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Bargaining and Rationalist Explanations for War
Unformatted Document Text:  4 (COW) Project. 1 But if military contests with 1,001 causalities can be modeled as costly bargaining process, there is no reason why those leading to 999 cannot. At any rate, how hard a state is fighting is a poor indictor of its intention. The “handy” division of labor between scholars focused on international crises and international conflict does not carry over into the real world. Two such basic issues are discussed in this present essay. The first is about the arbitrary fault line between crisis bargaining and intrawar bargaining in current studies. Rather than a scholar’s freedom to pick the starting and ending point in his/her research, I believe the division in fact reflects our ambiguous perception about the nature of war in international politics. In the first section, I spell out different political implications and functions of war in international interactions. The new understanding of war serves the foundation to establish a consistent framework that is able to integrate crisis bargaining and intrawar bargaining. In particular, I present a Rubinstein-style bargaining model, in which both traditional crisis bargaining and intrawar bargaining can find their proper place. The second topic is regarding the role of complete information in the rationalist explanations for war. It is almost a consensus among scholars that complete information will never lead to war. This statement underlies a large group of formal analyses on uncertainty and asymmetrical information in war. However, the analysis of the subgame perfect equilibria (SPEs) of my bargaining model calls this statement into question. I will demonstrate that in some circumstances it nothing but complete information that causes the war. This analysis also provides a formal proof for Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman’s (1992) famous hypothesis that a weak state can challenge a strong opponent with complete information. The purpose of this essay is not to create a completely new standard of bargaining approach. Discussions of these topics from differing angles and to varying extents actually can 1 Singer and Small defined an international war as “a military conflict waged between (or among) national entities, at least one of which is a state, that results in at least 1,000 battle deaths of military personnel.”

Authors: Ye, Min.
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background image
4
(COW) Project.
1
But if military contests with 1,001 causalities can be modeled as costly
bargaining process, there is no reason why those leading to 999 cannot. At any rate, how hard a
state is fighting is a poor indictor of its intention. The “handy” division of labor between scholars
focused on international crises and international conflict does not carry over into the real world.
Two such basic issues are discussed in this present essay. The first is about the arbitrary
fault line between crisis bargaining and intrawar bargaining in current studies. Rather than a
scholar’s freedom to pick the starting and ending point in his/her research, I believe the division
in fact reflects our ambiguous perception about the nature of war in international politics. In the
first section, I spell out different political implications and functions of war in international
interactions. The new understanding of war serves the foundation to establish a consistent
framework that is able to integrate crisis bargaining and intrawar bargaining. In particular, I
present a Rubinstein-style bargaining model, in which both traditional crisis bargaining and
intrawar bargaining can find their proper place. The second topic is regarding the role of
complete information in the rationalist explanations for war. It is almost a consensus among
scholars that complete information will never lead to war. This statement underlies a large group
of formal analyses on uncertainty and asymmetrical information in war. However, the analysis of
the subgame perfect equilibria (SPEs) of my bargaining model calls this statement into question.
I will demonstrate that in some circumstances it nothing but complete information that causes the
war. This analysis also provides a formal proof for Bueno de Mesquita and Lalman’s (1992)
famous hypothesis that a weak state can challenge a strong opponent with complete information.
The purpose of this essay is not to create a completely new standard of bargaining
approach. Discussions of these topics from differing angles and to varying extents actually can
1
Singer and Small defined an international war as “a military conflict waged between (or among) national entities,
at least one of which is a state, that results in at least 1,000 battle deaths of military personnel.”


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