To Dictate the Peace: Power, Strategy, and Success in Military Occupations

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link





The dissertation addresses the following question: why do some states win a war only to lose the occupation whereas other states can successfully impose their preferred outcome via the control of foreign territory? For example, compare the United States' failure in Iraq (2003-2008) to the Allied Powers' success in France (1815-1818). To explain this variation, I develop and test a principal-agent model in which I incorporate the occupied elite's costs of compliance and the occupier's strategies of control. As agents, the occupied elites expect to incur significant domestic and international costs if they consent to the occupier's demands, and thus have strong incentives to not comply. The occupying state can overcome this hostility through a costly exercise of power to shape the choices and manipulate the incentives of elites to influence their decision-making. Occupying states that engage in dictating as a strategy of control are compelling the elites to make a costly choice. By constraining the choice set to compliance or non-compliance with its terms, the occupying power can effectively separate strongly adverse elites from moderately or weakly adverse ones, and thereby gain a commitment to its objectives. Although previous work on occupations recognizes the difficulties in achieving success, the costs of compliance to the elite and the occupiers' strategy of control are largely overlooked in previous scholarship.

To evaluate the theoretical argument, I employ two research methods in the project. First, I built an original dataset to test the effects of the costs of compliance and the strategies of control on the outcomes of 137 military occupations that result from interstate wars between 1815 and 2003. The statistical analyses are paired with two plausibility probes: the Chilean Occupation of Peru (1881-1883) and the Soviet Occupation of North Korea (1945-1948). Second, I examine in-depth the American Occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952. The case study investigates how the costs of compliance - across regime change, economic stabilization, and rearmament - generated resistance among Japanese politicians, and how the Americans exercised their power to dictate that the former comply with the latter's costly terms during the course of the occupation.