Top Guns

Kevin Lewis

January 19, 2022

International Status Concerns and Domestic Support for Political Leaders
Ryan Powers & Jonathan Renshon
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

We study how international status concerns among the public affect support for political leaders, arguing that because status competition is pervasive in social life and because international status competition entails high-profile displays of scientific or martial savvy, the public is likely to be attuned to the status implications of foreign policy crises. We test this argument in seven survey experiments across four issue areas. The results show that adverse outcomes in world affairs increase expectations of international status loss and, through that mechanism, reduce presidential approval. Analysis of open-ended survey responses reveals that the public views international status in much the same way that international relations scholars do: it is multidimensional, positional, and instrumentally useful. Taken together, our results suggest that the public's international status concerns have significant implications for leaders and offer new insight into how the public parses the implications of events abroad.

The Real Military Balance: International Comparisons of Defense Spending
Peter Robertson
Review of Income and Wealth, forthcoming

International comparisons of military spending are necessary for monitoring security risks, assessing defense capabilities, and planning defense budgets. Nevertheless, conventional comparisons do not allow for differences in defense sector input prices across countries. I use defense sector budget data to construct a database of military purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates for 59 countries. Real military spending in many countries, including Russia and China, is found to significantly exceed conventional estimates based on market exchange rates and GDP-PPP exchange rates. Similarly, the US share of world military spending is substantially diminished. 

Political Instability and the Failure of Deterrence
Livio Di Lonardo & Scott Tyson
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

To study the conceptual foundations of deterrence, we develop a model of an international crisis between a country seeking to maintain a peaceful status quo (Defender), and a potential aggressor (Attacker). Attacker’s leader is politically insecure and may be unseated by domestic elites. Leaders and elites can each be hawkish, benefiting from conflict, or dovish and prefer peace. We show that the ability to maintain peace through deterrence crucially depends on ideological cohesiveness within Attacker countries. When there is ideological disagreement, we identify two novel mechanisms that cause the conventional logic of deterrence to fail. First, political instability breaks the link between a leader’s aggressive actions and Defender’s retaliatory response. Second, political instability creates a commitment problem leading doves to initiate crises to quell domestic conflicts. Asymmetric information exacerbates these problems so severely that Defender is better off committing to complete inaction. 

Can External Threats Foster a European Union Identity? Evidence from Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine
Kai Gehring
Economic Journal, forthcoming

Can external threats strengthen group identity? A growing body of research in economics emphasises the importance of cultural attributes such as identity for trust and cooperation. However, where these attributes come from is not well understood. This paper examines reactions to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2014, looking at European Union member states. Comparing low-threat to high-threat states in a difference-in-differences design, I find a sizeable and persistent positive effect on EU identity. It is associated with higher trust in EU institutions and support for common policies. Lower-level identities remain unaffected, and proximity to Russia and Russian minority size are driving high-threat status. 

When Deterrence Backfires: House Demolitions, Palestinian Radicalization, and Israeli Fatalities
Michael Freedman & Esteban Klor
MIT Working Paper, November 2021

Conflict points around the world involve government forces fighting terrorist groups. In this type of warfare, there is a danger that counterterrorist efforts may backfire, providing ammunition for additional cycles of violence. We study this issue focusing on selective and indiscriminate house demolitions employed by Israel during the Second Intifada. We exploit the temporal and spatial variation of this policy to assess its impact on Palestinians’ political views. We find that the civilian population does not react to punitive house demolitions, a selective form of counterterrorism. On the contrary, Palestinians are more likely to adopt more radical political opinions in response to precautionary house demolitions, an indiscriminate form of counterterrorism. We also show that political radicalization induced by indiscriminate counterterrorism leads to an increase in future terror attacks. Overall, our analysis provides explicit empirical support to the mechanism behind the positive correlation between indiscriminate counterterrorism and future levels of violence. 

“I Will Bless Those Who Bless You”: Evangelicalism and Support for Israel in Latin America
Tom Ziv
Politics and Religion, forthcoming

The relations of the Evangelical movement and Israel have drawn the attention of many scholars of religion, public opinion, and political science in the last two decades. This study examines the influence of Evangelicals on their country's policy toward Israel. I conduct the first quantitative, cross-national research, investigating the links between the size of the Evangelical population of a country and its support for Israel. Analyzing 198 UN General Assembly votes of 18 Latin American countries from 2009 to 2019, my results show that as the Evangelical population in a country grows, so does its support for Israel. Unpredictably, I also find that a state of armed conflict between Israel and the Palestinians does not decrease the support for Israel. 

The ONA Network and the Transnationalization of Neo-Nazi-Satanism
Ariel Koch
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, forthcoming 

This article focuses on the Order of the Nine Angles (ONA), which from a fringe group of the British far-right in the 1970s has evolved a violent philosophy and a loose and leaderless network of individuals and groups that merge National Socialism and Satanism; endorses tyrants, cult leaders, non-NS terrorists, and child-abusers; promotes violence, celebrates death, and advocates for real-life actions. The article will analyze the connection between ONA’s philosophy and the development of what can be called Fused Extremism. This phenomenon manifests itself in groups that merge different types of violent extremism and have crystallized through the Internet into a trans-national, leaderless, decentralized, and subversive network that promotes terrorism and violence. 

Untying Hands: De-escalation, Reputation, and Dynamic Audience Costs
Kai Quek
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming

Two states in a dispute refuse to back down. One ties its own hands to strengthen its stand and gain advantage; the other tries to untie the tied hands to preempt disadvantage. Tying hands is a well-studied strategy, but it tells only part of the story, and the response strategy of untying hands remains unexplored. Can a state untie the tied hands of its opponent to give freedom back to its opponent—the freedom to concede? I identify three strategies of untying hands: counterthreat, reassurance, and normative framing. I show experimentally that these strategies can reduce the public costs of backing down and the perceived reputational damage from backing down. Tied hands and audience costs are not static and immutable, but dynamic and malleable by the other side. 

Risk preferences, uncertainty, and war
Ahmer Tarar
International Interactions, forthcoming

In the game-theoretic literature on international conflict, risk-acceptance leads to war if it is severe enough to eliminate the bargaining range, in which case war occurs even under complete information. I analyze the effect of varying risk-propensities in incomplete-information crisis bargaining. In this setting, an additional lottery (beyond just the war lottery) is involved due to the proposer’s uncertainty about whether the proposal will be accepted. This has the effect that even small increases in either side’s willingness to take risks increase the probability of war, as opposed to the all-or-nothing, eliminating-the-bargaining-range mechanism. This result holds regardless of whether either side is risk-averse or risk-acceptant on the whole, and even if no bargaining range is being eliminated. I also show that uncertainty about the opponent’s risk-propensity can lead to war via a standard risk-return tradeoff, which is another way that risk-preferences can affect war and peace.

The Colonial Origins of Modern Territoriality: Property Surveying in the Thirteen Colonies
Kerry Goettlich
American Political Science Review, forthcoming

Most scholars agree the rise of states led to modern territoriality. Yet globally the transition to precise boundaries occurred most often in colonies, and there are virtually no systematic explanations of its occurrence outside Europe. This article explains how precise boundaries emerged in the earliest context where they were regularly and generally implemented: seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial North America. Unlike explanations of modern territoriality in Europe, it argues property boundary surveys became an entrenched practice on the part of settlers and were a readily available response to intercolonial boundary disputes. After independence, settlers who were accustomed to surveys pursued linear boundaries with Britain, Spain, and Russia. Moreover, the article argues that linear borders (delimited linearly and typically physically demarcated), not sovereignty, are constitutive of modern territoriality. By disentangling the literature’s Eurocentric confusion between modern territoriality and sovereign statehood, the article makes possible a global comparative study of the emergence of modern territoriality. 

The Two Faces of Opposition to Chemical Weapons: Sincere Versus Insincere Norm-Holders
Christopher Blair, Jonathan Chu & Joshua Schwartz
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

Prominent research holds that the use of weapons of mass destruction is taboo. But how strong are these norms? Investigating this question among the mass public, we argue that some citizens actually support taboo policies in private but are unwilling to express counter-normative opinions openly due to fear of social sanction. These insincere norm-holders are difficult to identify empirically because they are observationally equivalent to sincere norm-holders in direct-question surveys. To overcome this challenge, we use a list design, which allows survey respondents to indirectly express sensitive opinions. The results from three list experiments show that between 10% and 17% of Americans falsify their preferences over chemical weapons use when asked directly. In an extension, we explore our framework in the realm of nuclear weapons and elite behavior. Our findings advance a specific debate on the strength of weapons taboos, while our conceptualization of insincere norm-holders and methodological application have broader implications for how scholars might think about and measure norms in international politics. 

A shape-based approach to conflict forecasting
Thomas Chadefaux
International Interactions, forthcoming

Do conflict processes exhibit repeating patterns over time? And if so, can we exploit the recurring shapes and structures of the time series to forecast the evolution of conflict? Theory has long focused on the sequence of events that precedes conflicts (e.g., escalation or brinkmanship). Yet, current empirical research is unable to represent these complex interactions unfolding over time because it attempts to match cases on the raw value of covariates, and not on their structure or shape. As a result, it cannot easily represent real-world relations which may, for example, follow a long alternation of escalation and détente, in various orders and at various speeds. Here, I aim to address these issues using recent machine-learning methods derived from pattern recognition in time series to study the dynamics of casualties in civil war processes. I find that the methods perform well on out-of-sample forecasts of the count of the number of fatalities per month from state-based conflict. In particular, our results yield Mean Squared Errors that are lower than the competition benchmark. We discuss the implication for conflict research and the importance of comparing entire sequences rather than isolated observations in time. 

Peacekeeping and the Enforcement of Intergroup Cooperation: Evidence from Mali
William Nomikos
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Despite the abundance of evidence that peacekeeping works, we know little about what actually makes peacekeepers effective. Recent work suggesting that local agendas are central to modern conflicts make this omission particularly problematic. The article demonstrates that the presence of peacekeepers makes individuals more optimistic about the risks of engagement and the likelihood that members of out-groups will reciprocate cooperation. I use data from a lab-in-the-field experiment conducted in Mali, a West African country with an active conflict managed by troops from France and the United Nations (UN), to show that UN peacekeepers increase the willingness of individuals to cooperate relative to control and French enforcers. Moreover, I find that UN peacekeepers are especially effective among those participants who hold other groups and institutions in low esteem, as well as those who have more frequent contact with peacekeepers. Follow-up interviews and surveys suggest that perceptions of the UN as unbiased rather than other mechanisms account for its effectiveness. 

Does female ratio balancing influence the efficacy of peacekeeping units? Exploring the impact of female peacekeepers on post-conflict outcomes and behavior
Neil Narang & Yanjun Liu
International Interactions, forthcoming

The UN has intensified efforts to recruit female peacekeepers for peacekeeping missions. From 2006 to 2014, the number of female military personnel in UN peacekeeping missions nearly tripled. The theory driving female recruitment is that female peacekeepers employ distinctive skills that make units more effective along a variety of dimensions. Yet skeptics argue that deeper studies are needed. This paper explores the theoretical mechanisms through which female military personnel are thought to increase the effectiveness of peacekeeping units. Using new data, we document variation in female participation across missions over time, and we explore the impact of female ratio balancing on various conflict outcomes, including the level of female representation in post-conflict political institutions, the prevalence of sexual violence in armed conflict, and the durability of peace. We find evidence that a greater proportion of female personnel is systematically associated with greater implementation of women’s rights provisions and a greater willingness to report rape, and we find no evidence of negative consequences for the risk of conflict recurrence. We conclude that the inclusion of more female peacekeepers in UN peacekeeping does not reduce the ability to realize mission goals.


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