Escalation and delay in protracted international conflicts

Aviad Heifetz, Ella Segev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Why do escalations in protracted international conflicts sometimes hasten the pace of negotiations? And why is it sometimes the case that the resulting terms of agreement were deemed unacceptable to one or both sides before the escalation? We analyze these issues in a game-theoretic setting with asymmetric information, in which the delay a party exercises before it makes an acceptable offer is served to signal credibly its true stand, of which the other side is initially uncertain. Escalation makes both sides more eager to settle than before, as an agreement would end the increased level of hostilities. We analyze how this effect may loosen the incentives to exercise long delays in the course of bargaining, and hence shorten the time to agreement. However, it turns out that the larger is the overall increase in violence implied by escalation, the higher are also the chances that its initiator will eventually regret its own decision to escalate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-37
Number of pages21
JournalMathematical Social Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2005


  • Delay
  • Escalation
  • Protracted international conflicts


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