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Treisman: Rational appeasement

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.

Treisman. 2004. Rational appeasement. International Organization.

MAIN POINTt: Treisman shows with a series of models that if a state faces multiple challenges and has limited resources the presumption against appeasement breaks down: appeasing in one arena may then be vital to conserve sufficient resources to deter in others. He identifies "appeasement" and "deterrence" equilibria, and shows that when the stakes of conflict are either high or low [i.e. not intermediate], or when the costs of fighting are high, only appeasement equilibria exist.

[Yes, stakes can be high or low. If stakes are high, then deterrence won't work anyway; when stakes are low, then deterrence isn't even worth it. Deterrence only happens in an intermediate range.]

The analysis suggests both that we should not expect too much from rational reputation models and that we should not conclude too quickly that they are wrong. Since both appeasement and deterrence equilibria are often possible for the same parameter values, most behavior could be rationalized in some way. To generate models with more predictive power and the fragility necessary for easy falsification, scholars may have to incorporate insights from psychology about how beliefs form and test for the existence of specific beliefs. In short, even those who keep the rationalist approach to explaining international behavior may need to learn more about the human mind as well as about deductive logic.

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Treisman, Daniel (author)Political ScienceInternational RelationsWarBargainingAppeasement

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