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The Principle of Convergence in Wartime Negotiations

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2004

University of California, San Diego


If war results from disagreement about relative strength, then it ends when opponents learn enough about each other. Learning occurs when information is revealed by strategically manipulable negotiation behavior and nonmanipulable battlefield outcomes. I present a model of simultaneous bargaining and fighting where both players can make offers and asymmetric information exists about the distribution of power. In the Markov perfect sequential equilibrium, making and rejecting offers has informational value that outweighs the one provided by the battlefield. However, states use both sources of information to learn and settle before military victory. The Principle of Convergence posits that warfare ceases to be useful when it loses its informational content and that belief in defeat (victory) is not necessary to terminate (initiate) hostilities. Thus, the standard puzzle in international relations that seeks to account for prewar optimism on both sides may not be that relevant.

© 2003 by the American Political Science Association

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