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Title: Essays on Power in International Relations
Authors: Bashir, Omar Shahid
Advisors: Gowa, Joanne
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Coercion
Crisis diplomacy
Economic statecraft
Subjects: International relations
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The essays in this dissertation aim to advance understanding of power in international relations while each addressing distinct research questions. The first chapter asks whether restraint can ever help leaders negotiate from a position of strength in crisis. It draws attention to a neglected channel through which belligerents learn about each other's capabilities: preparation for failure. The chapter explains how contingency restraint parallels but is theoretically distinct from the concept of hands tying, then builds intuition using examples from the American Civil War and other conflicts. Based on this intuition, the chapter proposes a novel signaling tool for leaders, one that does not rely on actions that are ex ante costly or actions that raise the mutual level of war risk. A formal model shows when the signaling mechanism is credible. The chapter demonstrates that arming does not always increase bargaining power. Second, why do energy-hungry states nevertheless choose not to compete over energy resources? Contrary to the initial expectations of scholars and analysts, major changes in global energy have sometimes failed to spark "great games." This chapter presents and tests a theoretical framework for explaining variation in political or military competition. Since the framework is based on states’ concern with political power, the article clarifies the concept of power in the energy issue area, identifying its three primary forms and outlining key constraints on its generation. The theory is tested with four systematic case studies each centered on a major post-Cold War development in oil or natural gas. The approach makes clear why American decision-makers chose to engage in competition with Russia and China in only half the cases under examination. Third, does asymmetry in vulnerability explain political power in mutually beneficial relationships? This chapter shows why, paradoxically, asymmetry is neither necessary nor sufficient for power potential even though the extent of asymmetry does provide some useful information. A simple model provides guidance and builds intuition graphically. Symmetry can in fact be exploited, and even sharply more vulnerable actors can coerce their partners. The chapter clarifies the concepts of interdependence, vulnerability asymmetry, dependence, and mutual dependence.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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