Bluffing, Arms Treaties, and Preventive War

I have a new chapter from my book project available. Here’s the abstract:

With complete information, rising states internalize declining states’ threats to launch preventive war. If that threat is credible, they do not pursue arms programs to avoid conflict. If that threat is incredible, declining states preemptively engage in bargaining to override the need to build those weapons, extracting the surplus in the process. Either way, no arms construction occurs. This paper investigates how negotiations work when that threat to intervene is uncertain. When rising states believe their rivals are strong, weak declining states can convince rising states not to build without offering any concessions by mimicking the strong type. When rising states are skeptical, inefficiency prevails. To keep the weak types honest, rising states sometimes attempt to build arms after receiving unencouraging signals. Weak types allow the power shift to transpire. Strong types respond with preventive war. The results indicate that many “preventive” wars are the result of information problems, \textit{not} commitment problems.

You can read the full chapter here. It has a number of important policy implications about Israeli behavior toward Iran’s nuclear program. I think I will write a post on those next week.

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