Aims, Claims, and the Bargaining Model of War

Event Date: 

Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 12:30pm

Event Location: 

  • Girvetz 2320
  • Research Talk

Please join the Global Security Hub for a research talk by Kenneth Schultz of Stanford University. This talk is part of the larger series of monthly Global Security research talks. Visit the Global Security Hub page to see all upcoming talks.

Aims, Claims, and the Bargaining Model of War

Although in principle states can bargain over the entire extent of their combined territory, we observe historically that states generally bargain within far more limited confines defined by well-bounded claims. We argue that this observation is due to the fact that states generally have limited territorial aims due either to limited benefits of obtaining additional territory and/or the costs of absorbing and controlling new territories and their inhabitants. This paper explores the theoretical and empirical implications of the assumption that preferences over territory are heterogeneous and often limited. Using a simple model, we show that introducing states with limited aims over territory has strategic implications for bargaining that have not been appreciated in canonical models that do not consider heterogeneity in state preferences. Whereas traditional models generally imply that small demands undermine the credibility of a challenger’s threat, we show that the existence of states with limited territorial aims makes limited demands credible, effective, and stable in the face of shocks to relative power. We then employ a new geospatial data set on the geographic extend of territorial disputes in the period 19478-2000 to establish three results: (1) most interstate territorial disputes take place over very small areas, (2) the size of claims is only weakly related to the relative power of disputants, and (3) smaller claims are associated with a higher probability that the challenger will receive any concessions. Although the observational nature of the data complicates the interpretation of these results, all are consistent with the model and the assumption of limited aims.