Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Regime Type and the Persistence of Costly Small Wars
by Nelson, Bradley N., Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2008, 352; 10631330
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation attempts to answer the following questions: Why do powerful democracies repeatedly fail to cut their losses in costly small wars? And why have democracies exhibited such behavior more often than nondemocracies? Thus, this dissertation links regime type with the tendency of powerful states to persist in costly small wars.

I argue that a two-step model, linking the incentives of political coalitions, existing institutional constraints, and war policy, explains the variation in behavior between democracies and nondemocracies in small wars. Within the model, there are five variables–three types of coalition incentives (the type and probability of domestic punishment, elite time horizons, and the role of war propaganda) and two domestic institutional constraints (the number of veto players and the pace of policy change). I hypothesize that the first three variables can push democratic political coalitions toward a dominant incentive to continue their investment in costly small wars. And the two institutional constraints at times act as safety locks on the foreign policy process, making it doubly difficult for democracies to cut their losses.

The empirical section of this dissertation consists of four case studies: French-Indochina War, Iraqi Revolt of 1920, Soviet-Afghan War, and Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. Two cases examine powerful states persisting in a costly, protracted small war, and two cases investigate powerful states cutting their losses in asymmetrical conflicts. The cases are used to determine whether my model of domestic politics accounts for the variation in state behavior in small wars. As such, I process trace the events and processes that contributed to various outcomes in each case. The four case analyses provide considerable support for the two-step model. I consider the model as “strongly passing” empirical tests in three of the cases (Indochina War, Soviet-Afghan War, and Sino-Vietnamese War), and “weakly passing” the remaining case (Iraqi Revolt of 1920).

My research offers sixteen timely, pertinent implications for academic scholarship and real world foreign policymaking. These implications directly target the two-step model, the three alternative explanations of this study, as well as several ancillary yet important insights into international relations.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor:
Commitee: Herrmann, Richard, Schweller, Randall, Thompson, Alexander
School: The Ohio State University
Department: Political Science
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 78/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: International Relations, Political science
Keywords: Democratic foreign policy, Nondemocratic foreign policy, Regime type, Small wars
Publication Number: 10631330
ISBN: 9780355015898
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