Rivalry and Diversionary Uses of Force
Scholars have argued for some time that the rally ’round the flag phenomenon creates incentives for political leaders to use military force to divert attention away from domestic turmoil. It is hypothesized that a state’s strategic or historical context conditions its use of military force abroad, and that the probability of diversionary uses of force is higher in opportunity-rich environments of enduring rivalry. Empirical analyses lend support to this hypothesis, showing that high levels of inflation increase the probability of militarized dispute initiation in settings of rivalry but actually decrease it in nonrival settings. However, the results are contingent on the regime type of the potential initiator. Consistent with recent strategic models of diversion, the analyses demonstrate that although democratic leaders have the greatest incentives to divert, they have fewer opportunities to do so due to the transparency of their regimes.
Sara McLaughlin Mitchell and Brandon C. Prins. "Rivalry and Diversionary Uses of Force" Journal of Conflict Resolution 48.6 (2004): 937-961.
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