Just completed the Second Annual Midwest Regional Peace and Conflict Conference. Absolutely outstanding presentations, discussions and interactions. The next generation is busy at work helping us figure out what is going on and why. It felt like Peace Science Society International but a small version like the Four Corners Conflict Network. #midwestconflictwksp. Cannot wait for the next conference next year. If interested in the papers, shoot a message to the authors. It takes a village.
Kevin Cope and Charles Crabtree: "International Law and Attitudes Toward Refugees: A Field Experiment"
On Monday, January 29, CPRD discussed Kevin Cope and Charles Crabtree’s paper “International Law and Attitudes Toward Refugees: A Field Experiment.” The paper investigates the timely question of whether support for policies to reduce refugee flows changes when respondents are told that these policies violate the UN Refugee Convention. In doing so, the paper addresses the literatures on human rights treaty effectiveness and on attitudes toward immigrants. The paper also broadens the scope of the literature on human rights treaty effectiveness to outside of the North American context. The experimental design is based off an innovative idea to take advantage of the legal ambiguity in Turkey about if it agreed to the UN Refugee Convention. The paper finds that when Turkish citizens are told that they have a legal obligation to accept refugees, the support for a government policy to stop accepting refugees goes up.
The workshop discussion focused on how the paper can best connect disparate literatures and how to interpret the results of the experiment. First, the group discussed if and how public opinion can influence government decisions, and how that can differ based on the context in Turkey versus the U.S. or Western Europe. The group also discussed how public opinion could matter for more than just influencing the government. Even if it cannot change policy towards refugees, it should at least have an impact on how refugees are integrated into the country. Participants agreed the paper would become stronger by explicitly linking the public opinion and the political intolerance literatures.
The rest of the discussion focused on how to interpret the results of the experiment. Two main pathways were suggested. First, while the treatment reminded Turkish citizens that they have an obligation to accept refugees, it may have also reminded them that other countries that signed the UN Refugee Convention also have an obligation to accept refugees. Since during the survey, participants were reminded that Turkey had already accepted around 3 million refugees, survey participants may have felt that Turkey had done its duty and other countries should shoulder more of the burden. The other way of interpreting the results that participants suggested was that Turkish citizens may conceive of international law as an act of dominance by Western interests. According to reactance theory, any attempt to assert this dominance will result in a backlash and less willingness to adhere to the interests of Western countries. In conclusion, the paper makes an important contribution to the effectiveness of human rights treaties literature and due to its context, and opens up many questions about how regime type and the type of international relationships a country has influences how human rights treaties are viewed.
Jane Kitaevich and Albana Shehaj: "Bullets and Blessings: Do Protracted Conflicts Render States Less Accountable?"
On Tuesday, November 7, the CPRD group discussed Jane Kitaevich and Albana Shehaj’s paper, “Bullets and Blessings: Do Protracted Conflicts Render States Less Accountable?” The paper investigates the impact of interstate conflict dynamics on government provision and distribution of social services. Based on selectorate theory, the authors argue that incumbents leverage public goods to maintain their legitimacy in periods of relative instability produced by protracted conflicts. Their cross-section time-series analysis is buttressed with an in-depth investigation of the political environment in Armenia from 1994-1995 based on the authors’ field work. Kitaevich and Shehaj find support for their hypothesis that although conflicts generally draw resources away from public good provisions, some conflict dynamics, such as certain conflict phases, intensity, and rivalry, are associated with increased distribution of public resources.
The discussion focused on the mechanisms through which interstate conflict would affect domestic elections and endogeneity. Focusing on reverse causation, the discussant pointed to both greed and grievance literature linking unequal distribution of goods to conflict onset. Participants also discussed potential confounding variables, such as weak state institutions, undisciplined security apparatuses, or poor economic growth that could contribute to the occurrence of both the independent variable and outcome. Measures of conflict frequency, intensity, adjacency, and rivalry were derived from Correlates of War (COW). The group expressed interest in a dyadic data structure which would capture variation between a government that may be the aggressor of violence verse the target of an attack. Members felt the paper could also be strengthened by focusing on the Armenian case study to fully explain the mechanisms before broadening their scope to investigate the prevalence and conditions in which this behavior occurs.
This paper contributes to the study of interstate rivalries by highlighting their enduring effects on domestic distributive and electoral politics. The authors present initial data from a new micro-level dataset on Armenia, 1994-2015, which provides monthly information on the dynamics of conflict and state distribution of public goods. Despite challenges of endogeneity, this paper demonstrates potential to contribute to the growing field of research on the outcomes of violence and influence on domestic policy decisions.
Christian Davenport: "Repression and Leadership Tenure: An Examination of How Arrests, Torture, Disappearances and Mass Killing Influence Time in Office"
On Tuesday October 31, CPRD discussed University of Michigan Professor Christian Davenport and co-author Michigan State Professor Benjamin Appel's working paper on the relationship between repression and leadership tenure. The paper tests the validity of an oft-cited assumption in the political science literature on repression--that the primary reason political leaders repress is to extend their tenure in office. The authors ask the question: does repression work in prolonging leadership tenure? Consistent with much of the literature on the political survival of leaders, they use a semi-parametric Cox Proportional Hazard estimator and measure repression and leader tenure with the Political Terror Scale (PTS) and the Archigos dataset, respectively. Contrary to what theories on state repression suggest, Davenport and Appel find that political authorities are more and not less likely to exit office when they repress their citizens.
The workshop discussion centered mainly around thorny problems of endogeneity. The first such problem raised was the issue of term limits. The dataset included countries of all regime types, and term limits are a common feature of democracies. Thus, the relationship between repression and leadership tenure that the model predicts may be driven by the regular rotation of leaders in term-limited democracies as opposed to the "irregular exits"--coups, revolutions, regime collapse, etc.--that the authors seek to identify. Participants suggested several helpful solutions, such as controlling for the existence of term limits or restricting the set of cases to leaders who sustained "irregular exits."
Another concern was endogeneity between repression and a leader's political strength. Leaders that repress may simply be less likely to maintain long tenures in office because of their inherent weaknesses or a lack of political support to begin with. Although a challenging problem to overcome, participants recommended identifying countries at moments of political crises that reacted in divergent ways (i.e. used repression or an alternative strategy to respond to the crisis) in order to better identify the effect of repression on leadership tenure. Such a method would allow one to identify potential counterfactual scenarios and would be a source of leverage for causal inference.
Endogeneity issues aside, this paper is the first to systematically test the assumption that leaders who repress are motivated by a desire to remain in power over the long-term. The finding that repression shortens tenure of political leaders undermines the principle justification for government coercion in the literature on state repression. Such a finding implores scholars of state repression to reevaluate existing theories about the motivations of state repression and to explore the importance of potential alternative reasons: leaders perceive that repression works or repress primarily to ensure the concentration of wealth/resources among a small coalition of elites.
"The Limits of Commercialized Censorship in China" is a fascinating and informative look into the mechanisms of repression and censorship within the Chinese state. Clearly, this paper is a response to work by King, Pan, and Roberts, who assert that the government's control of information is far more complete than the evidence in this paper would suggest. In fact, as Miller recommends, this paper gives us good reason to be cautious about inferring too much about the CCP's preferences from what information leaks and what does not.
For scholars of autocracies and conflict, the story which this paper presents may be more familiar. The idea that governments lag behind citizens and industry in controlling information is intuitive, and the particular relationship demonstrated by this data, where government must rely on agents to facilitate repression (imperfectly) parallels discussions of delegation to irregular forces, private militias, and the like. The particulars of information control (or not) highlight the difficulties a repressive state faces in controlling citizens, and its own forces, even when power may seem overwhelming. In some sense, the era of social media, a many-to-many information medium, is an ideal case for testing the limits of repressive capacity.
The discussion at CPRD focused on a few main areas of the paper, and in general, participants came away satisfied with quality of the work. First, the source of the data for this paper is an anonymous member of the censorship team at Sina Weibo, the firm under discussion in the paper. This kind of data, while exciting, can raise concerns about replication and veracity of the information. On balance, this isn't a huge concern, given the importance of the work and the steps Miller is taking to demonstrate the validity of the data. Second, the dynamics among firms in the social media environment was not explored in as much depth in this paper, but discussants agreed that it would be a useful avenue for future research, if feasible. Third, discussion focused on whether the assumption of the CCP's information control as complete and fully discretionary was legitemate. In fact, the paper argues soundly against this assumption, which pervades some work and is persistent in media and punditry around the matter.
The major contribution of this paper is twofold: First, this paper provides scholars with excellent evidence of the imperfect control which governments have over information. Even in a single-party autocracy, the ability of firms to opportunistically shirk their duties, allowing information to pass through censorship filters to serve their own needs, provides a more robust view of how censorship works in the era of digital communications. The paradigms of broadcast and print (one-to-many media) do not translate as well to social media (many-to-many), and Miller's paper shows exactly why. Second, this project introduces a theory of multi-principal-multi-agent relationships which may be transported to other areas of conflict studies, where power is contested and governments must rely on private agents (militias, paramilitaries, etc.) to help secure their goals. While the story here is particular to censorship in China (and censorship in one particular venue), one can easily imagine similar patterns of contested control and decentralized force in other settings
Jesse Driscoll Kicks Off the First CPRD Meeting with a Round Table Discussion on Fieldwork in Conflict-Affected Regions
The CPRD workshop opened the fall 2017 semester with a round table discussion on fieldwork in conflict-affected regions featuring Professor Jesse Driscoll (UCSD) and hosted by Professor Chris Fariss (UM-CPRD). With expertise in comparative state-building and civil war settlement dynamics, particularly in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, Professor Driscoll led a fascinating discussion about how to approach field work in conflict-affected areas, as well as about the challenges and opportunities inherent in the endeavor. What are the difficulties of doing this work? What kind of toll does it take on you as a scholar and human being? Is IRB sufficient to protect researchers as well as those being studied/interacted with? How can/should we talk about this topic when the discipline writ large tends not to? These were all discussed.
Below, please find links to two pieces Professor Driscoll circulated ahead of the round table.
Carly Wayne: Rationalizing Conflict: The Polarizing Role of Accountability in Ideological Decision Making
Donald Trump is now officially the 45th President of the United States of America. Throughout his tumultuous political campaign, Trump’s supporters and opponents alike repeatedly claimed that, if elected, the weight and accountability of the office of the President would likely cause Trump to have a change of heart and ‘pivot’ – moderating both his rhetoric and policy agenda. However, results from my recently published research in the Journal of Conflict Resolution suggest that the opposite is likely to happen – accountability can trigger significantly more polarized political attitudes, rather than more moderate ones.
And indeed, five days into his Presidency, Trump has signaled that, not only does he plan to stick to his policy guns, but if anything, these proposals have simply grown more central to his policy agenda. He has thus far followed through on several of his most polarizing campaign promises: reinstating the global gag rule on abortion, ending US consideration of the TPP, freezing grant-making at the EPA, restricting immigration and refugees from at least seven countries, and issuing an executive order to start construction on the southern border wall.
The long-awaited ‘pivot’ has not arrived. Indeed, accountability does not appear to have moderated his ideological policy preferences in any way. In fact, it appears to have had the opposite effect. Why is this? My research offers some answers.
Often, political scientists view accountability as inherently tied to political office—accountability to voters implies that representatives can be voted out of office if they do not satisfy their audience. However, accountability can also be conceptualized at a more basic psychological level—as a primarily social phenomenon in which individuals seek to maintain prestige and avoid losing face to any potential observers of their actions. This is the premise underlying the contingency model of accountability – that accountability works to the extent that individuals seek the approval and respect of those to whom they are accountable.
Thus, the effects of accountability are critically dependent on both the social goals of the individual and the audience to whom the individual perceives they are responsible. If, as is likely the case with our new President, the social goals include a need for adulation and praise from a small base of supporters, accountability can serve as a powerful motivating factor to amplify ideological decisions and attitudes rather than moderate them.
This is indeed exactly what I find in a series of studies, conducted in a completely different political context: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Using a well-established accountability manipulation in which respondents are told their responses are either anonymous (the control) or identifiable and subject to a post-survey meeting with an interviewer, I find that Israeli Jews made accountable for their political views become much more polarized in their policy preferences. After receiving the treatment (or control), subjects were asked a series of questions that asked them to privilege militancy versus compromise in Israel’s political interactions with the Palestinians. Self-described leftists become significantly more supportive of compromise with the Palestinians, particularly when presented with a negotiations scenario (the Palestinians have introduced a new peace treaty), while self-described rightists become significantly more supportive of militancy, particularly when presented with a military scenario (the Palestinians have increased rocket attacks against Israel).
This demonstrates not only that accountability polarizes, but that the polarizing impact of accountability is dependent on the relative issue ownership each ideological groups feels toward the scenario at hand. Leftists are moved more by a negotiations scenario than they are by a security one; the opposite is true for rightists. This suggests that, indeed, accountability is functioning in a social context – leftists and rightists feel more pressure to conform to their ideological viewpoints when presented with an issue over that they consider central to their ideological beliefs.
This study suggests some important practical implications for the role of accountability in shaping political preferences. To begin, the results of this study suggest that practitioners should use caution in advocating accountability as a universal factor for encouraging moderation and cooperation in political processes. Accountability may work to hinder self-critical decision making and moderate policy choices, instead encouraging individuals to rely on familiar, more readily defensible ideological arguments when formulating their political attitudes.
In the case of President Trump, this likely means that the accountability of the Presidency is unlikely to moderate some of his more radical policy goals, unless he believes that his core constituencies’ views on these issues have changed. Otherwise, the social pressures of accountability will likely drive him to maintain consistency between his ideological campaign pledges and his ongoing policy agenda.
Carly Wayne is a PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan researching foreign policy decision-making, the psychology of political violence and strategies of modern war.
Each year, approximately 10 million[i] people are affected by large scale development projects, including natural resource extractive projects. In Mozambique, local residents protested a coal mine in the northwestern province of Tete, blockading the railroad and costing the mining company millions of dollars. Yet not all extractive projects are met with resistance - only a few kilometers away another large coal concession avoided costly resistance. So why do some of these extractive projects experience resistance and others don't? And when, if at all, do governments side with the protestors over the likes of an extractive firm?
In a recent article published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, I answer this question by developing a formal model of the interactions among a natural resource firm, a local community and a government. The model provides a theory of the local politics of natural resource extraction.
Why should we care about these regions, and why is it necessary to have a theory just about them? The obvious answer is that we’d like to avoid some local version of the natural resource curse where natural resources coincide with violent conflict and low socio-economic development (recent works by Arellano-Yanguas, Arce, Arce and Miller, and Haslam and Tanimoune[ii] have paved the way for a closer look at a local resource curse). Having a generalizable theory about these regions can help us understand if and when such a local curse is likely to emerge.
But natural resource extractive regions are interesting for another reason: these are areas where tradeoffs between government access to revenue and political support are particularly acute. The fixed and somewhat random nature of natural resource deposits makes them particularly vulnerable to costly protest. The potential of costly resistance shapes the strategic incentives of the extractive firm and the state, and compels the state to manage tradeoffs between access to resource revenue and potential political consequences of resistance where natural resources and a politically relevant population occupy the same space. These regions reflect the outcome of a strategic interaction among a firm who may provide local goods and services to avoid costly protest, a government who may value the resource revenue provided by the firm more than any political support it might receive from engagement in the region, and a local population with the potential to offer support or impose costs on the firm or the state.
For a clear representation of this interaction, take a look at the figure.
So a theory of the local politic of natural resource extraction has implications for a broader question that has received little attention in the literature in comparative and world politics: how do non-state actors affect governance outcomes at the subnational level? The model tells us when a non-state actor, in this case an extractive firm, has incentives to provide goods and services in a defined region. It also outlines how a government can benefit from ensuring that such an actor does so. The government can thus leverage the potential costs of protest to the firm in order to garner regional support resulting from goods provision in the region.
Understanding extractive regions as strategic contexts in this way provides a lens for understanding subnational governance outcomes more broadly. The model allows us to explore how and why regions of limited state presence[iii] might be sustained, with specific reference to regions of natural resource extraction where we might most expect states to maximize their presence, given the revenue potential.
[i] Cernea, Michael M. 2000. “Risks, Safeguards and Reconstruction: A Model for Population Displacement and Resettlement.” Economic and Political Weekly, 3659–3678.
[ii] Arellano-Yanguas, Javier. 2011. “Aggravating the Resource Curse: Decentralisation, Mining and Conflict in Peru.” The Journal of Development Studies 47 (4): 617–38. doi:10.1080/00220381003706478.
Arce, Moisés, and Rebecca E. Miller. 2016. “Mineral Wealth and Protest in Sub-Saharan Africa.” African Studies Review 59 (3): 83–105. doi:10.1017/asr.2016.84.
Arce, Moises. 2014. Resource Extraction and Protest in Peru. University of Pittsburgh Press.
Haslam, Paul Alexander, and Nasser Ary Tanimoune. 2016. “The Determinants of Social Conflict in the Latin American Mining Sector: New Evidence with Quantitative Data.” World Development 78 (February): 401–19. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2015.10.020.
[iii] Krasner, Stephen D., and Thomas Risse. 2014. “External Actors, State-Building, and Service Provision in Areas of Limited Statehood: Introduction.” Governance 27 (4): 545–67. doi:10.1111/gove.12065.
Jessica Steinberg is Assistant Professor of International Studies at Indiana University, and Faculty Affiliate at the Ostrom Workshop on Political Theory and Policy Analysis. She received her PhD from University of Michigan in 2014 and is a CPRD alumna. Her current book project, "Subcontracting the State: Extractive firms, local conflict, and the logic of governance in regions of natural resource extraction" builds on this formal model, testing it with qualitative and quantitative empirical analysis.
Seventeen CPRD members participated in the Peace Science Society's 2016 meeting at Notre Dame, making Michigan one of the best represented institutions at the conference. All who presented their work or joined a workshop enjoyed the opportunity to receive feedback on works in progress, engage with colleagues, and lead conversations on moving forward conflict studies as a discipline.
Michigan affiliated presentations were both substantively and methodologically diverse. CPRD members presented work on topics as varied as the use of militias in civil conflict, Kenyan electoral violence, and the process of negotiating the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute. Group members presented papers employing satellite data, experimental methods, formal models, and qualitative case studies.
CPRD members look forward to Peace Science 2017 at Arizona State University.
Michigan at Peace Science:
A Medley of Militias