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D.W. Kuberski, "Domestic Audiences, Policy Feedback, and Sequential Decisions During Military Interventions," Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX (2009).


The literature on escalation situations and audience costs suggests that democratic executives tend to increase commitment to a foreign policy in response to negative feedback. However, real-world cases from international politics suggest otherwise. Specifically, executives do not appear to respond uniformly to failing situations. While scholars have begun to unravel the audience cost mechanism, up until know, we know little about reasons for the variation in how executives use policy feedback to update commitment to a foreign policy. In this dissertation, I adopt an integrative approach and present a model of sequential decision-making that explains the conditions under which leaders escalate and de-escalate commitment in response to feedback. I attempt to break down the audience cost mechanism to explain why democratic executives do not respond uniformly to negative feedback. While the literature on the escalation of commitment suggests decision-makers tend to increase investment in the face of negative feedback, my theory suggests that under certain conditions, executives may find it politically advantageous to back down from a failing policy. My theory emphasizes the relationship between citizens, executives, and foreign policy effectiveness. Next, I suggest that the foreign policy tool of military intervention provides a suitable test case for a theory of sequential decision-making. I first test hypotheses derived from the theory regarding the preference formation process of democratic citizens during the course of such an episode. Understanding the response of citizens to feedback is an important first step to understanding the updating decisions of democratic executives. While previous work has relied on aggregate survey data, experimentation provides me with the ability to analyze how an individual citizen?s preference over commitment is impacted by policy feedback. The results of the experimental analyses suggest that citizens act as investors: they favor increasing commitment to military interventions when viewing negative feedback, up to a point. I then test the main hypotheses derived from the theory regarding executive decision-making on a dataset of major power military interventions from 1960-2000. Overall, the results support the hypotheses: public approval conditions the manner in which executives use feedback to update intervention commitments. In the conclusion, I summarize the study by highlighting key results, present the broad implications for the study of democratic foreign policy making, and discuss avenues for future research.

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Associated Project(s):

  • SHIELD (Smuggled HEU Interdiction through Enhanced anaLysis and Detection): A Framework for Developing Novel Detection Systems Focused on Interdicting Shielded HEU

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