The Paradox of Power in Conflict Between the Strong and the Weak: When and Why Do Weaker States Challenge the Hegemon's International Status Quo?
Kim, Hong-Cheol (author)
Souva, Mark (professor directing dissertation)
Creswell, Michael (university representative)
Hensel, Paul (committee member)
Moore, Will H. (committee member)
Smith, Dale (committee member)
Department of Political Science (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
While formal and empirical studies of international relations have investigated the conditions under which weak states win conflicts against strong countries, there has been little systematic examination of how weaker states' incentives to challenge are related to the expected response of the hegemon. In contrast to conventional wisdom that suggests militarized punishment can deter potential challengers, I argue that weak but strongly motivated challengers might interpret the hegemon's military intervention against adversaries as a window of opportunity to launch their own challenges to achieve their own political objectives. Empirical results reveal that weaker states face incentives to challenge an existing international status quo when the hegemon is preoccupied with prior military commitments. Given this context, weaker states that have a dissimilar alliance portfolio with the hegemon or weaker states that have experienced militarized interstate disputes with the hegemon in the past are more likely to initiate MIDs with other countries. My theory also suggests that weaker states challenge the hegemon using non-military means to exploit the hegemon's preoccupation with a war. The reason is because weaker states tend to think that non-military challenges draw lower attention from the hegemon and may provoke less severe punishment from it even if it militarily responds to their challenges. Therefore, they sometimes adopt this strategy to respond to their window of opportunity. First, empirical results focusing on weaker states' nuclear challenges against the hegemon indicate that weaker states that are not in a defense pact with the hegemon are more likely to undertake opportunistic behavior by exploiting the U.S. preoccupation and challenge its status quo by testing nuclear weapons. Moreover, weaker states that have repeatedly experienced militarized interstate disputes with the U.S. are also more likely to develop nuclear programs under the presence of the U.S.'s preoccupation with a war or rivalry. Distinct from power variables, results show that weaker states that trade more with the U.S. are less likely to develop nuclear programs than states that trade less with the hegemon, ceteris paribus. Second, analysis based on weaker states' human rights reveals that weaker states allied with the U.S. are more likely to respect physical rights integrity than other states even if the U.S. is preoccupied with a war. On the contrary, weaker states not having defense pacts with the U.S. more frequently violate their physical integrity rights when the U.S. is involved in a war. In particular, leaders of authoritarian regimes are more likely to exploit the hegemon's preoccupation to extend their political survival by repressing protests from the public. Accordingly, human rights violations are more prevalent in dissatisfied weaker states when the hegemon is distracted by a war or other prior commitments. Third, the analysis based on weaker states' likelihood of military coups reveals leaders in weaker states that are friendly toward the hegemon but have weak alliance with it are more likely to experience military coups or attempted coups when the hegemon is preoccupied with a war. The first reason is that the hegemon's preoccupation opens up a window of opportunity for military coup leaders to strategically exploit the hegemon's ambivalent situation. Second, they know that the likelihood of achieving successful military coups in this context is higher than other times. Therefore, military coups or attempted coups are more likely to occur in these weaker states in the absence of the hegemon's protection. In conclusion, the analyses focusing on weaker states' military and non-military challenges inform us that not only the hegemon's war involvement provides dissatisfied weaker states with a window of opportunity that leads to asymmetric conflicts, but also influences weaker states' domestic politics and political stability. To be exact, the attenuation of the hegemon's power derived from its war involvement tends to result in conflictual relationships between states. Therefore, based on my empirical findings here, I argue that maintaining the hegemon's power ascendancy by augmenting extant alliance is the key to preventing deterrence failure and constructing peaceful international societies.
Hegemon, Weaker States, Preoccupation, Dissatisfaction, Challenge, Status Quo
February 26, 2010.
A Dissertation submitted to the Department of Political Science in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Mark Souva, Professor Directing Dissertation; Michael Creswell, University Representative; Paul Hensel, Committee Member; Will H. Moore, Committee Member; Dale Smith, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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