Democratic leaders are commonly thought to be more likely than autocrats to select into conflicts where the ex ante probability of victory is high. We construct a novel empirical test of this notion by comparing democracies to various types of autocracies and determining which states are most likely to initiate disputes against relatively strong or weak opponents. Contrary to common belief, we find that democracies are not more selective than most forms of autocracy. Only military regimes demonstrate unique patterns of target selection, with these states being particularly likely to initiate disputes against relatively strong opponents. Our findings suggest a need to further scrutinize the conventional wisdom on democratic target selection and to disaggregate autocratic regimes into more refined categories when doing so.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science
- Political Science and International Relations
- international conflict
- military regime
- relative capability
- target selection