Diversionary conflict dynamics within autocratic states
Stone, Braden Curran
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Recent research applying diversionary conflict theory to nondemocratic regimes has produced novel insights with regard to the propensity of different nondemocratic regime structures to divert. This project expands autocratic diversionary research further, proposing that antecedent domestic conditions incentivize diversionary stratagems differently under democratic and nondemocratic regimes. Drawing on the political survival theory of Bueno de Mesquita and his collaborators, I propose that within nondemocratic states economic development rather than downturn has a destabilizing effect that threatens executive tenure and thereby incentivizes diversionary conflict. It is expected that economic development, particularly when characterized by trade liberalization and industrialization, should heighten domestic political threat for an autocratic executive. Empirical testing finds that, when sources of political threat are differentiated, economic development within nondemocratic states does heighten political threat arising among the public, which correlates with a greater likelihood of conflict initiation. Trade liberalization and industrialization prove not especially significant factors.