Dictators and Death: Casualty Sensitivity of Autocracies in Militarized Interstate Disputes Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2015 International Studies Association. Why are some authoritarian regimes so quick to surrender amid lower numbers of casualties while others prove willing to incur significant casualty counts to continue their war efforts? In this study, we explore the propensity of different authoritarian regime types to sustain casualties in interstate conflicts. We argue that authoritarian leaders with smaller winning coalitions find it easier to distribute the costs of militarized conflicts outside of those coalitions. This diminishes their sensitivity to casualties. Applying a theoretical model based on an inverse divide-the-dollar game (with respect to the distribution of public "bads"), we find that personalist regimes tend to sustain the highest number of casualties in militarized interstate disputes when compared to other autocracies. Our findings suggest that along with the audience cost abilities of an autocratic adversary, target states should also consider an autocratic regime's casualty sensitivity in deciding whether to reciprocate with military action.

altmetric score

  • 2

author list (cited authors)

  • Sirin, C. V., & Koch, M. T.

citation count

  • 5

publication date

  • June 2015