DISSERTATION

"Planning for the Short Haul: Explaining Wartime Trade between Enemies"

In times of war, why do states continue to trade with their enemies? Conventional wisdom assumes that trade is the first casualty of war; leaders sever trade because the gains from trade can be converted into military capability by the enemy. In this dissertation, I argue that states make deliberate choices when setting their wartime commercial policies and that these policies are tailored to match the type of war the state is expecting to fight. Specifically, states seek to balance two goals – minimizing the ability of the opponent to benefit from the security externalities of trade and maximizing revenue from continued trade during the war. As a result, states have two reasons to continue trading with their enemies during war. First, states trade in products that their opponents take a long time to convert into military capabilities, because the security externalities from this trade will not help the opponent win the war. Second, states trade in products that are essential to the domestic economy but can be obtained only from the opponent, because sacrificing this trade would also impair the state’s long term security.

Furthermore, I argue that states revise their wartime commercial policies based on how well they are doing on the battlefield. As the expected length of war increases, the number of prohibited products will increase since the opponent will have more time to benefit military from the gains of trade. Similarly, the closer the war gets to being existentially threatening, the more wartime trade with the enemy the state will be willing to give up to ensure its survival. The dissertation tests this theory using the comparative case study method, looking at the Crimean War (1853-1856), World War I and World War II.Furthermore, I argue that states revise their wartime commercial policies based on how well they are doing on the battlefield. As the expected length of war increases, the number of prohibited products will increase since the opponent will have more time to benefit military from the gains of trade. Similarly, the closer the war gets to being existentially threatening, the more wartime trade with the enemy the state will be willing to give up to ensure its survival. The dissertation tests this theory using the comparative case study method, looking at the Crimean War (1853-1856), World War I and World War II.


WORKING PAPERS

"Unconstrained Sovereignty: Delegation of Authority and Reversibility" (under review)

The concept of sovereignty shapes our understanding of the world. Yet our current understanding of sovereignty fails to explain when states pull out of supranational organizations, why shared sovereignty agreements frequently fail, or why young democracies have such a high recidivism rate. I argue that these analytical problems stem from a contradiction at the core of the existing definitions of sovereignty. They conflate delegation of authority with a loss of sovereignty. Delegation is relatively easy, cheap, and certain to reverse; it’s an affirmation of sovereignty. However, use of force is required to regain lost sovereignty. Conflating the two has tremendous consequences. In this paper, I propose a definition of sovereignty that draws a clear distinction between sovereignty and delegated authority. Adopting this definition allows the comparison of sovereignty across time and space, shows that institutions do not place permanent constraints on supreme authority, and shows the impossibility of popular sovereignty.


"Anarchic Bargain: Power Trajectories and the Logic of International Order"

How do states build lasting international order? Existing explanations of order formation argue that leading states are incentivized to create binding institutions with robust rules and strong enforcement mechanisms. The stability resulting from such institutionalized orders, scholars argue, allows leading states to geopolitically punch above their weight after they have declined in power. I argue, however, that such explanations overlook the tradeoff leading states are faced with between stability and flexibility. Flexibility allows leading states to take advantage of relative power increases and therefore requires order formation based on short-term agreements that can be renegotiated when the strategic situation changes. Whereas states face significant incentives to err on the side of stability if they predict irreversible decline in power, states face incentives to err on the side of flexibility if they predict relative rise in power. By highlighting these competing incentives, I demonstrate that the U.S.-sponsored post-WWII international order was not a long-term institutional project designed to stabilize U.S. hegemony, but was rather intended as a situational order that could be amended when the strategic circumstances changed.

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