Kevin Lewis

July 01, 2020

The Retreat of the West
Peter Trubowitz & Brian Burgoon
Perspectives on Politics, forthcoming


The West is turning inward. Donald Trump’s presidency, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and the spread of populist parties in Europe are the most visible signs of this retreat. The shift is not as recent as these examples suggest, however. Drawing on an array of cross-national data for twenty-four industrialized democracies and hundreds of political parties in those democracies, we show that domestic support for liberal internationalism has been receding for twenty-five years across the West. We show that since the end of the Cold War a large and widening gap has opened up between Western democracies’ international ambitions and their domestic political capacity to support them. As Western governments came to rely increasingly on economic globalization, institutionalized cooperation, and multilateral governance, mainstream parties that backed these efforts lost electoral ground to parties on the radical-left and increasingly, the anti-globalist radical-right that have been the vehicles of the current backlash. We discuss the implications of these trends for the Western liberal international order and the strategies now on offer to repair it.

Do Women Make More Credible Threats? Gender Stereotypes, Audience Costs, and Crisis Bargaining
Joshua Schwartz & Christopher Blair
International Organization, forthcoming


As more women attain executive office, it is important to understand how gender dynamics affect international politics. Toward this end, we present the first evidence that gender stereotypes affect leaders’ abilities to generate audience costs. Using survey experiments, we show that female leaders have political incentives to combat gender stereotypes that women are weak by acting “tough” during international military crises. Most prominently, we find evidence that female leaders, and male leaders facing female opponents, pay greater inconsistency costs for backing down from threats than male leaders do against fellow men. These findings point to particular advantages and disadvantages women have in international crises. Namely, female leaders are better able to tie hands - an efficient mechanism for establishing credibility in crises. However, this bargaining advantage means female leaders will also have a harder time backing down from threats. Our findings have critical implications for debates over the effects of greater gender equality in executive offices worldwide.

Hassling: How States Prevent a Preventive War
Peter Schram
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Low‐level military operations outside of war are pervasive in the international system. These activities have been viewed as destabilizing by both academics and policy makers, as miscalculations or missteps in conducting low‐level operations can risk escalation to war. I show the opposite can be true: these operations can prevent escalation to a greater war. I examine a type of low‐level conflict that I call “hassling” in the common framework of bargaining and war. The critical feature of hassling is that it weakens a targeted state. I find that when a rising power rules out peaceful bargains, hassling the rising power can prevent a preventive war, with efficiency gains for the involved states. This intuition is formalized in a dynamic model of conflict and is explored through examinations of Israel's Operation Outside the Box (2007), the United States' involvement in Iraq (1991-2003), and Russia's operations in Ukraine (beginning in 2014).

Too Late to Apologize? Collateral Damage, Post-Harm Compensation, and Insurgent Violence in Iraq
Daniel Silverman
International Organization, forthcoming


A key piece of conventional wisdom among scholars of modern armed conflict is that collateral damage is often strategically costly in war. Yet most combatants already know this and take actions after mistakes - most prominently, the distribution of “condolence payments” to civilian victims - in order to mitigate these costs. Do these payments work? This question is important not only for policymakers but also for deeper theoretical debates about how civilians respond to combatant signals in war. To examine these issues, I use micro-level conflict event data on 4,046 condolence payments made by Coalition forces to civilian victims during the Iraq War from 2004 to 2008, matching it with corresponding data on collateral damage and insurgent violence. The results of this analysis reveal that post-harm compensation does significantly diminish local rates of insurgent violence, and that this is true across different types of payments (cash handouts or in-kind assistance). Ultimately, these patterns can be best explained by a rationalist mechanism in which civilians update their beliefs about violent events based on new information about combatants’ wartime intentions. The results thus provide a compelling strategic rationale for combatants to compensate their victims in war, and suggest that civilians are not blinded to new information about conflict dynamics by their preexisting biases.

Bread Before Guns or Butter: Introducing Surplus Domestic Product (SDP)
Therese Anders, Christopher Fariss & Jonathan Markowitz
International Studies Quarterly, June 2020, Pages 392-405


Scholars systematically mismeasure power resources and military burdens by using gross domestic product (GDP) as a proxy for the income states can devote to arming. The core problem is that GDP confounds two conceptually distinct forms of income into one additive indicator. Subsistence income represents resources needed to provide the “bread” necessary to cover the basic subsistence needs of the population. Surplus income represents the remaining resources that could be allocated to “guns” or “butter.” Our new measure of surplus domestic product (SDP) corrects for this measurement error by decomposing subsistence income and surplus income from total GDP. Validation exercises demonstrate that SDP outperforms GDP at measuring the distribution of power resources. Though theoretically we expect states’ decisions to arm are influenced by the distribution of power; empirical models using GDP find mixed support for this expectation. Strikingly, using SDP reveals strong support for this proposition.

NATO enlargement: Evaluating its consequences in Russia
Kimberly Marten
International Politics, June 2020, Pages 401-426


It is often claimed that NATO’s post-Cold War geographic enlargement threatened Russian security interests and caused the downturn in Russia’s relations with the West. This article unpacks and challenges that causal claim, making three basic arguments. First, NATO enlargement made the alliance weaker. Russia knew this and did not react militarily to any perceived threat from Europe until after it seized Crimea in 2014. Second, the downturn in Russia’s relationship with the West was overdetermined and most likely caused by Russia’s reaction to its own declining influence in the world. While NATO’s geographic enlargement aggravated this situation, it was probably not the most significant causal factor. Third, while Russia certainly reacted negatively to NATO enlargement right from the start, the reaction was manipulated and magnified by both the nationalist opposition, and Vladimir Putin’s regime, to serve domestic political interests.

State Visits and Leader Survival
Matt Malis & Alastair Smith
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Why do political leaders travel abroad? In this article, we propose an informational mechanism linking in‐person diplomacy to leader survival. A foreign power visits an incumbent in order to reap a future policy concession; the visit is only worth the effort if the incumbent remains in power long enough to deliver on the deal. A diplomatic visit thus provides a visible and credible signal of the visitor's high confidence in the incumbent's stability in office. Domestic opponents, facing incomplete information as to the incumbent's strength, observe the signal and are deterred from mounting a challenge. Using data on U.S. diplomatic visits from 1960 to 2013, we find strong empirical support for our predictions: A visit with the U.S. president substantially reduces the risk of a leader's removal from office.

Post-9/11 War Deployments Increased Crime among Veterans
Resul Cesur, Joseph Sabia & Erdal Tekin
NBER Working Paper, May 2020


Several high-profile news stories have linked post-September 11 (9/11) combat service to violent crime among veterans. Nevertheless, there is scant causal evidence for this claim. We exploit the administrative procedures by which U.S. Armed Forces senior commanders conditionally randomly assign active duty servicemen to overseas deployments to estimate the causal impact of modern warfare on crime. Using data from two national surveys and a unified framework, we find consistent evidence that post-9/11 combat service substantially increased the probability of crime commission among veterans. Combat increases the likelihood of property and violent crime, arrest, gang membership, trouble with police, and punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that post-9/11 combat exposure generated approximately $26.7 billion in additional crime costs. Finally, we document descriptive evidence that Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be important mechanisms to explain post-9/11 combat-induced increases in crime.

Poking fun at heroes: American war and the death of the military comedy
Andrew Sparks
Media, War & Conflict, forthcoming


Since the attacks of September 11 2001, there has been a marked decline in the number of military comedy films in American cinema. Films like Buffalo Soldiers, a film made prior to September 11 but released in 2003, show how this change first started. Whereas, prior to 2001, military comedies were generally accepted and even profitable, after 2001 the genre effectively disappeared and still to this day has not re-emerged despite military non-comedy films making a clear resurgence after 2008. In this article, the author explores how and why military comedies have declined over time by making comparisons of how popular both military comedy and non-comedy films were in prior periods and today. The purpose of this is to show how the decline of military comedies since 2001 is a symptom of a greater political trend within American political development, specifically the civil-military divide. As this divide has grown in the post-military draft period in the United States, an event like September 11 seems to have ruptured the general acceptability of laughing at the military, which remains improper in cinema to this day. Finally, he examines some of the political consequences of this lack of laughter at the military within the greater political and film studies literature, which include growing tacit support for the military and how the narratives within some of these films leave little room for American civilians to comedically view the military that defends them.

Private military and security companies, corporate structure, and levels of violence in Iraq
Benjamin Tkach
International Interactions, June 2020, Pages 499-525


This article analyzes the effect of private military and security companies (PMSCs) on levels of civilian casualties in Iraqi governorates from 2004 to 2007. Within a principal-agent framework, we argue that the capacity to monitor and evaluate PMSC performance is conditioned by the availability of performance-related information. Crucially, PMSC corporate structure impacts the information available to the employer. Differences in PMSCs’ corporate structure (e.g., whether a firm is publicly traded or closed ownership) influences the disclosure of different levels of information about a firm’s performance. A closed ownership PMSC is opaque, obstructing access to information. Publicly traded PMSCs, by contrast, have legal obligations to release information on corporate performance, policies, and contracts. Closed ownership PMSCs are correlated with increases in the likelihood of civilian casualties while publicly traded PMSCs have no effect on civilian casualties.

When Prospective Leader Turnover Promotes Peace
Robert Schub
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Scholars typically associate leader turnover with a high risk of military conflict. This article shows that under some conditions, a higher likelihood of leader turnover in the future fosters peace today. When states take costly peaceful measures (e.g., arming to deter adversaries), the range of settlements preferable to war shrinks and the risk of conflict rises. If peace costs are onerous, potential leader turnover in adversaries promotes peace by introducing uncertainty about the future need for and costs of deterrent measures. When locked in a costly peace with minimal chance of leader turnover in the adversary, states attack. When locked in that same costly peace but with high prospects for leader turnover, states endure an unfavorable peace today given the potential for a favorable one tomorrow. Asymmetric consequences of future shifts in peace costs ensure the relationship holds even if costs do not change in expectation and could rise. Quantitative analyses of the prospects for future leader turnover, military spending, and war initiation among rivals accord with the hypothesized relationships. In theory and practice, expectations of leadership volatility make it prudent to exercise peaceful forbearance.

African Solutions to African Challenges: The Role of Legitimacy in Mediating Civil Wars in Africa
Allard Duursma
International Organization, Spring 2020, Pages 295-330


The current scholarly literature on the international mediation of civil wars draws predominantly on a rationalist-materialist perspective. This perspective suggests that the ticket to mediation success is the material manipulation of the bargaining environment by third parties with a high degree of economic and military resources. I argue that legitimacy also determines outcomes of mediation because if a mediator has legitimacy, it can continue to look for a mutually satisfactory outcome and try to pull the conflict parties toward compliance. I show that legitimacy matters by systematically comparing the effectiveness of African and non-African third parties. African third parties are typically considered ineffective because of a low degree of economic and military capacity. However, they effectively mediate civil wars in Africa because of a high degree of legitimacy, which is a result of a strong conviction within the African society of states that African mediation is the most desirable type in conflicts there. Drawing on data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program supplemented with unique data, which together cover all mediation efforts in Africa between 1960 and 2017, I find quantitative evidence supporting the effectiveness of African third parties. Compared to non-African ones, African third parties are far more likely to conclude negotiated settlements that are more likely to be durable. African third parties are especially effective if the conflict parties are highly committed to the African solutions norm. Theoretically, this study deviates from much of the literature that puts forward solely rationalist-materialist explanations of mediation success. By bringing legitimacy to the forefront, this article supplements the current mediation literature that emphasizes material sources of power and ignores social structures.

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