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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The diffusion of military power: Causes and consequences for international politics
by Horowitz, Michael, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2007, 430; 3265175
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the diffusion of military power throughout the international system, explaining how variations in its spread influence international politics, especially the balance of power and warfare. States have a number of possible strategic choices in the face of military innovations, including adoption, countering, forming alliances, and shifting towards neutrality. My theory, named adoption capacity theory, argues that for any given innovation, the financial resources and the organizational changes required for adoption govern the system-level distribution of responses and the choices of individual states.

As the cost-per-unit of the technological components of a military innovation increases and fewer commercial applications exist, the rate of adoption decreases and alternatives like forming alliances become more attractive. Similarly, if implementing an innovation requires large-scale organizational changes in recruitment, training, and warfighting doctrine, fewer actors are likely to adopt. However, while higher financial requirements generally mean adoption patterns will benefit preexisting wealthy and powerful states, higher organizational change requirements can handicap the wealthiest states and upset the balance of power toward smaller and more nimble actors.

Using multiple methods ranging from large-n statistical tests to in-depth analysis of primary sources, I test the theory on four cases: nuclear weapons, battlefleet warfare, carrier warfare, and suicide bombing. The results strongly support the theory, and the suicide bombing case demonstrates its conceptual reach beyond state military organizations to explain a key trend in international politics. This chapter views suicide bombing as an innovation and explains how financial and organizational constraints influence terrorist groups' decisions. For example, the high organizational change requirements for adoption explain why older, previously successful terrorist groups like the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and the Basque Fatherland and Freedom Group (ETA) did not adopt suicide terrorism but Al Qaeda did. The conclusion moves forward and examines the way potential information-age shifts in the production of military power could influence the future of the international security environment for both state and non-state actors, including the United States, China, and Al Qaeda.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rosen, Stephen P.
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 68/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: International law, International relations, Armed forces
Keywords: Diffusion, International politics, Military power, Power transition, Revolution, War
Publication Number: 3265175
ISBN: 978-0-549-02500-9
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