Market Power Politics: War, Institutions, and Strategic Delay in World Politics. With Mark J.C. Crescenzi. Oxford University Press, 2021.

How are the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Russian incursions into Ukraine and Georgia, and China’s occupation of islands in the South China Sea related? All three of these important moments in modern history were driven by the motivation to capture market power. Whether it was oil for Iraq, natural gas for Russia, or rare earth elements for China, the goal isn’t just the commodities themselves–it is the ability to determine their price on the global market.

In Market Power Politics, Stephen Gent and Mark Crescenzi develop a new theory of market power politics that explains when and why states will delay cooperation or even fight wars in pursuit of this elusive goal. Empirically examining case studies from different regions of the world, they explore how competition between states over market power can create disruptions in the global political economy and potentially lead to territorial aggression and war. They also provide clear policy recommendations, urging international institutions to establish norms that reduce the potential for open conflict. Ultimately, Market Power Politics shows that nations’ desire to increase their market power means that the push for territorial expansion will continue to shape the trajectory of world politics.



A Latent Variable Approach to Measuring and Explaining Peace Agreement Strength. With Rob Williams, Daniel J. Gustafson, and Mark J.C. Crescenzi. Political Science Research and Methods 9 (1), 2021.

Much of the peace agreement durability literature assumes that stronger peace agreements are more likely to survive the trials of the post-conflict environment. This work does an excellent job identifying which provisions indicate that agreements are more likely to endure. However, there is no widely accepted way to directly measure the strength of agreements, and existing measures suffer from a lack of nuance or reliance on subjective weighting. We use a Bayesian item response theory model to develop a principled measure of the latent strength of peace agreements in civil conflicts from 1975 to 2005. We illustrate the measure’s utility by exploring how various international factors such as sanctions and mediation contribute to the strength or weakness of agreements.


The Reputation Trap of NGO Accountability. With Mark J.C. Crescenzi, Elizabeth J. Menninga, and Lindsay Reid. International Theory 7 (3), 2015.

Can concerns for one’s reputation cause non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to alter their behavior to the detriment of achieving their policy goals? To answer this question, we explore the relationship between NGOs and their donors. Our theoretical model reveals that reputation can be a key piece of information in the decision to fund an NGO’s activities. Reputation can become so important to the NGO’s survival that it interferes with the long-term policy goals of the organization. As such, reputations can become a double-edged sword, simultaneously providing the information donors seek while constraining NGOs from realizing policy goals. We apply this logic to the problem of NGO accountability, which has received increasing attention in recent years, and demonstrate that the tools used by donors to improve accountability can trigger unintended consequences. We illustrate this strategic dynamic with two types of NGO activity: water improvement and international crisis mediation.


Bargaining Power and the Arbitration and Adjudication of Territorial Claims. With Megan Shannon. Conflict Management and Peace Science 31 (3), 2014.

To examine the political factors that influence the use of legal mechanisms to resolve territorial disputes, we model the decision to pursue arbitration and adjudication as part of a bargaining process in the shadow of war. We find that arbitration and adjudication can help prevent bargaining breakdown, but states only pursue and comply with such measures when the expected ruling reflects the balance of power between them. To test the theory, we examine compliance with arbitral and adjudicated rulings on territorial claims. In line with our expectations, states are less likely to comply when the stronger disputant is asked to make greater concessions. We conclude that power politics constrains the conditions under which legal mechanisms can be used to successfully manage contentious claims over territory.


The Politics of International Arbitration and Adjudication. Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs 2 (1), 2013.

Arbitration and adjudication have proven to be effective means of producing long-lasting settlements on contentious issues, but states are generally reluctant to use such legal forms of dispute resolution, especially in resolving issues of national security. To understand when policymakers can and should promote the use of legal mechanisms, they need to understand the political reasons behind the reluctance of states to use these forums. This essay identifies five factors that significantly influence the willingness of states to relinquish decision control and pursue arbitration or adjudication: third-party bias, salience, uncertainty, bargaining power, and armed conflict. To promote the use of arbitral and legal forums, policymakers should focus on reducing the costs of giving up decision control by encouraging the selection of unbiased judges and reducing the stakes and the level of uncertainty in arbitration and adjudication. However, legal dispute resolution is not a panacea for all conflicts. Arbitration and adjudication will generally only be attractive when they produce settlements that reflect the political realities on the ground. When such conditions are not like to be met, policymakers should instead turn to alternative methods of conflict management.


Armed Intervention and Civilian Victimization in Intrastate Conflicts. With Reed M. Wood and Jacob D. Kathman. Journal of Peace Research 49 (5), 2012.

Research has begun to examine the relationship between changes in the conflict environment and levels of civilian victimization. We extend this work by examining the effect of external armed intervention on the decisions of governments and insurgent organizations to victimize civilians during civil wars. We theorize that changes in the balance of power in an intrastate conflict influence combatant strategies of violence. As a conflict actor weakens relative to its adversary, it employs increasingly violent tactics toward the civilian population as a means of reshaping the strategic landscape to its benefit. The reason for this is twofold. First, declining capabilities increase resource needs at the moment that extractive capacity is in decline. Second, declining capabilities inhibit control and policing, making less violent means of defection deterrence more difficult. As both resource extraction difficulties and internal threats increase, actors’ incentives for violence against the population increase. To the extent that biased military interventions shift the balance of power between conflict actors, we argue that they alter actor incentives to victimize civilians. Specifically, intervention should reduce the level of violence employed by the supported faction and increase the level employed by the opposed faction. We test these arguments using data on civilian casualties and armed intervention in intrastate conflicts from 1989 to 2005. Our results support our expectations, suggesting that interventions shift the power balance and affect the levels of violence employed by combatants.


Decision Control and the Pursuit of Binding Conflict Management: Choosing the Ties that Bind. With Megan Shannon. Journal of Conflict Resolution 55 (5), 2011.

International relations scholars have garnered a good deal of evidence indicating that binding arbitration and adjudication are highly effective means for brokering agreements and ending conflict. However, binding third-party conflict management is rarely pursued to resolve interstate disputes over contentious issues like territorial or maritime control. While states value the effectiveness of binding procedures, they are reluctant to give up the decision control necessary to submit to arbitration or adjudication. The authors identify three factors that influence the willingness of states to give up decision control: issue salience, availability of outside options, and history of negotiations. An analysis of attempts to settle territorial, maritime, and river claims reveals that disputants are less likely to use binding conflict management when they have a greater need to maintain decision control.


Relative Rebel Strength and Power Sharing in Intrastate Conflicts. International Interactions 37 (2), 2011.

According to bargaining theory, one would expect that governments in intrastate conflicts will only be willing to concede to power sharing agreements when they face relatively strong rebel groups. Previous empirical studies have not found support for this hypothesis because they have not operationalized the capability of civil war combatants in relative terms. I show that once one uses a relative measure of capability, one finds that power sharing is more likely as the strength of a rebel group increases. Additionally, the analysis indicates that the relationship between rebel strength and power sharing is stronger for political power sharing than for territorial or military power sharing.


Bias and the Effectiveness of Third-Party Conflict Management Mechanisms. With Megan Shannon. Conflict Management and Peace Science 28 (2), 2011.

To uncover the relationship between bias and effective conflict resolution, we explore the bias of third parties and the techniques they employ in the diplomatic management of river, maritime, and territorial claims. We find that bias increases the likelihood that a third party will engage in unobtrusive techniques like good offices and decreases its propensity to pursue involved mechanisms like arbitration. Additionally, bias is inversely related to the range of issues addressed at a settlement attempt. As such, unbiased third parties are more effective because they are used for the management techniques that have the most potential to resolve conflicts.


External Threats and Military Intervention: The United States and the Caribbean Basin. Peace Economics, Peace Science and Public Policy 16 (1), 2010.

Domestic political instability provides an incentive for external military intervention by raising the opportunity costs of nonintervention. When deciding to intervene in response to instability within its sphere of influence, a regional hegemon considers the anticipated actions of other potential interveners. In particular, a hegemon has an incentive to intervene preemptively to forestall future interventions by rival powers. Given this, military intervention will be more likely when another power provides an external threat to a hegemon’s sphere of influence. A historical examination of U.S. intervention policy and behavior in the Caribbean Basin supports the theory.


The Effectiveness of International Arbitration and Adjudication: Getting Into a Bind. With Megan Shannon. Journal of Politics 72 (2), 2010.

Scholars and policymakers argue that the bias of a third party affects its ability to resolve conflicts. In an investigation of international territorial claims, however, we find that the conflict management technique is much more important for ending disputes than a third party’s level of bias. Binding third-party mechanisms (arbitration and adjudication) more effectively end territorial claims than other conflict management techniques because they provide legality, increased reputation costs, and domestic political cover. The characteristics of the third party, on the other hand, have no effect on the success of a settlement attempt. Bias plays only an indirect role in conflict resolution, as territorial rivals generally turn to unbiased intermediaries to broker binding negotiations. We conclude that impartial third-party conflict management does not directly lead to successful negotiations. Rather, disputants favor unbiased third parties to broker the types of talks most likely to end international disputes.


Scapegoating Strategically: Reselection, Strategic Interaction and the Diversionary Theory of War. International Interactions 35 (1), 2009.

Proponents of the diversionary theory of war have often argued that domestic reselection incentives induce office-seeking leaders to pursue aggressive foreign policies. To examine the relationship between strategic interaction and diversionary incentives, this article develops a two-state, two-sided incomplete information deterrence model with domestic reselection. According to the model, reselection mechanisms increase a leader’s propensity to pursue aggressive foreign policies. Diversionary incentives in attacking states lead to an increase in war outcomes, while diversionary incentives in defending states may or may not increase the probability of war. The model also predicts that there will be nonmonotonic relationships between economic performance and war and between regime type and diversionary behavior, which may explain the discrepancies among many empirical tests of diversionary theory.


Going in When it Counts: Military Intervention and the Outcome of Civil Conflicts. International Studies Quarterly, 52 (4), 2008.

Conventional wisdom suggests that biased military interventions in civil conflicts should increase the probability that the supported side will win. However, while this is the case for rebel groups, the same is not true for governments. The explanation for this surprising finding becomes clear once one considers the decision of a third-party intervener. Since interveners want to impact the outcomes of civil conflict, government- and rebel-biased interventions will be more likely when the government is facing a stronger rebel group. Given that government-biased third parties intervene in the “toughest” cases, empirically they appear to be less effective than rebel-biased interveners.


Strange Bedfellows: The Strategic Dynamics of Major Power Military Interventions. Journal of Politics 69 (4), 2007.

Intuition suggests that major powers should be more likely to pursue joint military intervention when their preferences are most similar, but empirically, joint interventions are least likely in these cases. The solution to this puzzle lies in the strategic interaction between interveners. When states agree over policy, they face a free rider problem. A state is more willing to join an intervention as its preferences with the initial intervener diverge because doing so allows it to affect policy outcomes. To test the theory, a statistical model derived from the theoretical model is used to estimate the factors that affect the decisions of major powers to intervene in civil conflicts.


Book Chapter

Reputation, Experience, and Crisis Mediation. In Research Handbook on Mediating International Crises. 2019.

This chapter explores the roles that mediator experience and reputation play in crisis management. Mediators with experience and expertise can be more effective peace brokers in both interstate and intrastate crises. However, disputants in an ongoing crisis are often uncertain about the expertise of potential mediators. Thus, when selecting a mediator, disputants must rely upon a third party’s reputation as a proxy for its level of expertise. An analysis of past mediations in civil wars shows that states and organizations with prior mediation experience and recent mediation successes are more likely to be selected as conflict mediators. The use of reputation in the mediator selection process is beneficial in so far as it leads to the use of more effective mediators in crisis situations. However, the need for mediators to produce demonstrable achievements to bolster their reputations can potentially lead to short-term measures that may temporarily reduce tensions in crisis environments but do not promote the achievement of long-term conflict resolution.