Skip to main content Accessibility help

Alliances, Internal Information, and Military Conflict Among Member-States

  • David H. Bearce (a1), Kristen M. Flanagan (a2) and Katharine M. Floros (a3)

We offer a theory explaining how alliances as international security regimes reduce military conflict between member-states through their internal provision of information concerning national military capabilities. Bargaining models of war have shown that a lack of information about relative military capabilities functions as an important cause of war. We argue that alliances provide such information to internal participants, and greater knowledge within the alliance about member-state military capabilities reduces certain informational problems that could potentially lead to war. This internal information effect, however, is a conditional one. We posit that the information provided within the alliance matters most for dyads at or near power parity: the cases where states are most uncertain about who would prevail if a military conflict did emerge. In power preponderant dyads where the outcome of a potential military conflict is relatively certain, the internal information provided by military alliances becomes less important. Our statistical results provide strong support for these theoretical arguments.Our greatest thanks go to Ashley Leeds, who made available an advance copy of the ATOP 3.0 data set. This article also benefited from presentations at the University of Wisconsin and at ISA-South in Columbia, S.C. Finally, we thank Lisa Martin, two anonymous reviewers, Scott Gehlbach, Chuck Gochman, Zaryab Iqbal, George Krause, Pat McDonald, Jon Pevehouse, Bill Reed, Kevin Sweeney, and Harrison Wagner for their detailed comments and/or suggestions.

Hide All


Altfeld, Michael F. 1984. The Decision to Ally: A Theory and Test. Western Political Quarterly 37 (4):52344.
Anthony, John Duke. 1996. Special Report: The Sixteenth GCC Heads-of-State Summit: Insights and Implications. Middle East Policy 4 (October):15978.
Beck, Nathaniel, and Jonathan N. Katz. 2001. Throwing Out the Baby with the Bath Water: A Comment on Green, Kim, and Yoon. International Organization 55 (2):48795.
Beck, Nathaniel, Jonathan N. Katz, and Richard Tucker. 1998. Taking Time Seriously: Time-Series-Cross-Section Analysis with a Binary Dependent Variable. American Journal of Political Science 42 (4):126088.
Bennett, D. Scott. 1997. Testing Alternative Models of Alliance Duration, 1816–1984. American Journal of Political Science 41 (3):84678.
Brambor, Thomas, William Roberts Clark, and Matt Golder. 2006. Understanding Interaction Models: Improving Empirical Analyses. Political Analysis 14 (1):6382.
Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce. 1981. The War Trap. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Buzan, Barry, and Ole Waever. 2003. Regions and Powers: The Structure of International Security. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Christensen, Thomas J., and Jack Snyder. 1990. Chain Gangs and Passed Bucks: Predicting Alliance Patterns in Multipolarity. International Organization 44 (2):13768.
Clark, David H., and Timothy Nordstrom. 2003. Risky Inference: Unobserved Treatment Effects in Conflict Studies. International Studies Quarterly 47 (3):41729.
Dann, Uriel. 1989. King Hussein and the Challenge of Arab Radicalism: Jordan, 1955–1967. New York: Oxford University Press.
Duffield, John S. 1992. International Regimes and Alliance Behavior: Explaining NATO Conventional Force Levels. International Organization 46 (4):81955.
Farber, Henry S., and Joanne Gowa. 1997. Common Interests or Common Polities? Reinterpreting the Democratic Peace. Journal of Politics 59 (2):393417.
Fearon, James D. 1995. Rationalist Explanations for War. International Organization 49 (3):379414.
Gaubatz, Kurt Taylor. 1996. Democratic States and Commitment in International Relations. International Organization 50 (1):10939.
Gartzke, Erik. 1998. Kant We All Just Get Along? Opportunity, Willingness, and the Origins of the Democratic Peace. American Journal of Political Science 42 (1):127.
Gartzke, Erik, Quan Li, and Charles Boehmer. 2001. Investing in the Peace: Economic Interdependence and International Conflict. International Organization 55 (2):391438.
Gibler, Douglas M. 2000. Alliances: Why Some Cause War and Others Cause Peace. In What Do We Know About War? edited by John A. Vasquez, 14564. New York: Rowan and Littlefield.
Gibler, Douglas M., and Meredith Reid Sarkees. 2004. Measuring Alliances: The Correlates of War Formal Interstate Alliance Data Set, 1816–2000. Journal of Peace Research 41 (2):21122.
Gleditsch, Kristian Skrede. 2002. Expanded Trade and GDP Data. Journal of Conflict Resolution 46 (5):71224.
Hadley, Guy. 1971. CENTO, the Forgotten Alliance: A Study of the Central Treaty Organization. Institute for the Study of International Organizations Monograph 1 (4).
Haftendorn, Helga, Robert O. Keohane, and Celeste A. Wallander. 1999. Imperfect Unions: Security Institutions over Time and Space. New York: Oxford University Press.
Hellman, Gunther, and Reinhard Wolf. 1993. Neorealism, Neoliberal Institutionalism, and the Future of NATO. Security Studies 3 (1):343.
Jervis, Robert. 1983. Security Regimes. In International Regimes, edited by Stephen D. Krasner, 173194. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Kant, Immanuel. [1795] 1932. Perpetual Peace. Los Angeles: U.S. Library Association.
Keohane, Robert O. 1984. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Keohane, Robert O. 1989. International Institutions and State Power. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press.
King, Gary, Robert O. Keohane, and Sydney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Krasner, Stephen D. 1983. Structural Causes and Regime Consequences: Regimes as Intervening Variables. In International Regimes, edited by Stephen D. Krasner, 121. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Krebs, Ronald R. 1999. Perverse Institutionalism: NATO and the Greco-Turkish Conflict. International Organization 53 (2):34377.
Lai, Brian, and Dan Reiter. 2000. Democracy, Political Similarity, and International Alliances, 1816–1992. Journal of Conflict Resolution 44 (2):20327.
Leeds, Brett Ashley. 2003. Do Alliances Deter Aggression? The Influence of Military Alliances on the Initiation of Militarized Interstate Disputes. American Journal of Political Science 47 (3):42739.
Leeds, Brett Ashley, Jeffrey M. Ritter, Sara McLaughlin Mitchell, and Andrew G. Long. 2002. Alliance Treaty Obligations and Provisions, 1815–1944. International Interactions 28 (3):23760.
Lemke, Douglas. 2002. Regions of War and Peace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lemke, Douglas, and William Reed. 2001. War and Rivalry Among Great Powers. American Journal of Political Science 45 (2):45769.
Lentini, Pete. 2004. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Central Asia. In Regional Security in the Asia Pacific: 9/11 and After, edited by Marika Vicziany, David Wright-Neville, and Pete Lentini, 12848. Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar.
MacDonald, Robert W. 1965. The League of Arab States: A Study in the Dynamics of Regional Organization. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Mansfield, Edward D., and Jon C. Pevehouse. 2000. Trade Blocs, Trade Flows, and International Conflict. International Organization 54 (4):775808.
Mansfield, Edward D., Jon C. Pevehouse, and David H. Bearce. 1999/2000. Preferential Trading Arrangements and Military Disputes. Security Studies 9 (1–2):92118.
Martin, Lisa L., and Beth Simmons. 1998. Theories and Empirical Studies of International Institutions. International Organization 52 (4):72957.
Maoz, Zeev. 2000. Alliances: The Street Gangs of World Politics—Their Origins, Management, and Consequences, 1816–1986. In What Do We Know About War? edited by John A. Vasquez, 14564. New York: Rowan and Littlefield.
McCalla, Robert B. 1996. NATO's Persistence After the Cold War. International Organization 50 (3):44575.
McDonald, Patrick J. 2004. Peace Through Trade or Free Trade? Journal of Conflict Resolution 48 (4):54772.
Mearsheimer, John J. 1994/95. The False Promise of International Institutions. International Security 19 (3):549.
Morrow, James D. 1989. Capabilities, Uncertainty, and Resolve: A Limited Information Model of Crisis Bargaining. American Journal of Political Science 33 (4):94172.
Morrow, James D. 1991. Alliances and Asymmetry: An Alternative to the Capability Aggregation Model of Alliances. American Journal of Political Science 35 (4):90433.
Nakhleh, Emile A. 1986. The Gulf Cooperation Council: Policies, Problems and Prospects. New York: Praeger.
Olson, Mancur, and Richard Zeckhauser. 1966. An Economic Theory of Alliances. Review of Economics and Statistics 48 (3):26679.
Oneal, John R., and Bruce Russett. 1997. The Classical Liberals Were Right: Democracy, Interdependence, and Conflict, 1950–1985. International Studies Quarterly 41 (2):26794.
Oneal, John R., and Bruce Russett. 1999a. Is the Liberal Peace Just an Artifact of Cold War Interests? Assessing Recent Critiques. International Interactions 25 (3):21341.
Oneal, John R., and Bruce Russett. 1999b. The Kantian Peace: The Pacific Benefits of Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, 1885–1992. World Politics 52 (1):137.
Oneal, John R., Bruce Russett, and Michael L. Berbaum. 2003. Causes of Peace: Democracy, Interdependence, and International Organizations, 1885–1992. International Studies Quarterly 47 (3):37193.
Powell, Robert. 2004. Bargaining and Learning While Fighting. American Journal of Political Science 48 (2):34461.
Reed, William. 2003a. Information, Power, and War. American Political Science Review 97 (4):63341.
Reed, William. 2003b. Information and Economic Interdependence. Journal of Conflict Resolution 47 (1):5471.
Reiter, Dan. 1996. Crucible of Beliefs: Learning, Alliances and World Wars. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Reiter, Dan. 2003. Exploring the Bargaining Model of War. Perspectives on Politics 1 (1):2743.
Russett, Bruce, John R. Oneal, and David R. Davis. 1998. The Third Leg of the Kantian Tripod for Peace: International Organizations and Militarized Disputes, 1950–85. International Organization 52 (3):44167.
Schroeder, Paul W. 1976. Alliances, 1815–1945: Weapons of Power and Tools of Management. In Historical Dimensions of National Security Problems, edited by Klaus Knorr, 22762. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
Schweller, Randall L. 1994. Bandwagoning for Profit: Bringing the Revisionist State Back In. International Security 19 (1):72107.
Seale, Patrick. 1986. The Struggle for Syria: A Study of Post-War Arab Politics 1945–1958. London: Tauris.
Signorino, Curtis S., and Jeffrey M. Ritter. 1999. Tau-b or not Tau-b: Measuring the Similarity of Foreign Policy Positions. International Studies Quarterly 43 (1):11544.
Simmons, Beth A., and Lisa L. Martin. 2002. International Organizations and Institutions. In Handbook of International Relations, edited by Walter Carlsnaes et al., 192211. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Singer, J. David, and Melvin Small. 1968. Alliance Aggregation and the Onset of War, 1815–1945. In Quantitative International Politics: Insights and Evidence, edited by J. David Singer, 24786. New York: Free Press.
Smith, Alastair, and Allan C. Stam. 2004. Bargaining and the Nature of War. Journal of Conflict Resolution 48 (6):783813.
Wagner, R. Harrison. 2000. Bargaining and War. American Journal of Political Science 44 (3):469484.
Wallander, Celeste A. 2000. Institutional Assets and Adaptability: NATO After the Cold War. International Organization 54 (4):70535.
Walt, Stephen M. 1987. The Origins of Alliances. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.
Walt, Stephen M. 1999. Rigor or Rigor Mortis?: Rational Choice and Security Studies. International Security 23 (4):548.
Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. A Theory of International Politics. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.
Weitsman, Patricia A. 1997. Intimate Enemies. Security Studies 7 (1):15692.
Weitsman, Patricia A. 2004. Dangerous Alliances: Proponents of Peace, Weapons of War. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.
Werner, Suzanne. 1998. Negotiating the Terms of Settlement: War Aims and Bargaining Leverage. Journal of Conflict Resolution 42 (3):32143.
Werner, Suzanne. 1999a. The Precarious Nature of Peace: Resolving the Issues, Enforcing the Settlement, and Renegotiating the Terms. American Journal of Political Science 43 (3):91234.
Werner, Suzanne. 1999b. Choosing Demands Strategically: The Distribution of Power, the Distribution of Benefits, and the Risk of Conflict. Journal of Conflict Resolution 43 (6):70526.
Wittman, Donald. 1979. How a War Ends: A Rational Model Approach. Journal of Conflict Resolution 23 (4):74363.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Organization
  • ISSN: 0020-8183
  • EISSN: 1531-5088
  • URL: /core/journals/international-organization
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed