The Durability of the Security Dilemma: An Empirical Investigation of Action–Reaction Dynamics in States’ Military Spending (1988–2014)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionChinese Journal of International Politics. 2018, 11 (2), 153-192. 10.1093/cjip/poy007
The security dilemma describes the tragic spiral ensuing from states’ attempts to enhance their security under anarchy. Even in a world consisting solely of status quo-oriented states, the outcome of the dilemma is, in theory, increased conflict and reduced security for all. After the Cold War ended many voices claimed that the security dilemma was mainly a thing of the past. Others, however, disagreed, arguing that security competition and interstate conflict would still be prominent features of the international system. We provide relevant empirical tests of such stances which attempt to reveal whether action–reaction dynamics have been prevalent in the post-Cold War period, with data covering 150 countries and spanning the period 1988–2014. Our dependent variable uses data on the changes in states’ military spending; our main independent variable codes the weighted average of arms spending changes among neighbouring states. Thereby we get a novel measure of whether states in general structure their military budgets according to the alterations in neighbouring countries’ military capacity. Our results indicate that this is indeed the case; the security dilemma, and action–reaction forms of behaviour more broadly (including both ‘vicious’ and ‘virtuous’ cycles), are still key mechanisms in the international system. This relationship holds for the entire post-Cold War period, though results for the last five to six years are particularly strong.