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Below are publications that have benefited from valuable support from the ROCCA lab community!

Commitment Problems in Alliance Formation (by Brett Benson & Bradley Smith)


Abstract: If military alliances cause significant shifts in the distribution of power, why does anticipation of their formation or expansion provoke hostility from adversaries in some cases and not others? We develop a theory to explain this variation, advancing three arguments about the connection between alliances, commitment problems and war. First, we show that prospective allies can avoid provoking a common enemy by offering concessions to offset losses from an anticipated power shift from an alliance. Second, limits to an alliance’s power or implementation speed may make such bargains possible. Allies manipulate these factors to set the terms of cooperation to avoid provoking a shared enemy. Finally, when such bargains are not possible, incentives for preventive war exist but the outbreak of such wars may be avoided. Although preventive war cannot be ruled out altogether, the conditions that make it most attractive also make it unlikely to be carried out.

Hassling: How States Prevent a Preventive War (by Peter Schram)


Abstract: Low‐level military operations outside of war are pervasive in the international system. These activities have been viewed as destabilizing by both academics and policy makers, as miscalculations or missteps in conducting low‐level operations can risk escalation to war. I show the opposite can be true: these operations can prevent escalation to a greater war. I examine a type of low‐level conflict that I call “hassling” in the common framework of bargaining and war. The critical feature of hassling is that it weakens a targeted state. I find that when a rising power rules out peaceful bargains, hassling the rising power can prevent a preventive war, with efficiency gains for the involved states. This intuition is formalized in a dynamic model of conflict and is explored through examinations of Israel’s Operation Outside the Box (2007), the United States’ involvement in Iraq (1991–2003), and Russia’s operations in Ukraine (beginning in 2014).

Managing Insurgency (by Peter Schram)


Abstract: Why would an insurgent group turn away foreign fighters who volunteered to fight for its cause? To explain variation in foreign fighter usage, I present a novel perspective on what foreign fighters offer to militant groups. Because foreign fighters possess a different set of preferences from local fighters, integrated teams of foreign and local fighters can self-manage and mitigate the agency problems that are ubiquitous to insurgent groups. However, to create self-managing teams, insurgent leadership must oversee the teams’ formation. When counterinsurgency pressure prevents this oversight, foreign fighters are less useful and the leadership may exclude them. This theory explains variation in foreign fighter use and agency problems within al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI; 2004 to 2010) and the Haqqani Network (2001–2018). Analysis of the targeting of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, AQI’s former leader, further supports the theory, suggesting that leadership targeting inhibited oversight and aggravated agency problems within the group.


Rethinking Deterrence in Gray Zone Conflict


This article was written by ROCCA undergrad researchers Catherine Delafield, Sarah Fishbein, and Estelle Shaya in collaboration with ROCCA Professor Peter Schram & Professors J Andrés Gannon, Erik Gartzke, and Jon Lindsay.