Solving the Decider’s Dilemma: Scapegoats, Foreign Affairs, and the Duration of Interstate War

Research output: Working paper


The prospects of domestic punishment might compel leaders responsible for the initiation of the war to continue fighting until they achieve favorable war outcomes (Croco 2011, 2015). As applied to war duration, this logic implies that ‘culpable’ leaders do not have incentives to end a war that will bring defeat. This paper argues that leaders can escape this dilemma by blaming and replacing their cabinet ministers for poor war results. Under a framework of war as a bargaining process, and using a database of the tenure of thousands of ministers of foreign affairs, this paper shows that the replacement of these cabinet ministers reduces the duration of interstate wars that end in defeat. These findings suggest that leaders do not necessarily need to continue fighting wars in order to avoid domestic punishment.


External organisations
  • University of Essex
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameSTANCE Working Papers Series

Total downloads

No data available

Related projects

Jan Teorell, Jens Bartelson, Annika Björkdahl, Hanna Bäck, Agustín Goenaga, Martin Hall, Sara Kalm, Johannes Lindvall, Ellen Ravndal, Ted Svensson, Alexander von Hagen-Jamar, Linda Eitrem Holmgren, Lina Hjärtström, Moa Olin & Martin Hansen

The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation: Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Science Research


Project: ResearchInternal collaboration (LU)

View all (1)