1. Economic decline doesn’t cause war – diversionary theory is wrong and their statistics are flawed



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1. Economic decline doesn’t cause war – diversionary theory is wrong and their statistics are flawed.


Boehmer 10 (Charles, associate professor of political science at the University of Texas, Defense and Peace Economics, “Economic Growth and Violent International Conflict: 1875-1999” June 2010, Volume 21: 249-68, Hopkins)

Crisis-Scarcity as a Source of Violent Conflicts I term the next body of literature the ‘Crisis-Scarcity’ perspective because it links violent interstate conflicts to domestic or international economic crises. The first group of studies within this broad perspective argues that downswings in Kondratieff cycles in the global economy or other crises of capitalism increase the risk of war. The theories of imperialism by Hobson (1917, 1938) and Lenin (1939 [1916]) make broad arguments in this manner. World-systems or Dependency scholars advance similar arguments (Chase-Dunn, 1978; Frank, 1978; Bosquet, 1980; Hopkins and Wallerstein, 1982; Bergesen, 1983, 1985). However, many of the theories in this category are difficult to test due to conceptual ambigu- ities and the number of available observations, considering that the temporal length of an entire cycle is purportedly 50 to 60 years. Moreover, World-Systems theory lacks an opera- tional definition by which to categorize states into ‘periphery’, ‘semi-periphery’, and ‘core’, making it difficult to quantitatively assess some of its claims. Although there could be strong consensus on how to categorize many states into the core or periphery categories, the roster ECONOMIC GROWTH AND VIOLENT CONFLICT 253 of semi-periphery states is much less clear. However, some propositions in these theories have been tested with historical data or have been covered in studies at the systemic level of analysis. The studies by Mansfield (1988), Goldstein (1988), Pollins (1996), and Pollins and Murrin (1999) yielded results contrary to some of the claims made by World-System theory, or similar theories, relating global economic cycles to violent conflicts. On the one hand, the historical analysis of World-Systems theory examines a longer time-frame than extant quan- titative studies, but on the other hand these historical approaches must assume that the main economic and political processes that shaped much of the past millennium will continue into the future, which may be heroic. Because I am in particular interested in whether individual states become more or less prone to involvement in violent interstate conflicts as their economic growth rises or falls, I do not offer further tests of systemic-level propositions found in the literature. In contrast, studies of diversionary theory make state-level (monadic) or dyadic arguments. Most studies to date have been monadic and only a few have examined strategic diversionary behavior from a dyadic perspective. Of central importance to this study are those theories of diversionary conflict arguing that economic crisis induces foreign conflicts. However, while diversionary theory has been popular, the bulk of extant research examines the foreign policy of the United States (Ostrom and Job, 1986; James and Oneal, 1991; Morgan and Bickers, 1992; DeRouen, 1995; Hess and Orphanides, 1995; Wang, 1996; Fordham, 1998; Mitchell and Moore, 2002; Foster, 2006). Meernik (1994) and Meernik and Waterman (1996) find no evidence of diversionary behavior. Of more importance to this analysis are those studies that theorize or examine cases more generally at the state-level of analysis. Russett (1987) finds an inverse relationship between economic growth (two and three year moving averages) and conflict involvement using a pooled time series of 23 countries. In an extension of this study, he later finds evidence that negative growth leads to a higher rate of militarized conflict participation by democracies but that the opposite is true of autocracies (Russett, 1990). When disaggregating by power and polity type, the results appear less clear. Positive growth leads to a higher participation rate in war for democracies (the sign is positive for autocracies but insignificant), whereas non-democratic major powers were more apt to use force. The sign directions for minor powers of both regime types were negative and statistically insignificant. However, Russett (1990: 126) notes in a larger sample of 100 states from 1953–1976, using the Penn World Tables (Summers and Heston, 1991), that economic growth was statistically insignificant. Considering the limitations in data and the lack of control for autocorrelation, these results could be inaccurate. Heldt (1999) similarly finds at the state level that while high depriva- tion increases the use of force by states, this is unrelated to regime type or any strategic interactions with other states. His sample though only includes challengers in territorial disputes with negative growth rates, leading to 187 cases, and he thus neither provides a general test of growing states compared with non-growing states nor compares conflict participants to non-conflict participants (non-barking dogs). Enterline and Gleditsch (2000) examine whether political leaders substitute diversionary tactics with other states for repres- sion when confronted with domestic pressure using the ‘leader-year’ as the unit of analysis. While they find that leaders often use both repression and diversion when pressured domestically, the results were unclear concerning economic growth rates and inflation. They dropped these variables from most of their discussion due to limited data and the resulting loss in cases.



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