Grading guidelines STV4232
1. If states are rational, and war is more costly than negotiations without weapons, why do states fight wars? Draw on bargaining theory to explain this.25%
The key curriculum for this question is Fearon’s 1995 article. A good answer will mention the three factors that contribute to bargaining problems/war in Fearon’s article: Indivisible issues, commitment problems, and uncertainty/private information. A very good answer explains the bargaining theory in a very clear way, showing strong insight into its logic. A very good answer might also point to some examples.
2. That democracies rarely fight each other is as close as we come to a “probabilistic law” in the study of war. Present some explanations for this “dyadic democratic peace”. Discuss whether this/these explanations also can be applied to explaining the war behavior of dictatorships. 25%
There are numerous explanations for the democratic peace, and many different ones have been highlighted in the lectures. Explanations that have been focused on in particular in the lectures are:
- Cultural explanations: A culture of non-violent conflict resolution characterizes democracies and their behavior towards each other
- Audience cost explanations: Democratic executives face higher audience costs than autocratic executives, and they will thus be less capable of e.g., bluffing. This makes it easier for democracies to send credible signals about resolve, capabilities etc., that should reduce war prospects.
- Constraint explanations: Democratic leaders are more constrained by legislatures and voters, and face higher costs if they enter into “stupid wars”. This incentivizes democratic leaders to be very sure about their chances of winning. When two democracies face each other, there will be an incentive (on the side of one of the parties) to back down from war.
The course has explained each of these explanations, and argued that there is most empirical support for the constraint explanation. The students are invited to discuss how the constraint explanation also explains war between dictatorships: Weeks (2012) argues that personalist regimes have much less constrained leaders, while party regimes and military regimes are more constrained by their selectorates. This should lead personalist regimes to be particularly belligerent. She finds evidence consistent with this explanation.
A very good answer will discuss one or more of these explanations, and apply them to the question of the war behavior of dictatorships (beyond the democratic peace). The most obvious answer here is to explain the constraints explanation, and discuss Weeks’ argument, but there are other ways to solve this assignment too.
3. Is war between states in decline? Explain some potential explanation for why it is or is not. 25%
This invites students to present the empirical discussion of whether war is in decline, based on Pinker (2011)’s argument, as well as potential criticisms of Pinker’s thesis. Most of the discussion in class has focused on the ``long peace” (post WWII), but also on more long-term trends in the decline of violence. It also invites students to draw on the course materials to discuss some potential explanations for why war is in decline, such as:
- The spread of nuclear weapons and their deterrent effects
- The growth in liberal factors such as world trade, democracy and international organizations
- Changes in norms relating to violent conflict
- Mobilization of anti-war movements and groups
- Bi- or unipolarity in the post WWII system.
A good answer will delve into one (or more) of these explanations in a way that demonstrates high understanding. If the answer says that war is not in decline, it can draw on the statistical explanation presented in Clauset and/or Braumoller:
- The decline of war between great power is a “statistical fluke” that we might as well attribute to chance rather than some structural change
4. What are the implications of nuclear weapons for interstate war? 25%
This invites students to present the debate about nuclear deterrence. This is between those who argue that nuclear weapons reduce the risk of war, due to their deterrent effects, and those who claim that we are rather lucky to see the absence of war between nuclear powers. In the first camp, you find Waltz (on the curriculum) who argues that deterrence is stable and strong, while the other camp includes Scott Sagan (also curriculum) who argues that deterrence is unstable due to i) the possibility of accidents, ii) that some parts of the government follow their own parochial aims (such as the military) without taking the “national interest” into consideration, iii) the perils of proliferation of nuclear weapons. A very good answer will also draw on the evidence presented in Gartzke’s empirical overview, that mentions a number of findings from the empirical literature.