Research

Emergency Powers in Democracies and International Conflict

Scholars argue that institutions in democracies constrain leaders and prevent international conflict. However, many democracies specify rules of governance in times of emergency that divert substantial power to the head of state. The manipulation of these “emergency powers” provides a rational motivation for conflict. Using a novel dataset of emergency provisions within democracies, I test the relationship between emergency power strength and conflict propensity using several steps to achieve causal inference, including an instrumental variable analysis that exploits the specificity of the state’s constitution as a plausibly exogenous deter- minant of emergency power strength. I find that emergency power strength is a strong predictor of conflict onset in democracies in each test, and find that states with strong emergency powers are substantially more likely to enact a state of emergency due to an international conflict. I conclude with a discussion of my findings and avenues of future research using these data.

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The Origins of Emergency Powers in Democratic States

This article discusses the origins of emergency powers in democratic states. It makes two main contributions. Using data on emergency powers that codifies formal rules of institutional change during periods of emergency for all democracies from 1800 to 2012, the article examines the determinants of emergency power strength in democratic nations cross nationally. I find that previous and current conflict experience influence emergency power provision and strength, but also that domestic determinants have an impact on the types of instruments states institutionalize for times of emergency.

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Emergency Powers and Terror Attacks in Democratic States

Recent terrorist violence has led an increasing number of states worldwide to grant emergency powers to their executive. Scholars have not yet examined whether such strong emergency powers actually influence the probability of future terrorist attacks. I argue that when democratic states grant emergency powers to the executive, it increases rather than decreases the probability of future terrorist violence. Electoral incentives push leaders to take an overly harsh stance in combatting terror that is counterproductive for reducing future terrorist violence. This combines with the leader’s incentive to perpetuate further violence so as to continue to access the extraordinary powers granted to them in times of emergency. Using data on emergency provisions within democracies, I test the relationship between emergency power strength and the probability of terrorist violence. In both the baseline analysis and in an instrumental variable analysis that exploits the specificity of the state’s constitution as a plausibly exogenous determinant of emergency power strength, I find that emergency power strength is a strong predictor of terrorist attacks for democratic states. This effect is stronger and more persistent for foreign terror attacks than for domestic terror events. This paper greatly advances our understanding of the role of both democratic constraints and public preferences in driving or preventing terrorist violence.

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Sources of Leader Support and Interstate Rivalry

Since segments of the selectorate differentially experience costs and benefits from rivalry, the foreign policy choices of leaders reflect these domestic preferences. As a result, shifts in the composition of the domestic coalition of support backing the leader provide a fundamental determinant of rivalry termination. While previous scholars sought to explore the relationship between domestic political turnover and rivalry termination using regime transitions as a proxy for turnover of the state’s domestic ruling group, in practice this measure exhibits significant disconnect with the quantity of interest. Further, there are alternative pathways through which regime transitions may lead to rivalry termination. I test the relationship using new data from the CHISOLS project (Mattes, Leeds & Matsumura 2016), finding that when rivals undergo a change in the source of support that maintains the leader in office, the probability of rivalry termination rises dramatically. I further find that regime transitions have a substantial effect on the probability of rivalry termination that is independent of the effect of ruling coalition turnover. This study thus both asserts the relationship between domestic political turnover and rivalry termination and clarifies the mechanism by which the relationship operates.

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Domestic Uncertainty, Third-Party Resolve, and International Conflict (with Matthew DiLorenzo) Forthcoming, Journal of Peace Research

Uncertainty about resolve is a well-established rationalist explanation for war. In addition to estimating the resolve of immediate rivals, leaders choose their actions in a crisis based on expectations about how third parties will respond. We argue that leaders will become more likely to develop inconsistent estimates of rivals’ relative capabilities and resolve — and thus will become more likely to fight — when domestic political changes occur in states that are allied with an opponent. We also consider how the relationship between conflict in rivalries and third party domestic change depends on domestic political institutions in the third party. We argue that this effect should only hold when a challenger does not also share an alliance with the third party, and that the effect should be strongest when the third party is a non-democratic state. We test our theory using a dataset of changes in leaders’ domestic supporting coalitions and data on militarized interstate disputes from 1920 to 2001. Consistent with our hypotheses, we find that the likelihood of conflict increases in rivalries only when domestic coalition changes occur in states that share an alliance with only one member of a rivalry occur, and that this effect is strongest and most consistent for non-democratic third parties.

Arms Transfers, Alliances, and International Conflict (with Matthew DiLorenzo)

In this article, we build on existing research by further elaborating the conditions under which arms transfers may affect the likelihood of international conflict. We argue that arms transfers send an unclear signal about the ally’s intentions since they may be seen as a substitute for intervention. However, when arms are transferred from a third-party that shares an alliance commitment with both states engaged in crisis bargaining, this helps to clarify the likelihood of intervention because of the level of information shared between all parties. We test this theory using data on alliances, arms transfers, and rivalries. We find that while arms transfers from allies of only one of the rivals increases the probability of a military dispute, when an ally of both rivals sends arms to one side it does not increase the likelihood of conflict and decreases the likelihood of high-hostility conflict.

Please contact me or Matthew DiLorenzo for the latest version of this paper.

Vote Buying by the United States in the United Nations (with Dan Alexander)

A compelling body of scholarship has established a consistent link between a state’s election to a rotating membership on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and increases in the foreign aid that the state receives, especially from the United States (Kuziemko & Werker 2006, Vreeland & Dreher 2014). This literature suggests that these increases serve primarily to procure the support of rotating members on UNSC votes, making the UNSC an ideal context in which to test theories of vote buying. We generate testable hypotheses about the relationship between relative voting congruence with the US and foreign aid received from the US and leverage natural variation resulting from the rotating structure of non-permanent members on the UNSC. The robust, causal relationship we uncover is consistent with the predictions from vote buying theory, which both sheds light on US strategy in the UNSC and calls into question the legitimacy of UNSC decisions.

Please contact me or Dan Alexander for the latest version of this paper.

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