Conditionally accepted, International Studies Quarterly
Abstract: Many international organizations exert effort to mitigate costs that states suffer in a variety of contexts. Critics argue that the expectation of this help perversely incentivizes states to adopt riskier bargaining strategies, resulting in more conflict and more inefficiency than would occur in the absence of the institution. I develop a model to formalize this intuition and show that institutions may still prove helpful in two ways. First, if the risk of bargaining breakdown would be great in the absence of the institution, the institution leads to a net efficiency gain despite causing more conflict. Second, the institution’s mitigation effort can have a second-order effect of reducing uncertainty about the costs of bargaining breakdown; thus, the institution can counterintuitively decreases the probability of conflict and save on the corresponding cost. Despite these caveats, in some cases, the organizations can cause the precise problems they seek to limit.