• Earlier: perhaps war is in our genes?
  • Today: could two rational, unitary actors fight?
    • The rationalist puzzle of war
    • Three mechanisms for war
    • Credible threats

Today's puzzle

Why are sanctions typically unsuccessful in producing compliance with demands (substantial concessions by target only in 20-30% of cases)?

The Rationalist Puzzle of War

The Puzzle

  • War is an inefficient way of settling disputes. War always appears inefficient ex post.
  • Why, then, does it recur? I.e., why does it not always seem inefficient ex ante?
  • Why would two rational actors fight?

Explanation 1: Anarchy

  • Waltz: "In the absence of a supreme authority there is then the constant possibility that conflicts will be settled by force" (1959, p. 188).
  • But if using force is a costly option, why is it ever used? I.e., how does the lack of a central authority prevent states from negotiating agreements both sides would prefer to fighting?

Explanation 2: Preventive war

  • A decline in power would lead the declining power to attack now
  • Typical story: uncertainty about future motivations

Explanation 3: Positive expected utility

  • But again, this does not address the problem!
  • The question is: when will there be bargains that both prefer to war? I.e., can both states have a positive expected utility?

Why States might fail to find the ex ante agreement?

1. Indivisibilities: the problem

e.g., Jerusalem

Indivisibilities: solutions

2. Commitment Problems

J.W. Waterhouse: "Ulysses and the Sirens"

Commitment problems: Solutions

  • Trust-building
  • Withdraw troops from border
  • Negotiate disarmament
    • E.g. Washington naval treaty
  • Compensation
    • E.g. partition of Poland

3. Private Information and Incentives to Misrepresent

4. Private Information and Incentives to Misrepresent: Solutions

  • Intelligence
  • Mediation
  • Costly signals

A major problem is that the states' messages are cheap talk. I.e., they convey no information

Credible Threats

A Simple Game