Dispute Resolution Institutions and Strategic Militarization
A central question in political science is how to best manage information asymmetries and commitment problems when disputes arise between states or nations. We argue that common framings of this problem miss an important feature: the institutions determining how disputes are resolved shape the incentives for nations to enter disputes. Because war can be sometimes understood as the down-side risk from entering a dispute, institutions that reduce the chances of war-fighting may induce perverse incentives to enter into disputes and militarize. We develop a simple crisis model that captures both the militarization decisions and bargaining behavior. We examine how features like direct communication and third-party involvement alter the incentives. Seemingly effective institutions that improve the chance of peace for a given distribution of military strength, can actually lower the chance of peace once one accounts for distortions to militarization decisions. To illustrate the value of this broader perspective we show how a form of intervention by a mediator concerned only with resolving the current crisis, turns out to create optimal militarization and bargaining incentives.
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