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What drives interstate balancing? Estimations of domestic and systemic factors

Abstract

This paper reviews contending realist assumptions about domestic and systemic impulses for balancing behavior, derives a set of corresponding hypotheses for state actions and submits them to a statistical large-n analysis for testing. A total of 18 highly conflict-prone dyads of states are observed over lengthy periods of time in order to gather data for a regression analysis of the effects of different impulses on both the external and internal balancing behavior of the weaker states. In accordance with the results, it is argued that domestic (or unit-level) factors are highly important in explaining the scope of balancing and often exert a stronger influence than do power gaps between states.

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Notes

  1. This option was not part of Waltz’s original portfolio of strategies but has since entered the realist canon; see Posen (1984) for its first introduction and Mearsheimer (2002: 160–162) for a discussion of its position within the broader theoretical framework.

  2. Due to the theory’s focus on policy outcomes rather than system-level behavior, it has been most popular in the field of foreign policy analysis. For some prominent applications, see Barnett and Levy (1991) for a case study on Egypt’s alliance policy, Fordham (2002) on US military spending during the Cold War, and Alons (2007) on French and German positions on agricultural subsidy regimes. To the best of the author’s knowledge, this paper is the first time it has been applied in a large-n study on balancing behavior.

  3. Kimenyi and Mbaku (1995) found a strong relationship between autocracy and military expenditure in a quantitative analysis, thus indicating rent-seeking behavior. Snyder (1993) documented historical instances of domestic elites from these sectors successfully pushing for a strategically unwise imperial overextension.

  4. This usage of “mobilization” is in accordance with Taliaferro’s (2006) framework, but not congruent with that of Mastanduno et al. (1989), where it is used to designate state actions designed to spur economic growth.

  5. Mastanduno et al. (1989) devote a section of their paper and several hypotheses on state strategies for extracting external resources for domestic distribution, but these phenomena are unrelated to the narrower focus on balancing.

  6. See the most recent Freedom in the World report (Freedom House 2015), which covers all historical data since 1973. Additionally, the regional distribution of democracy is highly uneven and autocracies are especially prevalent in most of the regions where the cases for this study are located.

  7. There has been a vast amount of research done on the determinants of arms expenditure, mostly by scholars working in the field of political economy (for an overview, see Dunne 1990; Moll and Luebbert 1980). Collier and Hoeffler’s (2002) study is a recent contribution from a political science perspective focused on international arms races. On the determinants of alliance patterns, see the studies cited in “External balancing strategies” section.

  8. See, for example, Mohan (2006) on India’s balancing against China, Burr (2001) on China’s balancing against the Soviet Union, and Rajagopalan (1999) on Pakistan’s balancing against India.

  9. The six separate indicators are iron and steel production, primary energy consumption, total population, urban population, military expenditure and military personnel. See Singer (1987) for a description. All data and codebooks are available online at: http://www.correlatesofwar.org/COW2%20Data/Capabilities/nmc3-02.htm.

  10. See Marshall and Cole (2011) for the most recent overview of and introduction to this dataset. All data and codebooks are available online at: http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/polity4.htm.

  11. See Leeds et al. (2002) for a description of this dataset. All data and codebooks are available online at: http://atop.rice.edu/. This source was chosen over the CoW database due to its greater comprehensiveness and inclusivity.

  12. The flipside of this observation is that states with similar regimes and domestic institutions are more likely to establish cooperative partnerships and alliances (Lai and Reiter 2000), a choice which also helps to mitigate any tensions arising from territorial competition.

  13. Furthermore, one case (Kuwait 1991) was completely removed due to being a strong outlier on military expenditures, spending 140% of its GDP in the wake of the Iraqi invasion. The GDP numbers for Vietnam from 1989 to 1991 and Chinese military expenditure for 1985–1990 were also manually removed since they were implausibly low for these years.

  14. For both of these extremes, there are only very few occurrences, almost all of which are associated with demilitarization after lost wars and the wartime years themselves.

  15. Although this study explores behavior in dyadic relationships, its units of analysis (and, therefore, cases) are countries, which is why this level was chosen to apply fixed effects. See Green et al. (2001) for a highly influential discussion of the treatment of panel data in quantitative IR studies.

  16. Plain OLS regressions that did not account for country effects through the inclusion of dummy variables all had much lower R2 values than the ones presented here, ranging from 0.36 to 0.45.

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Abb, P. What drives interstate balancing? Estimations of domestic and systemic factors. Int Polit 55, 279–296 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-017-0141-x

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Keywords

  • IR theory
  • Power gaps
  • Balancing
  • Territorial conflicts