Mind Others' Business: Modeling and testing strategic conflict avoidance

Research output: Working paper


How does a state respond to external aggression? This paper explore variation in
responding behavior, particularly non-reciprocal reactions. Typically, when a state is threatened or attacked, the target state needs to consider two goals: deterring further aggression and preventing unwanted escalation. I apply the logic of strategic conflict avoidance (Smith 1996, 1999) to explain the non-reciprocal response. If the initiator is believed to face domestic challenges and seeks a rally-around-the-flag effect to improve its domestic standing, the target tends to concede or under-respond to the initial aggression. I build a two-level bargaining model to capture such strategic interactions. The equilibrium of the model reveals that the response is determined by the initiator's domestic politics as well as system variables. I conduct a lab experiment to test the model's prediction, using an experimental game based on Diekmann's modfied dictator game. The experimental result shows that individual subjects act as the model predicts and confirms that the logic of strategic conict avoidance works in a bargaining situation: the target's response tends to decrease as the initiator's internal challenge increases.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Mar 29 2017


  • Conflict process
  • lab experiment
  • bargaining theory of war
  • reciprocity
  • strategic interaction


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