Zachary C. Shirkey
Military intervention into interstate and civil wars is both common and important. It lengthens wars, makes them more severe, and shapes how they are fought. Even the mere possibility of intervention can alter the course of a war as belligerent powers alter their strategies to either encourage or dissuade potential interveners. These effects of military intervention are found in both civil and interstate wars. Yet, is state intervention into interstate and civil wars essentially one phenomenon or are they distinct phenomena? By looking at which states are likely to intervene, why and when they intervene, and which wars are most likely to experience intervention, it becomes clear the similarities between state military intervention into civil and interstate wars are more significant than are the differences. In other words, despite some important differences, they are subsets of the same phenomenon. In both types of wars, allies, geographically proximate states, and great powers are more likely to intervene. Also, information revealed by events within both types of wars prompts intervention and explains its timing. Last, wars in which international organizations become involved, both civil and interstate, are more likely to experience intervention. There are, however, important differences notably in the areas of cross-border ethnic ties, the presence of great powers in the war, the use of non-state proxies, and wars caused by commitment problems.
More Than Mixed Results: What We Have Learned From Quantitative Research on the Diversionary Hypothesis
Benjamin O. Fordham
In the three decades since Jack Levy published his seminal review essay on the topic, there has been a great deal of quantitative research on the proposition that state leaders can use international conflict to enhance their political prospects at home. The findings of this work are frequently described as “mixed” or “inconsistent.” This characterization is superficially correct, but it is also misleading in some important respects. Focusing on two of Levy’s most important concerns about previous research, there has been substantial progress in our understanding of this phenomenon.
First, as Levy suggests in his essay, researchers have elaborated a range of different mechanisms linking domestic political trouble with international conflict rather than a single diversionary argument. Processes creating diversionary incentives bear a family resemblance to one another but can have different behavioral implications. Four of them are (1) in-group/out-group dynamics, (2) agenda setting, (3) leader efforts to demonstrate competence in foreign policy, and (4) efforts to blame foreign leaders or perhaps domestic minorities for problems. In addition, researchers have identified some countervailing mechanisms that may inhibit state leaders’ ability to pursue diversionary strategies, the most important of which is the possibility that potential targets may strategically avoid conflict with leaders likely to behave aggressively.
Second, research has identified scope conditions that limit the applicability of diversionary arguments, another of Levy’s concerns about the research he reviewed. Above all, diversionary uses of military force (though not other diversionary strategies) may be possible for only a narrow range of states. Though very powerful states may pursue such a strategy against a wide range of targets, the leaders of less powerful states may have this option only during fairly serious episodes of interstate hostility, such as rivalries and territorial disputes. A substantial amount of research has focused exclusively on the United States, a country that clearly has the capacity to pursue this strategy. While the findings of this work cannot be generalized to many other states, they have revealed some important nuances in the processes that create diversionary incentives. The extent to which these incentives hinge on highly specific political and institutional characteristics point to the difficulty of applying realistic diversionary arguments to a large sample of states. Research on smaller, more homogenous samples or individual states is more promising, even though it will not produce an answer to the broad question of how prevalent diversionary behavior is. As with many broad questions about political phenomena, the only correct answer may be “it depends.” Diversionary foreign policy happens, but not in the same way in every instance and not in every state in the international system.
International relations scholars have long been working on how diplomacy can be understood by distinguishing diplomatic interactions in terms of multilateralism, bilateralism, and unilateralism. The so-called quantity-based approach focuses on the numbers of countries involved. Applying this framework, multilateralism needs more than three states in interactions; bilateralism needs two states; and unilateralism can be pursued by only a single state. However, there are more quality-based approaches to distinguish these interactions. Multilateralism requires states to follow international norms and pay more respect to international institutions; this is contrasted with unilateralism, where a single state can influence how international relations can be conducted. To understand multilateralism in foreign policy, it is crucial to understand how international society has developed institutions, norms, and regimes. By contrast, studies of unilateralism and bilateralism tend to focus on how a powerful state conducts its foreign policy by neglecting international institutions and legal constraints. This article introduces some recent evidence-based research on how multilateralism, bilateralism, and unilateralism are selected in a particular foreign policy area such as alliance formation, mediation, and international aid. The article covers how scholars frame research questions in each issue area and analyzes whether there are similarities or differences in research methods, data, and theoretical frameworks.
Multilevel Governance as a Global Governance Challenge: Assumptions, Methods, Shortcomings, and Future Directions
Joachim K. Rennstich
Multilevel governance (MLG) as a research approach has mostly been applied to explain governance issues surrounding the European Union or international organizations. As a general research framework in the area of international relations (IR) theory, however, MLG has widely been underutilized, despite the many advantages that the approach offers in the empirical investigation of an increasingly complex international or global system. There are key concepts, assumptions, and definitions of MLG that focus separately on levels and governance as key elements of the approach and its interdisciplinary lineage. Some contested IR concepts include sovereignty, the nation-state, the international system, anarchy, agency, and levels of analysis. These IR concepts benefit from the application of an MLG framework by enabling the use of an interdisciplinary and multimethodological, yet systematically comprehensive, approach—which allows for nuanced use of these concepts. Other areas that benefit from IR methodologies applied in MLG research are methodological toolkits with a special focus on the areas of global governance, security studies, and international political economy.
The Multiple Streams Approach (MSA) builds on the organizational process tradition by (1) unpacking the organizational process “paradigm,” (2) maintaining emphasis on “governmental action as organizational output,” and (3) stressing the importance of ambiguity and temporal sorting as essential blocks of policy making. Operating at the systemic level, it is an actor-centered approach. It conceptualizes foreign policy choice as being made at the system—government—level and is the result of coupling three streams by policy entrepreneurs—policies, problems, and politics—during open policy windows. It differs from traditional models of foreign policy making by stressing process over outcome and stands between the rational and cognitive schools of foreign policy making. The empirical literature finds the MSA is a good candidate to bridge the divide between domestic and foreign policy, shedding light on debates of small versus large state foreign policy behavior by utilizing both qualitative and quantitative techniques.
Harris Mylonas and Kendrick Kuo
Nationalism continues to be an important ideology that informs the way state elites formulate and implement foreign policy. The relationship between nationalism and foreign policy is complex: there are many relevant levels of analysis and multiple causal pathways linking nationalism and foreign policy. Scholars have identified national masses, elite policymakers, and the nation-state itself as units of analysis. The causal mechanisms that relate nationalism and foreign policy have also been wide ranging: nationalism has been treated as an independent variable that drives foreign policy decision making but also as endogenous to international factors and a country’s foreign policy. Moreover, the causal relationship between nationalism and foreign policy has also been conceptualized as an interactive one.
This eclecticism is noticeable in the study of nationalism and war. The war proneness of nationalism may be a function of the type of nationalist ideology being used. The nation-state as a product of the ideology of nationalism may be inseparable from war making. And the international system, ordered upon nationalist principles of self-determination and popular rule, may endogenously produce political violence. More recently, the role of nationalist protests in interstate crisis diplomacy has become more salient, especially in post-Soviet and China studies. Are nationalist protests manufactured by the government, or are governments forced to adopt certain foreign policies because of public pressure? The conundrum about nationalism being endogenous or exogenous again rears its head.
Nationalism studies is an interdisciplinary field, but within political science interest in nationalism has largely been confined to comparative politics. International relations theory does incorporate nationalism as an important independent variable, but too often this is done in an ad hoc fashion. All in all, there has not been enough systematic theorizing about nationalism in foreign policy analysis.
Philip G. Roeder
National secession seeks to create a new sovereign state for a nation residing on its homeland that is currently located inside another sovereign state. This goal distinguishes national secession from regional secession, autonomy, and decolonization and shapes the strategies, operational objectives, and tactical choices of the leaders of national-secession campaigns. Explanations for the success of some campaigns—particularly, success at getting on the global agenda—have focused on the identities, grievances, or greed of their members. Explanations for why some campaigns have turned to protracted intense violence have focused on these motivations and on tactical-logistical opportunities.
The existing literature suffers from its failure to agree on theoretical and conceptual fundamentals. As a consequence, empirical studies focus on very different universes of cases and operationalize key variables in diverging ways. The existing literature frequently does not consider how the goal of national secession constrains the strategies, operations, and tactics of such campaigns. And so, it often fails to consider whether studies with another dependent variable can be extended to the study of national secession. Explanations stress indeterminate or substitutable causes and remote constraints on most national-secession campaigns—causes and constraints taken “off the shelf” from theories about conflicts operating under very different strategic and operational constraints. Missing from these explanations is the authenticity and realism of the programs for national secession in the assessments of the populations that each program presents as a nation with a right to a sovereign state of its own. Explanations and recommendations for responses by common-state governments, their allies, and the international community often fail to understand the centrality of the war of programs between national secessionists and common-state governments and the ways this constrains what compromises are possible and what responses are most likely to lead to domestic and international peace in such conflicts.
Vally Koubi and Gabriele Spilker
What is the relationship between resource scarcity and abundance, on the one hand, and intrastate conflict, on the other? Under what conditions do natural resources cause conflict? Which types of resources can better predict the onset, intensity, and duration of intrastate conflict? These questions and other related questions are needed to discuss how renewable as well as non-renewable resources influence the onset, intensity, and duration of intrastate conflict. In particular, there are two strands of the literature: the first strand deals with renewable resources, such as water, cropland, forests, fish stocks, etc., and examines how the scarcity of such resources leads to resource completion and subsequently to a greater risk of conflict. In this context, it also discusses the more recent literature on climate change and conflict. The second strand deals with non-renewable resources that tend to have a high value-to-weight ratio, such as fossil fuels and minerals, and evaluates how abundance of such resources affects potential “greed” and “grievance” motives of rebels to take up arms as well as a state’s capacity to put down a rebellion, both of which can lead to civil conflicts.
Overall, with the exception of the very recent empirical work on climate change as a “threat multiplier,” the bulk of the empirical evidence provides non-robust and often even contradictory results and thus does not allow for a clear-cut conclusion: while some studies support the link between resource scarcity/abundance and armed conflict, others find no or only weak links. The inconclusiveness of the results might be due to various factors, such as the inability/failure of the extant literature to adequately address the mechanisms via which resource scarcity and abundance could lead to conflict as well as which types of natural resources, including climatic changes, matter most. Moreover, empirical studies differ with regard to the type of conflict under study, ranging from violence against the government (civil wars [1,000 deaths], civil conflict [25 deaths], and low-intensity conflict [protests and riots]) to intercommunal violence (conflict that occurs between competing groups within a state), the operationalization and/or measurement of the types of resource scarcity and abundance, and the appropriate level of analysis (individual, household, subnational, national).
Foreign policy often involves two or more countries finding a path from contested interests to a peaceful agreement that incorporates the political and security desires of the relevant parties. In almost every case, the possibility of armed conflict as an alternative means of settling disagreements casts its shadow. Recent research on foreign policy can be well understood as following the view, first articulated by Thomas C. Schelling, that all international relations is really about negotiations and bargaining. This worldview brings a number of aspects of international politics into a natural and coherent framework. We can understand what leads countries to fail to reach peaceful solutions when disagreements arise, how the issues on the agenda influence the content and success of negotiations, and how domestic constituencies shape the ability of leaders to make agreements. Equally important, we can understand the trade-offs between short-term negotiating advantages and long-term issues of reputation.
Neoclassical realism offers insights into why particular foreign policy choices are made, and under what systemic conditions unit-level factors are likely to intervene between systemic stimuli and state behavior. Neoclassical realism brings a multilevel framework that combines both systemic incentives and mediating unit-level variables to arrive at conclusions about foreign policy choices in particular cases. It sets the relative distribution of capabilities in the international system as the independent variable and adds mediating variables at the unit level of analysis. Variables at the domestic level of analysis, such as the role of ideology, the foreign policy executive’s perceptions, resource extraction, and domestic institutions, add explanatory power to system-level approaches. Neoclassical realism accounts for state behavior in a way that a more parsimonious systems-level theory is unable to achieve.
But this rich theoretical framework also faces controversies and criticisms: Is neoclassical realism distinct from other theories and what is its added value? Neoclassical realism overlaps only to a small extent with alternative theoretical approaches. The domestic level of analysis dominates Foreign Policy Analysis (a subfield of International Relations). Unit-level variables suffice to explain state behavior in bottom-up approaches, and opening the structure of the international system for fundamental rethinking is central to constructivism. Neither explains the system-level conditions under which unit-level variables mediate between systemic stimuli and foreign policy. Neoclassical realism analyzes and explains a given foreign policy that more parsimonious or alternative theoretical approaches cannot.