Bargaining and Learning in Recurring Crises

The Soviet-American, Egyptian-Israeli, and Indo-Pakistani Rivalries
Russell J. Leng
Study of the most prominent interstate rivalries in the second half of the century, and of the lessons that the leaders of the rival states drew from their recurring crises


The rivalries between the Soviet Union and the United States, Egypt and Israel, and India and Pakistan produced twelve major crises and seven wars during the quarter-century following World War II. A disproportionate share of international crises and wars occur between long-term rivals. Why could not the leaders of these states learn to manage their disputes without severe crises or war? Russell J. Leng finds that the lessons leaders of those states drew from their experiences most often led to bargaining tactics that only increased the level of hostility and the likelihood of war in subsequent disputes.

The author uses theoretical work on learning and the role of belief systems on foreign policy-making as the basis to explore the history of each rivalry. Detailed narrative accounts of each of the crises are augmented by tables and figures describing the escalation of each crisis and the behavior of participant states. The approach allows for comparisons of behavior and learning across the three rivalries, as well as a consideration of the influence that the Soviet-American rivalry exerted on the Middle East and South Asian rivalries. The concluding chapter illustrates how the influence of realpolitik beliefs on learning across the three rivalries predisposed policymakers to draw lessons from their crisis experience that weakened conflict management in subsequent crises. The author also shows how superpower mediation in Middle East and South Asian crises and wars had the perverse effect of encouraging greater risk-taking by the participant states in subsequent crises.

The book will be of particular interest to political scientists and historians who study international relations, as well as those interested in decision-making and learning by policymakers.

Russell J. Leng is Professor of Political Science, Middlebury College, and the author of Interstate Crisis Behavior 1816-1980: Realism versus Reciprocity and numerous articles.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . a welcome expansion of our understanding of how the behavior and outcomes of past crises affect future crises. The REL model usefully integrates psychological and systemic factors to produce innovative predictions. . . . [T]he book contributes to our understanding of both crisis bargaining behavior and the learning process."
    —Dan Reiter, Emory University, American Political Science Review, June 2001
  • "This is a highly original work, bringing together both quantitative and qualitative analysis in a study of the behavior of states at time of militarized crisis. . . ."
    International Affairs, April 2001
  • "The lessons policymakers learned from their crisis experiences led to influence strategies that increased the level of conflict in future crises. This finding is intriguing for the scientific community and has obvious policy implications. It is intriguing for the scientific community and has obvious policy implications. It is based on solid theorizing, rigorous methods, and an impressive array of facts. The book also represents an elegant blend of qualitative and quantitative methods: each case contains narratives with fascinating historical details presented so as to permit systematic comparison across the cases combined with statistics of crisis behavior. In sum, this book is an outstanding scientific achievement and a source of inspiration for other researchers."
    —Mats Hammarstrom, Uppsala University, Journal of Peace Research, July 2001
  • ". . . a carefully crafted examination of some key military crises. . . . [A] careful, informative, and thoughtful book, and well worth the time of interested scholars."
    —Joseph Lepgold, Georgetown University, Political Science Quarterly
  • "A major addition to the international politics literature on learning. . ."
    —Susan Peterson, The International History Review, December 2001

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 352pp.
  • 20 drawings, 17 tables, 6 maps, 3 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-09703-6

Add to Cart
  • $104.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06703-9

Add to Cart
  • $39.95 U.S.