Model(ing) military intervention

I have a short bucket list of scholars—academic rockstars, that is—I want to meet at some point. Alan Kuperman sits near the top of that list. He produces really insightful work on my research interest, military intervention.

Critiquing NATO’s military intervention in Libya

I just finished his breakdown of NATO’s case for the rebel-supporting intervention against the Qaddafi regime in Libya. The main points include the following:

  1. The rebels—not the regime—started the violence in Libya, despite sloppy early reports in the media that indicated otherwise.
  2. NATO continued providing aid to Libyan rebels despite the regime’s requests for a ceasefire, prolonging the conflict by approximately six times and racking up the death toll by seven to ten times.
  3. The promise of continued support and intervention may have led the rebellion to continue to fighting, while also fostering rebellions and political violence in neighboring Mali and even in Syria.

Overall, Kuperman (2013, 132) concludes “NATO intervention significantly exacerbated humanitarian suffering in Libya and Mali, as well as security threats throughout the region.”

Applying Kuperman’s arguments

The arguments fit well with my upcoming paper on the logic of arming rebels. Through analyzing a game theoretic model, I find that undersupplying rebels produces a greater expectation of direct intervention, which makes rebels behave more aggressively.

Bargaining connects Kuperman’s three main points of critique. The promise of external assistance inflates the expectations and demands of rebel groups, making domestic bargaining more difficult. Kuperman also points out that Western third parties lose focus during interventions, quickly shifting from protecting humans to demanding regime change, putting the target government in an impossible position from a bargaining standpoint.

NB: This is the first article I’ve managed to read this quarter. So far into this quarter, I am a bit behind on my key results. This semester’s teaching schedule, combined with some job applications, managing four separate research projects, and some volunteer service work on campus is all taking its toll. This semester, unlike any other before, will test my time management skills. I am really thankful I’ve worked to put systems into place to manage this workload.

Jeremy L. Wells

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