Public commitment in crisis bargaining

Published

Journal Article

The "audience cost" literature argues that highly-resolved leaders can use public threats to credibly signal their resolve in incomplete-information crisis bargaining, thereby overcoming informational asymmetries that lead to war. If democracies are better able to generate audience costs, then audience costs help explain the democratic peace. We use a game-theoretic model to show how public commitments can be used coercively as a source of bargaining leverage, even in a complete-information setting in which they have no signaling role. When both sides use public commitments for bargaining leverage, war becomes an equilibrium outcome. The results provide a rationale for secret negotiations as well as hypotheses about when leaders will claim that the disputed good is indivisible, recognized as a rationalist explanation for war. Claims of indivisibility may just be bargaining tactics to get the other side to make big concessions, and compromise is still possible in equilibrium. © 2009 International Studies Association.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Tarar, A; Leventoǧlu, B

Published Date

  • September 1, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 53 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 817 - 839

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-2478

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0020-8833

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1468-2478.2009.00557.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus