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date: 21 November 2017

Summary and Keywords

The major empirical frameworks for understanding crisis initiation are the diversionary account and the constraint account. Both accounts deal with the influences that domestic audiences have on the probabilities of removal from office and thereby on the probability of crisis initiation. The diversionary account holds that the domestic audience will bring pressure if the leader does nothing to address a declining status quo. The constraint account holds that the domestic audience will bring pressure if the leader initiates a crisis but either fails to win the war or backs down from the crisis.

The diversionary and constraint accounts of crisis initiation employ different assumptions, stress different variables, and ultimately specify different theoretical linkages to explain the decision to initiate a crisis. Thereby, the two accounts are traditionally viewed resting on distinct theories and resulting in distinct empirical analyses. Can the two accounts be unified under one theoretical structure?

The simple answer is yes, but reaching the answer is not so simple. The key to the unifying the two accounts involves rendering precise the inexact theories that underlie the two accounts and specifying the linkages between the underlying theories and the empirical analyses based on those theories. Some issues remain open. In particular, a major open issue, encountered by both the diversionary and constraint account, is inherent in the use of aggregate data to test hypotheses that are specified theoretically at the individual level of analysis.

Keywords: crisis initiation, constraint account, diversionary account, empirical analysis, theoretical analysis, empirical international relations theory

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