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Democracy and Diversionary Military Intervention: Reassessing Regime Type and the Diversionary Hypothesis

Jeffrey Pickering, Emizet F. Kisangani
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.0020-8833.2005.00333.x 23-43 First published online: 1 March 2005


This article concentrates on two limitations in the literature on diversionary force. First is the common assumption that major powers are the only actors capable of diversion. Second is the narrow conceptualization of regime type prevalent in the literature. Instead of dichotomizing regimes, we distinguish mature democracies and autocracies from consolidating variants of these regimes. We draw hypotheses from the institutional approach and test them with time series cross-section negative binomial first-order autoregressive process estimates of 140 countries from 1950 to 1996. We find that not all democracies and not all autocracies divert. Mature democracies, consolidating autocracies, and transitional polities are the only regime types prone to this type of force. Our results suggest that the diversionary literature would benefit from more discriminating operationalizations of regime type and by looking beyond major powers to the actions of less powerful states.

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