Why do international situations spiral out of control and into war? Why do conflicts finally wind down after years, if not decades, of tension? Various faults in conventional thinking, ranging from relying on indeterminate predictions to ignoring the interaction between domestic and international events, have impeded adequate explanations for the continuation, escalation, and dampening of rivalry conflict.
In Scare Tactics: The Politics of International Rivalry, Michael P. Colaresi explains how domestic institutions and interactions among nations converge to create incentives for either war or peace. Specifically, domestic pressure to continue a rivalry and resist capitulating to the “enemy” can be exacerbated in situations where elites benefit from fear-mongering, a process Colaresi refers to as “rivalry outbidding.” When rivalry outbidding becomes fused with pressure to change the status quo, even a risky escalation may be preferable to cooperation or rivalry maintenance. The eventual outcomes of such dynamic two-level pressures, if unchecked, are increased conflict, destruction, and death. Colaresi contends, however, that if leaders can resist pressures to escalate threats and step up rivalries, a deteriorating status quo can instead spur cooperation and peace.