Civil-Military Bargaining and the Politics of Blame



This chapter explains why civil-military bargaining matters and how it influences war termination decision-making. The domestic context has significant bearing on political leadership’s response to the problem of protracted war and question of war termination, but no single domestic factor can account for all, or even most, of the variation in political leadership behavior let alone suggest how long a war will last. That being said, the “civil-military variable” is not just one factor or one cause among many. Again, Maoz and Siverson parse the domestic politics of war termination as three distinct relationships to include political leadership’s dealings with other political elites, with the populace, and with the military. Such a division is useful but is also artificial and obscures important interaction effects. Of particular note, the interplay between political and military leadership is not just about political and military leadership. The civil-military aspect has deep implications for other domestic political factors. In extreme cases, the army may intervene directly in the political domain, applying explicit pressure, threatening mutiny, or even employing force against its own government in order to end a war or keep a war going. But civil-military bargaining also acts as a moderator, altering the direction and intensity of the relationship between other causal factors and the outcomes of interest.1 By moderating the effects of other “aspects of what transpires within the state,” civil-military bargaining can have a powerful and farreaching, even if more subtle, impact on the “normal” politics of blame attribution and war termination.


Political Leadership Domestic Politics Epistemic Authority Military Leadership Initial Leader 
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© Shawn T. Cochran 2016

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