Growth, Import Dependence and War

Jul 2014 | 132

Authors: Kevin Hjortshøj O'Rourke, Roberto Bonfatti

Existing theories of pre-emptive war typically predict that the leading country may choose to launch a war on a follower who is catching up, since the follower cannot credibly commit to not use their increased power in the future.  But it was Japan who launched a war against the West in 1941, not the West that pre-emptively attacked Japan.  Similarly, many have argued that trade makes war less likely, yet World War I erupted at a time of unprecedented globalization.  This paper develops a theoretical model of the relationship between trade and war which can help to explain both these observations.  Dependence on strategic imports can lead follower nations to launch pre-emptive wars when they are potentially subject to blockade.

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