Tripwires and free-riders: Do forward-deployed U.S. troops reduce the willingness of host-country citizens to fight for their country?
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionContemporary Security Policy. 2018, 40 (2), 135-164. 10.1080/13523260.2018.1492066
This article investigates the relationship between U.S. overseas troops and the willingness of the citizens of host states to fight for their country. The study joins the long-running debate about burden-sharing and free-riding among U.S. allies. Unlike most previous empirical studies, we focus on non-material or intangible measures of the underlying concepts. Our dependent variable estimates the proportion of citizens expressing a willingness to fight for their country. Scores at the aggregate-national as well as the individual level are shaped by the presence of U.S. military forces, which act as a “tripwire” signaling credible security commitments. This increases opportunities of (non-material) free-riding. We present both bivariate and multivariate analyses covering the period 1981–2014 to test this supposition. Findings indicate that once U.S. troop levels reach a certain threshold (between 100 and 500 troops), citizens’ willingness to fight drops significantly. This likely reflects non-material free-riding.