The Costs of War: A Rational Expectations Approach

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    A model of war costs is presented that is based on the utility nations expect to derive from the war as well as on the technological gap between adversaries and the short-term tactical tit-for-tat calculations that must occur on the battlefield. This model explains nearly three-quarters of the variance in battle deaths per million population per month of war experienced by war initiators. Approximately one-quarter of the variance in war costs is accounted for by considering the position of the initiator's opponent. A second model, based on marginal changes in expected utility, technological differences, and tit-for-tat, is shown to account for more than one-third the variance, regardless of whether war costs are viewed by the initiator or an opponent in a war. This study, therefore, provides a useful explanation of war intensity and contributes to the cumulative, lawlike implications of the expected-utility approach on which it is based.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)347-357
    Number of pages11
    JournalAmerican Political Science Review
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 1983

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Political Science and International Relations


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