Two decades ago, Jim Fearon's ``Rationalist Explanations for War'' re-framed the study of the origins of war as an inefficiency puzzle: why would rational actors resort to war to settle their disputes when they could just agree to the same outcome and avoid the costs of war? The solutions to the puzzle were three bargaining problems: issue indivisibility, asymmetric information, and commitment problems.
The central theme of this project is that the same puzzle, with the same solutions, applies to essentially any costly international behavior: not just war, but also arming and arms races, the seeking of allies or clients, brinkmanship, terrorism, the imposition of sanctions, proxy conflicts, the erection of barriers to commerce and trade wars, and economic predation. All of these are costly means for waging disputes that ultimately result in some outcome that could instead be agreed without the costs, and so all of these are caused by bargaining problems. Put another way, the bargaining theory of war is in fact a bargaining theory of all modes of costly conflict.
Applying this line of thinking to each of these modes of costly conflict has generated a series of articles that make original contributions to the mostly-separate bodies of scholarly work on each of these costly behaviors. These papers: provide a new account of the origins of the Iraq War, Iraq's pre-war civil conflict, and the American War of Independence; explain why arms control is so rare and arming ubiquitous; account for why sanctions sometimes undermine and sometimes entrench the targeted regime, and why this is hard to predict ex ante; offer a new theory for why environmental or economic shocks are associated with civil and other conflict; and explain why the narcotics trade leads to so much violence.
Andrew J. Coe. 2018. "Containing Rogues: A Theory of Asymmetric Arming." Journal of Politics 80(4): 1197-1210. Online appendix.
Andrew J. Coe and Jane Vaynman. 2020. "Why Arms Control Is So Rare." American Political Science Review 114(2): 342-355. Online appendix.
Andrew J. Coe. "Costly Peace: A New Rationalist Explanation for War."
Andrew J. Coe. "Sanctions as Instruments of Regime Change."
Andrew J. Coe. "Rationalist Explanations for Costly Conflict."
Muhammet A. Bas and Andrew J. Coe. "Trying Times and Conflict."
Andrew J. Coe. "Wars to End Predation."