Military Mobilization and Commitment Problems
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Because of its costliness, military mobilization is generally seen as a mechanism by which high-resolve leaders can credibly signal their high resolve in international crises, thereby possibly overcoming informational asymmetries that can lead to costly and inefficient war. I examine how power-shifts caused by mobilization within a crisis can lead to commitment-problem wars. In a simple ultimatum-offer crisis bargaining model of complete information, war occurs if and only if the power-shift caused by mobilization exceeds the bargaining surplus, which is Powell's (2004, 2006) general inefficiency condition for commitment-problem wars. When private information is added, and hence mobilization potentially has a stabilizing signaling role, under certain conditions the commitment problem overwhelms the signaling role and mobilization leads to certain war. Finally, I analyze an infinite-horizon model that captures the reality that mobilizing takes time, and find that commitment-problem wars occur under broader conditions than the general inefficiency condition implies. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
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