Growth, Import Dependence and War
79 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2014 Last revised: 15 Jan 2022
Date Written: July 2014
Existing theories of pre-emptive war typically predict that the leading country may choose to launch a war on a follower who is catching up, since the follower cannot credibly commit to not use their increased power in the future. But it was Japan who launched a war against the West in 1941, not the West that pre-emptively attacked Japan. Similarly, many have argued that trade makes war less likely, yet World War I erupted at a time of unprecedented globalization. This paper develops a theoretical model of the relationship between trade and war which can help to explain both these observations. Dependence on strategic imports can lead follower nations to launch pre-emptive wars when they are potentially subject to blockade.
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