Dictators at War and Peace

Dictators at War and Peace

Jessica L. P. Weeks
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    Dictators at War and Peace
    Book Description:

    Why do some autocratic leaders pursue aggressive or expansionist foreign policies, while others are much more cautious in their use of military force? The first book to focus systematically on the foreign policy of different types of authoritarian regimes,Dictators at War and Peacebreaks new ground in our understanding of the international behavior of dictators.

    Jessica L. P. Weeks explains why certain kinds of regimes are less likely to resort to war than others, why some are more likely to win the wars they start, and why some authoritarian leaders face domestic punishment for foreign policy failures whereas others can weather all but the most serious military defeat. Using novel cross-national data, Weeks looks at various nondemocratic regimes, including those of Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin; the Argentine junta at the time of the Falklands War, the military government in Japan before and during World War II, and the North Vietnamese communist regime. She finds that the differences in the conflict behavior of distinct kinds of autocracies are as great as those between democracies and dictatorships. Indeed, some types of autocracies are no more belligerent or reckless than democracies, casting doubt on the common view that democracies are more selective about war than autocracies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5524-7
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    In August of 1990, Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi tanks rumbling into neighboring Kuwait, announcing that Iraq had regained its nineteenth province and sparking a conflict with the United States and its allies. In April of 1982, General Leopoldo Galtieri, the military dictator of Argentina, sent his forces to occupy the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, a forlorn piece of British territory that had long inspired acrimony between the two nations, and declared that the Malvinas had been restored to its rightful owners. Through the early 1960s, the communist dictatorship in North Vietnam intensified its campaign to reunify North and South, pulling the United...

  6. 1 Authoritarian Regimes and the Domestic Politics of War and Peace
    (pp. 14-36)

    The historical record is littered with the names of brutal tyrants who not only abused their own citizens but also terrorized neighboring countries. Perhaps for this reason, many have concluded that authoritarian regimes are generally less discriminating than democracies when it comes to using military force. But not all authoritarian regimes share the aggressive tendencies so commonly attributed to them. Why do some initiate so much more military conflict than others? Why do some lose the majority of wars they start, whereas others are more successful? Why do some autocratic leaders survive embarrassing wartime defeats, while others find themselves ejected...

  7. 2 Initiating International Conflict
    (pp. 37-53)

    Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, and Idi Amin—these names are synonymous not only with domestic repression but also with the provocation of international conflict. In fact, the record of interstate violence committed by such tyrants has fostered the impression that authoritarianism is inexorably linked to war and other international tensions. Policymakers have drawn on this view to recommend democratization and even regime change in the name of international peace.

    While some authoritarian regimes fit this stereotype, others have been much less conflict-prone than the headline-grabbing Gaddafis and Husseins of recent history. China after Mao, Tanzania under Nyerere, Kenya...

  8. 3 Winners, Losers, and Survival
    (pp. 54-81)

    Why are some regimes so much more successful in war than others? The previous chapters established that domestic political pressures cause some authoritarian leaders to be highly selective about resorting to military force, while other leaders are either freer to indulge in riskier behavior or are, by reason of military background, more likely to see force as preferable to diplomacy. In this chapter I explore whether the same arguments explain success and failure on the battlefield.

    To review, civilian-led “machines” in which the leader is constrained by a powerful domestic audience are, like democracies, selective in their use of military...

  9. 4 Personalist Dictators: Shooting from the Hip
    (pp. 82-105)

    The previous chapters showed that dictatorships vary in the rates at which they initiate conflict, the likelihood that they will be defeated in the conflicts in which they do become involved, and the probability that the leader will be ousted in the wake of defeat. On each of these dimensions, personalist boss and strongman regimes are the most extreme: They initiate the most international conflict, they are the least likely to win, and yet their leaders typically survive even defeat in fully-fledged war.

    This book attributes those patterns to a combination of a lack of institutional incentives and the preferences...

  10. 5 Juntas: Using the Only Language They Understand
    (pp. 106-134)

    Why are military dictatorships more belligerent than civilian regimes? In this chapter, I turn to two different countries and time periods to shed light on this question. First, I explore why Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982, provoking a war with the United Kingdom. The Falklands War is often seen as an archetypal case of diversionary war. Finding scant evidence of diversionary mechanisms in this case would therefore cast doubt on the idea that diversion plays an important role in explaining the belligerent behavior of military juntas documented in this book. I then turn to Japan in the 1930s,...

  11. 6 Machines: Looking Before They Leap
    (pp. 135-170)

    The previous two chapters focused on personalist regimes and juntas, showing how domestic politics can push those regimes toward fighting wars that other countries would have tried to avoid. However, not all authoritarian regimes are so quick to pick up arms. This chapter turns to two nonpersonalist, civilian-led machines—North Vietnam and the post-Stalin Soviet Union—exploring in detail how their domestic politics produced both restraint and success in the use of force. These two cases reveal that leaders of machines have strong incentives to heed the preferences of their elite audiences. Like their democratic counterparts, they therefore tend to...

  12. Conclusion: Dictatorship, War, and Peace
    (pp. 171-178)

    As this book has shown, there are vast differences in dictatorships’ decisions about war and peace. All leaders contemplating the use of force must weigh the costs and benefits of fighting compared to the status quo, and authoritarian regime type affects these calculations. Both the perceptions and often the reality of these costs and benefits depend on whether the leader is accountable to a powerful domestic audience. But the composition of that audience matters as well, particularly whether the accountability group is civilian or military in nature, because civilians and military officers have different preconceptions about the necessity and utility...

  13. Appendix Regime Type Coding Rules for Data Collection in Chapter 3
    (pp. 179-184)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 185-220)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 221-240)
  16. Index
    (pp. 241-248)