War is in the Variance/Covariance Structure of the Error Terms: International Networks and the Bargaining Theory of War

In collaboration with: Erik Gartzke and Hugh Ward

Why do states ght if conict is costly and inecient? Bargaining theories of war emphasize the role of asymmetric information as a fundamental cause of conict. Leaders uncertain about one another’s military strength, preferences, or resolve can err in calculating the expected costs and outcomes of ghting which can lead to war. A critical step in the onset of conict is thus determining what leaders are likely to know, and where they get their information from. Who one knows may help to shape what one knows; we explore the role of networks in shaping conict dynamics in situations where ghting results from uncertainty. If networks (e.g. diplomatic exchanges, trade) mitigate uncertainty and private information, then states’ network positions should be an important predictor of the onset of international conict. We develop a theoretical model that links the variance/co-variance structure of errors to conict onset and derive hypotheses about how the network positions of individual states and dyads aects uncertainty and conict onset. We test these hypotheses against data on militarized interstate dispute onsets between 1950 and 2000 using network and coventional econometric models.