Rationalist Experiments on War
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2011-17
APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper
Private information and the commitment problem are fundamental to the rationalist theory of war, but causal evidence is scarce, as rationalist explanations for war are difficult to test with observational data. This article isolates experimentally the effects of private information and the commitment problem on the risk of conflict. Results show that the commitment problem sharply increased the incidence of conflict, but there was no significant difference in conflict incidence with or without private information in the shadow of shifting power. A case study of Japan’s decision-making process on the eve of the Pacific War assesses the historical realism of the positive experimental findings. The article exploits an original combination of formal, experimental and historical methods to investigate the causes of war. Convergent results from the different methods strengthen the causal inference.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 39working papers series
Date posted: August 1, 2011 ; Last revised: March 19, 2014
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