Strategies of Manipulation in the Delegation of Power Politics

States frequently turn to allies, clients and non-state armed groups to help deter threats, compel policy concessions and fight wars. How do delegating states (principals) get their agents to advance the principal's objectives over the agent's own priorities?

My dissertation advances two arguments about how states solve this agency problem. First, the use of conditional inducements (carrots and sticks) is less common than traditionally thought because typical features of international politics generate severe moral hazard. Moral hazard arises from hidden action but also from a novel source: when principals are unable to sanction shirking because of domestic or bureaucratic actors with a vested interest in maintaining a status-quo relationship with the agent.

Second, principals frequently turn to three alternative strategies of manipulation that shift incentives by altering the structure in which power politics play out. Equilibrating manipulates the balance of power between the agent and its adversaries (e.g. the U.S. policy of maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge ensures that America's Arab partners use military resources to deter Iran and combat terrorism rather than in competition with Israel). Threat manipulation changes the political relationship between the agent and its adversaries (e.g. U.S. policymakers pushed for European integration, in part, to mitigate conflict between France and Germany and focus European militaries on the threat from the Soviet Union). Resource manipulation alters the agent's military capabilities and thus its relative ability to coerce its adversaries (e.g. the U.S. provides counter-insurgency training and light weapons to incentivize Pakistan to fight the Taliban rather than fight India).

Leveraging policymaker interviews, process-tracing of prominent historical cases and fixed-effect analyses of panel data on post-World War II arms transfers, I find evidence that these strategies of manipulation are important solutions to the agency problem in delegation. (Chapter Summary)