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Reciprocity in Recurring Crises

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Reciprocal behavior is understood as responses in kind and magnitude to both positive and/or negative actions. Four propositions that attempt to explain the presence of reciprocal behavior in interstate conflict are examined: (1) adherence by states to a norm of reciprocity, (2) Dupréel's theorem that as rivalries mature, states are more and more likely to imitate each other's behavior, (3) locking-in to escalating conflictual actions in a conflict spiral, and (4) the use of Reciprocating influence strategies, based on tit-for-tat, to elicit cooperation. The propositions are examined in 12 recurring militarized crises within the post-World War II rivalries of the United States and Soviet Union, India and Pakistan, and Israel and Egypt. The analysis employs events data from the BCOW data set, along with qualitative analyses of individual crises. The findings provide indirect support for the influence of the reciprocity norm, even within highly contentious situations. No evidence is found to support Dupréel's proposition. The presence of a true conflict spiral appears in only one of the 12 crises. The effectiveness of Reciprocating influence strategies receives support consistent with that found in other studies of influence strategies in militarized crises.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political Science, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT 05753, USA


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