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Power Projection, Deterrence Strategies, and Escalation Dynamics

PI: Steven Lobell, University of Utah

Year selected for award: 2017

Power Projection, Deterrence Strategies, and Escalation Dynamics in an Era of Challenging Near Peers, Rogue States, and Terrorist and Insurgent Organizations

Principal Investigator: Steven Lobell, University of Utah

Co-Investigators: Victor Asal, University of Albany, SUNY; Kyle Beadsley, Duke University; Patrick James, USC; Norrin M. Ripsman; Lehigh University; and Scott Silverstone, United States Military Academy at West

Years of Award: 2018-2021

Managing Service Agency: Office of Naval Research

Project Description:
We introduce the concept of near crisis, which precede most crises and wars, to better understand the complete escalation cycle. Near crises entail: (1). perception of threats to vital interests and (2). perception of shortened time-horizons, though the probability of military hostilities is tempered, for the moment. The perception of heightened probability of military hostilities will escalate the near crisis to a full-blown crisis. The role of Violent Non-State Actors (VNSAs) is also incorporated in the analysis of escalation processes because many interstate crises have origins in intrastate and transnational political violence. 

A principal reason for the incomplete understanding of why some crises escalate is a lack of data on periods prior to crisis onset. To obtain a more complete picture of escalation, a dataset and case-studies will be collected on near-crises so we can compare situations that (a) have been on the “knife’s edge” and tipped toward crisis or what we term a Preceding Near-Crisis (PNICB) to (b) those instances that shifted away from crisis and did not escalate or what we term a Stand Alone Near-Crisis (SANICB). 

Different DIME tools are available to Washington to de-escalate a near-crisis (NICB) and a crisis (ICB). We are analyzing SANICB and PNICB cases on a day-to-day level to identify the actions of each state in the crisis. The final product will generate a broad move-based framework of action-reaction including the use of diplomacy, cyber-attack, threats of conventional war, and economic or diplomatic sanctions. Doing so will become the basis for publicly-available real-time forecasts of at-risk periods.

  • Why do some near-crises escalate to crises and others defuse? What if states or violent non-state actors are involved?
  • Once a near-crisis emerges, how can a state manage the risk of it escalating further to a crisis? What are the tell-tail signs of a pre-crisis?
  • What DIME tools are available to Washington to de-escalate a near-crisis?
  • Are the same DIME tools effective in de-escalating both near-crises and crises, or are different tools required at different stages?
  • Are different DIME tools required across different types of challengers (near peer, rogue state, VNSA)?

Select Publications:
Patrick James and Evgeniia Iakhnis. “Near Crises in World Politics: A New Data Set,” Conflict Management and Peace Science, 2019.