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Dictators at War and Peace (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)

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In Iran, there clearly is an audience of clerics who hold leaders accountable, while in the monarchies the king’s family constitutes a potential threat, as demonstrated for example by the 1995 coup in Qatar that elevated the crown prince to the throne. I develop this argument below using the cases of Imperial Japan, Wilhelmine Germany, and Egypt in the Six-Day War. Some of these arguments turn out to apply to all types of political regimes, whereas others are unique to autocracies.

Instead of strategy being crafted to achieve political objectives, civilian policymakers had to mold their objectives to military strategy. The integration of institutional and dispositional variables is a nice contribution that helps to advance the now well-established literature on the independent effect of leaders on foreign policy.By focusing on not only domestic accountability but also the predilections of leaders and, crucially, the preferences of the domestic audiences they are accountable to, Weeks shows that some autocrats face incentives much like democracies, and therefore behave much like their democratic counterparts when it comes to questions of war and peace. While Japan provides a clear example of an aggressive military, its status as a Junta is more open to question given the importance of the civilian emperor and of civilian politicians. In other words, given a theoretical set-up with no time-varying factors, Weeks cannot explain why regime type A went to war in 1938, but not in 1933. A preliminary statistical analysis suggests, contrary to this counterargument, that the result is actually being driven primarily by the non-communist Machines (countries like Mexico under the Institutional Revolutionary Party PRI, post-independence Kenya and Tanzania, and Malaysia under Mahathir Mohamad), but disentangling this relationship is not straightforward given the broad overlap. Between Machines and Juntas, the latter are somewhat more conflict-prone and likely to lose wars because the military background of the leader and the audience create a more permissive environment for the use of force.

In Dictators at War and Peace, Weeks categorizes authoritarian regimes based on whether leaders face domestic audiences that can hold them accountable for foreign policy failures—as in democracies—and whether leaders and audiences consist of civilian elites or military officers. The new Prime Minister in 1937, Fumimaro Konoe, was not a military officer, there was no coup or seizure of power by the military, and the structure of the regime remained unchanged. Finally, there is the difficulty of sorting out the independent effect of regime type given possible confounds. His second book, Leaders and International Conflict, co-authored with Giacomo Chiozza, was published by Cambridge University Press (2011) and focuses on the role of leaders in war initiation.Regimes in which leaders are vulnerable to removal fall into two types depending on whether both actors are civilians ( machines) or military officers ( juntas).

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