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The Turnover Trap: New Leaders, Reputation, and International Conflict


  • Thanks to Cliff Carrubba, Terry Chapman, Valeria Palanza, Eric Reinhardt, Dan Reiter, Toby Rider, Emily Ritter, Amy Yuen, participants at the 2006 Michigan EITM-V workshop, and four anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions.

Scott Wolford is a Ph.D. candidate in political science, Emory University, 327 Tarbutton Hall, 1555 Dickey Drive, Atlanta, GA 30322 (


A formal model of crisis bargaining in the shadow of leadership turnover is analyzed where (1) successive leaders of the same state may differ in their resolve, (2) their resolve is private information, and (3) the probability of leadership turnover depends on bargaining behavior and conflict outcomes. The model provides novel answers to a number of questions about the relationship between an incumbent's time in office, the prospects of losing office, the anticipated behavior of future leaders, and the current probability of conflict. Taken together, these results add further weight to recent claims that leaders, not states, should be considered the fundamental units of analysis in international relations.