Cem Birol (2021) Introducing Missile Tests Dataset, Defence and Peace Economics, DOI: 10.1080/10242694.2021.1990516


My dissertation investigates the role of publicly-conducted missile tests in international politics. The first paper introduces a new dataset including 11 countries’ missile tests between 1949 and 2015. It also overviews these countries’ indigenous missile development programs. The second paper empirically investigates what factors may affect changes in how frequently countries test-fire their missiles publicly. The results suggest that a country’s public missile tests are intrinsic to missile development programs and transpire more frequently with greater economic wealth. On the other hand, being under a military threat, major or severe economic sanctions have either weak or no consistent impact on countries’ public missile tests. The third paper investigates whether conducting public missile tests is associated with countries’ subsequent militarized interstate dispute, or war involvement. Statistical analyses show that there is little or no evidence that suggests that public missile tests have a discernible impact on countries’ militarized dispute or war involvement. Ultimately, this dissertation stands as the first large-N statistical work on publicly-conducted missile tests. In addition, it is the first one to empirically downplay the potential relationship between militarized conflicts and public missile tests.

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(i) Urban Poverty, Contract Enforcement and Anti-Americanism: PEW 2013 Results

This paper inquires into anti-Americanism through the lenses of Michael Mousseau’s Economic Norms Theory (ENT). The ENT presents a framework where weak rule of law enables political elites to vie for the exploitation of their government’s redistributive institutions. In this quest, to maximize their popular support, these elites promote anti-modernist discourses among the urban poor. Accordingly, I hypothesize that increased poverty suffered by urbanites in countries with weak rule of law increase anti-Americanism. To investigate the empirical applicability of this expectation, I conduct statistical analyses using PEW Global Attitudes Project’s 2013 survey. Using a hierarchical modelling specification, I find that a three-way interaction between respondents’ urbanity, troubles in affording basic means of subsistence, and the weak rule of law in their country accounts for their negative evaluations of both the USA and Americans. Then I present a short historical overview of the Sufi orders in modern Turkey to illustrate how competing elites spread anti-modernist ideas in a country with historically weak rule of law. Overall, while previous research shows how the rule of law can create a civic culture, or increase social trust, this study indicates that weak rule of law leaves urban poor populations vulnerable to conspiratorial ideas.

(ii) Missile Tests, Crises and Crisis Escalation

This paper investigates whether countries’ missile tests affect their crisis involvement and escalation propensities. Relying on Jervis’ Spiral Theory, I develop 6 hypotheses that speculate on the interplay between different types of missile tests, crisis involvement and crisis escalation. Then, using a recently compiled dataset on missile tests, I conduct a series of Heckman Probit regressions. I observe that more frequent publicized missile tests actually diminish the risk of crisis escalation. Additionally, increases in the ballistic missile tests by countries with nuclear strike capabilities not only decrease their risk of crisis involvement, but also of crisis escalation.


(i) A Theory on Non-Violent but Adversarial Displays of Force

This paper presents a theory on the connection between rarity of interstate wars and non-violent but adversarial displays of military force such as jet passes, naval maneuvers, joint military exercises or weapon tests in international politics. In doing so, it develops a decision-theoretic model that takes place outside the context of a crisis bargaining between two nations. I assume that while countries make displays of force, they observe information which they and their adversaries use to update their prior anticipations about who would win a prospective war. Given this, the model shows that the more frequently displays of force happen between countries, the more likely they are to agree about their relative power, and hence the less they are likely to escalate their subsequent crises to war. In investigating the usefulness of the decision-theoretical model, I test the hypothesis that the more a country made public displays of its missile tests, the less likely it is to attack its adversaries with missiles in crises. Previous versions of this theory were presented in ISA, MIDWEST and Texas Triangle Conferences as well as IR Lunch Meetings at Rice University’s Political Science Department.

(ii) “Coping with Sanctions: The Effect of Economic Sanctions on the Target’s Foreign Policy” (with Santiago Sosa)

In this paper, we investigate how economic sanctions can change the foreign policy portfolio of the sanction recipients. In doing so, we extend the T. C. Morgan and Glenn Palmer’s decision-theoretic Two Good model. We hypothesize that after receiving sanctions, countries are less likely to initiate militarized disputes but more likely to ally themselves with stronger powers. We employ multilevel models and find support for our hypotheses. Previous versions of this paper were presented in ISA and MIDWEST conferences.

(iii) “Force “Cordon Bleu:” Military Force and Economic Sanctions” (with T. C. Morgan)

In this paper, we present a simple decision-theoretic model that investigates a potential relationship between a country’s imposition of economic sanctions and use of force. The model specifies the conditions under which sanctions can be a substitute or a complementary foreign policy move to the use of force. An important conclusion of the model is that sanctions sometimes help countries weaken their adversaries, and increase the feasibility of using force subsequently. However, countries can also learn more about their adversaries’ military capabilities by sanctions which decrease their need to use force. Empirical support for the model is limited, which is in line with previous work that fails to establish a link between sanctions and military use of force. This paper was presented by Cliff Morgan at various international conferences.

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