Adjudicating Competing Theories: Does Civilian Control Over the Military Decrease Conflict?
What explains variation in the propensity for conflict involvement and initiation among states? In the study of international security, a debate remains between those who argue stronger civilian control of the military lowers the likelihood of interstate conflict, and those who argue that states with stronger civilian control over the military will be more conflict-prone. This article adjudicates between these competing theories through the use of a newly published measure of civilian control over the military. The theory is tested via Poisson regression using a large-N country-year data set. Ultimately, the results support theories of military restraint, showing that states with stronger civilian control over the military are more conflict-prone than states with weaker civilian control of the military. The article contributes to our understanding of war and interstate conflict and the study of civil–military relations by showing that increased civilian control increases the likelihood of interstate conflict.