Informational Considerations in Conflict Bargaining
In the context of conflict bargaining, do state actors employ tactics designed to extract private information regarding adversaries’ resolve? This project argues in the affirmative. Strategic interactions literature has examined various ways by which state actors seek to increase their pay-offs vis-a-vis their opponents. Prior works have studied manipulation of commitment (Schelling 2008), strategies of reciprocity (Axelrod and Hamilton 1981), and deception (Jervis 2017), among others, to explain actors’ rationalist motivations for specific actions. In this context, significant work has been done to advance our understanding of how states seek to effect the perception of their adversaries (Fearon 1997; Powell 2004; Stein 2003). However, extant scholarship is lagging in explaining actor strategies aimed at infor- mational extraction as apposed to its communication. This project seeks to fill the void by considering the tactic of limited probes. I argue that states can derive a benefit by conducting limited probes through provocation of their opponents in order to extract information on the adversaries’ resolve. Possessing such information can assist states in making better subsequent bargaining decisions. Potential counter-strategies are also explored. The validity of this logic is examined through a qualitative analysis of historical and contemporary cases. I find that the logic of limited probes is empirically supported and that states purposefully engage in such behaviors.