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Power Play: Mediation in Symmetric and Asymmetric International Crises


International relations scholars have long focused on power relations among nations as an explanatory factor for a wide variety of state behaviors, including alliance formation, strategic interactions, and negotiation strategies. Power transition theorists have argued that war is most likely when power is equally distributed among nations or, more precisely, when the power of the challenger approaches—or begins to exceed—that of its opponent (Organski, 1968; Organski and Kugler, 1980; Kugler and Lemke, 1996). Balance of power theorists, on the other hand, have argued that equality of power among nations diminishes the chance of war, as uncertainty about outcomes caused by approximate power parity leads actors to be more cautious (Claude, 1962; Wright, 1965). The research presented here considers relative power not as a cause of conflict, as these previous studies have done, but as a factor relevant to conflict resolution efforts.

In this study, we focus on crises as a specific instance of conflicts in the international system and on mediation as a specific conflict resolution measure. Building upon previous work (Wilkenfeld et al., 2003, 2005), we examine the way mediation styles and power relations among crisis actors interact and impact on whether the crisis ends in an agreement, and whether the crisis outcome leads to long-term, postcrisis tension reductions. This research is intended to extend understanding of the nature of crisis behavior and to inform efforts to manage crises most effectively.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Quinn, David, Victor Asal, Kathleen Smarick, and Jonathan Wilkenfeld. 2006. "Power Play: Mediation in Symmetric and Asymmetric International Crises." International Interactions 32 (January): 441-470. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03050620601011107#preview