Rationalist explanations for war

  title={Rationalist explanations for war},
  author={James D. Fearon},
  journal={International Organization},
  • J. Fearon
  • Published 1 June 1995
  • Economics
  • International Organization
Realist and other scholars commonly hold that rationally led states can and sometimes do fight when no peaceful bargains exist that both would prefer to war. Against this view, I show that under very broad conditions there will exist negotiated settlements that genuinely rational states would mutually prefer to a risky and costly fight. Popular rationalist and realist explanations for war fail either to address or to explain adequately what would prevent leaders from locating a less costly… 

Figures from this paper

Rationalist explanations for war?
TAMES FEARON'S influential 1995 paper provides a carefully argued exploration of I what can be considered to be a "rationalist" explanation for war. He first J considers a number of purportedly
The Power to Hurt: Costly Conflict with Completely Informed States
Because war is costly and risky, states have incentives to negotiate and avoid conflict. The common rationalist explanation is that war results from private information and incentives to misrepresent
Mutual Optimism as a Rationalist Explanation of War
Blainey (1988) popularized the argument that crises are more likely to end in war when two nations disagree about their relative bargaining power. This is known as the mutual optimism cause of war.
Persuasion in International Politics: A Rationalist Account
Governments offer us the promise of rewards or the threats of punishment to secure favorable international bargains, but they also draw on reasoned arguments to convince their bargaining partners to
Bargaining and war: A review of some formal models
Would perfectly rational agents always negotiate peaceful outcomes at the bargaining table, or would they sometimes fight costly wars? The Coase theorem suggests that when rational agents negotiate
Mutual Optimism and War
Working with the definition of mutual optimism as war due to inconsistent beliefs, we formalize the mutual optimism argument to test the theory's logical validity. We find that in the class of
A Bargain Might Not Exist : How the Distribution of Power Causes War
This paper challenges the conventional wisdom about bargaining and war. If more than two players bargain, or if war can end in stalemate, then a bargain that all actors prefer to war may not
From Melos to Baghdad:
Most bargaining models of war suggest that the absence of ex-ante uncertainty about the outcome of fighting should lead to negotiated outcomes rather than military conflict. Nevertheless, relatively
Policy bargaining and militarized conflict
Studies of bargaining and war generally focus on two sources of incomplete information: uncertainty over the probability of victory and uncertainty over the costs of fighting. We introduce
Rationalist Explanations for Two-Front War
  • Keisuke Nakao
  • Political Science
    Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy
  • 2020
Abstract By extending the extant costly-lottery models of dyadic war to three-party bargaining scenarios, we offer rationalist explanations for two-front war, where a state at the center is fought by


International crises are modeled as a political “war of attrition†in which state leaders choose at each moment whether to attack, back down, or escalate. A leader who backs down suffers audience
Signaling Difficulties with Linkage in Crisis Bargaining
In crisis bargaining, the sides have interests in common and interests that conflict. Both sides would like to prevail on the issues in conflict, but both would like to avoid war if possible. One way
Bargaining in the Shadow of Power
Abstract Often a bargainer can use some form of power—legal, military, or political—to impose a settlement. How does the “outside” option of being able to impose a settlement, albeit at some cost,
Peace, War, and the Balance of Power
Every possible relation between the distribution of power and the likelihood of war has been defended somewhere in the literature on international politics: war is least likely if power is
Capabilities, Uncertainty, and Resolve: A Limited Information Model of Crisis Bargaining
This paper presents and solves a crisis bargaining game under limited information. The sides alternate offers from three possible offers, with war and its costs starting if the target's counteroffer
Cooperation Under the Security Dilemma
International anarchy and the resulting security dilemma (i.e., policies which increase one state's security tend to decrease that of others) make it difficult for states to realize their common
Theory of International Politics
Therefore, the seeker after the truth is not one who studies the writings of the ancients and, following his natural disposition, puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in
POLITICAL CONSEQUENCES OF MILITARY STRATEGY Expanding and Refining the Spiral and Deterrence Models
Analyses of military strategy often overlook its political consequences—its effect on the adversary's basic goals and understanding of the defender's resolve. As a result, they prescribe the wrong
Brinkmanship and Nuclear Deterrence: The Neutrality of Escalation
The defense of the United States and the defense of Europe ultimately rely on a threat to use nuclear weapons if all else fails. This type of deterrence cannot be based on a cold rational calculation
Declining Power and the Preventive Motivation for War
The preventive motivation for war arises from political leaders' perceptions that their states' military power and potential are declining relative to those of a rising adversary, and from their fear