Civil-Military Relations with Tenuous Civilian Control: A Domestic Path to International Conflict | 2023 | Events

Civil-Military Relations with Tenuous Civilian Control: A Domestic Path to International Conflict
Anne Sartori headshot in front of a bookcase
Anne Sartori
MIT Sloan School of Management
February 8, 2023

This paper argues that states with tenuous civilian control over the military have an increased propensity for international conflict.  In such states, civilian leaders prefer to cede less power to the military in order to decrease the risk of coups, but must grant them some power to protect the state from threats.  To persuade the government to keep the military strong, military leaders may choose to engage in activities that increase tensions with an international adversary, a move that both emphasizes and increases the government’s need for security.  The paper develops this argument by means of a formal model. In the model, the government considers consolidating power at the military’s expense, and the military may engage in a form of “gambling for resurrection,” engaging in military activity that is likely to harm the state’s security, but if successful, can persuade the government not to do so. A case study of the Kargil War illustrates military leaders’ leeway to engage in military activity and that they may use this leeway when they have reason to fear government consolidation. The paper contributes to literatures on civil-military relations, the influence of domestic institutions on international conflict, and comparative authoritarianism.

Anne E. Sartori is Research Scientist at the Sloan School of Management, MIT. Dr. Sartori is an expert on international security and the use of game theory and statistical methods in the study of politics.  Her research focuses on the sources of both secrecy and successful communication between states, the roles of honesty and reputation in conflict resolution, and the impact of civil-military relations on international conflict.  Her published works include the book Deterrence By Diplomacy (Princeton University Press, 1998), as well as articles on the role of diplomacy and the strategic use of information in international relations, and on the use of statistics in the study of politics.  Her current large project,Tug of War; Civil-Military Relations and International Conflict, studies the impact of domestic power-sharing arrangements between civilian and military institutions on the diplomacy and conflict behavior of less-democratic countries. In addition to her research, Dr. Sartori enjoys teaching and mentoring, and has held faculty positions at Northwestern University, Princeton University, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison; she has also been a Visiting Associate Professor and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard.  Prior to becoming an academic, she worked on foreign-affairs issues as a Legislative Assistant to Hon. Thomas M. Foglietta, D-PA. She received her B.A. in Political Science from Yale College in 1988 and her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1998.