Journal of Peace Research

Transnational terrorism, US military aid, and the incentive to misrepresent

Author(s)

Navin A Bapat

Abstract

This study proposes a strategic explanation for the USA’s continued provision of military aid to host states with problems of terrorism, despite its poor empirical record. Using a game theoretic model, I demonstrate that US military aid creates a moral hazard problem. If host states are provided with the tools to pacify their territory only if terrorist campaigns are ongoing, but will lose this aid once the problem of terrorism ceases, host states have little incentive to accelerate the demise of terrorist groups. However, the model demonstrates that while military aid does not accomplish the US goal of disarming terrorists, military aid is effective at preventing host states from negotiating with terrorist organizations. The provision of military aid provides a disincentive for host states to reach a negotiated settlement with terrorist groups, and therefore prevents terrorist organizations from altering the status quo that is favorable to the USA. This suggests that while military aid may not be effective at actually disarming terrorist groups, it can be effective at keeping terrorist groups out of power. These hypotheses are tested using the Jones & Libicki (2008) data on terrorism from 1997 to 2006. The empirical results support the conclusions of the theoretical mode.

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