Database: Dissertations
Title: Superpower dispute initiation: Status-quo evaluations and strategic timing
Author(s): Butler, Christopher Kenneth
Degree: Ph.D.
Year: 2000
Pages: 00174
Institution: Michigan State University; 0128
Advisor: Adviser Scott G. Gates
Source: DAI, 61, no. 08A (2000): p. 3340
Standard No: ISBN: 0-599-91622-2
Abstract: Looking back at the Cold War, we wonder why the conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union did not escalate even though each made military moves against the other at various times. Unlike other rivalries in history, this one did not produce enough variance of violence to address this problem directly. From an empirical standpoint, we will never really know why a direct military confrontation between the superpowers never took place. Given the ex ante potential for escalation (including the possibility for global extermination), one wonders why the superpowers would risk military initiatives at all. This is a question that can be addressed empirically. This dissertation examines the dispute-initiation behavior between the United States and the Soviet Union by focusing on evaluations of the international status quo over time. By explaining the relative peace and its periodic disturbances, we may be able to avoid absolute war.

The first half of the dissertation examines dispute initiation theoretically. I begin with a review of what dispute initiation is and what others have found to be linked with it. I then lay out my own framework for understanding dispute initiation that rests on understanding the international status quo and how this status quo is changed over time. Next, I present two game-theoretic models that present dispute initiation as a strategic-timing problem. The first model examines how the sequence of actions affects the expected outcome of the game. By endogenizing who goes first in this game, I nullify an artificial initiator advantage. The second model examines how the actual timing of actions--beyond mere sequence--potentially alters the strategic problem. It specifically address the question of the conditions under which the more complicated timing model collapses into a simplified game in which only sequence matters. With respect to understanding dispute initiation, the game models produce several propositions which are then summarized in theoretical hypotheses. Three things are theoretically shown to increase the likelihood of dispute initiation between two actors: (1)a shift in negotiation advantage in favor of one actor over another, (2)a low value of the status quo for either actor, and (3)a low level of patience for either actor.

The next half of the dissertation evaluates these theoretical hypotheses. This evaluation is divided into an empirical component and a historical component. The empirical component begins by showing how the first two theoretical hypotheses are generalizations of power-transition arguments. The empirical test then operates within a modified power-transition framework focusing on the Cold-War rivalry. The results of this test provide supporting evidence for the related theoretical hypotheses. The historical component provides an independent evaluation of the empirical results as well as a non-empirical test for the third theoretical hypothesis. The evaluation itself relies on John Lewis Gaddis's writings on the Cold War. This historical evaluation also supports the theoretical hypotheses and corroborates the empirical results.

Accession No: AAI9985359
Order through: UMI