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Incumbents, successors, and crisis bargaining

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  • Scott Wolford

Abstract

Leadership turnover may produce significant foreign policy changes when leaders differ from their predecessors in their preferences over the resort to war and when they cannot commit to implement inherited policies. How, then, does the expected behavior of an incumbent leader's successor affect crisis bargaining in the present? I analyze a leader-centric model of crisis bargaining in which (a) the distributive outcomes of crises affect political survival, (b) leadership turnover implies the accession of a new leader with potentially different preferences, and (c) successors can renegotiate inherited settlements. In equilibrium, the sensitivity of an incumbent’s political survival to making concessions interacts with the resolve of the successor to affect both the terms of settlement and the occurrence of war. First, political survival incentives can lead an incumbent to demand more than her adversary is willing to concede, provoking war when the successor is of similar resolve. Second, when a politically sensitive incumbent will be followed by a resolute successor, her adversary may grant otherwise unnecessary concessions to bolster the relatively irresolute incumbent in office. Finally, when a politically sensitive incumbent will be followed by an irresolute successor, her adversary may attack in order to depose the incumbent, hastening her replacement to secure better bargains in the future. Predictions about the present balance of resolve and leaders’ survival incentives may thus be fundamentally altered in light of the future balance of resolve.

Suggested Citation

  • Scott Wolford, 2012. "Incumbents, successors, and crisis bargaining," Journal of Peace Research, Peace Research Institute Oslo, vol. 49(4), pages 517-530, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:joupea:v:49:y:2012:i:4:p:517-530
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    Keywords

    bargaining; commitment; leaders; war;

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