The big picture
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The Big Picture. PLSC 379r Lecture 6. Setting the Stage. Two actors, A and D Can’t agree on how to split some issue States don’t want to fight. Why? However, each actor is thinking strategically, and that can get them into trouble. Onset of Violent Conflict.

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The Big Picture

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The big picture

The Big Picture

PLSC 379r

Lecture 6


Setting the stage

Setting the Stage

  • Two actors, A and D

  • Can’t agree on how to split some issue

  • States don’t want to fight. Why?

  • However, each actor is thinking strategically, and that can get them into trouble


Onset of violent conflict

Onset of Violent Conflict

  • A violent bargaining match should occur when one of two things happens

    • One or both sides over-estimates their own strength or under-estimates the opponents

    • One side believes a conflict is inevitable, and it has a “window of opportunity”


Guessing types

Guessing Types

  • A wants something from D

  • A has a belief about D’s type

    • Strong

    • Weak

    • Resolved

    • Unresolved

  • A “knows” its own type

  • If A is unresolved, will it likely make a threat? Will it under any conditions?

  • A will balance 1)issue importance, 2) p(win), and 3) e(costs)

  • A is most likey to make a demand (and be resolved) when it believes that its share of the benefits are not about equal with its power


Watching signals

Watching Signals

  • D observes A make a first move and therefore has a clue about A’s type

  • If A makes a demand, what does D “know”

  • A uses everything it can to signal resolve

    • Domestic institutions

      • Democracies constrain

      • Democracies inform

  • D now “knows” that if it rejects A’s demand a costly conflict will occur

  • D will choose war when it believes that its share of the benefits are not about equal with its power

  • However, when D chooses war, what does that signal to A?


Choosing war

Choosing War

  • If both sides believe their share of the benefits is not about equal to their share of the power, then someone is likely wrong

  • The purpose of fighting is to reveal the “true” balance of power between A and D so the balance of benefits can be set to match


The shape of war

The Shape of War

  • A is not unreasonable. The demand it made initially will be one that a weak type should accept

  • If the course of the battle suggests that D is indeed a weak type, A will continue to fight

    • A became less optimistic when D chose war

    • Losses cause A to become less optimistic, while wins cause her to be more optimistic

  • As fighting continues, A and D update their expectations about 1) p(win) and 2 e(costs), and adjust demands and concessions accordingly


A bargain is reached

A Bargain is Reached!

  • War ceases when A and D can agree on a split of the benefits that BOTH prefer to continued fighting


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