Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Avalanches and Olive Branches: A Multimethod Analysis of Disasters and Peacemaking in Interstate Rivalries

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Avalanches and Olive Branches: A Multimethod Analysis of Disasters and Peacemaking in Interstate Rivalries

Article excerpt


Multimethod analysis of earthquakes' effects in two enduring rivalries demonstrates that natural disaster can promote rapprochement, political steps toward warmer relations that make it difficult for interstate rivalry to continue. Public expression of compassion and support for rapprochement create audience costs for leaders who otherwise would maintain hostile policies toward the rival state. However, routine violence, including communal violence, discourages public support for postdisaster cooperation and rapprochement. Content analysis and time-series analysis of rivalry change in two cases, India-Pakistan and Greece-Turkey, demonstrate these phenomena, and comparative case study analysis shows that communal violence helps account for divergent outcomes between the two cases.


rivalry, shock, disaster diplomacy, rapprochement, audience costs

Can natural disasters promote rapprochement between rival states? Advocates of "disaster diplomacy" argue that while earthquakes, floods, windstorms, and tsunami result in human tragedies, these events also generate opportunities for international cooperation, even between enemies. Case studies of individual disasters substantiate the claim that natural disasters sometimes encourage diplomacy, but greater emphasis on systematic comparison of cases is needed for the building and testing of disaster diplomacy theories. We utilize multiple methods to analyze the effects of natural disasters resulting from two massive earthquakes on two enduring interstate rivalries to understand if, when, and how such disasters facilitate peacemaking. Combining statistical analysis of novel data with analytical case studies, the investigation demonstrates that while disaster diplomacy can catalyze peacemaking, it is also easily derailed by a lack of public support for rapprochement when the people in rival states are subjected to routine violence. The study draws attention to ordinary citizens' influence on international rivalry dynamics-both as facilitator and spoiler of peacemaking-and its multimethod analysis of mass publics' role in interstate rivalries in disasters' wake contributes to our understanding of both the domestic politics of rivalry and the effects of shocks on rivalries.

The study offers two contributions: first, it presents a systematic investigation of natural disasters' impact on rivalry relations in two long-standing rivalries, and second, it builds toward a reliable understanding of how enemies might move from a disaster toward rapprochement, a warming of relations between rivals consisting of political steps that may be difficult to reverse in the future. To those ends, we provide both theory and evidence to help identify conditions under which disaster diplomacy is likely to emerge. First, we argue that a natural disaster can catalyze rapprochement between rivals by stimulating change in societal attitudes toward the rival state-and when public attitudes change, so do political incentives facing government leaders of rival states. Newly created audience costs associated with continued rivalry give leaders reasons to deepen and strengthen an emergent rapprochement. Unlike most investigations of interstate rivalries that focus on government officials to the relative exclusion of ordinary people, we explicitly highlight mass publics as a crucial link in the causal chain from disaster to rapprochement. Doing so helps both to expose some of the microfoundations of rivalry persistence and to identify obstacles that hinder disaster diplomacy, including routine, rivalryrelated violence, especially institutionalized communal violence within rival states.

Empirically, we utilize content analysis of newspaper coverage of rival relations and time-series analysis to precisely determine whether natural disaster occasioned rivalry change in two widely recognized rival dyads, Greece-Turkey and India-Pakistan. The archetypal example of disaster diplomacy is the "earthquake diplomacy" between Greece and Turkey, which in 1999 appears to coincide with a dramatic improvement in relations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.