Free Essay Sample on the Bargaining Hypothesis and Politics

Published: 2019-09-24
Free Essay Sample on the Bargaining Hypothesis and Politics
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  International relations
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1876 words
16 min read

Since the start of the 14th century, the world has witnessed substantial growth in nationalism in many parts of the world. Civilizations have risen and collapsed, leading to the formation of new democratic societies that define the modern world. The formation of the new nations entailed, among other transformations, several conflicts over resources between countries. As these conflicts became more pronounced in the acquisition of new territories, leaders made extensive efforts to win the trust and commitment of the subjects in order to provide the requisite domestic support for various political adventures. Wars became a common feature of these leaderships and thus public support was considered an important element for the effective pursuit of national interests. It is from this perspective that rulers considered the pivotal role human and financial resources play in the advancement of a nations interests. Nations that experienced weak internal public commitment to their expansions often crumbled as a result of domestic divisions and reduced public support. The purpose of this paper is to explore the bargain hypothesis as a model of war as well as the case applications of the model in pursuit of nationalistic ambitions.

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The Bargaining Hypothesis and its Relevance with Domestic Commitment

The Bargaining Theory (BT) plays an integral part in understanding the international relations between nations. The BT is based on the economic principle that countries live on scarce resources, and in the process of competing for these scarce resources, conflicts are bound to occur. These conflicts majorly arise because of the political nature of the efforts made by nations to find an optimal allocation of the rare resources (Reiter 27).The political nature the conflict is illustrated in the pursuit of nationalistic ambitions that are intended to offer essential services to people of a particular jurisdiction. The actions may include the provision of security and other public goods that foster public commitment and enhance compliance to the incumbent governments (27-28). In his studies of the international relations and domestic conflicts (Lake 81-82) found out that the issue of resources not only caused war against neighbors but also occupied a central position in providing the favorable environment for domestic violence and other internal conflicts if such policies regarding resource allocations are not pursued in a manner that benefits the entire populace

Earlier studies conducted by Fearon (379-381) show that although there exist various alternatives to war due to its adverse implications but fights between states will always occur, nevertheless. Fearon argues that there are some factors contribute to the inevitability of wars. The leaders are sometimes irrational and thus ignore biases that will result in the misunderstanding of the cost implications of their actions pertaining to war. Also, the leaders who authorize wars often enjoy the benefits of the war but do not suffer the costs of fighting the war. Deaths and injuries are borne by the soldiers and the resources for the war are generated by the citizens. Furthermore, Fearon postulates that rational leaders who factor the risks and costs of the war end up fighting due to the net benefit victory would bring to their nations. As a result, the BT model sees the essence of conflicts as a function of disagreements over resource allocation and the policies choices made to settle the competing interests. Central to the BT of war is the attributes of individual leaders, the states and the systems that result in conflicts. These attributes were identified by Fearon to occupy a crucial place causing violence .The mentioned conditions leave the conflicting countries exposed to war as in the case of market failures that fail to avert strikes and labor unrests (Lake 81).

The other aspect of the bargaining theory hypothesis is the outbreak of the war as a result of the failure of the parties to make a credible commitment to the implementation of the provisions of an agreement. According to Lake (83) issues of credible commitment arise due to the failure of the parties to share the private information which enables the two parties to monitor each others progress regarding the implementation of the bargain. This mistrust erodes faith regarding the future behavior of opponents and thus may result in heightened tensions. Reiter (30) adds the shift in the balance of power may contribute further to the abandonment of the bargain. If one side, for instance, experiences growth in military capabilities, the outcome of the bargain may change due the possibility of the growing party reneging on the promise to commit attacks against the opponent. This scenario would prevent an amicable settlement of the bargain issues. The US and Saddam Hussein relationship before US invasion of Iraq may be considered a perfect example of the inadequate commitment of the parties.

The indivisibility of the issue that is favoring the conflict further renders the process of bargaining impossible. Such scenario leaves the belligerent camps to remain only with the option of military confrontation to resolve the issues. Mostly, neither party is willing to yield to the cause of the other as an option to the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Incidents of indivisible issues can be illustrated when a certain section of a country is pursuing secessionist tendencies within a country. In this case, the central government may not show the willing to negotiate as such an action may be feared to create a bad precedent for future secessions (Reiter 30).The studies of Fearon (401-405) demonstrated that the issue of indivisibilities does not present major challenges to the process of bargaining. However, domestic compliance and loyalties have been found to carry superior emotional command. This effect may create challenges for political actors to reach a compromise (Lake 83)

Weaknesses of the Bargaining Hypothesis

In spite of the insight provided by the theory regarding the causes of wars, its postulations fail to conform to some behavior that is associated with domestic war outcomes. The theory focuses on the international relations and does not offer a clear disposition of the causes of internal conflicts and the politics associated with such conflicts. Lake (89) argues that the theory does not hold when one attempts to distinguish between international relations and internal conflicts such as civil wars. The situation may be illustrated when groups within a jurisdiction opt to take up arms as an indication of rejection the current hierarchy. It also fails to explain when leaders cause violence as a consequence of the desire to consolidate domestic politics. . It cannot be thus said that the BT theory is limited to explaining the causes of international conflicts.

The Bargaining in Relation to Germany before the First World War

The activities of Germany before the outbreak of the First World War are anchored on the conditions of disagreement of Germanys assessment on the likely outcome of the war under the architecture of Schielffen Plan. The plan was hatched in 1897 in pursuit of nationalistic policies of such as identity and control of resources that were located in areas that were inhabited people of German ethnic group. The strategic plan was based on the theory that Germany would mount a concurrent attack on Russia in the east and France in the west. The plan assumed that, although the Russian troops were strong in terms of military capability, the effects of the war with Japan had weakened the Russian forces. In regards to the French, the Germans made an assumption that France could be conquered easily due to its earlier capitulation in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71(Zuber 1-14).This understanding made an underassessment of the likely outcome of the war as France was surreptitiously arming in preparation for retaliation. The French on the other hand had accurately estimated the strength of the German forces but failed to assess the significance of Germanys widespread use of reserve troops. The Britishs treaty with Belgium also made the French to make an assumption that Germany would not attack neutral Belgium. The mentioned position represented a miscalculation of the respect of the bargain of the treaty yet Germany considered the Belgium-British treaty insignificant (Zuber 5-12). As Reiter (29) affirms, empirical findings indicate that countries with equal power are prone to war than those countries that have an imbalance of power between them. The cases of France and Germany show that states with almost equal strength are often optimistic about the outcomes of war and thus prefer war as a means of reaching a settlement.

The effects of the Franco-Prussian War present various events that offer credence to the bargaining hypothesis of war. The behaviors of France and Germany after the war of 1870-71 demonstrated deliberate efforts by the two nations not honor the bargain of the Frankfurt Treaty (Zuber 2-9). As noted earlier in Lake (83), lack of credible commitment to the provisions of a bargain may lead to one of the parties repudiating on its commitments. Studies into the consequences of the Franco-Prussian War indicate that France did not provide the accurate information regarding the implementation of the bargain of the Frankfurt Treaty. Instead, France is depicted fortifying its territories, an indication of its deliberate ambitions to dishonor the agreement with Germany (Zuber 1-7). This position represents the hypothesis of hiding private information about the willingness and strength to fight. The bargain is furthermore dishonored by the actions of Germany who underestimated the military capability of France considering her victory over the French in the war. According to Reiter (30), war may occur due to the inability of the belligerents to commit not fight in the future. Should one party foresee an advantage, and this strategy may prompt preparations to be the first party to launch a strike. The French actions are consistent with the postulations of the theory as indicated in its surreptitious preparations to strike Germany. Also, the growth in power of France after the defeat decreased the possibility of the French honoring the bargain.

Resources and nationalism played a significant role in the international relations between Germany and its neighbors in the build-up to the First World War. In France, the domestic commitment was secured through the resentment against the Germans due to the loss of its resource-rich regions of Lorraine and Alsace during the Franco-Prussian War ("First World - Feature Articles - The Planning of the War"). These areas provided a substantial contribution to the economic lives of the French. As Forean (379) notes war can be a rational option for some leaders who are acting in the best interests of their countries. According to Forean, these leaders consider the costs of the war but proceed with the war due to the expected net benefits that such military actions are likely to bring to their countries. Such leaders command huge domestic commitment as a motivation to advance their agenda across the borders. In the case of Germany, the ethnographic and economic factors that drove its invasion of France seemed to outweigh the costs in terms of deaths of soldiers and civilians.


Bargaining hypothesis offers insightful information on the various policies that are adopted by governments to promote their interests abroad. Most of the international interactions are majorly driven by the pursuit of nationalistic goals. For the international relations to succeed, it is essential for leaders to command domestic commitment. From the literature review, the bargaining theory has three vital aspects that make the outbreak...

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