Citizens, Leaders, and War
In rationalist theories, while interstate war is ex post inefficient, states may still initiate it if leaders expect to benefit for their personal interests. The remaining puzzle is why citizens let the leader initiate war if they must bear the cost. I identify two explanations, reflecting two contrasting human traits to produce specific group-level outcomes: collectivity vs. individuality. From the perspective of collectivity, we can theorize that if people follow nationalism, they believe war is necessary for their own nation’s security from external threats and individuals must bear its cost, thereby supporting the leader’s war effort. Meanwhile, from the perspective of individuality, we can infer that if citizens expect that the cost to individuals of opposing war is higher than that of war itself, they will rationally let the leader initiate war. Quantitative analysis of time-series cross-country data from 1950-2007 provides support for the latter proposition.
Akisato Suzuki is Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute. His research interests include the causes of conflict and peace, nationalism and ethnicity, leadership, and research methods. He obtained his PhD from Dublin City University in 2015. His thesis dealt with causality between nationalism and revisionist foreign policy. His postdoctoral project seeks to explain why governments initiate war in terms of a relationship between leaders and ordinary people.
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