Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Powell, Robert. 2006. War as a Commitment Problem. International Organization.
Powell argues that war is either a commitment problem or an informational problem (indivisibility problems don't exist). But commitment problems are often poorly defined and categorized, particularly in the case of prolonged conflict. Powell discusses the types of commitment problems and some models of conflict based on them.
Powell builds upon Fearon's vague citation work on conflict as a failure of a bargaining game.
Bargaining indivisibility does not adequately explain war since even if an issue is indivisible there are still agreements both sides prefer to fighting. The problem is that states cannot commit to these agreements. Both sides to a conflict merely need to find a bargaining game that provides them with similar odds to a warfare game, which would then avoid the significant non-recoverable costs of war (eg mediation). The problem is that it is extraordinarily to commit to such a mechanism.
Powell argues that the three general types of preventive war--preventive war caused by anticipated shift in power distribution, preventive war caused by first-strike advantaged, and preventive ward caused by concessions which shift the military balance--are all part of the same general strategic problem, in that all the bargainers are trying to divide a flow of benefits in a situation in which (1) it is impossible to commit to a future division of benefits, (2) each actor has the option of locking in a share of the flow at time t, (3) the use of power is inefficient in that it destroys some of the flow, and (4) the distribution of power, and thus the amounts actors can lock in, shifts over time.
Research on similar subjects