international security; conflict escalation; rivalry maintenance; asymmetric conflicts; multilateralism; emerging powers
foreign policy analysis; war and international conflicts; international relations; grand strategy; security topics in Asia
“When David Fights Goliath: The Persistence of Asymmetric Strategic Rivalries.”
Prashant’s dissertation examines three questions pertaining to inter-state rivalry behavior. First, it examines why rivalries persist, particularly between states with asymmetric power capabilities? Relative power parity has been assumed to be required for states to acknowledge each other has rivals and for rivalries to persist. However, the world is observing many rivalries between states that are unequal in war-making capabilities. This poses a challenge to current scholarship and the dissertation provides a systematic explanation for why such rivalries persist. To address these questions the dissertation tackles the problem of defining asymmetry and whether it can be understood in a way that helps us understand cases of prolonged conflicts and rivalries across the world. Therefore, how we understand asymmetry and the level of asymmetry between different countries proves to be a very important context that can explain conflicts and rivalries. I reconceptualise asymmetry whereby I privilege high-tech armies over low-tech armies since technologically superior armies have historically excelled on the battlefield.
Second, the dissertation examines, why are some rivalries more conflictual than others? While much of the Middle East and Asian rivalries experience hostile conflicts, the same is not the case in Latin America. Finally, when rivalries do terminate, why do some end peacefully while others do not? Is peaceful termination a function of growing power disparity or do external factors like other rivalries and alliances make peaceful termination more or less likely? The dissertation develops an argument centered on the capability offsets mechanism to explain the maintenance, escalation and termination of rivalries because explanations at the dyad level do not explain how weaker states in a rivalry manage to mobilize resources to resist stronger foes. The dissertation also utilizes extensive archival resources on the India-Pakistan conflict to lend context to the empirical analysis.
William Thompson (Chair), Karen Rasler, Timothy Hellwig and Patricia McManus (Sociology)