Lecture 2: April 4
The Significance of the WWI case (1914-1918)
World Historical War*
2. Totalization – civilian targeting on a massive scale
a. The Blockade of Germany
B. Path-dependent war (path dependence – present choices, like the war choice in 1914,
shaped and constrained future possibilities
1. Explaining WWII and the Cold
C. Lease- likely war – The puzzle – war in 1914 seems lease likely outcome of crisis politics
given the logic of structural and institutional explanation of war.
1. War choice only if benefits > (greater than) costs.
a. This is the rational war choice (rational war choice = RWC)
2. Yet the structure of politics would seem to preclude war given:
a. Stable balance of power; 5 =5
3. And given institutional mechanisms to resolve crises
*Illustration of destructiveness – Battle of Verdun in WWI = 606,000 dead
*Arms buildup since 2008 (to 2018) of 100% or more by major powers in a single region (system)
A. Middle East
B. Eastern Europe
C. Northeastern Asia
**Common factors – enhanced conflict and instability
A. Middle East – Rise of Iran; Saudi- Israeli Alliance
B. Eastern Europe—Russia intervention in Crimea, Georgia, and Ukraine
C. Asia—Rise of China
*** A. Explanations- structure of domestic factors
A. System: A geographic region characterized by long-term patterns of conflict and
B. Anarchy: the absence of a single center of binding decisions in a system.
C. Structure: number of units per system fractured by capabilities (typically, population and
D. This divides systems into major and minor powers (major power = top power rankings
with +6) with capacity to initiate systemic war (powers are states).
E. The War Choice: The choice of a state to initiate war:
1. Prerequisites (necessary condition: centralized decision maker like a king, president,
party or parliament)
2. War must be CHOSEN, and the choice will tend to be rational in the sense that
benefits exceed costs (expected utilities or B>C).
F. Adversaries (enemies and allies—allies may become adversaries or conversely, but
alliance depend on the benefits of exceeding costs.
G. Power resources: Create power in anarchy.
A. Balance of Power: the balance of power resources among adversaries
Example = military strength
B. If a system is in balance, there is no rational/incentive for war (example : 5=5)
C. Imbalances of power can generate war given the logic of rising and declining powers.
The kind of state can choose war to pre-empt decline or prevent (preempt the rising
D. In a balance, peace is self-enforcing (automatic).
Lecture 3: April 6
*Credible Commitment – Costly, believable signal
* International power is relative power – relative to adversaries and allies
A. Europe – 1914 rankings
Germany = 4
Great Britain and France = 3
Russia = 2
Austro-Hungary = 1
Fighting the Cold War – 1945- 1992 The Balance of power at credible commitment
A. 1945 – The problem – Balancing to block Soviet expansion (the Polish example)
1. The obvious alliance – Britain, France, Germany – impossible owing to Germany’s
defeat in WWII.
2. The alternative and actual alliance- Britain, France, US (NATO)
B. The American Commitment
1. Small but significant conventional forces (to Europe)
2. Strategic nuclear shield (Global)
3. Economic aid (Marshall Plan)
4. U.S. accepts despite fierce domestic opposition (both parties)
5. Regular substantial military spending and a mass army (unprecedented levels!)
C. Eisenhower’s fear – “the military-industrial complex” (President 1952-60)
1. WWII style mass mobilization would corrupt American civilization through
excessive centralization, taxation, regulation and the subordinate of the individual to
a security state (not just a fear of group power).
D. Eisenhower’s solution –
1. Military strategy- massive retaliation (origins of Triad)
2. Reduction of federal spending and promotion of market-led growth
3. Goal – deterrence of Soviet/Chinese aggression through a credible commitment to
massive counter-strikes and the prevention of the development of a permanent
a. Promotion of world stability through signaling of credible commitment to protect
key allies and the use of trade to create global prosperity.
b. Example- the B-52 and the hydrogen bomb; tariff cuts
c. Credible commitment to Europe (The NATO tripwire).
The Soviet Dilemma – the window of strategic inferiority 1948-1970s – Balancing
A. During this period, the USSR was at a substantial nuclear disadvantage on land, sea, and
1. Possibility – US first strike
B. Soviet Deterrence
1. Credible commitment – massive conventional forces capable of overrunning Europe
2. Bluffing-claims of nuclear superiority, space technology advantage
3. Support of the Third World; “revolutions” like Vietnam often fails
4. Negotiation over issues like testing of bombs, use of space.
Kennedy, the Missile Gap, and the Cuban Missile Crisis
A. 1960 Kennedy campaigns against Nixon; claims US has a real strategic disadvantage
relative to the USSR. Nixon cannot fully counter without violating national security
B. Kennedy wins—dramatically increases nuclear and conventional defense spending (“We
will bear any burden, pay any price…”
1. Intervention on Third World (US in Vietnam)
C. Was Kennedy bluffing? Did he plan to win the Cold War?
The Soviet Calculation
A. Given that US has a nuclear advantage, why would Kennedy signal weakness and
credibly commit to Arms Race?
1. The possibility of a first strike nuclear capability
2. The neutralization of the Soviet conventional advantage
3. The shifting balance of power
4. Soviet responsive – missiles to Cuba (1962); the Cuban Missile Crisis
Section I- IV and the balance of power
A. Everything discussed from 1948 to 1962 can be understood as shifts in a dynamic balance
of power that operated
1. Regionally (primarily in Europe)
2. Globally (strategic nuclear balance)
1968-1992 The Global Balance
A. This period was characterized as stable, but dynamic global balance of power constantly
undermined by a long-term nuclear arms race (the Ohio Class Submarine)
B. Man on the Moon- 1969
1. 1969 one spillover of the arms race was the moon race
2. The absence of Soviets
C. Federal Funding of science and technology
Notes 4: April 9
Information Signaling and Misperception:
A. In anarchy, high value information is costly to send and costly to receive because of
1. Bluffing (strategic misrepresentation of preferences for outcomes; like world peace)
2. Translation (of preferences)
3. Lack of enforceability (of threats and bribes)
4. Thus, talk is cheap and behavior is real/ high value
a. Example: positioning of fleets (US near N. Korea, Iran, and Russia)
B. Credible commitment
2. Because costly
4. Costly to make because of risk (exposure to retaliation); increase of conflict potential.
a. US ground force in Korea, Europe
b. Positioning of troops creates a hostage and a tripwire
C. Deterrence- credible threats and bribes aimed at changing adversaries’ behavior
(compelling) or maintaining status quo
1. Balance of power is automatic (passive) deterrence
2. Active deterrence – deterrence that cannot occur without costly action
a. Mobilization of military forces
b. High alert (ex: Nuclear War Alert)
c. Arms expenditure increases ( e: contemporary Middle East – more than 100%
increases by Iran, Saudi Arabia and allies; Israel since 2008
Misrepresentation and the war choice
A. War by error
1. Irrational beliefs (rare)
2. Misperception – false beliefs concerning cause and effect
3. Incomplete information (preferences for war and peace of adversaries)
Misperception – the short war illusion (problematic)
A. War planners falsely believe that war could be short and decisive (1914)
B. Thus, governments falsely chose war when this would inevitably lead to a long war of
attrition. Had this been accurate knowledge, war might not have occurred
C. The problem – war planners from 1890-1914 knew that industrial weapons would cause
mass causalities and could lead to attrition warfare if mass militaries of major powers ( 2
million +/- ) could not achieve quick decisive results. Thus, they rationally chose war
1. First preference strategy decisive offensive
2. Second preference strategy rational attrition
D. They chose these plans for the following reasons
1. Offensive necessity, extreme defensive advantage
2. Maximum mobilization, but minimum mobility
E. The offensive was necessary for domestic political, economic, and military morale
reasons and the need to seize the initiative.
F. The Russo-Japanese War, the Boer War, as well as the US Civil War had demonstrated
the tactical killing power of rapid fire rifles and artillery and machine guns
G. Mobilization- railroads and mass conscription guaranteed mass militaries limited only by
demography and domestic politics
H. Minimum mobility- but, constrained to foot and horse powers; armies must attack or lose
initiative for good.
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