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Ulric B. and Evelyn L. Bray Social Sciences Seminar

Tuesday, April 24, 2018
4:00pm to 5:00pm
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Baxter B125
Diplomatic Relations and Conflict Management: A Dynamic Analysis
Brenton Kenkel, Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University,

Abstract: Do formal diplomatic relations have a role in international crisis prevention and management?  Policymakers tout diplomatic exchange as a force for peace, while rationalist theories of diplomacy as cheap talk are more skeptical.  In this paper, I estimate a structural model of the choice to establish, maintain, or cut off diplomatic relations as a dynamic decision problem.  To estimate the model, I collect fine-grained data on the dates of changes in American diplomatic representation abroad.  I analyze the American relationship with each other country in the international system at the monthly level from 1816 to 2007.  The structural model allows me to disentangle short-run from long-run influences in the reciprocal relationship between diplomatic relations and military hostility.  I find little evidence that diplomatic relations increase the short-run payoff to the U.S. for taking peaceful actions toward another country.  Instead, the pacific effect of diplomatic ties stems largely from the long-run costs of maintaining a diplomatic presence in a country in which the U.S. is engaged in active hostilities.  These findings suggest that a formal diplomatic presence abroad serves more as a commitment device than as a direct conduit of peacemaking.

For more information, please contact Sabrina De Jaegher by phone at 626-395-4228 or by email at [email protected].