In international relations (IR), wars and other seemingly “irrational” outcomes often happen. Does that mean that actors in international relations are “irrational”? There are two main ways to answer this question. On one hand, the psychological approach searches for conditions under which human rationality breaks down; on the other hand, the rational choice approach, the subject of this special volume of International Relations, accounts for “irrational” outcomes as a result of collective decision making while assuming that actors are rational in a minimal sense.
This introductory chapter starts by tracing how the rational choice approach has been accepted by the IR discipline in Japan. Despite the fact that the first introduction of game theory in this journal was in 1959, the number of articles that used rational choice or game theory remained limited. In the 1990s, however, some Japanese IR researchers who studied in the United States began to write monographs using game theory. Since then, the number of IR works applying game theory has steadily increased.
The chapter summarizes key concepts in the two rational choice approaches. In the utility maximization framework, actors’ preferences are taken as data, from which utility functions are derived. One of the key conditions for preferences to be rational is that preferences induce no cycle. Utility maximization is not enough to understand strategic interactions among rational actors, and hence there is a need for game theory. In game theory, the key concepts are players, payoffs and strategies. Games are presented either in normal form or in extensive form. Also, the concept of incomplete information is very important for understanding signaling, for example.
The last section summarizes the chapters in this special volume. Suzuki and Ishiguro open up the blackbox of domestic politics to clarify how foreign policy decisions are made and how they affect international outcomes. Iwanami, Hayashi, and Kohama use the concept of signaling to understand such varied aspects of international relations as peacekeeping by regional organizations, multilateralism, and individual self-defense, respectively. Chiba and Kagotani and Kimura build their rational choice models informally, yet they test their hypotheses rigorously, using quantitative data. Finally, the chapters by Hatakeyama and Choi demonstrate how rational choice can be reconciled with other approaches.
This introductory chapter concludes by expressing the wish that more and more researchers will start contributing to a fuller development of the rational choice approach to international relations in the future.
Adopting a liberal international institution entails not just the economic issues of efficiency and stability,but the diplomatic issues of alliance and multilateralism. Yet existing systemic theories of international institution are unable to analyze the process and outcome of adoption, because the theories do not have appropriate analytical insights into domestic negotiations between decision makers holding distinct policy positions over the issues. This article applies rational choice theory to an analysis of the trade liberalization efforts by the Ikeda Cabinet that involved both the economic and diplomatic issues. More specifically, the article content-analyzes parliamentary speeches by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Director General of the Economic Planning Agency and captures the leader’s rhetorical manipulation of issue dimensions to pursue major trade liberalization under the emergent Cold War in East Asia through the exploitation of the cabinet’s unanimity rule. The analysis has an implication for the recent Abe Cabinet’s attempt at participating in the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations under changing security environments in the region.
We examine the influence of political economy reforms on the TPP negotiations using a two-level game analysis. Our main conclusions are summarized as follows. First, the political reforms implemented to strengthen executive policy making decrease the tariff rates in Japan and raise the possibility of the TPP’s conclusion. However, the influence on the political approval rating of the government depends on the content of political reforms. Political reforms aimed at intensifying the influence of the advisory committee would raise the political approval rating of the government. On the other hand, those aimed at reducing the protectionist political pressure would decrease the political approval rating of the government.
Second, agricultural policy reforms—from tariff protection to direct payments (production subsidies)—decrease the tariff rates in Japan and raise the possibility of the TPP’s conclusion. However, these reforms would decrease the political approval rating of the government. If the tariff reduction by using income compensation shifts the tariff rate determined by the TPP negotiations from the ideal point of the government, the political approval rating of the government would decrease.
Third, a reduction in protectionist political pressure and an increase in direct payments would decrease the political approval rating of the government, because the ideal point of the bureaucracy (agricultural bureau) is proximate to that of the government representative (prime minister). However, if the ideal points of both leave it enough, the result of the TPP negotiations gets closer to the ideal point of the government and therefore, the political approval rating of the government would rise. In addition, if the ideal points of both deviate moderately, the political approval rating of the government and the result of the TPP negotiations do not change simultaneously.
Since the late 1990s, the United Nations (UN) has begun to mount peacekeeping operations in the conflict zones where regional organizations had already deployed their peacekeepers. This paper employs a game-theoretic model to examine the reasons for the UN’s decision to intervene in such conflicts rather than choosing disengagement or devolution, and its reasons for allowing regional organizations to intervene first. The results suggest that regional organizations intervene in regional conflicts to signal their inability to resolve the conflicts single-handedly. By showing the ineffectiveness of regional arrangements, they try to elicit cooperation from the UN, a more resourceful organization. However, I also find that when the cost of intervention is high, the UN is not likely to intervene in the conflict even after a regional organization dispatches peacekeepers. Knowing this, disputants are more likely to violate a cease-fire agreement and increase the burden of regional countries. Finally, when a regional organization anticipates that the UN is likely to pass the buck, it would refrain from dispatching peacekeepers and wait until the UN is embroiled in the conflict. I illustrate these findings through an example of the conflicts in Africa.
It is puzzling that even an unrivaled superpower may act multilaterally and not unilaterally. A signaling model is developed to address the puzzle of multilateralism pursued by a hegemon, when it can also act unilaterally. Given the asymmetry of information, the informed player (hegemon) wants to signal to the uninformed player (follower) that it is not a bad-type, coercive hegemon, but a good-type, benevolent hegemon. The coercive hegemon seeks to entrap the follower into behaving cooperatively while the hegemon reneges on its commitment. The benevolent hegemon will honor its commitments. The choice of multilateralism, as opposed to unilateralism, is costly and may function as this signal. The model attains various equilibria under different conditions: pooling on unilateralism; separating; pooling on multilateralism. The signaling game reveals under what conditions the benevolent hegemon is able to reveal its type, separating itself from the coercive hegemon. The United States’ attitude in the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991 could be seen as a signaling behavior.
An influential conventional wisdom holds that multilateralism is a favorable means of conflict resolution. Likewise, allies’ support in a crisis is usually considered desirable in terms of bringing victory, cost-sharing and legitimacy. This article examines the effect of unilateral defense on crisis escalation and shows that it serves as a tying-hand signal, which can be adopted by a targeted country regardless of its political institutions. To illuminate the mechanism, I provide a formal model of an international crisis where a targeted country chooses whether to unilaterally oppose a revisionist challenger or to acquiesce in short of its allies’ aids. The model demonstrates that unilateral defense enables the target to coerce the challenger to back down. The dishonored alliance ties the target’s hands of burden-sharing and hence signals the target’s strong will and capability of resisting the demand. This is because only a strongly resolved and capable target can accept the cost of future war when there is a positive probability that standing firm leads to the outbreak of war. Therefore, unilateral defense encourages the challenger to acquiesce and consequently prevents the crisis from escalating. Empirical analyses of militarized interstate disputes (MIDs) between 1946 and 2001 support this argument. Unilateral resistance of the target significantly decreases the likelihood of war by three percent, ceteris paribus. The findings are robust across different model specifications including Heckman probit models.
Although there are theoretical reasons to expect that stronger agreements promote durable peace,the extant empirical research provides mixed support for this expectation. This paper reexamines this argument empirically, addressing two inferential problems overlooked in the past studies. First, since the strength of cease-fire agreements is endogenous to the baseline prospect for peace, I employ a copula-based estimation that explains agreement strength and peace duration jointly. Second, I allow the effect of agreement strength to vary over time. This is important because agreement strength matters little right after the war, for there exists a rough consensus among the ex-belligerents about the likely outcome of a next war. As time passes, however, the effect of agreement strength will start to show because there will be a greater chance that some exogenous shocks distort this consensus. Analyzing the duration of postwar peace from 1914 to 2001, I demonstrate that stronger cease-fire agreements indeed stabilize peace after war.
Since the end of World War II, historical legacy has caused a series of disputes between Japan and South Korea. Scholars attribute these repeated disputes to Japan’s failure to settle the compensation problem, American foreign policy toward Japan in the early period of the Cold War, the unequal distribution of national capabilities between Japan and South Korea during the Cold War, and the particularities of nationalism in both countries. The literature emphasizes the peculiarities in the Japan-South Korea disputes. However, this does not mean that we are not able to explain the Japan-South Korea disputes in a systematic manner. For example, Kagotani, Kimura, and Weber (2014) argue that South Korean leaders are more likely to initiate a political dispute with Japan in order to divert public attention from economic turmoil to Japan-South Korea disputes. What else drives South Korean leaders to start a political dispute with Japan?
In this article, we focus on South Korean leaders’ motives and policy alternatives to explain how a trade dispute evolves into a political dispute between Japan and South Korea. We assume that a South Korean president is a policy-oriented actor and prefers to take a soft line toward Japan to manage Japan-South Korea relationships. The president also needs political support from the legislature in order to implement public policy. As the presidential approval rate declines, a candidate for the next president tends to behave as a hard-liner to attract public attention, and the legislature follows the candidate, not the president. To implement good public policy, the president is required to maintain his/her popularity and take a hard line.
Given such political constraints, we examine the president’s choice. When the president faces a large trade deficit, he prefers to start a trade negotiation with Japan, not to initiate a political dispute to divert public attention. Only if the negotiation fails, the president initiates a political dispute by addressing historical legacy because issue-linkage can induce mutual concessions, and because even a concession in the political dispute, not the trade dispute, can help the president maintain his/her popularity in order to move back to a soft-line in the subsequent periods. Thus, the president often engages in this diversionary tactic and a trade dispute often evolves into a political dispute.
We test whether a trade deficit is more likely to induce more South Korean hostile actions toward Japan. The statistical analysis using the event data confirms that trade imbalance favoring Japan often causes a political dispute regarding historical legacy. The case studies of Presidents Rho Tae-woo and Kim Young-sam reveal political decisions behind the escalation of Japan-South Korean disputes.
Japan has been increasing its roles in a security field in the post-Cold War era. For instance, it decided to participate in peacekeeping operations, strengthened the alliance with the US and upgraded the peacekeeping missions to one of the Self Defense Forces’ core mission. In 2011, it mitigated the arms trade ban policy—an alleged hallmark of Japan’s anti-militarist norm. This article draws attention to the factors behind such changes Japan made on the security front by examining the arms trade ban policy announced in 1967.
Arguing that Japan’s security policy has been largely constrained by an anti-militarist norm,constructivists have emphasized the significance of non-material factors in explaining a state’s behavior. The accounts seemed persuasive during the Cold War era when Japan shunned playing military roles. However, they failed to retain pertinence when Japan began to expand its military role after the end of the Cold War. In contrast, rationalists argue that a state pursues maximization of national interests; the behavior is determined by cost/benefit calculations. The shortcoming of the rationalist account is, however, that they either ignore or take a normative factor as given, failing to explain whether normative factors had an effect on a state’s behavior. By incorporating power considerations among actors, this article elucidates the factors behind Japan’s preference changes from rationalist point of view.
It is argued by constructivists that the announcement of the arms trade ban policy and ensuing compliance were yielded by the internalization of the anti-militarist norm advocated by the Japan Socialist Party (JSP), which had acted as a norm entrepreneur as well as a protector. However, the investigation of the power balance between the successive Liberal Democratic Party governments and the JSP shows that they were driven by cost/benefit calculation. The 2011 mitigation made by the government under the Democratic Party of Japan was also precipitated by the calculation. By then, the power of the Social Democratic Party, a succeeding party of the JSP which once enjoyed certain influence during the Cold War period, had become negligible. As opposed to the constructivist claim, cost/benefit calculations, not the regulative effect of the norm, are the decisive factor operating behind Japan’s decision making process. More importantly, it is the power balance between norm entrepreneur and decision maker that largely influences the process of cost/benefit calculation.
Amartya Sen advocated the “Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal,” or the Liberal Paradox, in 1970. After this, many scholars, such as R. Nozick, A. Gibbard, and J. Blau, tried to prove that his theory was inaccurate in varied manners. However, there has been no critical counter-argument against Sen’s theory, and so his theory has been called a “theorem.” In Sen’s later work, it is argued that the “impossibility” of a Paretian Liberal actually can be overcome. One such method was pointed out by Sen himself six years later: the Paretian epidemic is possibly solvable if an actor of two ones in a Liberal Paradox situation can behave as if it has the assurance-game preference or other-regarding preference, considering others’ rights and the maximization of social welfare.
Sen also pointed out that two actors in the Liberal Paradox have the same preference orderings of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, which indicates that individual rationality and social optimality can contradict one another. When individual rationality was the decisive factor to make a decision in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the actors would not obtain the most rational consequences in attempting to maximize their payoffs. Meanwhile, they can maximize their social utility if other-regarding preferences take precedence.
This article will explore varied implications while applying Sen’s arguments to the First North Korean Crisis, which was an international crisis. Regarding the escalation of tension between the US and North Korea after the end of the Cold War, a contradiction to the Liberal Paradox is found. In the case of the Liberal Paradox, a cycle occurs when two actors who have different preference orderings are confronted totally or partially, and they claim that their preferences should be realized as a social decision regardless of the other’s preferences. While the cycle between the two players can be seen as a deadlock in diplomatic negotiations at the nation-state level, in reality, the US and North Korea showed not only the cycle caused by the crush of the rights legally based on Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), but also an escalation of tension beyond the theoretical cycle. That is, in the negotiations, they discussed how to deal with North Korean nuclear development, and they barely avoided a Second Korean War, which would have been the most irrational result.
Why and how did the US and North Korea make the choices to escalate tension, possibly leading them to more irrational consequences than the diplomatic stalemate that would have accorded with Sen’s theory? The answer can be found in a hybrid manner between the Liberal Paradox and psychological approaches that posit rational actors can make irrational choices in the decision-making process when actors recognize circumstances in which they face the risk of losing their expected utility. At the end of this article, three implications of applying the Liberal Paradox to the First North Korean Nuclear Crisis will be pointed out.
This article investigates the role of the League of Nations for Japan after latter’s withdrawal from the League, focusing on Japanese attempt to continue enjoying equal opportunities for trade and commerce in mandated territories. It argues that Japan rediscovered usefulness of the former, which had advocated for the principle of equal opportunities for trade and commerce in mandated territories in the Covenant, and therefore the Japanese decision-makers demanded the League members to abide by it.
The League Covenant and the terms of the mandate required the League members that were in charge of mandated territories categories “A” and “B” to provide equal opportunities for trade and commerce to all other League members. Therefore, the Japanese faced the possibility of losing the right because of her withdrawal from the League. Japanese decision-makers initially negotiated bilaterally with the mandatory nations to avoid this fate from around 1934, asking the League members not to withdraw the rights that they had hitherto granted to Japan. However, the mandatory nations started discussing the issue of ceasing the privilege that the Japan enjoyed at the mandated territories from June 1935 in the Twenty-Seventh Session of the Permanent Mandates Commission before making any particular reply to the Japanese overtures. Such action by the mandatory nations alarmed the Japanese decision-makers, and thus started to make their case at the League, arguing that the members should abide by the spirit of the equal opportunities for trade and commerce even if they were dealing with the non-members.
The decision-makers of Britain, who also played a major part in the League, concluded that it would not be prudent to continuously marginalize the Japanese and therefore supported the idea of continuing to grant equal opportunities for trade and commerce to Japan in territories that they mandated. However, they refused to acknowledge the Japanese interpretation of the League Covenant, and insisted that they would grant Japan equal opportunities for trade and commerce based on the spirit of the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation. Despite the fact that the Japanese decision-makers understood the usefulness of the League in retaining and advancing their interests, such a gesture by the British decision-makers had a result of severely restricting the Japanese maneuverability at the League. The only thing that the Japanese could do was to continue appealing the principle of free trade to the deaf ears of the members of the League.