How Prior Military Experience Influences the Future Militarized Behavior of Leaders

52 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2012 Last revised: 6 Mar 2014

See all articles by Michael C. Horowitz

Michael C. Horowitz

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science

Allan C. Stam

University of Virginia

Date Written: August 15, 2013

Abstract

Policy makers and the electorate assume political executives’ life experiences affect their policy choices once in office. Recent international relations work on leaders focuses almost entirely on how political institutions shape leaders’ choices rather than on leaders’ personal attributes and how they influence policy choices. This paper focuses the analytic lens on leaders and their personal backgrounds. We theorize that the prior military background of a leader is an important life experience with direct relevance for how leaders evaluate the utility of using military force. We test several propositions employing a new data set, building on Archigos, that encompasses the life background characteristics of over 2500 heads of state from 1875-2004. The results show that the leaders most likely to initiate militarized disputes and wars are those with prior military service but no combat experience, as well as former rebels.

Keywords: leaders, military service, conflict, education, combat, risk

Suggested Citation

Horowitz, Michael C. and Stam, Allan C., How Prior Military Experience Influences the Future Militarized Behavior of Leaders (August 15, 2013). International Organization, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2012633 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2012633

Michael C. Horowitz (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science ( email )

Stiteler Hall
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Allan C. Stam

University of Virginia ( email )

235 McCormick Rd.
P.O. Box 400893
Charlottesville, VA 22904-4893
United States

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