When will states talk? Predicting the initiation of conflict management in interstate crises

Date

2006-10-30

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Texas A&M University

Abstract

This research addresses the question of why some crises between states are resolved through negotiated agreements while others result in continued conflict or escalate to war. The model deviates from previous approaches to the study of conflict management in four key ways: 1) management is treated as a conflict strategy rather than an outcome; 2) costs, rather than calculation of the relative benefits of conflict over management, motivate the initiation of conflict management; 3) the conceptualization of costs is broadened to incorporate subjective factors; and 4) issue salience is proposed to determine the threshold at which an actor??????s preference for conflict over management changes. The central question this conceptualization raises, therefore, is what factors influence actors?????? strategy choices during a crisis. The theory proposes that, when it comes to the initiation of conflict management, it is costs that dominate the decision process. Or as Jackman (1993) so succinctly puts it; ??????for those confronted with a very restricted range of available alternatives extending from horrendous to merely awful, minimizing pain is the same as maximizing utility??????. Both experimental and statistical methodologies are used to test the hypotheses derived from the theory. Original experimental data were collected from experiments run on undergraduate students at Texas A&M University. For the statistical analysis a data set of interstate crises and negotiation behavior was compiled using data from the SHERFACS and International Crisis Behavior data sets and data collected specifically for this research. This multi-method approach was chosen because of the nature of the questions being examined and in order to minimize the limitations of the individual methodologies. The experimental tests demonstrate that the expectations of the model are supported in the controlled environment of the experiment. The results from the empirical analysis were, within the restrictions of the data, consistent with both theoretical expectations and the experimental results.

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