begins. The authors here are making the opposite argument, saying
that disputes are just as likely regardless of domestic structure, but are less likely to escalate in states with constraints. The authors stress the fact that other studies showing democracies are just as war-prone as other states do not disprove their theoretical argument, because: (1) democracies may face these decisions more frequently, and/or (2) some non-democracies are as constrained as some democracies. Instead of combining the constraints in an index, the authors look at the constraints independently, as covariates because the constraints might not be of equal importance and because many nondemocracies can be highly constrained in some ways. The unit of analysis is an instance of dispute involvement, not a nation-year of existence.  They run a logit, examining the relationship between each domestic structure variable and the probability that a disputant will become involved in war. Coefficients are generally in the predicted direction, but only the coefficient for the high constraint on executive selection (associated with competitive elections) approaches statistical significance at the 0.1% level.
They get better results when they control for state power; for major powers, higher levels of decisional constraints lead to a lower probability that conflicts will escalate to war. The relationship does not hold for minor powers, however, and may even be reversed, and the authors speculate that minor powers are so constrained by their environment that internal politics has little impact on decisions for war.

Bear Braumoeller, “Deadly Doves: Liberal Nationalism and the Democratic Peace in the Soviet Successor States,” International Studies Quarterly 41:3 (1997), pp.  375-402.

Normative accounts of the democratic peace maintain that democracies do not fight one another since democracy is strongly associated with liberalism, which in turn gives rise to mutual respect and beliefs in autonomy and freedom from foreign intervention. These beliefs result in peace among states that share them. The article’s argument is that in the states of the former Soviet Union this logic is unlikely to hold, since they are characterized by a nonuniversalist form of liberalism, liberal nationalism, which is centered on the idea of national self determination. Its adherents are both very liberal and willing to use force to achieve their goals. The notion of liberal nationalism dates back to the 19th century, when liberalism and nationalism found a common home in revolutionary movements. Because national self determination is at the heart of liberal nationalism, and because a majority of nations were then subject to alien rule, it had to accept violence and abandon liberalism’s objection to the use of force. It should be noted that this type of nationalism is different than the integral nationalism prevalent in the 20th century.

The author argues that Ukraine is characterized by liberal nationalism. In Ukraine, as in other non-Russian republics, the dissolution of the Soviet Union combined with preexisting institutional cleavages to provide strong incentives for independence, an objective which appealed to both nationalism and liberalism and enabled their accommodation. In Russia liberalism and nationalism have been adversaries since the Westernization under Peter I and this adversary continues to date. There has been no impetus for nationalism and liberalism to join forces.

The author uses three surveys carried out in Russia and Ukraine in 1993-1994 to test several hypotheses:
        1.    Leaders perceive foreign relations to be more conflictual than do citizens.
        2.    Leaders are more likely than citizens to advocate the use of force to resolve conflicts (Hypotheses 1 and 2 follow from the structural explanation of the democratic peace).
        3.    Individuals who are liberals and who believe another country to be democratic will perceive less conflict with that country than would otherwise be the case.
        4.    Liberals are less likely than illiberals to advocate the use of force to resolve conflicts (Hypotheses 3 and 4 follow from the normative explanation of the democratic peace).
        5.    Liberals in Ukraine are more likely than illiberals to advocate the use of force to resolve conflicts.
        6.    Liberals should identify themselves with nationalists in Ukraine but not in Russia (follows from the argument about liberal nationalism in Ukraine).
        7.    Liberals in Ukraine should express inclusivist concepts of citizenship.

The findings:
        1.    Liberal nationalism seems to be widespread in the non-Russian former republics of the Soviet Union. The evidence suggests that this form of liberalism is not pacific and seems so predispose its adherents to the use of force, especially in the name of national autonomy. Accordingly, the spread of this particular form of liberalism may hurt the prospects for peace. Where liberalism and nationalism find no common ground, as in Russia, liberalism does play a pacifying role.
        2.    Combination of liberalism – whether or not of the nationalist type – and perceptions of democracy improves relations among countries by lowering perceptions of hostility.    
        3.    If the people in control of foreign policy are political and military elites, there is considerable evidence to demonstrate that their images of potential opponents are more negative than those of the citizenry and some to suggest that they are more willing to advocate the use of force. To the extent that a more diverse group of elites has influence over policy, however, these generalizations are less likely to hold.
        4.    Democratization, if widely implemented and recognized may improve the prospects for peace among the Soviet successor states. If, however, peace obtains in the face of persistent disagreements over issues of autonomy and the rights of national minorities, it may do so despite liberal attitudes toward the use of force rather than because of them.

The results suggest that democratic peace scholars have overlooked the fact that liberalism is not monolithic, and the context in which it arises strongly influences its implication for peace.

Kenneth A. Schultz, “Do Democratic Institutions Constrain or Inform? Contrasting Two Institutional Perspectives on Democracy and War,” International Organization 53:2 (Spring 1999), pp. 233-66

Schultz addresses the question of influence of domestic political institutions to state behaviors. He presents an empirical test to discriminate two main arguments on the mechanism of democratic peace theory: 1) the “institutional constraints” approach (institutions promote accountability and competition tend to increase the political risks associated with war) and 2) the perspective which focuses on informational properties of institution (democratic institutions have higher transparency/better signaling abilities which reveal government’s incentives more successfully). When threatened from other democracies, the former perspective expects the threatened state would resist because it thinks the aggressor faces high political costs for waging war. The latter suggests that democratic governments are better able to reveal their true preferences, and the threatened states will draw back.
    Schultz tests the looking at states’ responses to military threats from other democracies (NOT frequency of crises or wars) by applying a formal model of crisis bargaining to data on militarized disputes from 1816 to 1980. He modeled the probability that a target state will reciprocate when confronted by a challenge, and the results were consistent with the informational perspective: the disputes initiated by democratic states were less likely to be reciprocated than those initiated by non-democratic states.

    [ Model ]
Players: S1initiates and S2 responds   
Strategy: CH (challenge), SQ (status quo), CD (concede), RS (resist)
Payoffs: 0 (S1), 1 (S2) in the beginning, a (audience cost of DB), w1 and w2 (costs of war)

                                   (CD) |----- (1, 0)
             (CH) |----- S2 ----- |            (DB) |-----(-a, 1)
S1 --------    |              (RS) |-----S1------|
         (SQ)     |--- (0, 1)                     (RS) |-----(w1, w2)

1) Complete information: w1 and w2 are common knowledge
-    S1 will stand firm (SF) iff … w1 > - a. [Reads: the cost of war for S1 is lower than audience cost]
-    S2 knows for sure whether threat from S1 is genuine or not, and there is no danger of war. Two equilibriums: SQ (0,1) or CD (1,0). There can be no war.

2) Incomplete information: wi (w1, w2) are randomly/independently determined from uniform probability distribution [- Ci – di, - di], where Ci, di  0, and i=1,2.
-    S1 will SF (1 > - a), CH then DB (b  w1  – a), and SQ (-C1 – d1  w1 < b) according to the value of w1. S2 responds according to the probability q that w1 > -a given that S1 has made a challenge ( 1 > q > 0). S2 expects war with probability q and expects DB with probability 1-q. In equilibrium, S2 resists only if its expected value from war (w2) is sufficiently high to make the gamble (RS) worthwhile. The probability that a challenge will be resisted is equal to the probability that w2 exceeds this threshold.

Institutional Constraints
Informational perspective
Increase in costs of war
Complete Information
Increase in audience cost
S1 challenges (CH)
S2 resists (RS)
[ + ]
[ - ]
[ - ]
War [ CH -> RS ]
+ / -
+ / -

    The differences between the two models are not clear in their predictions on probability of challenge and/or war. However, they are clearly different in S2’s response. The test results attained using Militarized Interstate Dispute (MID) data set showed that: 1) target states are more likely to resist non-democratic challengers than democratic ones 2) target’s power status does not seems to have a measurable impact on the likelihood of reciprocation (minor power can no less resist threats from major powers than threats from minor powers).
    Two caveats: 1) maybe challenges from democratic states are less likely to be resisted because of selection of targets (democratic states deliberately choosing targets that are likely to back down) that are unlikely to put up a fight, not because of superior signaling abilities of democracy 2) BOTH perspectives could be right, because democratic institutions can both increase political costs of war and facilitate information revelation at the same time.

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James D. Morrow, Randolph M. Siverson, and Alastair Smith, "An Institutional Explanation of the Democratic Peace," American Political Science Review 93:4, pp. 791-807.

Several findings related to democracy and war appear in the literature:
1. Democracies do not go to war with each other.
2. Democracies fight nondemocracies.
3. Democracies win a disproportionate share of the wars they fight.
4. When disputes emerge, democratic dyads choose more peaceful processes of dispute settlement that other pairing of states.
5. Democracies are more likely to initiate wars against autocracies than vice versa.
6. In wars they initiate democracies pay fewer costs in terms of human life and fight shorter wars than nondemocracies.
7. Transitional democracies are more likely to fight than stable democracies.
8. Larger democracies are more constrained to avoid war than smaller democracies.

The authors criticize the existing normative and structural explanations of the democratic peace. They develop a model that accounts for the regularities above without assuming that one type of polity is more constrained than the other and without assuming normative differences. Their basic assumption is that political leaders in all systems are motivated by the same universal interest: desire to remain in office. Keeping office depends on the continued support of the winning coalition (W) which is a part of all the participants in the selection of leadership (selectorate, S). The leaders in each nation know that following the international dispute they will face reselection. The members of S will evaluate the payoff they receive under the incumbent and compare it with what they expect to receive by deposing the incumbent and choosing a domestic challenger. In order to remain in office an incumbent will have to provide more utility to the coalition members than that offered by the challenger. How does this affect the decisions about war?

The leader implements policies which produce public goods (benefit everyone in the polity) and private goods (consumed by members of the winning coalition). The scarcity of resources requires leaders to choose how much resources to spend on benefiting the public and how much to focus on the wants of their core supporters. At the first stage of the game the leader in nation A chooses between war and negotiations. If she selects war, she also chooses how hard to fight. If war occurs, the leader of B, having observed A’s effort level, also chooses how hard to fight. The key finding is that democrats try harder in wartime than do autocrats. As leaders increase their level of effort during war, they increase the probability of victory. A military victory benefits everyone, including members of the winning coalition, the leader and the selectorate.

Yet increased war efforts come at the expense of having fewer resources to provide private goods for supporters. The rate at which increased effort diminishes supporters’ benefits depends upon W. When the winning coalition is small, each member’s share of the resources is high, thus increased war effort drastically reduces the utility of members of the winning coalition. When W is large, each member of the winning coalition receives a small share of the private goods in the first place. Therefore the reduction in supporters’ utility from the channeling of resources into war efforts instead of distributing them as private benefits is small. This means that that the cost of improving the probability of victory increases as the supporting coalition gets smaller. In contrast to the marginal benefit of increased effort (an increase in the probability of victory) which is independent of political institutions, the cost of increased efforts is dependent on them.

The larger a leader’s winning coalition the less important private goods become relative to foreign policy success. Therefore, all else being equal, the larger the winning coalition, the more resources a leader dedicates to the war effort. This leads to the conclusion that democratic leaders, who require large winning coalitions, try harder in wars than do autocrats, who need support from a small coalition to stay in office. Democratic leaders cannot easily compensate for policy failure by doling out private goods and thus need to succeed in foreign policy. They will try harder in wars than autocrats who can compensate for policy failure by providing private benefits to their few key backers. 

What follows form that? First, democracies are less attractive targets than autocracies. Second, democratic leaders, unlike autocratic leaders, are reluctant to pursue wars they do not expect to win, because failed policies may bring political defeat. They will generally attack only if they anticipate victory, and will prefer to negotiate when they do not expect military success. Because autocracies do not try as hard in war, they make attractive targets for democracies. In contrast, two democracies are reluctant to fight each other. Since both try hard, each minimizes the chance that the other will win. Autocrats do not depend upon military victory to keep their job. They prefer winning to losing, but their political survival is a function of satisfying their small group of supporters rather than providing the citizens with successful policies. They are more willing to gamble on war than democrats. Thus democracies and autocracies can fight each other and autocracies can afford to fight each other.

According to the model, democracies’ propensity to try hard makes it difficult to guarantee victory if they fight, and they will therefore seek to avoid a bloody and protracted conflict between them. The exception arises when one party in a democratic dyad is much weaker than the other. In that case, large democracies may attack small ones but the small ones are expected to sue peace rather than fight back. This is because democracies need a high probability of victory in order to fight.
The model also supports the diversionary theory of war, which maintains that leaders who face domestic problems will initiate an international conflict. A democratic leader with failed public policies is unlikely to retain office unless she has an astonishing change in performance. At this point she has an incentive to gamble everything on the outcome of the conflict, since only a successful war may leave her in office. Contrary to the earlier argument, now there is no disadvantage to fighting. If she loses she will be deposed, but she would have been removed anyway. Hence a democratic leader with failed policies is potentially bellicose.

To sum up: Democrats are relatively unattractive targets because domestic reselection pressures cause leaders to mobilize considerable resources for war effort. In addition to trying harder than autocrats, democrats are more selective in choosing targets. Defeat may lead to domestic replacements for democrats, so they only initiate war when they expect to win. Because democracies use their resources for the war effort rather than to reward backers, they are generally able to overwhelm autocracies and to fight relatively short and less costly wars. Yet, democracies find it hard to defeat other democracies which also try hard. Hence, democratic states rarely attack one another.