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 a conflict. I conclude with a discussion of my findings and avenues of research to study using these data.

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The Content, Causes, and Measurement of Emergency Powers in Democratic States

This article discusses the content and causes of emergency powers in democratic states. It makes two main contributions. First, it introduces the Democratic Emergency Powers (DEP) Dataset, which codifies formal rules of institutional change during periods of emergency for all democracies from 1800 to 2012. These data are important because often state institutions in times of emergency differ dramatically from those in times of relative calm, and this influences government decision-making during times of crisis. I discuss the collection process and develop a measure of the latent strength in each of these emergency provisions. I compare the results with Polity scores, and find virtually no relationship. Second, this 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 do- mestic determinants have an impact on the types of instruments states institutionalize for times of emergency.

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Terror Attacks, States of Emergency, and Executive Discretion in Democratic States

In this paper I examine the relationship between executive constraints and the frequency of terrorist attacks against democratic states. Whereas previous studies examine constraints on the executive using static institutions, I exploit a new data set on emergency power strength and declared states of emergency in democracies to capture within-country variation in executive constraints. I find that when states with strong emergency powers experience a state of emergency, this reduction in executive constraints has differential effects for transnational and domestic terrorism. While the frequency of transnational terror attacks rises in the wake of states of emergencies under strong executive control, domestic terror attacks become less likely. I argue that this results from differential preferences in the public over the magnitude of the response. This paper greatly advances our understanding of the role of democratic political institutions in driving or preventing terrorist violence.

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The Haves and the Have Nots: Sources of Leader Support and Interstate Rivalry

In this paper I argue that segments of the selectorate differentially experience costs and benefits from rivalry and that 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 Forthcoming), 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.

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Domestic Uncertainty, Third-Party Resolve, and International Conflict (with Matthew DiLorenzo)

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 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 an autocracy. We test and find support for this theory using a dataset of changes in leaders’ domestic supporting coalitions and data on militarized interstate disputes from 1920 to 2001.

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

A number of studies consider how arms transfers affect the likelihood of international conflict. In this paper we build on existing research by further elaborating the conditions under which arms transfers may be associated with conflict. We argue that uncertainty associated with arms transfers may increase the risk of bargaining failure, but that the nature of the relationship between a set of rivals and a third-party arms supplier conditions the relationship between arms transfers and international conflict. Arms transfers send an unclear signal about the ally’s intentions when seen 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 uncertainty is mitigated because information is shared between all three parties, helping to clarify the likelihood of intervention. 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.

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