Kevin Lewis

February 04, 2019

Moral Hazard and Financial Crises: Evidence from American Troop Deployments
Michaël Aklin & Andreas Kern
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Do international lenders of last resort create financial instability by generating moral hazard? The evidence is thin and plagued with measurement error. We use the number of American troops hosted by third countries to measure the strength of American commitment to ensuring the countries’ economic health. We test several hypotheses against a dataset covering about sixty-eight countries between 1960 and 2009. Using evidence from fixed-effects and instrumental-variable models, we find that increasing the number of US troops by one standard deviation above the mean raises the probability of a financial crisis in the host country by up to 13 percentage points. We also investigate the channels through which moral hazard materializes. Countries with more US troops conduct more expansionary fiscal and monetary policies, implement riskier financial regulations, and receive more capital, especially from US banks. While many scholars of international relations view the American overseas military presence as a source of stability, we identify an underexplored mechanism by which it generates instability.

The rise of China, balance of power theory and US national security: Reasons for optimism?
Joshua Shifrinson
Journal of Strategic Studies, forthcoming


When and why might a rising China challenge the power and security of a relatively declining United States? Conventional wisdom argues that China – like other rising states – is apt to adopt an increasingly ambitious strategy that imperils US interests as its relative power grows. Drawing on balance of power theory, I instead argue that the threat of Chinese predation is overstated. Rising in a crowded geopolitical neighbourhood, China faces incentives to avoid preying on the United States, and may even have reason to cooperate with the United States over the long term.

Useful ignorance: The benefits of uncertainty during power shifts
Kyle Haynes
International Interactions, forthcoming


This paper develops a formal model exploring how declining states allocate scarce military resources across multiple commitments under uncertainty. The model reveals that under certain conditions, states might actually benefit from their own uncertainty. In the model, a declining state’s uncertainty creates incentives for a revisionist rising power to misrepresent its intentions. But importantly, this misrepresentation requires the rising state to act cooperatively, implementing policies that immediately benefit the declining state. The model reveals how declining states can exploit these incentives in order to maximize the short-term benefits of their counterpart’s cooperation. Under some conditions, the benefits of this deceptive cooperation can outweigh the long-term costs of being deceived. These dynamics do not operate when the declining state is certain of the rising state’s type. I illustrate this logic through a case study of Great Britain’s pre-WWI naval withdrawal from East Asia.

Damaging democracy? Security provision and turnout in Afghan elections
Luke Condra et al.
Economics & Politics, forthcoming


In emerging democracies, elections are encouraged as a route to democratization. However, not only does violence often threaten these elections, but citizens often view as corrupt the security forces deployed to combat violence. We examine the effects of such security provision. In Afghanistan's 2010 parliamentary election, polling centers with similar histories of pre‐election violence unintentionally received different deployments of the Afghan National Police, enabling identification of police's effects on turnout. Using data from the universe of polling sites and various household surveys, data usually unavailable in conflict settings, we estimate increases in police presence decreased voter turnout by an average of 30%. Our results adjudicate between competing theoretical mechanisms through which security forces could affect turnout, and show behavior is not driven by voter anticipation of election‐day violence. This highlights a pitfall for building government legitimacy via elections in weakly institutionalized and conflict‐affected states.

Do Islamic State’s Deadly Attacks Disengage, Deter, or Mobilize Supporters?
Joan Barceló & Elena Labzina
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


What are the consequences of committing violent attacks for terrorist organizations? Terrorist attacks might broaden the base of supporters by increasing the perceived group efficacy. However, terrorist attacks might also lead its supporters to believe that the organization is excessively violent or involvement may become too dangerous. This article employs a unique dataset with 300,842 observations of 13,321 Twitter accounts linked to the Islamic State (IS), collected during a 127-day period, to empirically investigate the impact of terrorist attacks on the number of the organization’s supporters. By exploiting the exogenous timing of terrorist attacks as a natural experiment, we find that the number of followers of IS-related Twitter accounts significantly reduces in the aftermath of the attacks. Additionally, we provide some suggestive evidence to disentangle two mechanisms: disengagement – a change in supporters’ beliefs – and deterrence – demobilization due to fear. Because we do not find support for the latter, we conclude that the disengagement effect might explain our main result.

A Storm on the Horizon? “Twister” and the Implications of the Blockchain and Peer-to-Peer Social Networks for Online Violent Extremism
Gareth Mott
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, forthcoming


“Twister,” developed by Miguel Freitas, is a social network platform centered around micro-blogging, much like Twitter. However, rather than relying on centralized servers owned and maintained by a single firm, Twister users operate a blockchain combined with distributed hash table (DHT)–like and BitTorrent-like protocols to both make posts and send private messages, and also to receive entries from other users. Twister’s raison d’etre is that it offers a social networking platform that cannot be censored and cannot itself censor. The software does not record the Internet Protocol addresses users use to access the service, nor does it notify other users of an account’s online/offline status. Growing adoption of blockchain services means that it is possible that the concept of decentralized social networks could become a norm. It is suggested in this article that blockchain-based peer-to-peer social networks present challenges to the current counterextremist practices for content removal and censorship. While there are methods to disrupt usage of blockchain-based peer-to-peer services, these approaches may have the net harm of curtailing bona fide use of legal and novel technologies. Given this opportunity cost, non-transitory online violent extremist content may need to be tolerated.

Keep the Informants Talking: The Pursuit and Use of CBRN Weapons by Terrorist Organizations
Blake Campbell & Amanda Murdie
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, forthcoming


What factors affect the likelihood that violent nonstate actors pursue and use chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapons? What factors make a country at-risk for a CBRN terrorist attack? We argue that widespread repressive practices, also termed human rights abuses, are especially problematic in the fight to stop the pursuit or use of CBRN weapons. Repression by government forces severs ties between civilians and their government, leading those with knowledge of attacks to refrain from turning over necessary information. We test our argument quantitatively using data from the Big Allied and Dangerous Project and the Global Terrorism Database. Our results highlight how efforts taken to limit the use of repression may be an effective strategy to reduce risks of CBRN terrorism.

Vote-Buying by the United States in the United Nations
Dan Alexander & Bryan Rooney
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Scholars find a clear link between a state's election to a rotating membership on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and increased receipt of foreign aid, especially that provided by the United States. Most researchers view this finding as evidence of Washington's attempts to buy the votes of rotating members of the UNSC. If this is the case then it raises serious concerns about the legitimacy of UNSC decisions. However, while current statistical tests show an association between US foreign aid and holding one of the rotating seats on the UNSC, they do not establish the underlying causal mechanism. We seek to do so by generating theoretically motivated hypotheses about the relationship between relative voting congruence with the United States and the receipt of US foreign aid. Leveraging natural variation from the rotating structure of nonpermanent UNSC members, we uncover a causal relationship consistent with the claim that the United States uses foreign aid to procure support for its positions on the UNSC.

Can Hierarchy Dodge Bullets? Examining Blame Attribution in Military Contracting
Austin Johnson, Nehemia Geva & Kenneth Meier
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


The increased outsourcing of national security endeavors to private military companies (PMCs) raises questions concerning public evaluations of their performance and the extent to which government officials are held accountable. We use a survey experiment to test public blame attribution associated with a failed military operation that was conducted by either regular or private military personnel. Our findings suggest that there are multiple mediating pathways in the process of attributing blame in foreign policy. Furthermore, our findings suggest that contracting out military functions to a PMC can damage perceptions of performance, perhaps increasing blame attribution by the public. These impacts on the attribution of blame suggest that PMCs are viewed as inferior service providers by the mass public and politicians will be held accountable, directly or indirectly. Implications from our study add to the discussion on the outsourcing of military capacities which are rapidly expanding in the Western world.

Dispute Resolution Institutions and Strategic Militarization
Adam Meirowitz et al.
Journal of Political Economy, February 2019, Pages 378-418


Engagement in a destructive war can be understood as the “punishment” for entering into a dispute. Institutions that reduce the chance that disputes lead to war make this punishment less severe. This may incentivize hawkish policies like militarization and potentially offset the benefits of peace brokering. We study a model in which unmediated peace talks are effective at improving the peace chance for given militarization but lead to more militarization and ultimately to a higher incidence of war. Instead, a form of third-party mediation inspired by work of Myerson effectively brokers peace in emerged disputes and also minimizes equilibrium militarization.

Historical Contingencies in The Evolution of States and Their Militaries
Jonathan Bendor & Jacob Shapiro
World Politics, January 2019, Pages 126-161


Historians and some scholars of international relations have long argued that historical contingencies play a critical role in the evolution of the international system, but have not explained whether they do so to a greater extent than in other domains or why such differences may exist. The authors address these lacunae by identifying stable differences between war and other policy domains that render the evolution of the international system more subject to chance events than those other domains. The selection environment of international politics has produced tightly integrated organizations (militaries) as the domain’s key players to a much greater degree than other policy domains. Because there are few players, no law of large numbers holds, and because militaries are tightly integrated, microshocks can reverberate up to macro-organizational levels. The anarchic character of the international system amplifies the impact of these shocks. The authors explore these phenomena in a range of historical examples.

Nowhere to go? Why do some civil wars generate more refugees than others?
Oguzhan Turkoglu & Thomas Chadefaux
International Interactions, forthcoming


Civil wars greatly vary in the number of refugees they generate, ranging from zero to over six millions in a given conflict. Work on this variation has largely focused on “push” factors – deleterious attributes of the home country that lead to refugee flows, such as violence and repression. Yet, few have studied the importance of “pull” factors – attractive features of the potential host countries. Here we show in particular the importance of the expected quality of life in possible destinations. Using data on civil wars from 1951 to 2008, we find that the proximity of democratic and wealthy potential hosts accounts for much of the variation in the number of refugees. Out-of-sample validation methods show that these “pull” factors account for nearly as much predictive power as all the main variables previously identified in the literature combined.

Effective Counter‐Terrorism: Rockets, Iron Dome, and the Israeli Housing Market
Yael Elster, Asaf Zussman & Noam Zussman
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, forthcoming


How effective is counter‐terrorism and what are the underlying mechanisms? Relying on a unique experiment and detailed micro data from Israel, we show that the deployment of the Iron Dome anti‐rocket system mitigated the negative effect of rocket attacks on house prices and lowered the price premium associated with in‐house shelters. Analysis of surveys and data on purchases of anti‐anxiety drugs yields evidence consistent with a psychological mechanism: by reducing the negative effects on daily routine, subjective well‐being, and psychological distress, Iron Dome lowered the disamenity associated with living under the shadow of the rocket threat.

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