Diversionary Theory

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19 Mar 2014
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Diversionary Theory of War 02/20/2014
Falklands War 1982
March 30, 1982: thousands of Argentines demonstrated in Buenos Aires against the military government
One week later, thousands demonstrated in support of the regime
What happened?
On April 2, Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands
Massive defeat b/c British came and fought
Prior to conflict, PM Mayer Thatcher was highly unpopular and after their victory, her popularity went up
Did the Argentine government start this war to revive its popularity?
The Puzzle
War is costly for states
But, the costs of war are distributed unevenly
Do states fight wars to satisfy narrow interests within them?
Did we fight the Iraq war for the Israel lobby?
Did we fight the Iraq war for the oil companies?
Unitary State Assumption
The treatment of states as coherent actors within a set of interests that belong to the state
What is the problem with this assumption?
Without the unitary actor assumption, individuals and groups with different interests come into play
Domestic politics matter !
The Insight…
There are actors within the state who may benefit from war:
These actors may have institutional and organizational advantages
Their main effect is to increase the aggressiveness of the state’s foreign policy
General v. Narrow Interests
General Interests: something most actors within a country desire
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Security, economic well being
Narrow Interests: only some within the state desire it, or only some desire it very highly
Why has the U.S had a consistent interest in oil in the ME?
General v. Narrow?
What Do Leaders Want?
Assume leaders desire office
Responsive to those who control their political fate
What does office-seeking imply about the continuity of a state’s interests?
Relatively consistent from leader to leader
Does office-seeking lead leaders to act aggressively to hold office?
Diversionary Temptations
One of the key assumptions of diversionary theory is that the use of military force creates a surge of
support for the leader
Psychology Mechanism
Rally Effect: people’s tendency to become more supportive of their own government during a crisis
Rally-Around-the-Flag…
Why do people rally?
Psychological Mechanism
Greater attachment to in-group
Us vs. Them (Terrorists in 9/11 case)
Use propaganda to dehumanize other group
The rally-around-the-flag effect creates a diversionary incentive
In times of domestic trouble, start an international conflict to divert attention
Allow leaders to scapegoat or blame problems on foreigners
Other people, such as military, pays cost of war, but the leader gets the benefits (keeping power)
Two Operations…
Operation Infinite Reach
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